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Women and the Reproductive Lifecycle

Pregnancy—the nine months or so for which a woman carries a developing embryo and fetus in her womb—is for most women a time of great happiness and fulfillment. However, during pregnancy, both the woman and her developing child face various health risks. For this reason, it is important that all pregnancies be monitored by skilled care providers.1
 
What Is Pregnancy?
Pregnancy is the fertilization and development of one or more offspring, known as an embryo or fetus, in a woman's uterus. It is the common name for gestation in humans.
 
The Global Burden of Pregnancy

  • According to the WHO, 287,000 women died due to pregnancy or childbirth-related complications in 2010.2
  • In developing countries, nearly half of all mothers and newborns do not receive skilled care during and immediately after birth.3
  • Up to two-thirds of newborn deaths can be prevented if known, effective health measures are provided at birth and during the first week of life.3
  • In the United States, maternal stays with pregnancy- and delivery-related complications account for approximately 5% of total hospital costs.4

The factors that place a pregnancy at risk can be divided into four categories:
 
Existing health conditions

  • High blood pressure
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome
  • Diabetes
  • Kidney disease
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Thyroid disease
  • Infertility
  • Obesity
  • HIV/AIDS

 
Age

  • Teen pregnancy
  • First-time pregnancy after age 35

 
Lifestyle factors

  • Alcohol use
  • Cigarette smoking

 
Conditions of pregnancy

  • Multiple gestation
  • Gestational diabetes
  • Preeclampsia and eclampsia

In addition to a missed period, the earliest signs and symptoms of pregnancy might include:

  • Tender, swollen breasts
  • Nausea, with or without vomiting
  • Increased urination
  • Fatigue
  • Food aversions or cravings
  • Slight vaginal bleeding
  • Cramping
  • Mood swings
  • Dizziness
  • Constipation

1 Website [Internet]. [cited 2013 Mar 21] Available from: http://www.who.int/topics/pregnancy/en/

2 Website [Internet]. [cited 2013 Mar 21] Available from: http://www.who.int/maternal_child_adolescent/epidemiology/en/

3 Website [Internet]. [cited 2013 Apr 03] Available from: http://www.ahrq.gov/news/newsletters/research-activities/jul11/0711RA41.html

4 Website [Internet]. [cited 2013 Mar 21] Available from: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs333/en/index.html

5 Website [Internet]. [cited 2013 Mar 21] Available from: http://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/high-risk/conditioninfo/pages/factors.aspx

6 Website [Internet]. [cited 2013 Mar 21] Available from: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/symptoms-of-pregnancy/PR00102

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