The average human pregnancy - from the time the egg is fertilized to the moment of delivery - lasts about 280 days. While the most obvious changes are physical, pregnancy impacts every aspect of a woman's life.
For most women, the clearest sign of pregnancy is a missed menstrual period. Many women will have symptoms earlier, such as nausea, fatigue, or swollen and tender breasts, but these can have many other causes and are not in themselves a reliable indicator of pregnancy. Even a missed period can have other causes. If you suspect you're pregnant, call your doctor and have a urine or blood test done so you can begin taking the best care of your baby as soon as possible.
The changes in your body can be surprising. Everyone knows that your tummy grows dramatically, but who would suspect that pregnancy could lead to acne, a constant stuffed nose, or nine months of bad hair days? Pregnancy impacts every system in your body and has far-reaching emotional implications as well. Mood swings and depression are common. If you feel like you're living on an emotional roller coaster, you're not alone - but if your mood swings are severe or your pre-baby blues are too deep for your comfort level, talk about it with your medical practitioner.
The good news is that recent studies have shown that pregnancy tends to enhance women's perception, efficiency, resiliency, motivation, and emotional intelligence. Pregnancy can also lead to better physical health. Women who have borne children have lower rates of certain cancers (breast, endometrial, and ovarian). Pregnancy can be the first step to recovery from endometriosis, uterine fibroids, and polycystic ovaries. And being a mom can give women new motivation to make healthier, safer choices in areas from nutrition to smoking to driving habits.
But the changes going on in your body and emotions are nothing compared to those going on with your baby. In just 280 short days, she grows from a fertilized egg to a fully functioning human being. Her journey is accompanied by periods of rapid cell division and differentiation. Growth happens at an almost unbelievable rate. It takes only a couple of months for your baby to have the beginnings of a brain and liver, only 50 days for her embryonic heart to start beating. The weeks of pregnancy sometimes feel never-ending, but each one brings new developments for you and your baby.