What to Expect During the First Trimester of Pregnancy

From the symptoms to the prenatal appointments, find out what to expect during the first trimester of pregnancy.

What to Expect During the First Trimester of Pregnancy

The first trimester of pregnancy includes weeks one-thirteen of pregnancy. The first trimester of pregnancy actually begins two weeks before (depending on your luteal phase or the length of time from ovulation until menses) a period is missed. Most women who use a home pregnancy test discover their pregnancy around four-five weeks, which is around the time of a missed period. The signs and symptoms of early pregnancy are few and subtle but many women can tell even before a positive pregnancy test that they are pregnant.

Early pregnancy symptoms and Premenstrual Syndrome symptoms are very similar. Some women feel slight cramping, notice the subtle enlargement and soreness of their breasts and the darkening of the areola. It is likely that this breast tenderness will continue throughout the entire pregnancy and not be limited to the first trimester of pregnancy. The first trimester of pregnancy is a good time to find a supportive bra in a slightly larger size to accommodate growing breasts and weight gain that will seem to happen suddenly at some points of the pregnancy.

For most women nausea and/or vomiting does not occur immediately. Around six weeks of pregnancy some women will begin to experience the nausea and/or vomiting that is common in pregnancy. This pregnancy symptom can be helped with the use of Sea-bands, frequent and small meals, a breakfast high in protein, extra sleep, lying in a dark and quiet room, and sipping warm ginger tea. The morning sickness may occur at any time of the day and can last into the early second trimester. Many women begin to feel better as the levels of hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) start to drop as early as ten-eleven weeks into the pregnancy.

The first trimester of pregnancy may be riddled with fear and doubt as symptoms wax and wane. While a loss of symptoms can certainly be an indicator of an impending miscarriage, symptoms may lessen or increase from day to day. A pregnant woman may notice symptoms more or less as she goes about her day and depending on how much time she has to think about the pregnancy.

While at this point in the pregnancy appetite is not a big factor, the need for extra sleep certainly is. Eating as much healthy food as possible is advantageous but many women find that eating is not very enjoyable in the first trimester. Certain smells and tastes may turn of the appetite immediately. Sleep is much more desired and pregnant women should take the extra sleep they need at this time. If it is possible for a prenatal vitamin to be swallowed then it is a good idea to start taking one during the first trimester, especially if no prenatal vitamins were taken during the preconception stage.

Appointments with a midwife or obstetrician are few in the first trimester. Most health care practitioners will want to see a pregnant woman around weeks seven-eight of the pregnancy. A routine pelvic exam will be done at this time. The uterus will be palpitated to be sure that its size is on target for the week of pregnancy. If there is a discrepancy between the date of the last menstrual period and the size of the uterus then an ultrasound may be performed to determine an estimated due date.

Four weeks after the first prenatal appointment another visit with the midwife or obstetrician will be scheduled. It may be possible at this time to hear the baby's heartbeat with use of a Doppler but there is no reason for concern if the heartbeat cannot be found this early. By the beginning of the second trimester of pregnancy the heartbeat should be more easily found. As will become the routine for all prenatal visits, urine will be tested for protein which if found can be an indication of preeclampsia (pregnancy induced hypertension). The pregnant mother will be weighed; her blood pressure measured and possibly the health care provider will measure the height of the fundus which is the measurement from the pubic bone to the top of the uterus.

By about twelve weeks of pregnancy it may be possible for the uterus to be felt just above the pubic bone. Maternity clothes probably won't be necessary for first time mothers at this point but for those who have already had a child clothes may already be uncomfortable. Even first time mothers may have to wear looser fitting waistbands though they may not yet "show".

Emotions during the first trimester of pregnancy may vary from day to day. Depending on the circumstances surrounding the pregnancy a woman may feel elated or depressed. Even for those women who intended to become pregnant, depression due to the fluctuation of hormones may occur.

The development of the baby in the first trimester of pregnancy is rapid. Around the time that most women are just finding out about their pregnancy the baby's heart has begun to beat. All of the body systems are either beginning to function or in the early stages of development. By the end of the first trimester the fetus will be around 2.5 inches long and weigh nearly a half an ounce. The baby moves a lot at this point but in first pregnancies mothers usually do not feel these movements because of the small size of the baby.

The first trimester of pregnancy can be one of the most difficult trimesters of pregnancy as the body works to sustain the life of the fetus and the woman learns to adjust to the changes and symptoms that early pregnancy brings. The first trimester of pregnancy sometimes seems to drag on endlessly while the mother-to-be waits for nausea to pass, the next prenatal appointment to come and exciting events such as the hearing the heartbeat and the first movements. As with everything, time passes and soon the pregnancy enters the next, more externally eventful phase.

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