During the first 4 weeks of pregnancy, the fertilized egg travels down the fallopian tube toward the uterus. Once fertilization occurs, the egg begins dividing and becomes a cell cluster. Approximately 8-9 days after fertilization, the cell cluster, or blastocyst, attaches to the lining of the uterus.
In weeks 5-8, the placenta, along with the brain and spinal cord, begins to form. Heart tissue also forms, and the baby’s heartbeat can be detected during ultrasound at around 6 weeks. By the end of 8 weeks, all major organs and body systems have started to develop.
By the end of the first trimester, your baby’s arms, legs, hands, feet, fingers, toes, bones, muscles, intestines, backbone, eyes, ears, nose, genitals, skin and teeth have formed and begun to grow. At this stage, your baby is a fetus and is probably around 2.5 inches long, and weighs about ½ ounce.
Since many of these important changes can take place even before you know you are pregnant, it is important to make safe choices prior to conception. This includes eating a well-balanced, healthful diet and getting plenty of sleep and exercise. Avoid exposure to tobacco, alcohol, radiation and harmful indoor and outdoor pesticides and chemicals.
If you are planning to become pregnant, talk with your OBGYN about adding vitamin supplements to your daily routine. Prenatal vitamins provide important vitamins and minerals needed for a safe and healthy pregnancy. Folic acid helps prevent neural tube defects and iron is needed to make the extra blood required to support the baby’s oxygen needs.
If you experience morning sickness during the first trimester, your obstetrician may recommend avoiding spicy, greasy or fatty foods. You may also be advised to increase your intake of bland foods and carbohydrates and to eat small, frequent meals.
Schedule an appointment with your OBGYN as soon as you suspect you are pregnant. This visit may include a physical exam, routine lab tests and ultrasound or other screening tests. Additional obstetrical visits will be scheduled every four weeks during the first trimester.
A safe and healthy first trimester plays an important role in the development of your baby. Ask your OBGYN about other ways to protect your baby’s health throughout pregnancy.