What is The First Trimester?
Pregnancy is one of the most amazing experiences of a woman’s life. It is divided into three trimesters:
- The first trimester (the first three months)
- The second trimester (month four to month six)
- The third trimester (month seven to month nine)
The first trimester is especially important in pregnancy. This is a time in which a woman undergoes many changes, both physical and emotional, and therefore it is often known as the most difficult trimester. During the first trimester you have to learn how to cope with all these dramatic adjustments, and sometimes knowing what to expect beforehand can make you more comfortable.
h4. Changes to the body
During the first trimester or first three months of pregnancy, your body will experience enormous changes as it begins to adjust to the growing baby. You may feel unusually tired (fatigue), have breast tenderness and breast soreness, be urinating frequently and also experiencing nausea and vomiting (morning sickness). Other common pregnancy symptoms include backache, constipation, indigestion, gas, dizziness, and discharge from the vagina as well as food cravings.
Your emotions are also a rollercoaster, feeling joy and happiness one minute and then mood swings, stress and anxiety the next minute are perfectly normal during this time. These discomforts usually disappear as your pregnancy progresses. Keep in mind that each pregnancy is different, while some women may experience many discomforts, others may hardly experience any symptoms at all. It is essential that you are good to yourself in preparation for the birth of your baby – treat your symptoms, get plenty of rest and above all, remember to pamper your mind, body and soul!
Changes to the baby
The first trimester is a period of rapid growth and development of the baby. During the first trimester the baby’s organs are beginning to form. The spine and limbs begin to develop and what was once an embryo now becomes a fetus. The fetus is about 7cm long and weighs about 1.5 ounces with the eyes, ears, fingernails and toenails all starting to appear, and a heart that is beating. The fetus is starting to suck his or her fingers, yawn and swallow.
What will happen during first-trimester visits?
Usually, in the first four weeks of pregnancy, women seldom notice any symptoms but a missed menstrual period may alert them of the possibility that they are pregnant. Consult your physician, obstetrician or take a pregnancy test during the first six to eight weeks to confirm whether you are pregnant. Choose a physician, an obstetrician/gynecologist or midwife that you are comfortable with and will be able to provide you with prenatal care, delivery and postpartum services.
Once pregnancy is confirmed, your physician may enquire about your symptoms and review your medical history (previous pregnancies, operations or medical conditions). A thorough physical examination which includes a pelvic exam and pap test are completed. Blood tests such as a complete blood cell count (CBC), blood typing and screening for Rh antibodies, for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) such as syphilis, hepatitis gonorrhea, and chlamydia as well as HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) are performed.
You should be immunized against chickenpox (varicella), measles (rubeola), mumps or German measles (rubella). In addition, urine tests will also be ordered, your blood pressure, height and weight checked. Your physician will also be able to determine the baby’s due date. Oral health is also important during pregnancy, gums can become sensitive due to hormonal changes and it is recommended that you visit your dentist.
You will also be informed about the importance of nutrition and diet as well as other pregnancy do’s and don’ts. Ask your physician as many questions as possible. If you are over 35, certain tests based on your age or family history need to be performed and these include an ultrasound, pre-natal consultation and amniocentesis to check for birth defects. Previous birth records with prenatal charts and C-section notes may also be requested to check if any problems have recurred.
Most first-trimester visits occur once a month unless some gynecological concerns arise. Your first ultrasound scan may be offered to you between week 10 and 14 to confirm the baby’s due date.
Early and regular prenatal care is very important to monitor both mother and baby throughout the pregnancy. Make sure that you keep regular appointments with your physician or obstetrician so that any health complications will be spotted early. Eat well balanced meals and take folic acid supplements daily – remember this is not an opportunity to eat for two and maintaining a healthy weight is vital during pregnancy.
Do not be shy or embarrassed to ask questions that may confuse you and follow your physician’s advice. Now is the perfect time for you to connect with your unborn baby by talking or singing to him or her. Read as much as you can about the various stages of pregnancy, childbirth and babycare.