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period of time between fertilization of the ovumovum
, in biology, specialized plant or animal sex cell, also called the egg, or egg cell. It is the female sex cell, or female gamete; the male gamete is the sperm. The study of the ovum is included in the science of embryology.
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 (conception) and birthbirth
or labor,
delivery of the fetus by the viviparous mammal. Birth is also known as parturition. Human birth normally occurs about 280 days after onset of the last menstrual period before conception.
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, during which mammals carry their developing young in the uterus (see embryoembryo
, name for the developing young of an animal or plant. In its widest definition, the embryo is the young from the moment of fertilization until it has become structurally complete and able to survive as a separate organism.
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). The average duration of pregnancy in humans is about 280 days, equal to 9 calendar months. After the fertilized ovum is implanted in the uterusuterus,
in most female mammals, hollow muscular organ in which the fetus develops and from which it is delivered at the end of pregnancy. The human uterus is pear-shaped and about 3 in. (7.
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, rapid changes occur in the reproductive organs of the mother. The uterus becomes larger and more flexible, enlargement of the breasts begins, and alteration of renal function, blood volume, and blood cell count occur. Movement of the fetusfetus,
term used to describe the unborn offspring in the uterus of vertebrate animals after the embryonic stage (see embryo). In humans, the fetal stage begins seven to eight weeks after fertilization of the egg, when the embryo assumes the basic shape of the newborn and all the
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 and fetal heartbeat can be detected early in pregnancy.

One test that has been used to determine pregnancy uses blood or urine samples to detect a hormone known as BhCG, found exclusively in pregnant women. Later, prenatal diagnostic tests such as alpha fetoprotein, amniocentesisamniocentesis
, diagnostic procedure in which a sample of the amniotic fluid surrounding a fetus is removed from the uterus by means of a fine needle inserted through the abdomen of the pregnant woman (see pregnancy).
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, and chorionic villus samplingchorionic villus sampling
(CVS) or chorionic villus biopsy
(CVB) , diagnostic procedure in which a sample of chorionic villi from the developing placenta is removed from the uterus of a pregnant woman (see pregnancy) using a fine needle inserted through the abdomen or
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 may be performed as screening measures for congenital defects. Ultrasoundultrasound
or sonography,
in medicine, technique that uses sound waves to study and treat hard-to-reach body areas. In scanning with ultrasound, high-frequency sound waves are transmitted to the area of interest and the returning echoes recorded (for more detail, see
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, a sonar device using high-frequency wavelengths, is used to detect defects, measure fetal heartbeat, and monitor growth of a fetus.

Complications of pregnancy include eclampsiaeclampsia
, term applied to toxic complications that can occur late in pregnancy. Toxemia of pregnancy occurs in 10% to 20% of pregnant women; symptoms include headache, vertigo, visual disturbances, vomiting, hypertension, and edema.
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, premature birth, and erythroblastosis fetaliserythroblastosis fetalis
, hemolytic disease of a newborn infant caused by blood group incompatibility between mother and child. Although the Rh factor is responsible for the most severe cases of erythroblastosis fetalis, the disease may be produced by any of the other blood
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 (Rh incompatibility). Ectopic pregnancy, in which the fetus begins to develop outside the uterus, often in a fallopian tubefallopian tube
, either of a pair of tubes extending from the uterus to the paired ovaries in the human female, also called oviducts, technically known as the uterine tube.
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, is another complication. It is often the result of scarring from a sexually transmitted diseasesexually transmitted disease
(STD) or venereal disease,
term for infections acquired mainly through sexual contact. Five diseases were traditionally known as venereal diseases: gonorrhea, syphilis, and the less common granuloma inguinale, lymphogranuloma venereum, and
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. Smokingsmoking,
inhalation and exhalation of the fumes of burning tobacco in cigars and cigarettes and pipes. Some persons draw the smoke into their lungs; others do not. Smoking was probably first practiced by the indigenous peoples of the Western Hemisphere.
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 has been linked to low–birth weight infants; alcohol consumption during pregnancy has been linked to a group of defects called fetal alcohol syndromefetal alcohol syndrome
(FAS), pattern of physical, developmental, and psychological abnormalities seen in babies born to mothers who consumed alcohol during pregnancy. The abnormalities include low birthweight, facial deformities, and mental retardation, and there appears to be
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The technology relating to pregnancy has made great advances and has created a number of ethical issues. Many women in their 40s are now able to sustain successful pregnancies, due to technological devices that carefully monitor the progress of the fetus. In vitro fertilizationin vitro fertilization
(IVF), technique for conception of a human embryo outside the mother's body. Several ova, or eggs, are removed from the mother's body and placed in special laboratory culture dishes (Petri dishes); sperm from the father are then added, or in many cases a
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 and other infertilityinfertility,
inability to conceive or carry a child to delivery. The term is usually limited to situations where the couple has had intercourse regularly for one year without using birth control.
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 treatments have allowed even postmenopausal women to give birth. The use of fertility drugsfertility drug,
any of a variety of substances used to increase the possibility of conception and successful pregnancy. Different methods are used to correct or circumvent the many different functional disorders of both males and females that can interfere with conception and
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 has led to a marked increase in multiple birthsmultiple birth,
bringing forth of more than one offspring at birth. Although many smaller mammals bear several young at a time, multiple births are relatively uncommon in humans and other primates.
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. Abortionabortion,
expulsion of the products of conception before the embryo or fetus is viable. Any interruption of human pregnancy prior to the 28th week is known as abortion. The term spontaneous abortion, or miscarriage, is used to signify delivery of a nonviable embryo or fetus due
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, in which pregnancy is terminated prior to birth, has long been a subject of heated debate, and surrogate motherhood (see surrogate mothersurrogate mother,
a woman who agrees, usually by contract and for a fee, to bear a child for a couple who are childless because the wife is infertile or physically incapable of carrying a developing fetus.
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) has also raised ethical issues in recent years.

See also amenorrheaamenorrhea
, cessation of menstruation. Primary amenorrhea is a delay in or a failure to start menstruation; secondary amenorrhea is an unexpected stop to the menstrual cycle.
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; birth defectsbirth defects,
abnormalities in physical or mental structure or function that are present at birth. They range from minor to seriously deforming or life-threatening. A major defect of some type occurs in approximately 3% of all births.
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; midwiferymidwifery
, art of assisting at childbirth. The term midwife for centuries referred to a woman who was an overseer during the process of delivery. In ancient Greece and Rome, these women had some formal training.
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See J. T. Queenan and C. N. Queenan, ed. A New Life (1992); C. A. Bean, Methods of Childbirth (1990);; Boston Women's Health Book Collective, Our Bodies, Ourselves for the New Century (1998).


The state of being pregnant, from conception to childbirth.


If you are afraid of being pregnant, you may dream of it often. At times, women learn about their pregnancy in their dreams. Your mind knows about everything that is going on in your body even if you are not consciously aware of it. However, don’t panic! You could also be pregnant with ideas! Old dream interpretation books say that a dream about pregnancy is a good omen for women, and an improvement in her intimate relationship is forthcoming. For a man, it is a warning against casual sex.
References in periodicals archive ?
Directors operating in the South West of England and in Northern Ireland are the most willing to hire women of child-bearing age.
It is recommended that all women of child-bearing age consume 400 micrograms of folic acid daily.
Among women of child-bearing age, daily folic acid supplement consumption has increased to 32 percent, up from 29 percent last year.
Mr Bloom added: "In March 2009 - any small businessman or woman who employs a woman of child-bearing age needs their head examined.
That is why it is important that all women of child-bearing age take a daily multi-vitamin containing folic acid and have sufficient amounts of folic acid in their diets.
Europe's population is growing but expectations of a baby boom in the Millennium are fading as the baby boomers of the Sixties pass child-bearing age.
In addition, the number of women of child-bearing age in China is beginning to swell.