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What can I expect during pregnancy? What will happen when it’s time to give birth?

We’re glad you are asking us, but be sure to also ask your doctor or clinician for some books on pregnancy that he or she recommends. It’s important to see a doctor or clinician as soon as possible. Getting prenatal care early in a pregnancy is one of the best ways to prevent health problems for you and your baby. Teen mothers are more likely than older mothers to face health complications such as giving birth prematurely and having babies who are very small. A lot of these complications come from having a poor diet, not beginning prenatal care early enough, not having regular checkups throughout the pregnancy or taking in substances such as alcohol or drugs.

Your gynecologist or the prenatal clinic can help you put together a healthy diet and exercise plan and talk with you about other considerations you need to pay careful attention to because you’re pregnant. Your clinician can give you a list of things to avoid and can prescribe prenatal vitamins. If you see any other doctors for other health problems, make sure they know you’re pregnant. Some prescription medications and medical procedures are harmful if you are pregnant.

During the nine months of pregnancy, your body changes as the fetus grows inside you. Check out the Mayo Clinic’s site about what to expect throughout pregnancy.

In the first weeks, you may feel few changes or you could feel really tired and nauseous. You might also notice that your breasts are swollen or sore. These symptoms are most common during the first trimester—the first three months of pregnancy.

During the second trimester, you’ll start to gain more weight, but usually the fatigue and nausea go away. Because of that, many girls and women feel better during this part of the pregnancy. Others don’t, and the fatigue and nausea continue throughout the pregnancy. You’ll also notice a need to go to the bathroom more often.

During the last trimester, especially the last few weeks, a lot of pregnant girls and women are uncomfortable, because they’ve gained much more weight and their expanded uterus puts pressure on other parts of their body, including their bladder, kidneys and lungs. Sometimes, they have trouble sleeping.

Your body also starts preparing for the birth. Your muscles and ligaments will loosen up. You might feel off balance and like you’re not in charge of your own body. You may also begin feeling contractions in your uterus. These are called “Braxton-Hicks” contractions that prepare the uterus for the work of pushing the baby out. They also help to slowly open your cervix. A fetus typically turns itself around, so it’s in an upside down position. Babies usually come out head first, so the fetus turns to get in the “birthing” position. The fetus also usually drops (moves lower in the body) when it gets closer to delivery time.

When you go into labor, these contractions will intensify and they’ll start to hurt. Your water might break; this is when the sac that holds the amniotic fluid that has helped keep the fetus safe and growing the past nine months is done doing its job. Once this sac breaks, you will notice fluid or water released from the vagina. When your water breaks, delivery has to follow soon after, or else there is a risk of infection to both mother and baby.

Giving birth is a natural process. Your body will do the work, without much help, in most cases. Bearing through the contractions is often the toughest part. Most hospitals offer birthing classes that you can take with the baby’s father or another supportive person in your life. These classes explain the whole process and give you ways to cope with the pain. Be sure to talk to your health care provider about pain control options during delivery. One pain management option is called an “epidural,” which is an injection that basically numbs your pelvic area. Your doctor can talk to you about the pros and cons of this, as well as other types of pain management.

Being in the delivery room to experience childbirth can also be an intense process for the baby’s father or another person or people who are with you because they are important to you. Some young dads who have participated in the delivery say they experience intense connections and a sense of responsibility when they see and hold their newborn child for the first time. If the father and mother have a positive relationship, the mother may want to involve the father in the birth.

These are just general guidelines. Everyone is different. Ask other people about their pregnancy or their partner’s pregnancy. And again, be sure to ask your doctor or clinician, or check the local library for resources.

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