As soon as you learn that you are pregnant, you will likely experience a wave of emotions – and most likely a flood of questions as well. During the first trimester of pregnancy, you and your baby will experience a number of changes, many of which will be invisible from the outside. Take a look at the following information to discover what happens to your body and how you can stay healthy.
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What is the first trimester?
A full-term pregnancy is usually divided into three ‘trimesters’ by most people (including your physician and midwife). In spite of the fact that you are pregnant from the moment of conception – when a male sperm fertilizes your ovum (egg). In pregnancy, the first trimester begins on the first day of your last period and lasts until week 12. The reason for this is that most women who conceive naturally will not know the date when they conceived.
There are three broad categories of changes that occur during pregnancy: early pregnancy, mid-pregnancy, and late pregnancy. These are referred to as the first trimester, second trimester, and third trimester, respectively.
Check out what happens every week of the first trimester using our pregnancy week-by-week guide:
What happens to your body during the first trimester?
It has been reported that some women suffer from nausea during the first trimester, which is often referred to as morning sickness, but it can occur at any time of the day. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to pregnancy cravings, food aversions, and whether or not you experience any change in appetite during pregnancy, each pregnancy is unique, and also each pregnancy is unique.
The first trimester is also the time when you will begin to notice changes in your breasts, such as their tenderness, their size, and their weight. Further, there will be an increase in pressure on your bladder due to a growing uterus, which will result in a greater frequency of urination.
Your emotions during the first trimester
In the first trimester of your pregnancy, you are likely to feel a variety of emotions. There are hormonal changes that can affect your mood and cause you to feel moody or irritable; and in the early months, you may also feel tired.
It is normal to feel these kinds of emotions, so make sure you share your feelings with your partner or with a close friend. It is important to talk to your doctor or midwife if you are feeling down or anxious during your pregnancy.
What happens to the baby during the first trimester?
At 12 weeks into the pregnancy, your baby goes from being a fertilized ovum to being a fetus that is approximately 6cm in length at the end of the first trimester.
The heart of your baby starts to beat by the end of your first trimester, and the brain, stomach,, and intestines of your baby are also starting to develop by this time. In the places where arms and legs are just beginning to grow, you can see little bumps called ‘buds’.
What can be expected from the doctor and midwife during the first trimester?
Depending on where you will give birth, you may have your antenatal health checks (pregnancy check-ups) with your General Practitioner (GP), a midwife, or an obstetrician for the first trimester of your pregnancy. During your first antenatal health check, a urine or blood test will most likely be conducted in order to confirm that you are pregnant.
In comparison to home pregnancy tests, these are more reliable. Prenatal health checks during the first trimester usually take place once every four to six weeks. However, this period can vary depending on your health and how your baby develops during this time.
At around 12 weeks of pregnancy, many women are offered an ultrasound scan to hear the baby’s heartbeat, if they are lucky. In addition to detecting if you are expecting twins or multiple births, this ultrasound can also be used to determine the child’s size and due date, as well as monitor some health conditions if they are present.
During the first trimester, other health checks should be performed, including:
- Tests of the urine to detect urinary infections, a condition that can cause preterm labor if left untreated, but is common but treatable if caught and treated in time
- You may need to undergo blood tests in order to determine your blood type (particularly your Rh status). It is also used to check iron levels, blood sugars (for gestational diabetes), rubella immunity, hepatitis B and syphilis, and a host of other infections such as HIV, hepatitis B, and syphilis.
- During a general maternal health screening, you will be asked about any concerns you may have regarding your pregnancy or general health. A medication review (including natural or alternative medicines) may also be included as part of this process to ensure the safety of the medication during pregnancy
How to stay healthy during the first trimester
The importance of staying healthy during pregnancy cannot be overstated. In case you are a smoker, now is the perfect time to quit – talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you would like support in quitting.
While you are pregnant, it is a good idea to avoid drinking any alcohol, since even low levels of alcohol consumption during your pregnancy, especially during your first trimester, can have long-term negative effects on your baby.
It is advisable to eat a variety of nutritious foods throughout your pregnancy in order to meet your baby’s nutritional needs, as well as your own since this will help you maintain a healthy pregnancy.
It is true that your food needs will not increase much during your first trimester, but when you are carrying a baby you will need to consume more nutrients.
Due to the difficulty of obtaining enough folic acid and iodine from food alone, most women will also require folic acid and iodine supplements.
During the course of your pregnancy, you should continue to engage in regular physical activity because there are a variety of benefits that will benefit you as well as your baby.
Your doctor or midwife should be consulted if you experience any discomfort or complications during your pregnancy.
Things to consider in the first trimester
- Plan to attend your antenatal appointments for the entirety of your first trimester – they are crucial for keeping a close eye on your health and the growth of your baby.
- Ask your partner, a friend, or a relative to accompany you to your health checks – they will be able to provide you with support.
- Are you up to date on your vaccinations? It is extremely important to get vaccinated during pregnancy, and the National Immunization Program provides funding for several vaccines for pregnant women. If you are unsure of what to do, talk to your doctor.
- There is a range of support services that your doctor or midwife can help you access, not only for medical problems but also for other concerns. As an example, if you feel you might be at risk of violence during your pregnancy or feel vulnerable in any way.