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The prenatal period is from conception to birth. It is a 9-month period, where a one-celled organism is transformed into a baby with remarkable capacities for adjusting to life in the surrounding world (Infants, Children, and Adolescents, Berk 6th edition).
Each person is made up of trillions of cells. Within each cell is a nucleus which contains rodlike structures called chromosomes. These chromosomes store and transmit genetic information.Human chromosomes come in 23 matching pairs with the exception of XY pair in males. A new individual is created when two special cells called gametes, or sex cells - the sperm and ovum - combine. A gamete contains only 23 chromosomes, half as many as a regular body. When sperm and ovum unite at conception, the cell that results is called a zygote, which will now have 46 chromosomes (Infants, Children, and Adolescents, Berk 6th edition).
22 of the 23 chromosomes are matching pairs called autosomes. The 23rd pair consists of sex chromosomes. In females this is called XX; in males, it is called XY. When gametes form in males, the X and Y chromosomes separate into different sprem cells. The gamates that form in females all carry an X chromosome. Therefore, the sex of the new organism is determined by whether an X-bearing or a Y bearing sperm fertilizes the ovum (Infants, Children, and Adolescents, Berk 6th edition).
Now, this process of conception comes easy for some and not so easy for others. For those that have child bearing difficulties, there are reproductice technologies. The first is donor insemination where an injection of sperm from an anonymous man is put into a woman. The pros to this are that a woman can get pregnanat without a man and the success is around 70-80%. Another technology is called invitro fertilization. A woman is given hormones to stimulate the ripening of several ova. Then removed surgically and placed in a dish of nutrients to which sperm are added. Once ovum is fertilized and begines to duplicate into several cells, its injected into mother's uterus (Infants, Children, and Adolescents, Berk 6th edition). This can be a good choice if the male has fertility issues. What is also great is fertilized ova and sperm can be frozen and stored for later use. The success rate is about 30% up to age 42.  The cons to each of these reproductive choices is that donors aren't always screened for genetic or sexually transmitted diseases. Also, doctors aren't required to keep records of donor characterisitics. Another choice is surrogate motherhood. The sperm from a man whose wife is infertile are used to inseminate a woman called a surrogate, who is paid a fee for her childbearing services. Mom turns baby over to the man. The child is then adopted by his wife. If all goes well, then you have a baby. However, there is just too many things that could go wrong. What if the baby has a severe disability and is rejected? What if the mother decides she wants to keep the baby or the couple changes their mind and decides they don't want it? When money is involved you start questioning exploitation of needy women. The cons far outway the pros. Now adoption can be a terrific choice if you find an agency that focuses on really finding the perfect fit for parents and the child. This gives a home to a child that has been without one. The child will now have a family to love and feel love from. There is an adjustment period that can be short or very long. (Infants, Children, and Adolescents, Berk 6th edition)
There are many advantages and disadvantages of parenthood that have been mentioned by contemporary American couples. When my husband and I got married, we knew we wanted children but we new our lives would be so different when that day actually arrived. I was in the grocery store one day, nine months pregnant, and a man walked up to me and said, "Boy, is your life going to change". I knew what he meant but after having my first baby, I realized what he REALLY meant. We are one of those contemporary couples and I couldn't wait for all the advantages of having this baby. I would be able to give and receive warmth. I will gain a sense of accomplishment and creativity from helping a child to grow. I will be able to experience new growth and learning opportunites that add meaning to life. I will now be able to experience the stimulation and fun that children add to life. However, there is a flip side and both my husband and I recognized that as well. We had a lot of freedom before the baby. We went to dinner a lot, played softball, went on long bike rides. We never had to be home or responsible for anybody but us. I didn't go back to work because we both decided we didn't want the baby in daycare so we started living on one income.I became so overwhelmed with the responsibility of this little baby that I worried all the time about it's eating and safety. I still worry about that and my oldest is 13. I get scared about the world the children are being brought up in. There's war, kidnapping, gangs,etc... I worry constantly because I want to keep them safe. I also worry, like other Americans, that my children could go down the wrong path and it would be my fault for not seeing the signs. My husband and I wouldn't change any decision we made about having children. The advantages far outweigh the disadvantages.
Prenatal development consists of four phases. The first is conception where every 28 days, in the middle of the woman's menstrual cycle, an ovum from one ovary is released into the fallopian tubes. Sperm are produced in the male testes. After intercourse, the sperm travel through the cervix and into the fallopian tube where fertilization usually occurs. Sperm can live up to 6 days, but conception usually results results from intercourse during the 3 day period before and during ovulation. The travel of the sperm can be seen in the above video. It is truly amazing to see the travel of the sperm. Makes me feel very lucky to have gotten pregnant 3 times. (Berk, 6th edition)
The second phase is the period of the zygote.This is the period from fertilization until cell mast drifts from the fallopian tubes and attaches itself to the uterine wall. As many as 30% of zygotes do not survive which is nature's way of eliminating most prenatal abnormalities. This phase lasts about 2 weeks. (Berk, 6th edition)
Next, the period of the embryo, lasts from implantation through the eighth week of pregnancy. In this phase, we see the most rapid prenatal changes take place. The groundwork is being placed for all the body structures and internal organs.
Finally, the period of the fetus, which is from the ninth week to the end of the pregnancy. This is the longest prenatal period and is sometimes referred to as the "growth and finishing" phase. The organism increases rapidly in size especially from the ninth to the twentieth week. This is the time the mom will want to start gradually increasing her calorie intake to make sure both she and the baby are healthy. (Berk, 6th edition)
Once a woman becomes pregnant, she will will want to protect herself from any enviromental agents that can cause damage during the prenatal period. These agents are called teratogens and can cause profound damage on the baby.
There are certain prescription and nonprescription drugs that pregnant women should not use. Accutane is the most widely used, potent teratogenic drug in the industrialized world. The baby could suffer from multiple, sever physical birth defects if taken in first trimester.Tobacco, alcohol, and illegal drugs like cocaine and heroin are all proven to have  effects on the baby like low birth weight, prematurity, and with the use of drugs, drug addicted babies. Prenatal exposure to high levels of radiation, mercury (found in fish), and lead (found in paint) can all lead to physical malformations and severe brain damage. (Berk, 6th edition)
Lastly, once a woman misses her period and believes she is pregnant, it's very important to call your doctor and make an appointment. After your first visit, count on visiting the doctor once a month until you are 7 months pregnant. It's very important for the doctor to make sure both you and the baby are staying healthy. The 8th month, you may have 2 office visits and when you are in the final month, expect to go once a week.
My advice to all pregnant women, is listen to your body and make good choices for you and the baby. Your body is doing an amazing, almost miraculous thing. Give it every chance to do it successfully.