The thrilling news of pregnancy is a matter of joy for would-be parents. The typical 9 months of pregnancy, have been equally divided into 3 trimesters of three months each. The actual duration of gestation period for average pregnancy is considered to be about 280 days, or 40 weeks.
The First Trimester of pregnancy is counted from the first day of the last period and lasts till the end of 12th week. It is the most life-changing time for a woman, especially one who is getting pregnant for the first time. It is also the most crucial and delicate stage for the unborn baby.
The most amazing thing about the First Trimester is, many women are not even aware that they are pregnant till about the fifth or sixth week of pregnancy, when they miss their period and go for medical tests and examination. By the time they realize that they have missed their period, they will be pregnant already, with a baby about 3 weeks old. This is so because conception usually takes place about two weeks after the last period around the time of ovulation i.e. release of the egg.
From embryo to fetus
First Trimester is the time of vigorous incredible growth for the unborn baby, which starts its journey of life as an embryo. The egg fertilized by a sperm keeps multiplying and attaches itself to the walls of the uterus, or womb. This happens by the third week. The embryo at this stage will be growing faster than at any other stage of pregnancy, with its heart, brain and spine already developing. The embryo at this stage of development is now called a fetus.
During the First Trimester, the baby’s early organ and structure development takes place, some of the notable features of which are given below :
- Between 5th and 8th week, skin begins to form and teeth buds, hair follicle and nail-beds start forming by 8th week.
- By 6th week baby starts to grow arms and legs which further develop hand and feet and then fingers and toes by 10th week.
- Baby’s eyes begin to form after 4th week and by 8th week, the retina begins to form.
- The heart starts forming by 5th week and heartbeat can be heard by 10th week
- By 12th week, baby’s face and other organs, muscles and bones start forming.
- The baby’s brain, intestine and kidneys begin forming by 8th week.
- The sense of touch through touch receptors start developing by 12th week.
Physical changes that occur during First Trimester
By this time the mother may not appear pregnant, but can feel her pregnancy. Some symptoms of pregnancy and physical changes that occur during the First Trimester are given below. These may not necessarily affect every pregnant woman and the extent may vary too.
It is also called the morning sickness, and is the most common pregnancy-related condition among women in their first trimester. It affects almost 80% of all pregnant women. It starts as early as 2 weeks after conception i.e. from the 5th week onwards during the First Trimester, due to hormonal changes inside the body. It gets over by the end of the first trimester. The doctor might prescribe some medicine to treat nausea.
Feeling of fatigue and tiredness is a common symptom. Ensure adequate sleep and rest.
Some implantation bleeding or ‘spotting’, as it is called because there are visible blood spots on the panties; may occur. It is generally harmless and occurs in almost 75% of cases. However, if heavy bleeding occurs, and the blood is bright red and it is accompanied by sharp pain and cramps, it is safer to get it checked out by your doctor
Breasts tend to swell and enlarge during the early stage of pregnancy i.e. by the 6th week. They become tender and feel tingly and sore to touch. This is because the milk glands and fat layers grow at a fast rate, which slows down by the end of the First Trimester.
Uterus starts enlarging to accommodate the growing baby, a placenta covers the baby and umbilical cord is formed which provides Oxygen and nutrients through blood.
Food Cravings :
common phenomenon, called pica, is the craving for spicy, sour foods due to changes in taste buds.
An increase in weight up to 3 kilo grams is quite common.
This is due to the growing fetus which takes up space.
Shortness of Breath:
This is caused due to the enhanced oxygen supply in blood through the umbilical cord.
It is caused by the hormone progesterone.
Deficiency in Calcium causes this.
Change in skin texture, acne, pigmentation, skin tags etc. are common occurrence.
Mood swings :
These starts to affect by 7th week. Some would-be mother may go into depression.
Do’s and Don’ts during the First Trimester
The First Trimester is very crucial for baby’s growth and development. The following must be taken care of.
Nutrition: Because of the growing baby, it is important to take the recommended healthy diet rich in fiber, protein, iron ,vitamin A & C, folic acid etc.
Sufficient Rest and Sleep:
It is necessary to avoid fatigue and to take adequate rest and sleep to promote the development of the fetus.
Mild Exercise :
It is beneficial to go for mild physical activities like walking.
Prenatal Medical Check-Ups :
During this period, the doctor starts his ante-natal care regimen and would advise certain foods and medicine.
Prenatal care, including a fortnightly or monthly scheduled visit to the doctor, is vital to ensure the health of the mother and the baby. Pregnant mothers who are considered high risk, need a more frequent visit.
The Obs-Gyn may advise a Battery of Tests like Pap smear, urine analysis, blood test for blood type and Rh status, HCG levels, any infections, including Initial ultrasound to confirm heartbeat, duration of pregnancy, progress etc.
Quitting Unhealthy Habits :
Smoking, Drinking or use of Drugs, should be avoided for the health and safety of the baby.
Take extra precautions : The risk for miscarriage is the highest during the First Trimester. There is no need for alarm, but one has to be careful in case of these occurrences:
- Heavy vaginal bleeding
- Severe abdominal pain
- Sudden thirst
- Painful urination
- Fever over 101.5 F, chills with or without headaches
- Severe puffiness or swelling of the arms and face
By the end of the First Trimester, the risks get reduced considerably. The pregnant mother enters her Second Trimester which is much less eventful, and settles down well with her pregnancy and baby bump.
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