A Guide To The First Trimester Of Pregnancy
The first trimester of pregnancy is the first 13 weeks of pregnancy, with the first day being the first day of the last known menstrual period. During this time, the major organ systems of the fetus develop, which makes this one of the most crucial times in pregnancy. In this article, we go through the many changes that occur in the first trimester of pregnancy, and other questions and concerns that parents may have.
Signs and symptoms of pregnancy
There are many symptoms of pregnancy, though the primary sign of pregnancy is missing 2 or more consecutive menstrual periods. However, this may not always mean you are pregnant, as conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome can also cause it.
The signs and symptoms of pregnancy can vary from one woman to another. However, there are some common symptoms that occur in a vast majority of pregnancies:
- Fatigue – This is due to the production of progesterone, a hormone that modulates the immune system and helps normal implantation of the fertilized egg.
- Nausea and vomiting – While most people refer to is as “morning sickness,” 80 percent of pregnant women feel sick throughout the day and/or at night.
- Food cravings/aversions and mood swings – May be related to hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy.
- Increased urinary frequency – This is related to the hormone Beta-Human chorionic Gonadotropin (B-HCG), which increases pelvic blood flow.
- Tender, swollen breasts – In preparation for eventual breastfeeding, progesterone helps in the development of milk ducts and causes the breasts or nipples to swell.
- Vaginal bleeding –Although not always present, scanty amounts of bleeding during the first trimester may be related to implantation of the fertilized egg (implantation bleeding).
When to go for a checkup and a clinical pregnancy test
It’s best to go for a prenatal checkup as soon as you suspect a pregnancy. This is necessary to ensure that the mother and fetus can get the appropriate exams and diagnostics. These tests aim to confirm that the fertilized egg has implanted itself properly.
During the initial prenatal visit, physicians can perform other clinical tests to confirm the pregnancy, such as a sonographic evaluation of the pregnancy (transvaginal ultrasound) and blood tests.
First month of pregnancy
After implantation, the first week of pregnancy begins. As a result, limb buds (structures that will eventually become the arms and legs), as well as the eyes and ears, begin to form. As times goes on, the heart develops a regular rhythm (around week 4) and the brain begins to develop. Simultaneously, the tissues that will turn into the vertebrae and bones start to appear.
Second month of pregnancy
As the fetus’ brain continues its development, some electrical activity begins in the nervous system. Meanwhile, the arms and legs grow longer, and fingers and toes begin their form. Likewise, the eyes, upper lip, nose and ears become visible, while the lungs start to develop. The neck and trunk of the fetus also become more defined.
Third month of pregnancy
During this time, the fingers and toes are distinct and have nails, while the fetus’ face gains more definition. Meanwhile, the fetus can now swallow and its heartbeat becomes detectable with a machine. The kidneys also begin making urine while the bone marrow forms blood cells.
It is also at this time that the doctors can determine the fetus’ sex. In female fetuses, the ovarian follicles begin forming. While in male fetuses, the prostate appears.
High risk pregnancies
These are pre-existing conditions that can lead to complications during the first trimester of pregnancy.
TORCH syndrome is a group of infections in newborns that can occur while the baby is still in the mother’s womb. These include infection from Toxoplasmosis, Other Agents, Rubella, Cytomegalovirus, and Herpes Simplex. Newborns who develop an infection from the aforementioned agents are at risk for developing eye abnormalities, jaundice, and hearing impairments.
Vaccination and healthy practices
Patients should also ask their physicians as to what vaccinations they should undergo, since not all vaccines may be given during pregnancy. Vaccinations for the flu (influenza vaccine) and tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (Tdap) are highly recommended. These do not affect pregnancy and protect both the fetus and mother against these infections. Vaccines such as your chickenpox, MMR, and shingles should be avoided during pregnancy.
During the first trimester, it is important to follow your obstetrician’s advice regarding lifestyle modifications and follow ups. Intake of folic acid supplements, diet, appropriate weight gain throughout pregnancy, and exercise can lower the risk of developing complications.
There are many changes in the first trimester of pregnancy. This is a very important time, as this is when the fetus begins developing. Identifying possible risk factors for pregnancy complications is helpful for both doctors and parents when formulating a plan for maintaining a healthy pregnancy.
Learn more about Being Pregnant here.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.