Health Library

The Health Library is a collection of health and wellness resources created for learning and accessibility. Select a topic below for related health information or search for a topic in the search bar for more information on other medical conditions.

Obstetrics

  • An intrauterine transfusion provides blood to an Rh-positive fetus when fetal red blood cells are being destroyed by Rh antibodies. A blood transfusion is given to replace fetal red blood cells that are being destroyed by the Rh-sensitized mother's immune system. This treatment is meant to keep the fetus healthy until...

  • What is cleft palate? Cleft palate is a treatable birth defect. It happens when the roof of the baby's mouth (palate) doesn't develop normally during pregnancy, leaving an opening (cleft) in the palate that may go through to the nasal cavity. A cleft can form on any part of the palate, including the front part of the...

  • Guides you through the decision to have an early fetal ultrasound. Explains when ultrasound is usually done during pregnancy and why. Lists risks and benefits. Includes interactive tool to help you decide.

  • This topic is about high blood pressure that some women get while they are pregnant. For information about preeclampsia, a more serious kind of high blood pressure, see the topic Preeclampsia. It's normal for blood pressure to go up and down...

  • Cell-free fetal DNA is a screening test to look for certain birth defects in a fetus. It's done to find birth defects caused by an abnormal number of chromosomes. It also can reveal the sex and blood type of the fetus. This is a blood test for the mother. The test can be done as early as 10 weeks in the pregnancy. If...

  • Learn about gestational diabetes and what you can do to have a healthy pregnancy.

  • Pregnancy can be exciting, mysterious, and exhausting. During pregnancy, your body does a ton of work to support the growth of your baby. And even though you can't feel it yet, your baby is growing and changing very fast. Wondering what your baby looks like now? As you enter your third month of...

  • Congratulations, you've made it through your first trimester! You can now hear your baby's heartbeat with a Doppler heart monitor. That can be very exciting. Inside your uterus, an important organ called the placenta has formed. The placenta's main job is to give your baby oxygen and nutrients through...

  • At the end of four months, you may be looking a little more pregnant on the outside. And inside, your baby is starting to look more human and may even have sprouted a little bit of hair. Wondering what your baby looks like now? As you enter the fifth month of pregnancy, your baby is now about the...

  • By week 20, you've probably felt your baby move. It may not feel like an obvious kick—yet! Instead, your baby's first movements might feel like "butterflies" or gas bubbles. Inside the uterus, your baby is enjoying some regular activities: thumb-sucking and opening and closing his or her eyes...

  • By week 24, you may have noticed some jerking movements inside your belly—or even seen them on the outside! Repetitive, jerky movements usually mean your baby has the hiccups. Hiccups are perfectly normal and can last anywhere from a minute to an hour. Wondering what your baby looks like now? As you...

  • Milk oversupply happens when a mother makes more milk than her baby uses. It is sometimes called overabundant milk supply or hyperlactation. Many things influence how much milk you produce. The two most important things are how often you breastfeed...

  • It's important to take care of your body when you are pregnant. This includes your teeth and gums. A healthy mouth and good dental habits are an important part of a healthy pregnancy. Regular brushing and flossing can help keep your teeth and gums...

  • Learn what it means for you and your baby when you're pregnant and have high blood pressure.

  • At some point in your pregnancy, you will feel your baby move. For example, your baby may kick, hiccup, roll, turn, or twist. These movements are common and expected. As your baby grows, these movements will get stronger. But sometimes you might feel a movement that surprises you. You may wonder what it means. Most...

  • Let others, including your health care team, support you so you can grieve in your own way, when you're ready.

  • Find out the important differences between "practice contractions" and preterm labor.

  • Learn what to expect and what you'll need to know if your premature baby is in the NICU.

  • Learn ways to care for yourself after you give birth.

  • Learn ways to care for yourself after giving birth.

  • Learn what cardiac catheterization for PDA is and how to prepare your child for it.

  • Learn what you can do at home to care for your child after a cardiac catheterization for PDA.

  • Learn what an EP study and ablation are and how to prepare your child for each one.

  • Learn what you can do at home to care for your child after an EP study and ablation.

  • There are things you can do to protect your health and the health of your baby. If you're pregnant Pregnancy causes changes in the body that may raise the risk for some infections. Pregnant women are more likely to get seriously ill from respiratory infections, like the flu. So it's important to try to avoid...

  • Learn five things you can expect when bringing a new baby home.

  • Learn five ways to prepare for breastfeeding.

  • During pregnancy, everything you eat, drink, or take into your body affects you and your growing baby ( fetus). Pregnant women often need to make changes to have a healthy pregnancy, such as eating better or exercising. But one of the most important things you can do when you are pregnant is to avoid alcohol and drugs...

  • Provides links to info on pregnancy, labor and delivery, and the postpartum period. Offers interactive tool to calculate your due date. Also links to interactive tool that shows how an embryo grows into a baby.

  • What is the first-trimester screening for birth defects? Near the end of the first 3 months of pregnancy (first trimester), a woman can have two types of tests to show the chance that her baby has a birth defect. When the results are combined, these tests are known as the first-trimester screening. They also may be...

  • A subchorionic hemorrhage is bleeding under one of the membranes (chorion) that surrounds the embryo. It is a common cause of bleeding in early pregnancy. It also may be called a subchorionic hematoma. The main symptom is vaginal bleeding. But some...

  • Most pregnant women have healthy babies—and that includes women who are obese. But being very heavy does increase the chance of problems. Babies born to mothers who are obese have a higher risk of: Birth defects, such as a heart defect or neural...

  • What is bariatric surgery? Bariatric surgery (such as gastric bypass or banding) helps people lose weight. It's only used for people who are obese and have not been able to lose weight with diet and exercise. This surgery makes the stomach smaller. Some types of surgery also change how your stomach connects with...

  • Insulin is used for people who have type 1 diabetes. It's also used if you have type 2 diabetes and other medicines are not controlling your blood sugar. If you have gestational diabetes, you may need to take insulin if diet and exercise have not helped to keep your blood sugar levels within your target range. With...

  • What is postpartum? During the first weeks after giving birth, your body begins to heal and adjust to not being pregnant. This is called postpartum (or the postpartum period). Your body goes through many changes as you recover. These changes are different for every woman. The first weeks after childbirth also are a...

  • Most babies are born at 37 to 42 weeks of pregnancy. (Those weeks are counted from the first day of your last menstrual period.) A pregnancy that has reached 42 or more weeks is called a "post-term" or "post-date" pregnancy. You might also call it...

  • Name: ___________________________________. Partner's name: _____________________________. Doctor or midwife's name: __________________________. Today's date: _____________________. This birth plan is a guide for my labor and delivery. Since...

  • Most people who are diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) are women in their child-bearing years. Questions about whether MS affects getting pregnant or about labor and delivery are common. Here are some answers: Most couples in which one partner has MS are able to have children without MS affecting the...

  • Learn about the different ways doctors and midwives handle pregnancies and deliver babies.

  • Learn how to get your baby to latch on and what to do if you're having pain or problems.

  • Learn how to get your first few weeks of pregnancy off to a good start.

  • Learn tips for dealing with morning sickness, no matter what time of day you have it.

  • Learn the signs of labor so you'll know what to do when you're ready to have your baby.

  • Learn how to protect your back and relieve pain during pregnancy.

  • Learn about the nutrients you need to have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.

  • Learn how to eat to keep your blood sugar in your target range during pregnancy.

  • Learn about the benefits of exercise during pregnancy and how to do it safely.

  • Learn how often your baby needs breast milk or formula.

  • When you spend time around an animal—whether it's a pet, a farm animal, or a wild animal—there's a chance you can pick up an infection. An infection you get from an animal is called a zoonosis (say "zoh-uh-NOH-sus"). Some infections can seem mild,...

  • The nuchal (say "NEW-kuhl") translucency screening is a test done during pregnancy. It uses ultrasound to measure the thickness of the fluid buildup at the back of the developing baby's neck. If this area is thicker than normal, it can be an early sign of Down syndrome, trisomy 18, or heart problems. The test is...

  • Learn what you can do to have a healthy pregnancy and baby when you have diabetes.

  • Learn what other women with diabetes have done to prepare for pregnancy.

  • Nipple shields are devices to help with certain breastfeeding problems. A nipple shield looks like a little hat with a brim. The crown of the hat fits over the nipple, and the brim lies over the areola. Most nipple shields are made of a soft, thin,...

  • During pregnancy, lots of women wonder about how their body will change and how much weight they will gain. Maybe this is something that you've been thinking about too. Weight gain is healthy and normal when you're pregnant. And there's no fixed number of pounds that you should be aiming for. Instead, there's a...

  • Using a breast pump is a good way to provide the benefits of breastfeeding when you have to be away from your baby. Pumping will help keep up your milk supply and prevent discomfort and breast engorgement. You can also use a breast pump to slowly...

  • Learn about an epidural for labor: what it is, how it's done, and its safety and side effects.

  • Pregnancy is usually a time of excitement. But sometimes, pregnant women and their partners may feel like they're expecting a bundle of anxiety along with the joy. They have a long list of to-dos. They have to cope with the changes and unknowns that...

  • In the past 40 years, the rate of cesarean (C-section) deliveries has jumped from about 1 out of 20 births to about 1 out of 3 births. This trend has caused experts to worry that C-sections are being done more often than needed. Because of...

  • Pregnant women face lots of decisions about childbirth—what tests to have during pregnancy, where to give birth, how to manage pain. But sometimes those decisions are made for women without their opinions and guidance. You are more likely to have the pregnancy and childbirth experience that you want if you and your...

  • Fetal heart monitoring is a way to check the heart rate of your baby (fetus) during labor. The heart rate is a good way to find out if your baby is doing well. It can show if there is a problem. Monitoring may be done all the time during labor...

  • A dilation and curettage (D&C) is a procedure to remove tissue from the lining of the uterus (endometrium). During a D&C, the vagina is spread open. Then the cervix is opened gently so that tissue can be removed, usually with a scraping or suction...

  • Learn what causes gestational diabetes and how you will be tested for it.

  • Learn how keeping the healthy habits you used to manage gestational diabetes can protect your child in the future.

  • Learn what you can do to prevent getting type 2 diabetes after you have gestational diabetes.

  • See how other women who had gestational diabetes found ways to be active.

  • Learn why you need to test your blood sugar when you have gestational diabetes.

  • Learn why you may need to take medicine when you have gestational diabetes.

  • At 28 weeks, your baby may be moving a lot more—and possibly keeping you up at night! Believe it or not, babies find the movement and noise of daytime hours to be soothing. So they often sleep during the day and are awake at night. Wondering what your baby looks like now? As you enter your eighth...

  • Around this time, some women start to notice times when their belly tightens and becomes firm to the touch and then relaxes. These are called Braxton Hicks contractions. Think of them like "warm-up" exercises for your uterus. At this point, your baby is getting ready to do a very important thing it will...

  • As your baby gets bigger, you may be getting more uncomfortable. It may be harder to walk around or to sleep well. At this point, your baby may be spending a lot of time upside down. This "head-down" position can be more comfortable for your baby because of the pear shape of your uterus. It's also...

  • You may have felt ready for baby to come for a while, but your baby may still be perfectly happy inside. It can be very hard to wait to meet your baby! Wondering what your baby looks like now? At the end of ten months of pregnancy, your baby is about the size of a small watermelon. Average baby...

  • Learn how your medical team makes vaginal birth after a cesarean section as safe as possible.

  • Explore the different options for giving birth after a cesarean section to find what's right for you.

  • Learn what questions to ask when choosing a hospital to have a vaginal birth after a cesarean section.

  • Hear Rachel's story about why she chose to have a cesarean birth instead of a VBAC.

  • Hear Alex's story and why she chose to have a vaginal birth after a past cesarean section.

  • Learn how care providers help release a baby's shoulder if it gets stuck in the pelvis during delivery.

  • Find out the important things that happen to your baby near the end of pregnancy.

  • Learn about some of the negative effects of induced labor, including effects on your baby and to your body.

  • Learn how vaginal tears can happen with any size baby. Tears can be treated, and they heal quickly.

  • What is cervical insufficiency? Cervical insufficiency means that the cervix can't stay tightly closed during the second trimester of pregnancy. Instead, the cervix opens (dilates) with little or no pain, usually before 24 weeks. This can lead to miscarriage or birth of a premature baby. You may also hear this...

  • Low amniotic fluid means that there is too little fluid around your baby in the uterus during pregnancy. The medical term for this problem is oligohydramnios. Amniotic fluid protects your baby from being bumped or hurt as you move your body. And it...

  • Anemia during a healthy pregnancy is common. Anemia means your red blood cell level is low. It can happen when you're pregnant because your body is working hard to make more blood to help your baby grow. Sometimes anemia during pregnancy can be...

  • Most pregnant women have symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), especially heartburn, at some point. These symptoms may start at any time during a pregnancy. And they often get worse throughout the pregnancy. Heartburn is common when you are pregnant. That's because hormones cause the digestive system to...

  • There are several ways for your doctor or midwife to figure out how long you have been pregnant. They help you predict when you are likely to have your baby. This is called your due date. The due date is only an estimate of when your baby will be...

  • As the rest of your body changes during pregnancy, your breasts change too, getting themselves ready to make and supply milk for your baby. Your breasts will get bigger. They may be sore sometimes. Your nipples may change color. It's all a natural part of being pregnant. And if some of these changes bother you, it's...

  • Your first prenatal visit is likely to be more extensive than later prenatal checks. Your doctor will take your medical history and do a complete physical exam. Your medical history helps your doctor plan the best possible care for your pregnancy...

  • A contraction stress test checks to see if your baby will stay healthy during contractions when you are in labor. This test includes external fetal heart monitoring. The test is done when you are 34 or more weeks pregnant. During a contraction, the blood and oxygen supply to your baby drops for a short time. This is...

  • Leg cramps affect almost half of all pregnant women. The cause of leg cramps during pregnancy is not fully known, but they may be caused by reduced levels of calcium or increased levels of phosphorus in the blood. Leg cramps are more...

  • At the end of the third trimester, the baby settles, or drops lower, into the mother's pelvis. This is known as dropping or lightening. Dropping is not a good predictor of when labor will begin. In first-time mothers, dropping usually occurs 2 to 4 weeks before delivery, but it can happen earlier. In women who have...

  • Stretch marks (striae gravidarum) are lines on the skin that may appear late in pregnancy. They look like slightly indented pink, red, dark, or white streaks, depending on your skin color. Stretch marks are most common on the belly, but they can...

  • Pregnancy does not seem to increase the progression of abnormal cervical cell changes. The presence of abnormal cervical cell changes or HPV does not affect the outcome of the pregnancy. Close monitoring is needed so that you and your health...

  • During pregnancy, changes in the hands are common. Mild swelling of your hands may be caused by the normal buildup of fluid during pregnancy. Red, itchy palms and soles of the feet are caused by changing hormone levels. The symptoms go away after delivery. Moisturizers may give some relief. An...

  • Some changes in your feet and ankles are normal during pregnancy. These symptoms occur from normal hormonal changes and increased body weight and usually go away after delivery. Many women see a change in shoe size during pregnancy and that may not...

  • Some women carry group B streptococcus bacteria in the vagina. And for some of them, it does not cause problems. (This type of strep is not the same as the type that causes strep throat.) But a woman who has group B strep in her vagina can pass it...

  • Guides through decision to have a vaginal birth (VBAC) after a past cesarean section (C-section). Includes things to think about when making your decision. Covers benefits and risks. Includes an interactive tool to help you make your decision.

  • If you are a woman who smokes and you are thinking about getting pregnant or are pregnant, now is a good time to quit smoking. Women who smoke may have a harder time getting pregnant. Women who smoke are more likely to have the following...

  • Guides you through the decision to have screening tests to look for Down syndrome and birth defects. Discusses what the tests look for. Covers benefits and risks. Includes interactive tool to help you make your decision.

  • After 18 to 20 weeks, you will notice that your baby moves and kicks more at certain times of the day. For example, when you are active, you may feel less kicking than when you are resting quietly. At your prenatal visits, your doctor may ask you whether the baby is active. Kick counts. In the last trimester of...

  • Discusses how to deal with low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) when you have gestational diabetes (diabetes that developed during pregnancy). Covers symptoms and complications of hypoglycemia. Offers tips on preventing and managing low blood sugar emergencies.

  • You may choose to wait until your child is a toddler (ages 1 to 2 years) or older to wean him or her from the breast. You may feel that your toddler isn't ready for weaning until later or that you both aren't ready. You may want to initiate it or just let your child stop breastfeeding on his or her own (self-wean)...

  • Sometimes a mother wants to stop breastfeeding, but her baby shows signs of wanting to continue. If possible, continue breastfeeding a while longer. If this is not possible, the following suggestions may help you: Offer breast milk pumped from your...

  • Polyhydramnios is a condition in which there is too much fluid in the amniotic sac, the sac that holds the developing baby (fetus). This liquid is called amniotic fluid, and it surrounds the fetus throughout pregnancy. In many cases, the cause of polyhydramnios may not be found. But causes may include: Problems...

  • Delivery before the 37th week is called a premature, or preterm, delivery. A premature delivery can cause problems for the infants if their organs are not fully developed. Infants delivered before 32 weeks have greater health risks than those who...

  • Guides you through the decision to have an amniocentesis test. Explains what amniocentesis is and how it is done. Discusses birth defects. Looks at the risks and benefits of amniocentesis. Includes interactive tool to help you make your decision.

  • Feeding a baby who has cleft palate can be a challenge. Your baby may have a problem making a tight seal between his or her mouth and the nipple. But with a little preparation, you can successfully feed your baby with breast milk or formula. A...

  • Covers when feelings of sadness or anxiety may indicate need for treatment for depression. Offers tips to help with depression. Explains emergency symptoms, like talk about suicide. Includes interactive tool to help you decide when to call a doctor.

  • Most medical professionals recommend letting a baby eat on demand. But during the first few days of breastfeeding, be sure to awaken your baby for feedings about every 2 hours. This will help to get your milk supply going. To make the transition...

  • Most infants lose up to 10% of their birth weight in the first week. A baby's weight decreases from the normal loss of fluid, urine, and stool. Babies also get few calories from early breastfeeding patterns. Their bodies have special fat stores for...

  • Pain during breastfeeding is a sign of a problem and should not be ignored. Although sore or tender nipples are common during the first few days of breastfeeding, it should improve. Normal soreness or pain usually occurs for about a minute when the baby first latches on to the breast. Pain that is severe or continuous...

  • Most women who have epilepsy deliver healthy babies. But the risk of birth defects, stillbirth, and seizure-related problems is higher for babies born to women with epilepsy. Most antiepileptic medicines increase the risk even more. If you have...

  • You sometimes may notice that your milk does not flow easily, or let down, when you attempt to breastfeed or use a breast pump. Emotional stress, fatigue, anxiety, smoking, pain, or being cold are common causes of poor let-down. With poor let-down, you may not experience the tingling and leaking of milk that usually...

  • If you have preeclampsia or chronic kidney disease, your health professional may instruct you to check the protein content in your urine at home. Increased protein is a sign that your kidneys are being damaged. To test your urine on a daily basis,...

  • Lupus (systemic lupus erythematosus, or SLE) doesn't typically affect a woman's ability to conceive. But if you are having a lupus flare or are taking corticosteroid medicines, you may have irregular menstrual cycles, making it difficult to plan a...

  • Talk to your doctor before you take any prescription or nonprescription medicine while breastfeeding. That's because some medicines can affect your breast milk. But many medicines are safe to use when you breastfeed. These include certain pain...

  • Women who have had breast implants or surgery to remove cysts or benign (noncancerous) lumps usually are able to breastfeed. Women who have had surgery to make their breasts smaller (breast reduction) may have trouble breastfeeding if the milk ducts...

  • If you are breastfeeding, many substances that you eat, drink, inhale, or inject end up in your breast milk and may harm your baby. Smoking cigarettes or chewing tobacco may reduce your milk production and inhibit the let-down reflex. It also may...

  • Some aspects of breastfeeding may come naturally. But learning some breastfeeding skills and techniques can help you be more successful. Before your baby is born, take classes, read books, and watch videos that demonstrate breastfeeding techniques....

  • Breastfeeding in the proper position will help your baby latch on and breastfeed correctly and make your experience more enjoyable. Also, when you are in a comfortable and relaxed position, let-down occurs more easily. You are more likely to drain...

  • Most mothers can produce enough milk to breastfeed two or more babies. If you have twins or triplets, breastfeeding becomes more physically and emotionally challenging. But with support and guidance, you can be successful. Breastfeeding fosters the...

  • A cesarean delivery may delay the start of breastfeeding. You may be sleepy from medicine or in pain from the surgery. Try breastfeeding your baby as soon as you are able. Ask whether your baby can be brought into the recovery room to be held and...

  • You usually can continue breastfeeding your child if you become pregnant. If you breastfeed while you are pregnant, be aware of the following issues: Breastfeeding during pregnancy is not recommended if you are at risk for preterm labor....

  • You can continue to breastfeed after you return to work. But it is important to think ahead about practical issues, such as where to store your pumped milk. Some issues to consider include: Employer support. Before your child is born, talk to your employer about your breastfeeding plans. Point out the...

  • If you are breastfeeding, your doctor may suggest that you eat more calories each day than otherwise recommended for a person of your height and weight. Be sure to ask your doctor about how much and what to eat if you: Are very active. Begin to lose weight rapidly. Are breastfeeding more than one...

  • Rest and sleep are important to breastfeeding women for keeping up their energy and their milk production. Avoid or limit caffeine, especially in the hours before bedtime. Caffeine can keep you awake. Use the evening hours for settling down. Avoid...

  • Keep the following in mind as you start an exercise program or try to lose weight while you are breastfeeding. Exercise Being active helps promote weight loss, improves your energy level, and can help you relieve stress. Follow these tips when you start an exercise program while you are breastfeeding...

  • Breastfeeding can be used as a method of birth control, called the lactational amenorrhea method (LAM). But three conditions must be met to ensure its effectiveness: Your baby must be 6 months of age or younger. After your baby is 6 months old, you are much more likely to become pregnant and need to use another...

  • Childbirth and breastfeeding may affect your sexual desire. Exhaustion, breast soreness, your baby's demands, and recovery from childbirth may reduce your interest in intimacy with your partner. But you may feel more comfortable having sex after the...

  • It is important to have breastfeeding support from your doctors, nurses, and hospital staff who care for you and your baby. Fortunately, most people involved in health care are aware of the benefits of breastfeeding. Before having your baby,...

  • What is breast engorgement, and what causes it? Breast engorgement means your breasts are painfully overfull of milk. This usually occurs when a mother makes more milk than her baby uses. Your breasts may become firm and swollen, which can make it hard for your baby to breastfeed. Engorged breasts can be treated at...

  • What is Rh sensitization during pregnancy? If you are Rh-negative, your red blood cells do not have a marker called Rh factor on them. Rh-positive blood does have this marker. If your blood mixes with Rh-positive blood, your immune system will react to the Rh factor by making antibodies to destroy it. This immune...

  • An indirect Coombs test can be used to determine whether there are antibodies to the Rh factor in the mother's blood. In this case: A normal (negative) result means that the mother has not developed antibodies against the fetus's blood. A negative...

  • Fetal blood sampling (FBS) is the collecting of fetal blood directly from the umbilical cord or fetus. The fetal blood is tested for signs of anemia and other blood problems. FBS is also known as cordocentesis or percutaneous umbilical cord blood sampling. FBS is usually used when a Doppler ultrasound and/or a...

  • When labor does not start on its own and delivery needs to happen soon, contractions can be started (induced) with medicine. Some doctors avoid inducing labor when a woman is trying vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC). But others are okay with the...

  • You and your birth partner can take part more fully in a vaginal birth than you can in a cesarean delivery. During a cesarean, the mother gets either a regional anesthetic or a general anesthetic. She can't fully take part in her baby's birth. Some...

  • Discusses ectopic pregnancy (tubal pregnancy), a condition where a fertilized egg grows outside of the uterus. Covers tests and treatments. Discusses complications, including fallopian tube damage. Covers risk factors like smoking, PID, or tubal ligation.

  • What is cleft lip? Cleft lip is a treatable birth defect. It happens when the tissues of the upper jaw and nose don't join as expected during fetal development. This causes a split (cleft) in the lip. A cleft lip may be complete or incomplete. With either type, it may involve one or both sides of the upper lip...

  • What is a molar pregnancy? A molar pregnancy happens when tissue that normally becomes a fetus instead becomes an abnormal growth in your uterus. Even though it isn't an embryo, this growth triggers symptoms of pregnancy. A molar pregnancy should be treated right away. This will make sure that all of the tissue...

  • An alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) blood test checks the level of AFP in a pregnant woman's blood. AFP is a substance made in the liver of an unborn baby (fetus). The amount of AFP in the blood of a pregnant woman can help see whether the baby may have such problems as spina bifida and anencephaly. An AFP test can also be done...

  • Spina bifida is a type of birth defect called a neural tube defect. It occurs when the bones of the spine (vertebrae) don't form properly around part of the baby's spinal cord. Spina bifida can be mild or severe. The mild form is the most common. It...

  • What is breech position? During most of pregnancy, there is enough room in the uterus for the baby (fetus) to change position. By 36 weeks of pregnancy, most babies turn into a head-down position. This is the normal and safest fetal position for birth. But in about 4 out of 100 births, the baby doesn't naturally...

  • By the end of a pregnancy, a fetus is typically positioned head-down (vertex), ready to pass head first through the birth canal. Sometimes a fetus is in a bottom-down, or breech, position as the due date approaches. Postural management is a way of attempting to turn a fetus from a breech to a vertex position by lying or...

  • External cephalic version, or version, is a procedure used to turn a fetus from a breech position or side-lying (transverse) position into a head-down (vertex) position before labor begins. When successful, version makes it possible for you to try a vaginal birth. Version is done most often before labor begins...

  • What is placenta abruptio? Placenta abruptio is a pregnancy problem in which the placenta separates too early from the wall of the uterus. The placenta is a round, flat organ that forms during pregnancy. It gives the baby food and oxygen from the mother. In a normal pregnancy, the placenta stays firmly...

  • What is placenta previa? Placenta previa is a pregnancy problem in which the placenta blocks the cervix. The placenta is a round, flat organ that forms on the inside wall of the uterus soon after conception. During pregnancy, it gives the baby food and oxygen from the mother. In a normal pregnancy, the placenta...

  • Amniocentesis is a test to look at the fluid that surrounds your baby ( fetus) in the uterus. Amniotic fluid has cells and other substances that can give clues about the health of your fetus. For this test, a needle is put gently through your belly into your uterus. About 2 Tbsp (30 mL) of fluid is taken out and...

  • You and your partner can learn a lot by taking a childbirth education class. This is especially true if it's your first pregnancy. A good time to start the class is in your sixth or seventh month. If a friend is going to be your labor support (labor...

  • When it's time to give birth, you have a choice of where to deliver your baby. Do you want to have your baby in a hospital? Is a birthing center more your style? Or would you prefer to have your baby at home? Do you plan to use a midwife? What will...

  • Labor induction As the end of pregnancy nears, the cervix normally becomes soft (ripe) and begins to open (dilate) and thin (efface), preparing for labor and delivery. When labor does not naturally start on its own and vaginal delivery needs to happen soon, labor may be started artificially (induced). Even...

  • Some women get nosebleeds when they are pregnant. That's because there is more blood flow to the tissue inside the nose (mucous membranes) when you are pregnant. Avoid using nonprescription nasal decongestants, such as allergy pills or sprays. If...

  • A balanced, nutritious diet during pregnancy is important to maintain your health and nourish your fetus. In general, pregnant women need to increase their daily caloric intake by 340 calories in the second trimester and 450 calories in the third trimester. Most women who are pregnant need 2,200 to 2,900 calories a...

  • Hemorrhoids are swollen veins at the end of the large intestine (anus). They often stick out from the anus (external hemorrhoids). They can also be located on the inside of the lower intestine (internal hemorrhoids). Bleeding, itching, and pain are...

  • Vaginal intercourse can be continued as usual if your pregnancy is uncomplicated. Discuss any concerns or questions with your doctor. Sex during the first trimester will not cause any problems, such as a miscarriage. The fetus will not be harmed...

  • If you have an uncomplicated pregnancy, you are likely to be able to travel during most of your pregnancy. Just be sure to discuss air travel and extended trips with your doctor ahead of time. When traveling, it's also smart to carry a written record of your due date and any medical conditions you have...

  • Exercise is good for healthy pregnant women who are receiving prenatal care. Try to do at least 2½ hours a week of moderate exercise. One way to do this is to be active 30 minutes a day, at least 5 days a week. It's fine to be active in blocks of 10...

  • Many women work or go to school (or both) while they are pregnant. It can keep you active and engaged. If the things you do at work or school mostly involve sitting, and if there are no other problems with your pregnancy, you can probably keep doing...

  • If you have one or more children at home, your pregnancy simply can't be your central focus. Getting the rest you need can be a challenge. Sometimes you may even forget to take extra good care of yourself. As you juggle the demands of pregnancy and parenting, consider the following: Your health is a top...

  • Even though you're not pregnant yet, you might already be thinking about which room to turn into the baby's room and how to decorate it. And you might be making lists of all the baby clothes and supplies that you'll need. But it's also a good time to take some steps to help yourself have a happy pregnancy and a healthy...

  • The following are ways you can take care of your own and your baby's health during pregnancy. Visit your doctor or midwife as soon as you suspect you are pregnant. Keep regular appointments for prenatal checkups and care. Get treatment for all...

  • You can take measures to make your life easier in the days and weeks after childbirth (postpartum period). Accept help, seek help You may be exhausted from the delivery and from being up at night with your baby. Don't expect that you'll be able to keep the house spotless and do all the household...

  • During the second and third trimesters of pregnancy, you may notice episodes when your belly tightens and becomes firm to the touch, then relaxes. These are episodes of tightening (contraction) of the uterine muscles called Braxton Hicks...

  • When you are pregnant, a fluid-filled bag called the amniotic sac surrounds and protects the fetus. When a hole or tear forms in the sac, it's called a rupture of the membranes. Most women describe this by saying their "water broke." Your membranes can break by themselves. This is called a spontaneous rupture of the...

  • A nonstress test is used in pregnant women to evaluate the heart rate of a developing baby (fetus). Normally, a developing baby's heart rate ranges from 100 to 160 beats per minute, and it usually speeds up after the baby moves. If the heart rate is...

  • Discusses gestational diabetes (diabetes that develops during pregnancy). Discusses symptoms and how it's diagnosed. Covers treatment with healthy food choices, exercise, medicine and insulin to control blood sugar levels.

  • Is this topic for you? This topic covers pregnancy information, including planning for labor and delivery. If you aren't pregnant yet, see the topic Preparing for a Healthy Pregnancy. For more information on labor and delivery, see the topic Labor and Delivery. What can you do to have a healthy pregnancy? You may...

  • What is a vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC)? If you have had a cesarean delivery (also called a C-section) before, you may be able to deliver your next baby vaginally. This is called vaginal birth after cesarean, or VBAC. Most women, whether they deliver vaginally or by C-section, don't have serious problems from...

  • You may wish to consider adoption as an alternative to treatment for infertility. Learning more about the tests, exams, success rates, and costs of infertility treatment may help you decide. Adoption provides people with an opportunity to raise and...

  • HELLP syndrome is a life-threatening liver disorder thought to be a type of severe preeclampsia. It is characterized by H emolysis (destruction of red blood cells), E levated L iver enzymes (which indicate liver damage), and L ow P latelet count. HELLP is usually related to preeclampsia. About 10% to 20% of women...

  • When muscles use energy, they release a waste product called creatinine into the blood. The kidneys then filter creatinine from the blood. From the kidneys, creatinine passes out of the body through the urinary tract. If the kidneys are not functioning normally, high amounts of creatinine remain in the blood while low...

  • Women with chronic high blood pressure require special medical care before, during, and after their pregnancies. Some blood pressure medicines are not recommended for use during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Talk to your doctor if you take blood...

  • Describes different methods used to induce labor and delivery for pregnancy termination. Lists what to expect after procedure and during recovery. Covers why it is done and how well it works. Also lists risks involved. Offers points to consider about the procedure.

  • Electronic fetal heart monitoring is done during pregnancy, labor, and delivery. It keeps track of the heart rate of your baby ( fetus). It also checks the duration of the contractions of your uterus. Your baby's heart rate is a good way to tell if your baby is doing well or may have some problems. Two types of...

  • Before a baby is born, the amniotic sac breaks open, causing amniotic fluid to gush out or, less commonly, to slowly leak. When this happens before contractions start, it is called prelabor rupture of membranes (PROM). PROM can occur at any time...

  • During pregnancy, a uterine infection causes inflammation, which can trigger preterm labor. This inflammation can also stimulate the amnion cells to produce fetal fibronectin, a protein. Fetal fibronectin testing is sometimes done when preterm labor symptoms are present. When the fetal fibronectin test is negative...

  • Expectant management is the close monitoring of a pregnancy for complications. It may involve some bed rest at home or in the hospital. Being on expectant management may mean you are advised to stop working, reduce your activity level, or possibly...

  • If you have symptoms of preterm labor, your doctor or nurse-midwife may examine you by feeling your cervix. If your contractions continue over a period of hours, you may be examined periodically to see whether your cervix is opening (dilating) or...

  • Cervical cerclage is the placement of stitches in the cervix to hold it closed. In select cases, this procedure is used to keep a weak cervix (incompetent cervix) from opening early. When a cervix opens early, it may cause preterm labor and...

  • Is this topic for you? This topic covers how preterm labor affects the pregnant woman. If you want to know how it affects the baby after he or she is born, see the topic Premature Infant. What is preterm labor? Preterm labor is labor that comes too early—between 20 and 37 weeks of pregnancy...

  • Discusses test to measure blood sugar (glucose) levels in those who have diabetes. Covers why and how it is done. Looks at what might affect the test. Covers risks.

  • A vaginal self-examination is a way for a woman to look at her vulva and vagina. A vaginal self-examination may help you better understand your body, the changes that take place during the menstrual cycle, and any problems that may need medical attention. The best time to do a vaginal self-examination is between your...

  • Discusses pregnancy of two or more babies. Covers identical and fraternal twins and triplets. Discusses infertility treatment, a common cause of multiple pregnancy. Discusses common tests, possible complications, and treatment options. Covers self-care.

  • Discusses problems with how a baby's heart forms. Also looks at problems found when a person is an adult. Includes info on patent ductus arteriosus, aortic valve stenosis, and coarctation of the aorta. Covers treatment with medicine and surgery.

  • Caring for a child with a congenital heart defect can be challenging. The following tips may help you care for your child so that he or she is as healthy and comfortable as possible. These tips may also help you cope with the difficulties that parents often experience. Caring for your child in the hospital...

  • A heart catheterization is a procedure used for both diagnosis and treatment of congenital heart defects. As a test, this procedure allows doctors to see how blood flows through the heart chambers and arteries. As a treatment, the doctor can use special tools to fix a heart defect during this procedure. How is it...

  • Covers causes and symptoms of preeclampsia. Includes regular checkups with your doctor. Looks at prevention and treatment with close monitoring and possibly blood pressure medicine.

  • The exact cause of colic is not known. But some breastfeeding mothers have noticed that certain foods seem to cause colic in their babies. It is possible that some foods may affect breast milk and contribute to intestinal gas or other digestive...

  • What is bed rest? Bed rest is limiting physical activity during your pregnancy. It can last a few weeks or even months. It may be at home or in the hospital. Your doctor may put you on partial bed rest or full bed rest. Partial bed rest usually means it's usually okay to sit, stand, or walk around for short...

  • Chorionic villus sampling (CVS) is a test that can find certain problems with your fetus. These include many diseases that run in families ( genetic disorders) and chromosome defects. It is done during early pregnancy, most often between the 10th and 13th weeks. Chorionic villi are tiny finger-shaped growths...

  • The human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) test is done to check for the hormone hCG in blood or urine. Some hCG tests measure the exact amount. Some just check to see if the hormone is present. HCG is made by the placenta during pregnancy. The test can be used to see if a woman is pregnant. Or it can be done as part of a...

  • If you have preeclampsia, you will need regular exams to assess whether your condition is becoming more severe. Your exams may include: Measurement of your blood pressure while lying down on your left side, standing up, or sitting in a chair....

  • Is this topic for you? This topic is about the loss of a baby before 20 weeks of pregnancy. For information about the loss of a baby after 20 weeks of pregnancy but before the baby is born, see the topic Stillbirth. What is a miscarriage? A miscarriage is the loss of a pregnancy during the first 20...

  • Fetal ultrasound is a test done during pregnancy that uses reflected sound waves. It produces a picture of the baby (fetus), the organ that supports the fetus ( placenta), and the liquid that surrounds the fetus ( amniotic fluid). The picture is displayed on a TV screen. It may be in black and white or in color. The...

  • A genetic test checks the DNA of your cells. It can find changes in your genes, or it can check the number, order, and structure of your chromosomes. Testing may be done on samples of body tissue, blood, or other body fluids such as urine or saliva. You inherit half of your genetic information from your mother and...

  • Discusses toxoplasmosis test, a blood test that checks pregnant women for antibodies to the Toxoplasma gondii parasite. Covers why and how it is done. Also discusses what results mean.

  • Vaginal yeast infections are a common problem during pregnancy. They may be caused by high estrogen levels. These infections aren't a risk to the pregnancy. But they can cause uncomfortable symptoms. If you are pregnant and have vaginal infection...

  • What is breastfeeding? Breastfeeding is feeding a baby milk from the mother's breasts. You can feed your baby right at your breast. You can also pump your breasts and put the milk in a bottle to feed your baby. Doctors advise breastfeeding for 1 year or longer. But your baby benefits from any amount of breastfeeding...

  • Gestational trophoblastic disease (GTD) is a group of rare diseases in which abnormal trophoblast cells grow inside the uterus after conception. In gestational trophoblastic disease (GTD), a tumor develops inside the uterus from tissue that forms after conception (the joining of sperm and egg). This tissue is made of...

  • Breast cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the breast. The breast is made up of lobes and ducts. Each breast has 15 to 20 sections called lobes. Each lobe has many smaller sections called lobules. Lobules end in dozens of tiny bulbs that can make milk. The lobes, lobules, and...

  • You may be pregnant if you: Have had sexual intercourse and you have not used any method of birth control. Have missed one or more periods. Have your period, but there is a lot less bleeding than usual. Take birth control pills, but you missed a...

  • Feed your baby whenever he or she seems hungry (on-demand). During the first few days or weeks, breastfeedings tend to occur every 1 to 3 hours around the clock. And formula-feedings tend to occur every 3 to 4 hours around the clock. You may have to wake your sleepy newborn to feed in the first few days after birth...

  • Covers procedure to destroy (ablate) tiny areas of heart muscle causing fast heart rate. Includes radiofrequency ablation and cryoablation. Covers use for supraventricular tachycardia (SVT), atrioventricular reciprocating tachycardia (AVRT), Wolff-Parkinson-White (WPW) syndrome, and ventricular tachycardia.

  • If you plan to breastfeed and use a breast pump at times, research your equipment options while you are pregnant. When evaluating the different types of breast pumps, think about how often you will need to use the pump. Think about: How often you will need other caregivers to feed your baby. Whether you will return...

  • A number of things influence how much milk you produce (your milk supply). The two most important things are how often you breastfeed and how well your breast is emptied. The hormone that regulates milk production ( prolactin) is stimulated by breastfeeding. So the more frequently you feed your baby and empty your...

  • You can be reassured that your baby is eating enough and is well nourished when he or she: Shows an eager desire and wakes up frequently to breastfeed. Rhythmically sucks and swallows milk. The fronts of your baby's ears will move slightly, and you...

  • What is the triple or quad screening? The triple screening measures the amounts of three substances in a pregnant woman's blood: alpha-fetoprotein (AFP), human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), and estriol (uE3). When a test for the hormone inhibin A is added, it's called a quad screening. These tests are also called...

  • Have CVS (chorionic villus sampling). Don't have CVS. CVS is done in the first trimester. If the test shows a serious health problem, you have more time to decide whether you want to continue your pregnancy or make plans to care for a sick child. CVS isn't a routine test. But your doctor may...

  • Wolff-Parkinson-White (WPW) syndrome is a heart rhythm problem that causes a very fast heart rate. WPW is one type of supraventricular tachycardia called atrioventricular reciprocating tachycardia (AVRT). With WPW, an extra electrical pathway links the upper chambers (atria) and lower chambers (ventricles) of the...

  • The amount of time it takes for a woman's full fertility to return after stopping birth control varies for each woman and depends on the birth control method she is using. Your ability to get pregnant gradually decreases as you age, starting at age 25. Poor health and irregular periods may also decrease your fertility...

  • Oxytocin is a hormone released from the pituitary gland in the brain. During pregnancy, oxytocin causes labor contractions to begin. Oxytocin also is released when a woman's breasts are stimulated by suckling or pumping, causing milk to move from the ducts and out the tiny holes in the nipple (let-down reflex). In the...

  • Inverted nipples fold inward instead of pointing out. Most women with inverted nipples will still be able to breastfeed. If the baby is having a hard time latching on to the breast, ask your doctor, midwife, or lactation consultant for help. To find...

  • Infant formulas take two times longer for a baby to digest than breast milk. The slower digestion of infant formula can affect: Feeding frequency. Babies who take infant formula usually want to feed less often than babies who are breastfeeding....

  • You may choose to breastfeed and give infant formula for some of your baby's feedings. Supplementing breast milk with formula may decrease your supply of breast milk. But it will not stop your breast milk production. It is best to wait until your...

  • The following guidelines will help you determine the severity of your vaginal bleeding. Severe bleeding means you are soaking through your usual pads or tampons each hour for 2 or more hours. For most women, soaking through their usual pads or tampons every hour for 2 or more hours is not normal and is considered...

  • Abnormal vaginal discharge Changing hormone levels during pregnancy can affect the normal balance of organisms in the vagina. If you are pregnant and have abnormal vaginal symptoms, such as vaginal discharge or itching, talk with your doctor about your symptoms before using home treatment measures or nonprescription...

  • It may be hard to tell if you have passed tissue, because when you pass tissue you may also pass large blood clots. Tissue may appear gray or pink. Passing tissue may be a sign of miscarriage. If you pass tissue or have moderate bleeding any time during pregnancy, call your doctor immediately. If possible, collect the...

  • Pelvic pain and problems urinating may mean you have a bladder infection. Flank pain with fever and urinary symptoms may mean you have a kidney infection (pyelonephritis). Flank pain is felt just below the rib cage and above the waist. It can be on one or both sides of the back. If you have pelvic or flank pain and...

  • Many women have problems with nausea and sometimes vomiting ( morning sickness) during the first 16 weeks of pregnancy. For some women, morning sickness may be one of the first signs of pregnancy. The term "morning sickness" can be misleading, because symptoms can occur at any time of the day. The causes of morning...

  • Regular contractions may mean that your uterine muscle is tightening (Braxton Hicks contractions) or that you are in labor. It may be hard to tell the difference between Braxton Hicks contractions and true labor. If there is any doubt, call your doctor. Braxton Hicks contractions During the second and third...

  • Most women have an increased urge to urinate during pregnancy. This is a normal body response related to hormone changes that occur during pregnancy and to physical pressure on the bladder. Bladder infections are more common during pregnancy. When a bladder infection develops during pregnancy, you may have discomfort...

  • It is not unusual to develop a viral illness that causes a fever during pregnancy or after your delivery. Mild fevers that last only a short time usually are not a concern. An ongoing fever that does not get better with home treatment, such as taking acetaminophen, or that does not improve after several days may mean...

  • Constipation Constipation is a common problem during pregnancy. Delayed passage of bowel contents (slow transit) is the most common cause of constipation during pregnancy. You may also have constipation or discomfort with bowel movements for a few days after delivery. Your first bowel movement may be painful if you...

  • While you are pregnant, you may also have other common problems, like a cold, mild headache, backache, mild fever, or the flu, that are not caused by your pregnancy. These minor symptoms generally do not cause problems or hurt your baby. In general, doctors say it is usually safe to take acetaminophen (Tylenol) for...

  • Guides through decision to have a multifetal pregnancy reduction. Discusses comparisons between twins after fetal reduction versus triplets (no fetal reduction). Covers benefits and risks. Includes an interactive tool to help you make your decision.

  • For a while after childbirth, don't be surprised if you have little interest in sex. Physical recovery, exhaustion, and hormonal changes often affect sexuality after childbirth. Each woman's experience is different. Together, you and your partner can connect emotionally and physically by knowing ahead of time what...

  • Laboring in water Some hospitals and birthing centers offer tubs or whirlpools for labor. If yours does, talk to your doctor or midwife about laboring in water. The warm water supports your body. It also helps you to relax. For many women, laboring in water has been proved to: Reduce labor pain. Reduce the use of or...

  • Most women who are older than 35 have healthy pregnancies. But as you age beyond your mid-30s, some risks do increase. If you are an older mother-to-be, you can increase your chances of having a healthy pregnancy. See your doctor for a checkup before you become pregnant. Keep a regular schedule of prenatal checkups when...

  • Massage is rubbing the soft tissues of the body, including the skin and muscles. Massage therapists usually apply pressure with their hands, but they can also use their forearms, elbows, or feet. Some people believe that massage works because the touch is healing. Touch also communicates a sense of caring. When you...

  • Pregnancy prompts your body to make lots of hormones. These hormones can affect your mind and your body. It's common to feel tired, forgetful, or moody. And you also may be focused on other things, like body changes, symptoms, money worries, and all the ways your life is about to change. It is common to go through...

  • Offers interactive tool that shows the growth of an embryo into a baby. Provides links to info on pregnancy and labor and delivery.

  • In women, the perineum is the muscle and tissue between the anus and the vulva. During childbirth, the perineum stretches and sometimes tears. One way to help prevent tearing is to stretch and massage the perineum for a few weeks before your due date. Studies show that women who did regular perineal massage reported...

  • Expectant management, or observation, is sometimes used to manage complications of a high-risk pregnancy. Depending on the severity of your preeclampsia, you may need expectant management at home or in the hospital. Expectant management at home requires reduced activity and careful checking and daily recording of...

  • Eclampsia is pregnancy-related seizure activity that is caused by severe preeclampsia. Less than 1% of women who have preeclampsia experience seizures. Eclampsia is life-threatening for both a mother and her fetus. During a seizure, the oxygen supply to the fetus is drastically reduced. Sudden seizures can occur...

  • Is this topic for you? This topic is for people who want to know what to expect when a baby is born early. For information about early labor, its causes, and its treatment, see the topic Preterm Labor. What is premature birth? Pregnancy normally lasts about 40 weeks. A baby born 3 or more weeks early is premature...

  • After your infant is discharged from the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), you may need to take special precautions for car travel. In most cases the safest way for a healthy premature infant to travel is in a car seat. But some premature infants...

  • If your premature infant was born before the gestational age of 32 to 34 weeks, he or she cannot feed by mouth. This is because of: Poor coordination (or lack) of sucking, swallowing, and gag reflex. Weakness of both the oral and stomach muscles. Small stomach capacity. Until your infant becomes stronger and more...

  • Routine immunizations Starting at 2 months after birth, premature infants need all the recommended immunizations that full-term infants get. The one immunization that your preemie may not get on schedule is the hepatitis B vaccine, which is usually given at birth. This vaccine doesn't work as well in very small...

  • The most rare yet most serious risk of vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC) is that the scar on the uterus may break open (rupture) during labor. Women who have a low transverse cesarean scar have a lower risk of rupturing than women who have a vertical incision scar. About 5 out of 1,000 women (0.5%) with a low...

  • Pregnancy starts a new phase of your relationship with your partner. You can expect a natural shift in roles as well as attention to and expectations of each other. If you are new to parenthood as a couple, you will notice that your focus on each other is evolving into something new—attention to a third party, your...

  • When you're pregnant, everything you put in your body can affect your baby. If you smoke, your baby is exposed to chemicals such as nicotine and carbon monoxide. If you're a smoker and get pregnant, now is the time to quit. If you're not a smoker, avoid secondhand smoke. If you smoke and aren't pregnant but are...

  • Many women have caffeine during pregnancy. And in small amounts, caffeine is safe for the baby. It's a good idea to keep your caffeine intake below 200 mg a day, because: More caffeine may be connected to a higher rate of miscarriage....

  • Chemical exposure Take care to protect your developing fetus from dangerous substances during your pregnancy: Fumes from pesticides, household cleaners, and paint can be harmful to a developing fetus, especially in the first trimester. While you are pregnant, use chemical-free cleaning alternatives. If you...

  • Routine exams At each prenatal visit during your first-trimester, you'll be weighed and have your blood pressure checked. Your urine may also be checked for bacteria, protein, or sugar. Your doctor will monitor your fetus's growth by measuring the height of your uterus (fundal height) above your pubic bone. Using a...

  • Routine exams and tests At each prenatal visit, you can expect to be weighed. Your blood pressure will be checked. Your urine may also be checked for bacteria, protein, or sugar. Your doctor or midwife will track your baby's growth and position. To do this, he or she will measure the size of your uterus (fundal height)...

  • Routine exams and tests At each prenatal visit, you can expect to be weighed and have your urine and blood pressure checked. Your health professional will monitor your fetus's growth and position by measuring the size of your uterus (fundal height) and feeling (palpating) your abdomen. If your fetus is not in the...

  • Regular prenatal exams are a top priority during any pregnancy. They are important both for monitoring your own and your fetus's health and for giving you and your health professional time to build a working relationship. If your pregnancy is going well, you will have a regular schedule of prenatal checkups. These will...

  • It's important to find a doctor or midwife who can work closely with you and share in decision making. This partnership is key to getting the care that is best for you. And it will help you have the pregnancy and childbirth that you want. Options for your care Several types of health professionals are trained to...

  • Many women get postpartum blues, also called the "baby blues," during the first few days after childbirth. They may lose sleep, feel irritable, cry easily, and feel happy one minute and sad the next. Hormone changes are one cause of these emotional...

  • As your due date draws nearer, learn and practice controlled breathing techniques for pain management during childbirth. Concentrating on your breathing can help distract you from pain, relax both your muscles and your mind, and keep your oxygen...

  • Antiphospholipid syndrome is a rare autoimmune disease that has been closely linked to some cases of recurrent miscarriage. This syndrome increases blood clotting. It can cause dangerous blood clots (thrombosis) and problems with blood flow. For some women, the only sign of this condition is an early miscarriage. Or...

  • Guides you through decision to use medicine, surgery, or no treatment to complete a miscarriage. Discusses benefits and risks of each. Includes an interactive tool to help you make your decision.

  • To help control the pain and stress of labor, you may get pain medicines. The medicine can be injected into a vein or into the muscle. The most common pain medicines used are opioids. Examples include fentanyl, morphine, and nalbuphine. How opioids work for labor pain Opioids suppress how you perceive pain, and they...

  • Local anesthesia for childbirth is most commonly given as a shot that numbs the area around the vagina just before an episiotomy is done. An episiotomy is a cut made in the tissue between the vagina and anus just before the baby's head starts to emerge. (The tissue is called the perineum.) The cut makes the vaginal...

  • Pudendal block To relieve pain associated with the second (pushing) stage of labor, an injection called a pudendal block can be given through the vaginal wall and into the pudendal nerve in the pelvis, numbing the area between the vagina and anus (perineum). Pudendal blocks do not relieve the pain of contractions. A...

  • Epidural anesthesia is an effective form of childbirth pain relief. Epidural anesthesia is the injection of a numbing medicine into the space around the spinal nerves in the lower back. It numbs the area above and below the point of injection and allows you to remain awake during the delivery. It can be used for either...

  • Spinal anesthesia (spinal block) is similar to epidural anesthesia, except the anesthetic is injected in a single dose into the fluid around the spinal cord. A spinal block may also be called a saddle block. It numbs the area that would come into contact with the saddle of a horse. Like an epidural catheter, a spinal...

  • Discusses risks to the fetus of a woman who gets toxoplasmosis during pregnancy. Covers common symptoms like swollen glands. Discusses treatment with antibiotics. Covers how to avoid toxoplasmosis, including avoiding raw meat and contact with cat feces.

  • Mastitis usually happens in nursing mothers when bacteria enter the breast through a cracked or sore nipple. This can cause an infection. Mastitis usually starts as a painful area in one breast. It may be red or warm to the touch, or both. Fever, chills, and body aches usually occur too. Good breastfeeding...

  • During pregnancy, the placenta is normally attached to the upper wall of the uterus. A placenta that forms low in the uterus without overlapping the cervical opening is referred to as a low-lying placenta. It is not a high-risk condition. It often gets better on its own as the pregnancy progresses. If you have a...

  • Is this topic for you? If you have had a C-section and would like information about how a cesarean affects future deliveries, see the topic Vaginal Birth After Cesarean (VBAC). What is a cesarean section? A cesarean section is the delivery of a baby through a cut (incision) in the mother's belly and uterus. It is...

  • During pregnancy, the cervix is a closed and sealed tunnel between the uterus and the vagina. Before or during labor and delivery, the cervix stretches and flattens ( effacement). At 24 weeks of pregnancy, the average cervix is about 35 mm (1.4 in.) long. A short cervix has a length of less than 25 mm (1 in.). Women...

  • Raising your core body temperature is called hyperthermia. It can harm your developing baby (fetus). It's most harmful during the early weeks when the organs are forming. Experts don't forbid hot tub or sauna use. But they do advise caution. Hyperthermia during the first weeks of pregnancy has been linked to neural...

  • Briefly discusses managing morning sickness. Offer tips to manage nausea and vomiting. Provides links to more extensive info on pregnancy and pregnancy-related problems.

  • The United States Preventive Services Task Force, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Academy of Pediatrics, and American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend that all pregnant women be screened for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection. This is because early detection and...

  • On rare occasions, cancer coincides with pregnancy. Because the medicines and radiation used for treating cancer can be dangerous to a fetus, a pregnant woman and her doctors must weigh a number of factors when planning her care, including: The fetus's gestational age. The type and location of the cancer...

  • Most women struggle with feeling very tired when they are pregnant. This tiredness, or fatigue, is most common during the first and third trimesters. During the first trimester, the fetus is growing quickly. Your body is producing higher levels of progesterone. This hormone has been linked to increased tiredness. If...

  • Your immunity protects both you and your fetus. After you have been immunized (vaccinated) against or infected by a virus or bacteria, your body develops an immunity to that infectious agent. Full immunity can protect you from future infection, either for a lifetime or a limited period. Partial immunity strengthens your...

  • A balanced vegetarian diet can provide all the nutrients you need for a healthy pregnancy. If you eat a vegetarian diet, pay special attention to getting enough protein, vitamin B12, calcium, vitamin D, zinc, and iron while you are pregnant and breastfeeding. These nutrients are vital to your fetus's cellular growth...

  • Most women develop back pain at some point during pregnancy. As the size and weight of your growing belly place more strain on your back, you may notice your posture changing. To protect your back from poor posture, unnecessary strain, and painful injury, follow these guidelines: Avoid standing with your belly...

  • Sleep problems are common during pregnancy. Sleep studies tell us that hormonal changes, plus the discomforts of later pregnancy, can break up a pregnant woman's sleep cycle. The first trimester can bring insomnia and night waking. Most women feel the need to take naps to battle daytime sleepiness and fatigue. The...

  • When you are pregnant, you may get aches and pains in your hips and pelvic area. This is a normal sign that your pelvic area is preparing for childbirth. (This area is also called the pelvic girdle.) Pregnancy hormones are relaxing your ligaments. This loosens up your pelvic bones so they can shift and open for...

  • Afterpains are sharp pains in the belly that occur in the first few days after childbirth. They may cause some discomfort. But afterpains help reduce uterine bleeding. They also help shrink the uterus back to the size it was before you were...

  • Immediately after delivery, you will have a bloody discharge (lochia) from the vagina. This will turn pinkish within a week and become white or yellowish after about 10 days. Lochia may last for 4 to 6 weeks, but it should be less bloody after 2...

  • The left and right bones of your pelvic girdle are joined at the front by a narrow section of cartilage and ligament. This is called the pubic symphysis, or symphysis pubis. As the pelvic bones loosen during pregnancy, the pubic symphysis can...

  • Certain antihistamines such as dimenhydrinate or doxylamine, taken as your doctor advises, may relieve morning sickness. Doxylamine (Unisom SleepTabs) is available over-the-counter. If one of these antihistamines alone does not relieve your morning sickness, you can try taking it with vitamin B6. Talk to your doctor...

  • Ginger may relieve nausea and morning sickness after a few days of treatment. There are several ways you can use ginger to relieve your symptoms. Try: Ground ginger in a capsule, taken several times a day. Buy ginger capsules that are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and are not mixed with...

  • Studies suggest that taking vitamin B6 for morning sickness greatly improves nausea, though not vomiting, for many pregnant women. There has been no sign of harm to the fetus with vitamin B6 use. A typical dose of vitamin B6 for morning sickness is 10 mg to 25 mg, 3 times a day. Talk to your health professional...

  • Acupressure may help relieve or shorten the duration of your morning sickness symptoms. Acupressure is based on Eastern medicine practices used to open up blocked energy pathways in the body. Instead of using acupuncture needles, you or a practitioner presses on a small area of the body to treat a given ailment...

  • Looks at postpartum depression. Discusses causes and symptoms. Covers treatment with cognitive behavioral therapy, interpersonal counseling, and medicines. Offers home treatment tips. Links to more in-depth info on postpartum depression.

  • From birth, infants follow their internal hunger and fullness cues. They eat when they're hungry and stop eating when they're full. Experts agree that newborns should be fed on demand. This means that you breast- or bottle-feed your infant whenever he or she shows signs of hunger, rather than setting a strict schedule...

  • Covers causes and symptoms of postpartum depression that can occur in the first months after childbirth. Includes treatment with counseling and antidepressant medicines. Covers thoughts of suicide.

  • You can most accurately pinpoint your ovulation day by monitoring your cervical mucus, your basal body temperature (BBT), and your luteinizing hormone (LH) changes with an ovulation test. During the 5 to 6 days before and on the day of ovulation, the cervix produces a type of mucus that is stretchy, slippery, thin...

  • Is this topic for you? This topic provides basic information about normal labor and delivery. If you need information on pregnancy, other types of childbirth, or the first 6 weeks after childbirth (postpartum), see: Pregnancy Cesarean Section Vaginal Birth After...

  • Guides you through decision to have an epidural during childbirth. Lists benefits and risks. Lists other ways to control labor pain. Includes interactive tool to help you make your decision.

  • Depression is common during pregnancy and in the postpartum period. If you have symptoms of depression during pregnancy or are depressed and learn you are pregnant, make a treatment plan with your doctor right away. If you are being treated for depression and are planning a pregnancy, talk to your doctor ahead of...

  • Having support while you're in labor and delivering your baby can be a very positive experience. Your support person may be your partner, a loved one, or a friend. You may get support from hospital nurses, a midwife, or a birth coach, also known as...

  • You may have some difficulty urinating for a day or two after delivery. Your first bowel movement may be quite painful if you have had an incision (episiotomy) or a tear in your vagina. You may also have constipation or discomfort with bowel...

  • Umbilical cord blood contains stem cells, immature cells that can grow into red or white blood cells or clotting cells. Stem cells are now used to treat a limited number of conditions, such as leukemia. They may someday be grown and used to treat...

  • Offers interactive tool to find out your due date. Tool calculates when you are likely to deliver your baby. Offers links to info on pregnancy.

  • Offers interactive tool to find out when you are most likely to get pregnant. Tool estimates peak fertility period and when you are most likely to ovulate. Offers links to info on fertility, pregnancy, and birth control.

  • During pregnancy, hormonal changes can affect how your hair looks and feels. Hair loss slows down considerably, and hair growth can increase. You may notice that your head of hair is thicker and healthier-looking than usual. But some women find that their hair is more limp and lifeless during pregnancy. It is normal...

  • Guides you through carbohydrate counting as a good way to help control blood sugar when you have gestational diabetes. Explains why you need to count carbohydrates and how to count them. Includes suggestions that can help you count carbohydrate grams.

  • Describes monitoring blood sugar levels when you have gestational diabetes. Covers list of supplies needed, including blood sugar meter, testing strips, and lancet. Gives step-by-step instructions. Offers slideshow on using a blood sugar meter.

  • Describes how to give an insulin injection when you have gestational diabetes. Covers what is needed, including syringe and vial or cartridge of insulin. Offers step-by-step instructions and links to slideshows on preparing an injection.

  • The inhibin A test is done to measure the amount of this hormone in a pregnant woman's blood to see if the baby may have Down syndrome. Inhibin A is made by the placenta during pregnancy. The level of inhibin A in the blood is used in a maternal serum quadruple screening test. Generally done between 15 and 20 weeks...

  • Looks at problems you may have in the days and weeks after the delivery of your baby (postpartum period). Covers emergency symptoms like signs of shock, fainting, or severe belly pain. Includes interactive tool to help you decide when to call a doctor.

  • Briefly discusses obstetric panel, a group of blood tests used to check the health of women during early pregnancy. Includes links to info on tests such as antibody screening, blood type, complete blood count, HIV, rubella, and hepatitis B.

  • What are genes? Genes are the part of a body cell that contain the biological information that parents pass to their children. Genes control the growth and development of cells. Genes are made of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid), a substance inside the center (nucleus) of cells that contains instructions for the...

  • Hypospadias is a male birth defect in which the opening of the tube that carries urine from the body (urethra) develops abnormally, usually on the underside of the penis. The opening can occur anywhere from just below the end of the penis to the...

  • Explains what abortion is. Covers when abortion can be done and different abortion choices. Discusses safety and future fertility. Also covers how to know if abortion is right for you.

  • A medical abortion is the use of medicines to end a pregnancy. Medical care for a medical abortion is different from medical care for a surgical abortion. This is because a medical abortion is like a miscarriage (in this case, caused by medicines) that takes place at home over 1 to 2 days and does not require your...

  • Some mild swelling during pregnancy may occur because of normal fluid buildup. Swelling is most likely to be noticeable in your face, hands, or feet. As your pregnancy progresses, your uterus puts pressure on the circulation to your legs and may cause swelling in your feet and ankles. Normally, foot swelling gets worse...

  • A hysteroscopy is a procedure to find and treat problems with your uterus. It may be done to remove growths from the uterus, such as fibroids or polyps. It may also be used to diagnose and treat abnormal bleeding or fertility problems. The doctor will guide a lighted tube through the cervix and into the uterus. This...

  • Discusses biophysical profile (BPP) or fetal biophysical profile (FBP), tests that measure a baby's health during pregnancy. Covers nonstress test with electronic fetal heart rate monitoring and fetal ultrasound. Discusses what results mean.

  • There are many types of congenital heart defects. If the defect lowers the amount of oxygen in the body, it is called cyanotic. If the defect doesn't affect oxygen in the body, it is called acyanotic. What are cyanotic heart defects? Cyanotic heart...

  • Adults with congenital heart defects can live long, full, and active lives. There are many things you can do to stay healthy and live well. These include having a heart-healthy lifestyle, preventing infections, and getting regular checkups. You...

  • Varicose veins are enlarged, swollen veins that are caused by faulty valves in the veins or weak vein walls. They are common during pregnancy, particularly in women with a family history of the problem. Varicose veins typically develop on the legs but can also affect the vulva. Though varicose veins are often only a...

  • What is folic acid? Folic acid is one of the B vitamins your body needs for good health. The vitamin is also called folate. Folate is the natural form of this vitamin. It's found in leafy green vegetables, oranges, nuts, and beans. Folic acid is the man-made form. It's put into vitamin pills...

  • The foundation for breastfeeding is established in the first few weeks after delivery. Planning ahead for breastfeeding can help you build a good breastfeeding routine. Minor problems may occur during breastfeeding. But with proper planning,...

  • The antioxidant and other protective properties of breast milk are most important and beneficial to your baby when breast milk is fresh. The protective components of breast milk decrease with refrigeration and freezing. But stored breast milk is the next best thing to fresh breast milk as a complete and nutritious food...

  • Breastfeeding more than one child is called tandem breastfeeding. If you continue to feed your older child along with your newborn, keep in mind that the newborn's feeding is the higher priority. Some general feeding guidelines can help ensure that your newborn is properly nourished: Feed the newborn about 8 to 12...

  • If your baby has signs of a minor illness (such as cold symptoms or mild diarrhea), it is best to continue your breastfeeding routine. Breast milk provides your baby with the best possible nutrition. If your baby is too ill to breastfeed, try cup-feeding. With this technique, you feed your baby collected breast milk...

  • What are birth defects tests? Birth defects tests are done during pregnancy to look for possible problems with the baby (fetus). Birth defects develop when something is wrong with genes or chromosomes, an organ, or body chemistry. A birth defect may have only a mild impact on a child's life, or it can have a major...

  • This topic has information about the loss of a baby after 20 weeks of pregnancy but before the baby is born. For information about pregnancy loss before 20 weeks, see the topic Miscarriage. Stillbirth is the loss of a baby after 20 weeks of...

  • What is a high-risk pregnancy? Your pregnancy is called high-risk if you or your baby has an increased chance of a health problem. Many things can put you at high risk. Being called "high-risk" may sound scary. But it's just a way for doctors to make sure that you get special attention during your pregnancy. Your...

  • Doctors usually tell women to avoid medicines during pregnancy, if possible, especially during the first 3 months. That is when a baby's organs form. But sometimes you have to take medicine to treat a health problem, such as high blood pressure or asthma. So first your doctor or midwife will look at the risk. Is the...

  • Toxoplasmosis is infection with the parasite Toxoplasma gondii. Most people who become infected don't have symptoms. This is because the immune system is usually able to fight the disease. Toxoplasmosis is dangerous to a pregnant woman and her...

  • Covers questions about asthma during pregnancy and labor. Looks at treatment with medicines including inhaled albuterol, budesonide, salmeterol, and formoterol. Includes treatment of allergies. Covers safety of steroids for pregnant mother and baby.

  • A balanced, nutritious diet during your pregnancy is important to maintain your health and nourish your fetus. When making your food choices, you generally are able to eat the foods you usually eat. But because some types of food poisoning pose a greater risk to you and your fetus, you should take a few extra...

  • People with schizophrenia have goals and desires just like people who do not have the illness. These may include starting a family. You can have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby if you have schizophrenia. But there are some things to know. You will want people to help you during your pregnancy and when you are...

  • If you are a woman with type 1 or type 2 diabetes who is planning to become pregnant, meet with your doctor. Your doctor will want to talk to you about your A1c goal, your medicine for diabetes, your weight, and getting enough folic acid. Your doctor will want to make sure that you are up to date with immunizations. And...

  • Even though you have diabetes, you can have the same success with breastfeeding as any other woman. Breastfeeding is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics and other medical specialist organizations, because it benefits the mother and the infant. Make sure your diabetes care team and other members of the...

  • Guides through decision to breastfeed. Discusses common concerns and issues related to breastfeeding. Links to personal stories. Covers benefits and risks. Includes an interactive tool to help you make your decision.

  • Talk to your doctor if you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes and are planning to get pregnant. To make sure that both you and your baby stay healthy, you may need to fine-tune your diabetes care before you get pregnant. If you have diabetes and want to get pregnant, the most important thing you can do is to get your...

  • The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force and American Diabetes Association recommend that all women who are not already diagnosed with diabetes be screened for gestational diabetes after the 24th week of pregnancy., Most women...

  • Looks at causes and symptoms of group B streptococcal infections in newborns. Explains what group B strep is. Covers how and why it is treated. Includes treatment for mothers and newborns.

  • Tingling, numbness, and pain in the hands are common during pregnancy, especially in the last trimester. These problems are usually caused by carpal tunnel syndrome, and they usually go away after pregnancy. Carpal tunnel syndrome is a specific group of symptoms that can include tingling, numbness, weakness, or pain...

  • Have your baby's cord blood collected and sent to a private cord blood bank or a public cord blood bank. Do not bank or donate your baby's cord blood. Doctors do not recommend that you bank cord blood on the slight chance that your baby will need stem cells someday. If your baby were to need stem...

  • Guides through decision to take antidepressants while pregnant. Covers SSRIs (Zoloft and Prozac) and tricyclic antidepressants. Lists reasons for and against medicines. Covers benefits and risks. Includes interactive tool to help you make your decision.

  • Effacement and dilatation allow a baby to be born through the birth canal. Effacement means that the cervix stretches and gets thinner. Dilatation means that the cervix opens. As labor nears, the cervix may start to thin or stretch (efface) and open...

  • An episiotomy (say "eh-pih-zee-AH-tuh-mee") is a cut the doctor or midwife makes in the perineum (say "pair-uh-NEE-um"), which is the area between the vagina and anus. It is done to help deliver the baby or to help prevent the muscles and skin from tearing. The cut is made just before the baby's head comes out of...

  • Infants born before 28 weeks of pregnancy are called "extremely premature." If your infant is born this early, you likely will face some hard decisions. Your premature infant has a much greater chance than ever before of doing well. A baby has the best chance of survival in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) that...

Load More