Nike, have you noticed lately that my Aunty has been very sick?
Of course, Tunde! Do you mean to say that you don't know that she is pregnant?
Pregnant? Really?
Yeah, she's pregnant! Pregnancy is the period in which a woman carries one or more offspring inside the womb, on average about 40 weeks.
Hmmmmm.... I have always wondered how pregnancy works.
When a man and woman have sexual intercourse, the sperm from the man swims up the vagina and uterus to meet the egg in the woman's fallopian tube. When the two sex cells come together, it is called fertilization. The fertilized egg moves down to the uterus, or womb, and attaches itself to the wall of the womb, where it grows into a baby.
Once a woman gets pregnant, the new hormones in the body cause it to begin to change quickly. These changes include the physical signs that we notice amongst most pregnant women.
Here are some early signs of pregnancy: missed period, swelling and tenderness in the breasts, tiredness and nausea (vomiting).
Ummm! That is interesting. Now I can see why Aunty always looks tired.
Yes, some pregnant women do feel tired. But having a baby growing in the womb takes a lot of energy.
But apart from these signs, are there any other things one can do to detect pregnancy?
Yes there are. Most importantly: a woman has to visit a doctor to get a pregnancy test. There are different types of tests that can be done; it could be a blood test, urine test or an ultrasound scan (a scan of the uterus to visually check for the existence of a fetus).
I heard my mother talking about pregnancy stages. What are those?
Pregnancy has three stages that are called "Trimesters." During the 1st Trimester (month 1-3), the woman produces hormones which help the fetus to grow, but this can cause discomfort, morning sickness, and moodiness. The fertilized egg grows and the legs, arms, lungs, and heart form. The placenta also forms, which is needed to exchange nutrients and waste between the woman and the fetus.
Growth of Fetus and Mother 1st Trimester
In the 2nd Trimester (month 4- 6), the woman has more energy, the womb grows and the breasts become fuller. The baby's movement can be felt, while the hair and skin grows and it continues to gain weight.
Growth of Fetus and Mother in 2nd Trimester
During the 3rd Trimester (month 7-9), the mother's breast begins to make milk. She might have some difficulty sleeping, or urinate more often. The baby can now blink its eyes, kick, stretch, and suck its thumb. The space in the womb becomes tighter and its heels or elbows may push against the mother's belly as it moves around.
Picture of Baby and Mother in 3rd Trimester
After these three stages comes labor. For many women, labor starts with a sudden release of fluid or mucus when the plug blocking the cervix comes out, followed by contractions (tightening and releasing of the muscles of the uterus).
Labor may last a few hours or sometimes even days. Every individual experiences labor and delivery differently, so its very important to make sure a woman undergoes this process in a hospital with a trained health worker.
Now that we understand what labor is, let's see the process of childbirth.
When labor begins, the baby's head starts to push out and expands the cervix and vaginal opening.
Sometimes the baby's exit is assisted by a trained health provider, until the baby's entire body comes out.
Wow, what a process. I can't believe that we all came out of our mothers that way.
Pregnancy and childbirth looks like a really complicated process, no wonder our parents and teachers keep saying that young people are not ready for it.
Yes, but still many young people like us get pregnant or impregnate someone without realising how to prevent it or understanding the consequences.
Reasons for unplanned pregnancy can be: (1) Peer Pressure; (2) Early Marriage; (3) Sexual Abuse or Rape; (4) Lack of information about reproductive health; (5) Attempt to cure loneliness or unhappiness; and (6) Pressure from parents in case of forced marriages.
And what are the consequences?
Consequences of unplanned pregnancy can be: (1) Disruption of education (possible school drop out); (2) Social stigma from the community; (3) Poor relationship with parents due to disappointment; (4) Forced marriage; (5) Health complications like prolonged labor and VVF; and (6) Death from unsafe abortion.
I would not want to go through all of those things. I can't imagine not going to school anymore or not talking to my parents again.
That is why it is important for us to know how to prevent unplanned pregnancy. The best way is to abstain from any form of sexual activity; we will learn more about abstinence later on.
Oh good! It sounds really important and I want to know more about it. I can't wait for that lesson.
That reminds me! My neighbor was pregnant once, but we never saw the baby. I heard she lost the baby what happened?
Well there could be several reasons for that. One possibility is that the pregnancy could have had some problems and the baby could have died.
A baby can die at different stages of pregnancy, while still in the womb or out of the womb during labor or immediately after delivery.
Factors that can lead to complications in pregnancy: (1) Excessive bleeding during pregnancy or labor. (2) Low blood pressure (anemia), (3) Untreated malaria, (4) Untreated sexually transmitted infections, (5) Growth of the fetus inside the fallopian tube (ectopic pregnancy), and/or (6) Emotional and psychological stress.
I guess that is why pregnant women have go to the clinic (antenatal visits) regularly to check that everything is alright!
Some people also terminate or end the pregnancy. It is called abortion.
Abortion is the removal, by mechanical or chemical means, of a fetus from the uterus for the purpose of terminating a pregnancy. Abortion is illegal in Nigeria, except when it is done to save the life of the woman.
Some young people go for abortion because they do not want to have a baby. But because it is illegal in the country, young people try to terminate the pregnancy themselves using harmful chemicals or by meeting an untrained professional (quacks).
I heard unsafe abortion is the major cause of death of young pregnant girls in Nigeria.
Yes it is! And there can be problems from getting an unsafe abortion.
Consequences of unsafe abortion: (1) Excessive bleeding from incomplete abortions; (2) Infections from the use of un-sterilized instruments; (3) Tear of the uterus; (4) Secondary infertility if the womb is damaged and (5) Death from medical complications including bleeding and infections.
I don't like the sound of these problems. I guess we really need to learn more about abstinence soon, so that more young people don't get pregnant and have to resort to unsafe abortions.
Yes, I totally agree with you and we will learn about it in the lesson called Abstinence.
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