Getting a healthy start on your pregnancy can do a lot to ensure that you have a smooth nine months ahead of you. The earlier you find out that you are pregnant, the better. Taking a pregnancy test is the only surefire way to know, but there are earlier signs of pregnancy that can help you decide if you should take the test!
You may have missed a period or perhaps observing spotting or bleeding between six and 12 days after conception which hints towards the embryo becomes implanted in your uterine wall. This is known as implantation bleeding and is one of the first signs of pregnancy.
After that, your periods will likely become delayed or stop altogether. This is when most women suspect pregnancy. However, some women continue to experience bleeding even while pregnant, though it is rarely like a normal period. Because of that, you shouldn't wait for menstruation to end as the only sign you need a pregnancy test.
You may notice that your breasts are tender, sore, tingly or fuller than usual. This usually sets in one or two weeks after conception. Additionally, your areolas—or the skin around your nipples—may become darker due to hormonal changes.
Morning sickness is another telltale sign of pregnancy. This can occur two to eight weeks after implantation. Nausea tends to happen because elevated hormone levels may cause food to empty the stomach slowly. Also, pregnancy may make you more sensitive to smells, making certain odors more likely to trigger nausea.
If you've been feeling overwhelmingly sleepy or tired lately, this may be a symptom that you have successfully conceived. While it's true that many conditions or factors can cause fatigue, pregnant women tend to experience this due to changes in hormone levels, blood sugar, blood pressure and higher blood production.
You've probably heard that pregnant women have strange food cravings, and this is no wives' tale. Like many other symptoms of pregnancy, your unusual cravings can be chalked up to fluctuating hormones. Conversely, these changes may cause aversions to certain foods or beverages, such as coffee or fatty foods. Keep in mind that every pregnancy is different and you may or may not experience the symptoms mentioned here.
What’s there in second phase?
Now that your fertilized egg has made its way to your uterus, things are really starting to get interesting!
This cluster of cells is dividing into two parts: one that will form an embryo and the other a placenta. The embryo will eventually turn into a fetus, but for now it's about the size of a very small freckle, and the amniotic sac is forming around it. Encapsulating the tiny new life is the placenta, which will help deliver nutrients to your developing baby and carry away waste.
Embryos have three layers, which will ultimately make up specialized organs and body parts. The innermost layer is the endoderm. This part will become your child's digestive system, liver and lungs. The second layer is the mesoderm, and it is the early stages of a heart, sex organs, bones, kidneys and muscles. The outermost layer is known as the ectoderm, which will comprise the nervous system, skin, hair and eyes.
As all of these important little details are developing, you may just now be suspecting that you’ve successfully conceived. Because you're going to need a doctor to confirm your pregnancy even after receiving a positive at-home test, week four may be a good time to choose a health care professional.
Choosing a health care professional is an important decision, so you may want to talk to family and friends about their recommendations, as well as conduct interviews with prospective health care providers.
HOW FAR ALONG ARE YOU?
OK, now that you've calmed down some from the initial excitement, wiped out the pregnancy shelf at your local bookstore, and made a down payment on a new maternity wardrobe, it's time to focus on the most important thing here: your health and the baby's health.
Your first assignment: Pick up the phone and call your doctor, nurse practitioner, or midwife—whomever you plan to see throughout your pregnancy and delivery—and make an appointment. It's time to begin prenatal care!
It is observed that babies of mothers who don't get prenatal care are three times more likely to have a low birth weight and five times more likely to die than babies born to mothers who do get care. Need any better reason?
The First Visit and Beyond
In a normal pregnancy, you will see your health care professional every month until about the sixth month; then every two weeks during the seventh and eighth months, and then weekly until labor.
During the first visit, your health care professional will take a full health history, including a history of any previous pregnancies. You will also receive a full physical exam, including a pelvic exam and Pap test in most cases, and will be weighed and measured and have your blood pressure taken. Your health care provider should also test for any sexually transmitted infections.
You will get a due date, officially called the "estimated date of delivery," typically 266 days from the first day of your last period if you have regular menstrual cycles. Otherwise it is customary to assign the due date based on ultrasound.
During every future visit, you will be weighed, have your belly measured and blood pressure taken, have your urine tested for protein or sugar (signs of potential complications), and, most exciting, hear your baby's heart beat.
First Trimester Issues
So how are you feeling? If you're like most women, the answer is exhausted and nauseous. Let's deal with the fatigue first.
Do you have any idea what your body is doing right now? It is building a home that can nourish and protect that baby for the next nine months—that is, the placenta. This is really hard work. It takes a lot of energy—your energy. So stop being superwoman for once and listen to what your body is telling you.
That means :
- Napping on the weekends and when you get home from work.
- Slowing down at work if possible.
- Putting your feet up as much as possible.
- Turning over housework, cooking, errands, etc., to your partner, friend or a professional agency—or just letting things go for a while.
Now, about that nausea or morning sickness, which is not confined to morning only, but for many women it lasts all day. You may never throw up—just feel like you're occasionally (or continually) seasick—or you may throw up every morning as soon as your feet hit the floor. Don't worry! This is normal. There is even some evidence that the nausea is nature's way of protecting the baby from potentially harmful foods. Most morning sickness disappears by the end of the first trimester.
- Eat small meals throughout the day so you're never too full or too hungry.
- Avoid rich, spicy, greasy or fatty foods, and foods whose smells bother you.
- Eat more carbohydrates (plain baked potato, white rice or dry toast).
- Eat bland foods when you feel nauseous (saltine crackers, gelatin desserts, popsicles, chicken broth, ginger ale). Keep some crackers by your bed and eat one before you get up.
- Use acupressure wristbands.
- Take additional vitamin B6 (25 mg three times a day), which some studies find can help with nausea.
- If your prenatal vitamins make your nausea worse, talk to your health care provider about prescribing a vitamin without iron.
Some women experience a severe form of morning sickness called hyperemesis gravidarum. If you experience any of the following, you may have more than just "morning sickness" and should call your health care professional:
- You have lost more than two pounds
- You vomit blood (which can appear bright red or black)
- You have vomited more than four times in one day
- You have not been able to keep fluids down for more than one day
Eating Right throughout Pregnancy
You know you're supposed to follow a "healthy" diet during pregnancy (think lots of fruit and veggies, low-fat forms of protein, high fiber, etc). But do you know why?
Beyond the obvious—maintaining enough calories to keep you healthy and ensure the baby keeps growing—we're learning that in-utero nutrition, including whether the mother is overweight or has pregnancy-related diabetes, can impact a child's health throughout his life.