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The Journey Begins
05th October, 2017
Congratulations – you’re going to be a mommy! Finding out you’re pregnant marks the beginning of one of life’s most exciting and rewarding journeys, but for a lot of women it can also be a time of apprehension, anxiety and many, many questions.
The first trimester is a period of incredible change and growth – not only for you and your baby-to-be but also for your partner and your family. If you’ve just found out you’re pregnant you’ll want to know what to expect and how best to plan physically, emotionally and financially for the new life that is growing inside you, and you’ll need information, resources and support to get you through your pregnancy happily and healthily. Over the next three issues we’ll be running a series of pregnancy articles to let you know what to expect in each trimester Read on to find out what the first trimester holds for you.
Determining My Due Date
Having found out that you’re pregnant, one of the first things you’ll want to know is when you’ll be meeting your baby for the first time. Everyone knows that pregnancy lasts nine months, so to calculate your due date you just need to work out the date of conception and count forward nine months, right? Surprisingly, it’s not that simple.
The first thing to know about due dates is that they are an estimate – only five percent of women actually give birth on their due date. Due dates are easier to work out if your menstrual cycle occurs with regularity every 28 days, which is not the case with many women.
Secondly – and confusingly for many people – your due date is calculated from the first day of your last period and not from the date of conception, as many people assume.
And then there’s the fact that a full-term pregnancy lasts for between 37 and 42 weeks, not the neat ‘nine months’ that people talk about. In working out due dates, medical professionals work on a round 40 weeks or 280 days.
If you’re confused, don’t worry. It is possible to work out an estimated date of arrival for your baby. Work out when the first day of your last period was and then count forward 280 days. This will give you an estimated due date. Your first scan will provide a more accurate indication of how far along you are and when your baby is expected to be born.
Your Amazing Growing Baby
The early growth of a baby is truly incredible and while you might not look or even feel pregnant at this stage, it’s wonderful to know what’s happening inside your body, week by week.
First trimester: Conception to the end of 13 weeks
What is happening with your baby
A ball of rapidly dividing cells known as an embryo is growing inside your uterus. At the moment, it is about the size of a poppy seed and is dividing into three layers ñ one will become the neural tube from which the brain, spinal cord and nerves will sprout. The middle layer will become the heart and circulatory system and in the outer layer the lungs, intestines and beginnings of the urinary system will develop. The placenta is cells are embedding themselves in the wall of your uterus and by the end of this week will be able to make nutrients for your baby.
This week your baby is heart starts to beat, pump blood and divide into chambers. Your baby is only a quarter of a centimetre long, but already the major organs are developing, and the neural tube containing the brain and spinal cord will close this week. Tiny buds that will become arms and legs are beginning to sprout.
With a little heart that is beating twice as fast as yours at 150 beats a minute, your baby is growing rapidly. Facial features start to form ñ there are dark spots where the eyes will be, tiny holes where the ears will form and openings that will eventually become nostrils. Muscle and bone tissue is developing ñ and all this is happening in a being that is no bigger than a lentil.
This is a very busy week for your baby. The first signs of erratic movement appear in this week, the liver is hard at work producing red blood cells to form bone marrow. The tooth buds, palate and tongue are developing and eyelids start to cover the eyes. Your baby looks a little like a tadpole or fish, with a tail and webbed feet.
In your baby is tiny brain nerve cells are branching out, forming connections and laying down the earliest neural pathways. The muscles and organs are beginning to function, even though your baby is only about 1.6cm. The embryonic tail is just about gone and the feet are losing their webbed appearance. On baby is tongue tiny taste-buds are starting to form
Your baby is starting to look like a tiny human being ñ fingers and toes are clearly visible and the essential body parts have all developed, but still needs to undergo lots of fine-tuning in the coming weeks. At the end of 8 weeks baby is about 2.3cm long and weighs less than 2g.
This week your baby graduates from being an embryo to a foetus and can kick its tiny legs and swallow fluids. Itís doubled in weight since last week and, amazingly, fingernails and fuzzy hair have developed. The head accounts for half the length of the body and inside your baby, all the vital organs are fully formed and functioning.
Baby is now about 4cm long and has all its body parts from tooth buds to toenails. Movement really kicks in this week as baby kicks and stretches ñ this will become more frequent in the coming weeks.
Although you probably canít feel it yet, your baby is really moving around, clenching eye muscles, closing fingers and curling toes. Whatís more, the reflexes are developing rapidly and if you prod your belly chances are that baby will squirm in response. The little face is starting to look more human because the eyes are moving from the side of the head to the front, and the ears are almost in place.
Roughly half the size of a banana, your baby has developed sucking muscles in the cheeks which is critical to good feeding at birth. There are also tiny fingerprints on the tips of the little fingers. Girl babies will already have about 2 million eggs in their ovaries. This week marks the end of the first trimester
Your Changing Body
While the first trimester of pregnancy might not be accompanied by many obvious changes and it will be a while before you start to look pregnant, your body is undergoing a rapid transformation. Unfortunately, many of these early-stage symptoms – such as nausea and extreme fatigue – can be unpleasant. Coping can be tough, particularly if like many couples you have decided not to tell people you’re pregnant until the end of the first trimester.
For nine out of 10 moms, the first trimester means morning sickness. Contrary to what the name suggests the nausea can occur throughout the day and may or may not be accompanied by vomiting. It’s one of the most difficult aspects of early pregnancy and can be debilitating.
The nausea is thought to be caused by the pregnancy hormone Human Chorionic Gonadotrophin(hCG). In a healthy pregnancy the levels of this hormone are particularly high until your placenta takes over the functions of maintaining and nourishing the pregnancy. This is why morning sickness typically abates after 12 to 14 weeks.
Eat little and often and try not to get too tired. Rest as often as you can. You can also try natural remedies such as ginger root tea and ask a Dis-Chem pharmacist about tissue salts which have been known to help some women. However, don’t take anything during pregnancy without first confirming with your healthcare practitioner that it is safe to do so. With any luck this phase will pass at the end of the first trimester, as it does for most women, and you will start to feel better. In the meantime, be kind to yourself.
Common Pregnancy Skin Complaints
Changes in hormone levels during pregnancy, coupled with the way in which the skin is caused to stretch, can result in a number of common skin complaints. These include:
The Pregnancy Mask: the raised levels of oestrogen during pregnancy stimulates greater production of melanin but this is not distributed evenly and can leave you looking like you have a blotchy tan. Chloasma, commonly known as ‘the mask of pregnancy’ is a type of hyperpigmentation and while it can’t be prevented it can be minimised by ensuring you don’t expose your face to the sun. Chat to a beauty expert in store for advice. The BioNike Defence B-Lucent range is ideal as it acts in synergy on reducing dark spots while treating fine lines while Dermactin-TS also has products suited to helping diminish cloasma. You could also treat yourself to a low level laser facial treatment at one of our salons.
Acne: you may be horrified at the return of acne, something you thought you’d left behind with your teenage years. Although seldom as severe as teenage acne, acne in pregnancy can be distressing. Make sure you keep your pores clean with a good cleansing routine. Try the BioNike Acnet range of products, exclusive to Dis‑Chem.
Stretch Marks: as your skin stretches to accommodate your growing baby and changing body it may develop stretch marks. These are usually on the breasts, abdomen, thighs and buttocks. Genetic factors play a role in making you prone to stretch marks but it will also depend on how much weight you gain and how quickly you gain it. Help to keep your skin as elastic and supple as possible by using a stretch mark cream for pregnancy like the Happy Event or Dermactin-TS Stretch Marks Complex, Palmers Cocoa Butter, Neutrogena Body Oil.
Itchy Skin: stretching of the skin also causes itchiness, particularly on the belly, but you will probably only experience this in the latter part of your pregnancy. Keeping your skin well hydrated goes a long way to minimising this. Dis‑Chem offers an enormous selection of body moisturising creams and butters. Read the labels carefully to check that the product is safe for use by pregnant women.
Your growing baby needs lots of nutrients to help it develop healthily. It’s never too early to start taking a pregnancy supplement like Chela-Preg, as it contains folic acid which is essential to early development and the prevention of neural tube defects such as Spina Bifida. It’s also a good idea to start thinking about your diet and switching to a healthy and balanced diet if you don’t already follow one. If you are able to, try to incorporate exercise into your daily routine – it will make for a healthier pregnancy.