Are you newly pregnant and wondering what the first trimester has in store for you? We've got you covered. In this blog post, we will discuss the common symptoms of the first trimester, how your baby begins to form, and how to get through the thick of it.
Signs of early pregnancy can often look like signs of a period, which can be a tad confusing. For example, some women may have implantation bleeding and think it is just a light period and their breasts may swell, which is common just before starting a period. But there are other signs of early pregnancy that differ from symptoms of a period, like:
Nausea and vomiting
Increased cervical fluid
Tender, swollen breasts
The first trimester can be an enlightening and beautiful experience, but it can also bring along a plethora of symptoms that can be physically, mentally, and emotionally draining. During this time, allow yourself a lot of grace. If you have days where all you do is sleep, well, that's perfectly fine. Growing a baby is hard work, which brings us to our next point- the formation of a baby.
Growing a Baby from Scratch
A normal pregnancy is between 40-42 weeks. The first two weeks of pregnancy actually begins before conception. This means that if you have a standard 28-day cycle, your pregnancy starts on the first day of your period and follows the journey of the egg maturing then meeting the sperm.
At conception, sperm travel up the cervix, into the uterus, and through one of the fallopian tubes where they will unite with the egg making a zygote. After fertilization the neural tube begins to form, which is why it’s important to take your prenatal vitamins and consume plenty of folate when trying to conceive.
The zygote then begins the journey down the fallopian tube and into the uterus where it will become a blastocyst and burrow into the uterine lining. This implantation happens around week 4 of pregnancy, two weeks after conception in other words.
By week 5, the blastocyst will have increasing levels of HCG which will signal your body to ramp up hormone production, increasing both estrogen and progesterone. This in turn, will trigger the growth of the placenta.
The blastocyst will become an embryo, and at this point, have three layers of cells.
The outer layer makes up the outermost layer of skin, central and peripheral nervous system, eyes and ears.
The middle layer begins forming the early stages of the baby’s heart, bones, ligaments, kidneys, and their reproductive system.
The inner layer will develop into the baby’s lungs and intestines.
During week 6 of pregnancy, the neural tube begins to close to start forming the brain and the spinal cord. The early beginnings of eye and ear development are set in motion, the heart continues to develop, and small buds appear that will become the arms.
During the seventh week of pregnancy, the head and face begin to take shape. Dimples form in the face that will soon become nostrils, retinas begin to develop, those little arm buds become longer, and new buds grow that will become legs.
In the eighth week of pregnancy, you can see little fingers growing on the baby’s arms. More facial features are beginning to develop such as the baby’s upper lip, nose, eyes, and ears.
In week nine, the baby begins to develop elbows on those little arms of theirs. Toes sprout out from the legs, the head is large in comparison to the embryo’s body, and the neck starts to straighten out.
By the tenth week of pregnancy your baby is able to bend their elbows. Their heads start to become more rounded, the webbing on their toes and fingers disappears, and the umbilical cord becomes visible to ultrasounds.
Late in the first trimester, but no sooner than 8 weeks, is a good time to get a dating ultrasound if you’re unsure about the conception dates. Early ultrasounds are often far more accurate than later ones as the growth is more consistent early on.
The growing baby is officially a fetus by week 11. Genitals begin to form into either male or female genitalia depending on a presence or lack of the Y chromosome. The fetus’s head is still quite large, but the body will soon catch up. The face broadens with wide-set eyes and ears anchored low on the head. The fetus is now about 2 inches long.
In week 12 of pregnancy, the baby is growing fingernails and the baby’s face has a more recognizable profile. This week should hopefully bring you some relief from your nausea, but if it hasn’t happened yet, you should be noticing a difference in the upcoming weeks so hang in there.
Self-Care and Support
All of that hard work of growing a baby and coping with first trimester symptoms can leave you feeling depleted. It's important to take care of yourself when you have the energy. First, start with the basics like showering and cleaning your teeth. Work your way up from there by making a running to-do list and using the three D’s to prioritize tasks. The three D’s are Delete (or Delay), Delegate, and Do.
Delete or delay what's not truly important. Is there anything on that list that you can skip and won't be affected by?
Delegate tasks that someone else would be willing to take over.
Do the things you cannot delete or delegate, and it's okay if it takes a bit longer.
Next up on our self-care is nutrition. Nutrition is important, but so is being able to keep food down. If you're having a hard time keeping anything down, just eat what you can, when you can. If you’re experiencing a lot of nausea and vomiting, it’s recommended to eat small meals or snacks often rather than three big meals, avoid laying down after eating, consume food or drinks that contain ginger such as ginger tea, and try using an anti-nausea wrist band. Before trying an over-the-counter medicine, consult with your midwife.
If your nutrition is suffering due to a lack of energy, ask your partner for help and try reaching out to your close friends and family to see if they can bring you some food while you rest. You can tell them you’re not feeling well if you aren’t ready to announce your pregnancy just yet. On days when you have more energy, meal prepping can come in handy when your energy is running low.
The first trimester can be rough going, but thankfully most women report the following trimester to be a relief. Take it day-by-day and ask for help when you need it. Take good care of yourself when you can, rest often, and stay well hydrated.
Knowing what postpartum symptoms are normal and which ones can be life threatening is crucial. But it can be difficult to know when to seek medical attention. It’s always best to err on the side of caution, so if you aren’t sure, give our midwives a call and let them know what you are experiencing. So what signs and symptoms should you watch out for?