What’s Going On in the First Trimester
Weeks 1 through 12 are considered your first trimester of pregnancy. (Remember that your pregnancy is dated from the first day of your last menstrual period, which means that in the fourth week of your pregnancy your baby is only two weeks old.) During this time, an amazing journey of growth begins. Following conception, the fertilized egg makes a home in your uterus. One single cell rapidly multiplies into many specialized cells, and by week six of your first trimester, the embryo is about the size of a kidney bean and contains a small heart that has started beating. You may even be able to see the heart if your doctor does an ultrasound. The rapid development continues and by the third month, the baby’s organs, joints, and recognizable features have begun to form, and the fetus is about the size of a small apple. At this point you may be able to hear the heartbeat through a special stethoscope.
Changes in Your Body During the First Trimester
Even though you probably feel like doing nothing, you’re certainly not being lazy. In fact, your body is probably working harder than it ever has before. Your body is manufacturing more blood and your uterus is preparing to expand voluminously. Surging hormone levels can also have a funny effect on your equilibrium: You may feel starving all the time, or you may lose your appetite altogether. You may feel dizzy or lightheaded at points during the day, or you may simply feel too exhausted to get out of bed. You may also find that you have a newly heightened sensitivity to smell: Even the slightest whiff of a new smell could bring on a whole new wave of nausea. Additionally, as your uterus grows it starts pressing on your bladder. This will explain why it suddenly feels like you are going to the bathroom all the time. Remember that many of these symptoms, while uncomfortable, are absolutely normal and will mostly subside by the end of the first trimester.
Medical Exams During the First Trimester
In your first doctor’s visit after you find out you are pregnant, your doctor will consider your medical history and may do a range of tests including weight, blood pressure, and a pelvic exam. She will establish your due date based on the first day of your last period. She may do blood tests to determine your blood type and to test for any diseases such as HIV, as well as a urine test to screen for diabetes or kidney problems. Depending on your age or any other potential complications, she may also perform an ultrasound or other blood tests to screen for fetal abnormalities.
Tips for Staying Healthy in Your First Trimester
Your first trimester is a critical time for the healthy development of the new little life inside of you. That means this is a time for you to stick to a healthy diet – eating several small meals instead of three large meals if that’s the best way for you to keep food down – and take your prenatal vitamins. Exercise can also be an important part of a healthy pregnancy, with your doctor’s consent, for keeping your body in good shape for the work it has ahead. You should also take the opportunity to get plenty of sleep while you can. And by all means, cut out smoking, recreational drugs, and alcohol, if you haven’t done so already.
For some moms, the first trimester is no picnic. But remember, once your body settles in to its new role, many of the discomforts will subside in your second trimester. When you start to feel better, you can spend more time on fun projects like choosing a name, decorating the baby’s room, or shopping for tiny clothes. For now, just relax and focus on keeping yourself in the best possible health for your baby.