During the first 2 weeks of your pregnancy, you are actually not pregnant. Surprised? Your doctor just uses these 2 weeks to calculate your due date. During this period, you will be most healthy other than some tiredness and nausea, and some of you might experience a mild headache. Until the eighth week of pregnancy, your baby is called the embryo; from then on until the time of birth, she will be referred to as a foetus.
While your baby continues to grow within your womb, your own body goes through many changes. Your breasts become fuller and may turn tender and sensitive. Your urination may be more frequent due to the uterus pressing on your bladder. The very smell of food may make up want to throw up! During this time, the embryo continues to grow within the lining of the womb and draws its nourishment from the yolk sac.
You’ve missed your period! This is when your doctor gives you the wonderful news! Now you realize why you’ve been feeling nauseous in the morning, why you are urinating more and why you generally are feeling weak and tired. Meanwhile, your baby is forming the string of blood vessels to connect to you which will become the umbilical cord.
You may notice a slight increase in your waist size, but since you know the reason, for the first time in your life, you are overjoyed to put on weight! The rest of your symptoms continue unabated. You may experience severe neck and back pain, abdominal bloating and constipation.
You may also feel stressed emotionally, but don’t worry, all of it is common during this time. Now, your baby looks like a little tadpole! A heartbeat can be seen on the vaginal ultrasound scan.
Your litany of aches and pains, weakness and headaches, breast tenderness and frequent urination continues. Some of you might see acne and increased pigmentation on your face, all of these are due to the hormonal changes in your body. Don’t worry, they will disappear after childbirth! Your baby now measures about 10 mm.
Problems like indigestion, heartburn, constipation and bloating become the mainstay of your existence. Energy levels drop, and you might experience abdominal cramps due to the uterus growing in size. Your breasts feel heavier with darkening of the nipples. The veins on your breasts and your legs become clearly visible.
Your facial skin might start feeling dry. You might experience mood swings due to hormonal changes. The good news is that your baby is growing at a fast pace and from now on will be called a foetus. Your baby starts looking like an actual baby, instead of a tadpole!
The increased production of melanin forms dark vertical lines on your abdomen, which is growing bigger in size. Your hair and nails change colour and grow faster. You may notice some vaginal discharge due to an increase in the level of oestrogen. Weakness, headaches and excessive saliva are common symptoms during this period.
Pregnancy hormones stabilize and so you experience less urination sensation. In the meanwhile, your baby is almost fully formed with all her organs, muscles, limbs and bones in place. Around this time, your baby can actually hear your voice, so talk to her frequently!
Here’s More About The Care You Need
1. Prenatal Tests
Prenatal care is an integral part of a healthy pregnancy. As soon as you think you’re pregnant, consult your doctor and set aside ample time for a visit to discuss any questions or concerns about your pregnancy. Here are some common test and diagnostics you are likely to undergo during your pregnancy:
Blood and Urine Tests
During your first prenatal visit, your doctor will recommend these blood tests:
- Blood type: This will include your blood type and your Rh status. If you are Rh-negative and your baby’s father is Rh positive, then the doctor might recommend some special precautions.
- Haemoglobin: Anaemia is a risky condition during pregnancy; the indicator for anaemia is low haemoglobin.
- Blood sugar: Some women exhibit high blood glucose levels during pregnancy, especially during the third trimester. This is called ‘gestational diabetes’ and a blood sugar test will determine if you are at risk.
- Other infections: Your healthcare provider might suggest blood tests to detect various other infections such as HIV, hepatitis B, toxoplasmosis, syphilis, gonorrhoea or chlamydia.
- A urine test may be done for signs of a bladder, urinary tract or kidney infection.
During your first prenatal visit, your doctor will ask you many questions related to your medical history. This will include your menstrual cycle, birth control methods you’ve used, past pregnancies, your personal and family histories and medication use.
Be truthful in your answers and don’t neglect to mention sensitive issues, such as domestic abuse, abortion or past drug use as these facts will affect the type of care you and your baby will receive. Get recommendations from your healthcare provider on nutrition, exercise, sex during pregnancy and other lifestyle issues. Also, discuss your work environment, stress-related issues and the use of medications during pregnancy.
2. Due Date Confirmation
Your healthcare provider might recommend an early ultrasound to help confirm the due date. She will give you an accurate due date, which is likely to be 40 weeks from the start of your last period. This date allows her to monitor the progress of your pregnancy and your baby’s growth as well.
3. Physical Exam
Your OB will check your overall health based on your weight, height, blood pressure and heartbeat. She might also examine your vagina and your cervix (the opening to your uterus) to confirm the stage of your pregnancy and also for any infections or abnormalities. You might be advised to go in for a Pap smear for cervical cancer depending on how long it’s been since your last screening.
An ultrasound is sometimes done during the first prenatal visit to detect foetal abnormalities. You can see your baby’s heart beating on a vaginal ultrasound scan by around week 6. The week 10 ultrasound will show you small jerky movements made by your baby. Due date, the date on which you are likely to deliver, can also be confirmed by an early ultrasound.
Your obstetrician (OB) will use a Doppler (a device that detects your baby’s heartbeat with the use of sound waves) to hear your baby’s heartbeat by about 9 to 12 weeks of pregnancy.
5. Diet and Exercise
Get recommendations from your healthcare provider on the type and intensity of exercises that are safe during pregnancy before you start any exercise regimen.
If you are going through a bad bout of morning sickness, the last thing you will want to do is exercise. What you must remember though is that exercising during the first trimester stimulates the growth of a healthy placenta, and it is the placenta which provides oxygen and nutrients to your growing baby throughout your pregnancy.
The really bad morning sickness symptoms will mostly subside after the first trimester, and you can do simple exercises like swimming, walking and low-impact aerobics.
Just 15 minutes per session, 2-3 times a week is good enough for a beginner, then head towards more regular and longer sessions as per your ability. It is very important that you warm up, exercise and then slowly scale back before you complete your session.
Exercise during pregnancy:
- Releases endorphins which make you feel happier and more energetic
- Results in improved sleep
- Reduces swelling or backaches caused by pregnancy
- Makes labour and delivery easier
- Makes weight loss after delivery easy
You should talk to your doctor before exercising in pregnancy, especially when:
- You have had a history of a premature delivery or miscarriage or your current pregnancy has a threat of miscarriage.
- You are expecting twins
- You have poorly controlled diabetes
- The iron levels in your blood are very low (you suffer from severe anaemia)
- Your placenta is low lying (placenta previa)
- Your baby is not growing ideally
- You have been diagnosed with pre-eclampsia or high blood pressure, which medication cannot control
- Your cervix is weak
- You have persistent vaginal bleeding.
- Before the current pregnancy, your BMI ≥ 40, i.e., you were overweight.
- Your BMI ≤ 12, i.e., you were underweight before becoming pregnant
- You smoke heavily
- You have joint or muscle problems
- You have a heart or lung problem
Warning signs during exercise:
- Chest, leg, joint or stomach pain
- Dizziness or feeling faint
- Shortness of breath
- Vaginal bleeding or discharge
- Difficulty with walking
Avoid high impact sports and activities like basketball, football, gymnastics, kickboxing, hockey, skipping, jumping, hopping and bouncing.
Watch Out For:
- Amenorrhea (stopping of your periods). Rule out other factors like stress, anaemia and other pathologies.
- Excessive vomiting (incapacitating daily activities) is called hyperemesis gravidarum. This can be seen in molar pregnancies or multiple pregnancies or can also be familial. If you think you’re vomiting too much, consult your doctor.
- Excess urination. Rule out urinary tract infections, which are also associated with frequent and sometimes burning micturition. Common during pregnancy due to acidic pH of the vagina (normally alkaline).
- Excessive tiredness. Rule out anaemia after haemoglobin estimation.
- Breast discomfort as early as 6-8 weeks. Feeling of fullness and pricking sensation.
- Fever (with rash)
- Bleeding (could be normal spotting or a sign of miscarriage)