Summary of the first Trimester
The makings of a new unique individual begin with the coupling of the gametes (sperm and ovum) that form a single celled organism called a zygote. In your uterus, the zygote undergoes many cell divisions to become a cluster of cells known as a blastocyst of which the outer cells develop into the placenta and the inner cells into an embryo. During the embryonic stage, the structures for all organs and tissues develop. The heart is the baby’s first functional organ and by the end of this trimester you’ll be able to hear a heartbeat. The neural tube is embryonic tissue that will eventually form the spinal cord and brain. It begins to develop before some women even know that they are pregnant. This formation requires folate, thus it’s recommended that women take a folate supplements at least one month before conception and throughout their first trimester to prevent neural tube defects. In week nine, your baby enters its next phase of uterine development- the fetal stage, during which the fetus will grow most rapidly, relative to its size, than in any other stage of its lifespan. The first trimester sets the tone for the rest of development.
Pregnancy symptoms can differ between women and the onset of such symptoms can begin as early as week four for some expecting mothers. Prepare to like and dislike foods that you normally love or hate, experience frequent ‘gotta go now’ interruptions, lower pelvic cramping, backache that may persist throughout pregnancy and the dreaded morning sickness. Try to adapt to your new tastes and find substitute for foods that you can no longer eat such as raw meat/fish, unpasteurized milk and soft cheeses. During early pregnancy blood pressure tends to drop resulting in feelings of tiredness, faintness and dizziness. When queasiness comes, eat small frequent meals rather than three large meals and keep up your iron intake to sustain your energy levels. Don’t worry, these symptoms aren’t forever, most will disappear by trimester 2. Your breasts may start to become larger, more sensitive and your areola may darken. Around the 12th week of gestation, your uterus will begin to lift above your pelvis and a tiny bump may be visible. You might want to buy new supportive bras and start upsizing your outfits without feeling guilty of needing that extra space for your growing waist line.
Your new persona as a mother has begun. Even before conception, your health and choices will play a part in your child’s life. A healthy lifestyle helps produce quality gametes, a nurturing uterus and a successful pregnancy so that you can give them the best possible start to life. For many newly appointed mothers, you may need to sacrifice a few things, such as quit smoking and restricting alcohol intake and many favourite foods. If you’ve been actively trying, a pregnancy test is possible from as early as three weeks and should be confirmed with your doctor. For unplanned pregnancies, the transition to a healthy pregnant lifestyle may be quite sudden, but with a bit of will power, it is achievable. Depending on your situation, your feelings may be of elation, relief, apprehensiveness or concern. All these feelings are normal, particularly for a first time mum who may have days of certainty and others where she questions her suitability as a mother. Just remember, the baby isn’t coming right away and you still have 6 to 9 months to learn and read up on the stages to come. Many mothers often say it’s a “learn-as-you-go” type of job anyway. Don’t forget that you’re not alone; you may find it helpful to confide in your partner, your mother, other mothers and/or community and professional services. Main things to consider at this stage are; your finances (start saving if you have not done so already); when and how you’d like to share your secret with others; and which healthcare providers you’d like to see for your baby.
Before you conceive, it’s encouraged that you and your partner see a doctor for a check-up to ensure that you are both in the best health for fertility and pregnancy. Tests before conception and during early pregnancy include running some blood tests for the detection of any infectious diseases, to determine blood type and the presence or absence of the rhesus antigen, red blood cell number and nutritional deficiencies including iron levels. Your health practitioner will be the one to confirm the exciting news with a pregnancy test and can also estimate your due date. But most women will give birth at least 2 weeks either side of this date. Your first glimpse of the life growing inside of you can be scheduled towards the end of this trimester. An ultrasound is a non-harmful method of visualizing your baby, which will also provide some useful information about how your baby is coming along. It’s also possible to detect certain genetic conditions during weeks 11 to 14 with a nuchal translucency test. There are further tests available for women shown to have a higher risk of developing a baby with genetic abnormalities; your doctor or midwife will recommend these if needed. Book in your first antenatal class early, ideally around week 10 and schedule future classes throughout your pregnancy to help you prepare for labour, birth and parenthood. Upon meeting with your doctor, they will explain all your necessary tests and appointments, so they will be on top of it all. But it may help writing them down somewhere for your own reference and assurance.
Next Chapter: Summary of the second Trimester.