The Complete Guide To First Trimester of Pregnancy: Symptoms, What To Eat, Signs to Watch for, Baby’s Growth

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A pregnant woman is doing an obstetric examination in the first trimester

Congratulations! You’re pregnant! You got two little lines on your pregnancy test, and it’s time to start learning about this fascinating and exciting journey ahead.

You don’t look pregnant yet – although that bloat is real – but chances are you’re feeling it. All of the pregnancy hormones surge through your body, prepping, and preparing to grow and host your baby for the next nine months.  

Along with the changes that help your baby grow and develop, you’ll experience aches, pains, fatigue, and even some constipation. The first trimester might not be the most exciting and beautiful part of your pregnancy, but it is a vital period of development that is necessary.

We’re sure that you want to know everything about the first trimester. Knowing what to expect and all of the details helps you feel prepared along the way.

The first trimester starts on cycle day one, which is the first day of your period. That seems strange because you aren’t pregnant yet, but the 40 weeks of pregnancy include the first two weeks of your cycle.

So, the first trimester is a full 13 weeks long, starting on week one and lasting through the end of week 13. That is why it’s important to know what date you started your last menstrual cycle. That date is used to determine your due date.  

Ovulation typically takes place two weeks after the first day of your last menstrual period. That is when fertilization of the egg takes place. Then, it takes about a week for the fertilized egg to make it down the fallopian tubes to implant into your uterus.

Most women find out that they’re pregnant four to five weeks after their last period. Four weeks is the earliest than an at-home pregnancy test shows a positive result. So, you might go through your fourth week of pregnancy without knowing that you’re pregnant.

What Common Pregnancy Signs in the First Trimester?

Soon after you get a positive pregnancy test result, you might start to experience some common pregnancy signs. Pregnancy signs start 4-6 weeks into your pregnancy. Your hCG levels need to rise enough, along with your progesterone levels, to create the changes in your body. These changes lead to pregnancy signs and symptoms.

Here are some of the signs that you might notice in your first trimester.

1. Fatigue

Early pregnancy is exhausting. It feels like you climbed a mountain and back every day. Your body is working hard, and while you might not feel like you’re doing anything, your body is. Pregnancy fatigue is one of the most common early pregnancy symptoms for moms-to-be.

Think about everything that your body is doing. It has to devote a lot of energy into creating a placenta, which is a life-support system for your body. That means your usual energy is gone, given to help your baby grow.

2. Morning Sickness and Nausea

Everyone equates morning sickness and nausea with pregnancy. It’s the telltale pregnancy sign that causes the queasy feeling in your stomach.

Despite the name morning sickness, it can hit you at any time of the day. Morning sickness starts just a few weeks into your pregnancy and typically lasts until the end of the first trimester.

Hormones are to blame when it comes to this pregnancy symptom. The increased levels of hormones, especially progesterone, cause your stomach to empty more slowly.

3. Smell Sensitivity

Did your pan of sloppy joes make you want to hurl? One of the common pregnancy signs is smell sensitivity. It makes ordinarily mild odors smell strong and disgusting. It’s often one of the first signs that women report.

The crazy thing about this symptom is that it makes smells that you typically otherwise enjoy seeming horrible. One day, the smell of coffee is equivalent to heaven, and the next day, coffee makes you want to vomit. Your sniffer becomes more sensitive and offended by anything.

4. Tender Breasts

By week 6, you might notice a tingly, sore, or full feeling in your breasts. If you bump them, you might notice they’re a bit more tender than usual. Estrogen and progesterone, two common pregnancy hormones, are to blame for this pregnancy symptom as well, leading to breast changes and tenderness.

Of course, these changes and symptoms are all due to one reason – breastfeeding. While you still have many weeks before your baby arrives, your body is preparing to make breast milk.

5. Food Aversions

You have smell sensitivity, and that might lead to food aversions. That’s when the thought, sight, or smell of certain foods you usually like makes your stomach turn. It might even contribute to your morning sickness.

It can start with anything. Meat, in particular, chicken, tends to be a common food aversion, but it’s not limited there. You might decide that salads are horrible, eggs just sound like they’ll make you vomit, or peanut butter is the equivalent to liver and onions.

Food aversions might not be your first sign of pregnancy, but it does appear in the first trimester due to heightened pregnancy hormones. Hormonal changes are to blame for a lot of things! Thankfully, food aversions pass by the second trimester, so you’ll be able to eat the food you used to enjoy.

6. Mood Swings

We all know about the stereotypical, hormonal pregnant woman, but the stereotype is set for a reason. Once again, hormones are to blame for the mood swings you might be experiencing. As early as four weeks pregnant, you might notice PMS-like moodiness. One minute, you’re happy, but then the net minute, you feel sad or anxious.

Aside from the hormones, your life has a lot of changes on the horizon. It’s normal for you to have some different moods. Pregnancy is scary, exciting, and life-changing. Take a deep breath; things will be okay. It’s normal to feel emotional about your new journey.

7. Bloating

The bloat is real – seriously. Any mom-to-be will tell you that she felt bloated and massive for the first few weeks of her pregnancy. You’ll find it’s hard to button your jeans, just like it is after Thanksgiving dinner.

Your baby isn’t to blame, just yet. The pregnancy hormone, progesterone, slows down digestion, giving the foods you eat more time to enter your bloodstream and reach your baby. Constipation often comes with bloating, which is unfortunate. Make sure you add enough fiber into your diet to help keep you regular.

8. Darkening Areolas

Did you take a look in the mirror before your shower and realize your areolas look different? Areolas are the circles around your nipples, and during pregnancy, they start to get darker and might increase in diameter.

All of this is due to pregnancy hormones that surge through your body. These hormones might even create tiny bumps that grow in size and number on your areolas. They’re called Montgomery’s tubercles, and they’ve always been there, but now they’re getting larger.

9. Frequent Urination

Everyone knows that when you’re in the third trimester, you pee more than usual, but that starts way earlier. Two to three weeks after conception, you might notice that you need to go pee more often.

The frequent urination is due to the pregnancy hormone, hCG, that increases blood flow to your kidneys. It helps to get rid of waste, and eventually, your baby’s body waste, faster.

Later in pregnancy, your frequent urination is due to the growing size of your uterus that puts pressure on your bladder. That leaves less storage for urine, making you run to the bathroom more often.

10. Bleeding

We all know that bleeding is the last thing you want to experience in your pregnancy; however, around 30% of mothers bleed during pregnancy. You might experience light spotting or implantation bleeding. Bleeding might be a sign that an embryo has implanted into the uterine wall.

What Changes in Your Body During the First Trimester Pregnancy?

While you might not have a baby belly just yet, a lot happens during your first trimester to your body. You will experience some of the common symptoms of pregnancy. Those can make you feel pretty crappy, even if you know a miracle is happening inside of you.

Here are some common changes in your body during the first trimester.

1. Breast Changes

Changes in your breasts are one of the first things that you might experience in your pregnancy. Your body’s hormones start to prepare you for breastfeeding. So, you might notice your breasts feel tender and swollen, and bumps could form around your areolas.

Overall, your breasts will continue to change in size as your pregnancy advances. It’s all to prepare your body for breastfeeding in just a few short months.

2. Visible Veins

Even at the start of your pregnancy, your body starts to make extra blood. Your heart pumps faster to meet the needs of your pregnancy, so you might notice more visible blue veins in your belly, breasts, and legs. They become more noticeable over time, and some women notice spider veins on their face, neck, and arms.

3. Skin Changes

Some women notice that their skin looks more rosy and shiny when they become pregnant. Others experience flares of acne, leading to them looking like a teenager. You might be waiting for the pregnancy glow, and it’ll eventually come. It’s caused by increased blood circulation.

4. Vaginal Changes

Your vagina has a lot of changes coming in the future as well. At the start of your pregnancy, the lining of your vagina becomes thicker and less sensitive.

You might notice an increase in white discharge. Don’t be surprised if you have to wear a panty liner in your underwear throughout your pregnancy. Despite being annoying, it’s normal.

5. A Growing Belly

This is the change that you’ve been waiting for since you discovered that you were pregnant! Your waistline starts to expand as your baby and uterus grow larger.

Depending on your pregnancy, you might not notice this change until the second trimester. Don’t be upset if you have little to no weight gain in your first trimester.

6. Mouth and Oral Changes

Many women experience bleeding gums during pregnancy, and that leads to open portals for infections. Women are more susceptible to infections during pregnancy because your immune system is lower.

This is why oral hygiene is essential, especially in pregnancy. It helps to prevent gingivitis.

7. Hair and Nail Changes

You might start to have more good hair days than bad ones. That is if you have the energy actually to do your hair. Estrogen increases the length of the growing phase of hair follicles, so that creates a thicker and healthier head of hair.

Pregnancy also leads to the coarsening of the texture of nails, so they might become more brittle and soft. They also split easier. Nail changes may be a result of increase blood flow to the fingers and toes due to increasing estrogen levels. Nails also tend to grow faster ding pregnancy.

When Will You Need Maternity Clothes?

You might be wondering when you’ll need maternity clothes. Many women try to avoid getting maternity clothes, especially since you only get to wear them for a few months. It can get pricey, which is why it’s best to buy some staple pieces to make it through your pregnancy in style.

In the early weeks, you might want to start with a maternity belly band like tummy sleeves to add more comfort as your body changes. When your pants get snug, and your belly starts to show, it’s time to transition into a maternity wardrobe. That can happen by the end of the first trimester or the beginning of the second trimester.

At this time, your breasts will start getting larger, probably even faster than your belly. You might find that you need to switch to maternity bras early in your pregnancy.

Remember, no two bodies experience pregnancy the same way. When you need maternity clothes will depend on you and your pregnancy, and it might vary from pregnancy to pregnancy. Here are some clues that it might be time to break out of the maternity clothes.

  • You find yourself unbuttoning the top of your pants.
  • Your button-down shirts don't button all the way down.
  • You feel bloated all day, every day.
  • Leggings or anything that involves spandex becomes your preferred clothing material.
  • Your bump peeks out of your shirt.

The Baby’s Growth During the First Trimester of Pregnancy

The first trimester is genuinely the time when your baby undergoes the most magnificent changes. Your baby starts as an unfertilized egg in your uterus, the size of the tip of a pencil.

In a short time, the fertilized egg – a zygote – implants into your uterine wall. Within 13 weeks, the embryo grows from the size of a pencil tip to a peach-sized bundle that looks just like a baby. Organs develop, and your baby starts to move. There is so much that happens in the first trimester.

Here are a few highlights.

1. Bones Development

Bones start to develop by week 6. Babies begin to build arms, legs, hands, and feet. Around week 10, fingers and toes form.

2. Hair and Nails

The skin develops between weeks 5-8. Then, your baby’s hair follicles and nail beds form around week 11.

3. Digestive System

By week 8, your baby’s intestines start to form, and your baby will be working on his two sets of kidneys. That means soon your baby will have his third and final set on its way.

4. Brain Development

Your baby’s brain develops during the first trimester as well. By week 8, his brain can control his limbs.

5. Eyesight

Optic nerves transfer information from your eyes to your brain and back. Those nerves and lenses start to form around week 4, which is right when the zygote implants into the uterine wall. Then, the retina begins to form around week 8.

6. A Working Heart

The most crucial development in the first trimester is the creation of a working heart. The tubes that become your baby’s heart start to beat spontaneously by week 5. Over the next several weeks, the heartbeat becomes stronger and more regular.

Soon, you’ll be able to hear it. A heartbeat can be detected on an ultrasound around week seven and heard by ultrasound by week 9-10.

These are just a few of the developments that take place in the first trimester. As you can see, it’s possibly the most crucial part of your pregnancy. It is during this time that all of the necessary organs for life form and develops. They start to work, slowly, and move into their final places.

By the time that your baby is born, he or she will have all of the necessary parts to make life possible. That’s why learning how to take care of yourself during this time is so important.

What’s Happening During Each Week of the First Trimester​(Week By Week)

The first trimester is full of wonder. Your body changes drastically, and your baby undergoes tremendous growth and change during these next few weeks. Let’s take a look at what happens during each week in your pregnancy.

● 4th Week

Congratulations! You discovered that you were pregnant, and your baby is now an embryo. It consists of two layers of cells that will develop into your baby’s organs and body parts.

During the 4th week, the amnion and yolk sac develops. The amnion will eventually become the amniotic fluid that surrounds and protects your embryo. The yolk sac produces blood and helps to nourish your embryo until the placenta takes over.

● 5th Week

In the 5th week, the clump of cells that is an embryo starts to take shape. The neural tube will become your baby’s spinal cord and brain, and it runs from the top to the bottom of the embryo. There is a bulging developing in the center that will become your baby’s heart.

During this week, the placenta develops and starts to prepare to nourish your baby.

● 6th Week

You’re only six weeks pregnant, but your baby’s brain and nervous system are developing. The optic vesicles, which will eventually turn into his eyes, develop and make passageways up to the ear.

Most amazingly, during the 6th week of pregnancy, your baby’s heart starts to beat. Soon it’ll be detectable on an ultrasound. Don’t forget that his digestive and respiratory systems are forming.

● 7th Week

Hello, week 7! Your baby’s umbilical cord forms this week, and that’s a vital connection between you and your baby. The umbilical cord provides oxygen and nourishment to your baby throughout the rest of the pregnancy.

Also, his digestive tract and lungs continue to form. He has little buds on his body that will soon develop fully into his arms and legs. Another exciting development this week is that his face is taking shape. Your baby’s mouth, nostrils, ears, and eyes are becoming more defined this week.

● 8th Week

Can you believe that your baby has fingers and toes – seriously? At this point, your baby can even flex his elbows and wrists. His eyes are becoming more apparent and developing color.

During this week, the intestines get longer and protrude into the umbilical cord until week 12. Also, even though you can’t see them yet, the buds that will soon become your baby’s genitals have made their appearance. They aren’t developed enough to let you know if you have a little girl or boy yet.

● 9th Week

Until this week, your baby had a tail, but now that has almost disappeared. Now, your baby’s head has started to grow, and it’s quite big in comparison with the rest of his body. Your baby is around 0.6 to 0.7 inches long from crown to rump.

The digestive system continues to develop, and internal reproductive features develop. Your baby has either testes or ovaries starting this week!

● 10th Week

You’re only ten weeks into your pregnancy, but your baby has all of his major organs. They work together, and there are plenty of external changes as well. Instead of having webbed fingers, his fingers and toes are separating. Tooth buds form inside of his mouth, and if you have a boy, his testes start to produce testosterone.

This is the last week in the embryonic period. That means congenital abnormalities are unlikely to develop after this week. Your embryo looks more like a baby!

● 11th Week

Congratulations! You officially have a fetus rather than an embryo. You’re entering a period of fast growth. Between now and week 20, your baby will grow from 2 inches long to 8 inches, from crown to rump.

During this week, the facial developments continue as his ears move to the permanent position on the side of the head. His head is still pretty large, about half the length of his body.

● 12th Week

You’re almost to the end of the first trimester, and you probably are feeling more human than you have been in the previous weeks. During this week, your baby’s brain is undergoing development, along with some small details. Tiny fingernails and toenails form, along with his vocal cords.

Your baby has functioning kidneys at this point! He can swallow amniotic fluid, and it’ll pass out of his body as urine.

● 13th Week

Yay! You made it to the last week of the first trimester. The placenta is getting to work during this week. It’s providing your baby with oxygen, nutrients, and waste disposal.

As for your baby, your baby has eyelids that are fused. If you had a little window in your uterus, you might see your baby sucking his thumb and making more significant movements.

How to Exercise Safely in the First Trimester?

Exercising during the first trimester can be challenging. Your body increases the volume of blood pumped out by your heart by 5-6 weeks gestation. That means you might feel dizziness, a rapid heart rate, and breathlessness.

However, exercising during early pregnancy is completely safe, but you do need to know how to exercise safely in the first trimester. First, exercising will not induce a miscarriage. Quite the opposite – exercise soothes aches and pains of the first trimester and exercising throughout pregnancy only aids you and your baby.

Exercise helps you regulate weight gain, prepare your body for gaining more weight and keep you in shape for childbirth. Also, it helps keep you in a good mood and enables you to sleep.

You don’t look pregnant just yet, and you might not ant your coaches and workout buddies to know that you’re expecting a baby. The first thing you should do is a warm-up. Take five minutes to stretch before you workout, and you should also do a cool down.

You should take a break from exercising if you feel any of these things:

  • Nausea
  • Too Hot
  • Dehydration
  • Vaginal Discharge
  • Bleeding
  • Abdominal or Pelvic Pain

Always make sure that you stay hydrated during pregnancy, and you should also eat some healthy snacks after exercising. You’re supposed to increase your water intake anyway during pregnancy, but you need to increase it during workouts.

Recommended Exercises in the First Trimester of Pregnancy

Many exercises are safe during pregnancy. A few things that you can try include:

  • Pilates
  • Yoga
  • Running
  • Walking
  • Swimming
  • Weight Training
  • Bicycling

What Should a Pregnant Woman Eat During First Trimester?

Eating and the first trimester don’t always go too well together. You might be so nauseous that the thought of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich makes you feel like you need to puke. Putting food into your mouth takes effort and a great deal of consideration as you flip through the mental Rolodex of food pictures in your mind, waiting for one to look good.

We’ve been right where you are. It’s hard to focus on eating healthy foods during the first trimester when it feels like you can barely eat anything, let alone the “right” foods.

Here are some things you should remember about eating during the first trimester.

1. Eat Small Frequent Meals

Does the idea of sitting down to a large meal make you want to barf? Eating a lot of food at one time can make you nauseous, and having an empty stomach can make you sick as well. Many women try to avoid overeating during the first trimester only to find that their nausea increases.

Instead, focus on eating frequent small meals with high-density foods. Always having food in your belly makes you feel better over time.

2. Increase Your Protein

Eating more protein can make you feel less nauseous. Everyone wants to feel less nausea, so try adding nausea to each meal. That might be a cheese stick, a peanut butter sandwich, or yogurt with a higher amount of protein.

3. Don’t Worry about Increasing Calories

In the first trimester, you don’t have to worry about increasing your calorie intake. The first trimester doesn’t need any extra calories, but you do need more calories in the second and third trimester.

4. Pick Healthy Foods if Possible

Eating well is essential, and your body needs nutrients and energy to help develop your baby and keep your body strong. A healthy diet contains all of the vital nutrients that your body needs, adding the right balance of fats, protein, and carbohydrates.

Lucky for you, eating healthy foods in the first trimester is easy. You do need to focus on eating foods that help your baby’s brain and spinal cord develop, as well as his major organs. Here are some foods that you might want to eat during the first trimester.

  • Cooked Spinach
  • Asparagus
  • Eggs
  • Flaxseed Oil
  • Salmon
  • Oranges
  • Bananas
  • Blueberries

Here is an easy guideline for what you should be eating in the first trimester:

  • Fruits: 3-4 Servings a Day
  • Vegetables: 3-5 Servings a Day
  • Protein: 2-3 Servings a Day
  • Dairy Foods: 3 Servings a Day
  • Whole Grains: 3 Servings a Day

What Not to Eat During the First Trimester?

While most foods are safe during the first trimester, some need to be avoided for your safety. Here is a brief overview, but you can check out our complete guide about what foods to avoid during pregnancy.

1. High Mercury Fish

Mercury is toxic, and fish that contain high levels of mercury need to be avoided. Mercury consumed during pregnancy is linked to developmental delays and brain damage.

Examples of these types of fish with higher levels of mercury include:

  • Shark
  • Swordfish
  • Tilefish
  • Albacore Tuna
  • King Mackerel

2. Raw Meat and Fish

You should avoid uncooked seafood or raw or undercooked beef or poultry. Bacteria, salmonella, and toxoplasmosis can contaminate meats.

3. Raw Eggs

Raw eggs should be avoided because of the potential exposure to salmonella. That means you need to avoid homemade caesar dressings, mayonnaise, homemade ice cream or custards, and Hollandaise sauces.

4. Smoked Seafood

You should avoid refrigerated, smoked seafood, which is often labeled as lox, nova style, or jerky. These can be contaminated with listeria, but you can eat this type of seafood if it’s in a dish that has been cooked.

5. Unwashed Veggies

All vegetables are safe to eat and are a necessary part of your balanced diet. You do need to make sure the veggies are washed to avoid exposure to toxoplasmosis, which can live in the soil where the vegetables are grown.

6. Deli Meat

You might love a good turkey sandwich, but deli meats are known to be contaminated by listeria. Listeria can cause miscarriage, and it’s able to cross the placenta. It might infect your baby, leading to infection or blood poisoning. It could be life-threatening.

If you want to eat deli meats, reheat the meat until it’s steaming!

7. Unpasteurized Dairy

Unpasteurized milk can contain listeria or other forms of bacteria. All milk that you consume needs to be pasteurized, along with any dairy products that you eat. It needs to come from pasteurized milk.

8. Alcohol

Finally, no matter what anyone tells you, no amount of alcohol is known to be safe during pregnancy. You must avoid alcohol entirely during pregnancy. Prenatal exposure to alcohol can interfere with the healthy development of the baby.

How Much Water to Drink?

Pregnant women need to drink enough water during the first trimester. It helps to increase the fluid inside of your body, but it’s frustrating because you already feel like a peeing machine. How many more times can you head to the bathroom?

Dehydration is dangerous during pregnancy, and it can even cause preterm labor. That means you need to make sure you know how much water to drink during the first trimester.

In general, women need to consume one milliliter of water per calorie of food. So, if you consume 2,300 calories per day, you need to drink around 2,300 milliliters of water each day. That is approximately ten glasses.

Thankfully, foods like watermelon count towards your goal. You can consume drinks such as LaCroix. Make sure you increase your water intake if you’re working out or if it’s hot outside.

How Average Weight Gain in the First Trimester?

Weight gain in the first trimester varies widely. Remember that your baby is still tiny, so you aren’t going to gain too much. Most women gain between three to five pounds.

Don’t fret if you don’t gain any weight or if you lose some weight instead. You might be experiencing extreme nausea and vomiting. Many women lose a few pounds because of appetite loss. All of this is considered normal for the first trimester, so long as you start to make gains in the second trimester.

What Symptoms to Watch for in the First Trimester?

You’ll notice many changes going on in your body throughout your pregnancy, so it’s easy to wonder what is normal and what isn’t healthy. In most cases, weird twinges and pains aren’t a cause for concern. You do have a risk of miscarriage, but every little twinge doesn’t mean a miscarriage is about to happen.

The first trimester is scary. You know that you do have a higher risk of a miscarriage. So, here are some signs that warrant a call to your doctor.

  • Heavy vaginal bleeding
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Vision disturbances
  • Fever of 101.5F, chills and/or backache
  • Sudden thirst
  • Painful urination
  • Severe puffiness in the hands and/or face

If you have any of these signs or symptoms, call your doctor right away. If you can’t talk to your doctor quickly, head to the nearest ER, or urgent care.

What Is My Miscarriage Risk?

Miscarriage. That’s a word and a topic that you don’t typically want to discuss during your pregnancy, but it’s a reality that all women must face. Miscarriage describes the early loss of a pregnancy before 20 weeks of pregnancy, and most take place in the first trimester.

Between 10 and 15 percent of known pregnancies end in miscarriage. That can be scary, and it’s even more disturbing when you understand that it’s based on known pregnancies. So, those women took a test and determined that they were pregnant.

Sometimes, it helps to understand your particular risks. As your pregnancy continues, your risk decreases slightly. Each week, you feel as if you can let a bit more air out as you’re holding your breath in high hopes that everything will turn out okay.

Here are the details:

  • Weeks 4-6 have the highest risk of miscarriage. Some suggest that the overall risk in week 5 is 21 percent. You can have a miscarriage before you realize that you’re pregnant; these are called chemical pregnancies.
  • It’s estimated that as many as 50 to 75 percent of pregnancies end before the mom gets a positive result on a test. Most women have no idea they were pregnant!
  • Once you reach six weeks pregnant, the risk of a miscarriage drops to 10 percent. Once you have confirmed viability with a heartbeat, the risk is even lower.
  • When you reach week 12, your miscarriage risk is at 5 percent. It stays there throughout your pregnancy because complications can arise at any time.

Is Your Pregnancy High-Risk?

A high-risk pregnancy means that you or your baby have a higher chance of health problems or preterm delivery. Don’t be scared if you fall into the categories of a high-risk pregnancy. Doctors are trained to handle these situations, and they’ll know just what to do.

Your pregnancy might be considered to be high risk if:

  • Mom is age 17 or younger.
  • Mom is age 35 or older.
  • You are underweight or overweight before pregnancy.
  • You’re pregnant with twins, triplets, or other multiples.
  • Mom has high blood pressure, depression, diabetes, or other health problems.
  • In previous pregnancies, mom had problems, such as premature labor or a genetic problem at birth.

A Checklist of Tasks for the First Trimester

1. Picking a Prenatal Vitamin

You should start taking a prenatal vitamin immediately. Starting prenatal vitamins as soon as you find out that you’re pregnant helps to reduce the risk of neural tube defects, such as spina bifida.

2. Selecting an OBGYN or Midwife

The most important task of the first trimester is choosing your OBGYN or midwife. Some women deliver with their family physician!

Take the time to decide which route is best for your pregnancy. Then, you can book your first appointment to go over your medical history and perform a thorough physical exam.

3. Going to Your First Appointment

Your first appointment with your medical provider can be a long one. Chances are you’ll have a pap smear, urinalysis, and bloodwork to determine your blood type, Rh status, hCG levels, and to check for the presence of any infections.

Most providers also perform or schedule an initial ultrasound to confirm the presence of a heartbeat, date your pregnancy, and make sure that things look as if they’re progressing appropriately.

4. Consider Genetic Tests

Health providers typically offer a nuchal translucency screening between weeks 10-13 to check for congenital heart defects and Down syndrome. Some practitioners recommend a NIPT around week 9, which is a noninvasive blood screening that checks for chromosomal abnormalities.

5. Start Eating Right

It’s never too early to start eating the right foods. It’s an excellent time to reduce caffeine. You can have up to 200mg of caffeine per day. Learn what foods to avoid and which should be added to your diet. That gives you a chance to stock your cabinets up accordingly.

6. Announce Your Pregnancy

Plan how you want to tell your friends and family the fantastic news! You can decide if and when you want to announce on social media about your pregnancy. Waiting until the end of the first trimester reduces your risk of a miscarriage, so many women pick to do so.

6. Decide When to Tell Your Employer

You don’t have to tell your employer just yet, but now is the time to decide when you want to inform them that you’re pregnant. Do your research ahead of time to understand your company’s maternity leave policies.

What to Expect at Your First Prenatal Appointment

Going to your first prenatal appointment is an exciting time! Every provider is different. Some want you to come in immediately for bloodwork and to start the paperwork, while the majority wait until 8-10 weeks to schedule the first appointment.

Here is a general idea about what to expect at this appointment.

1. Lots of Paperwork

Paperwork is a given. You’ll need to fill out all of your information for the office staff, and that takes time. Luckily, it’s a time killer as you wait to see the doctor.

2. Testing

Your first appointment involves several tests. Most doctors perform a urinalysis at every appointment. These check for protein in your urine, as well as to be sure you don’t have a UTI, which can be troublesome during pregnancies.

Expect your doctor to perform a pap smear at this appointment, as well as one after your 6-week postpartum check-up. He might send you to have bloodwork completed this appointment or your next.

Pregnancy bloodwork looks at many things, such as ensuring you don’t have HIV, Hepatitis, or other transferable diseases. Bloodwork also looks for indications that you have an infection somewhere, and they might measure your HCG and progesterone levels.

3. Meeting Your Doctor

This first appointment is when you get to meet your doctor and send some time getting to know him. It’s an excellent time to interview your medical provider, asking questions about his practice and policies.

4. Your First Ultrasound

This is what everyone is waiting for – the ultrasound. Some doctors don’t have an ultrasound machine in their office, so you might have to be referred out to a clinic to get an ultrasound performed. If your doctor has one in office, most doctors ask for the ultrasound first before the appointment to make sure the pregnancy is viable.

5. Schedule Your Next Appointment

In the end, you get to schedule your next appointment. In the beginning, appointments are every four weeks. Depending on when you went for your first appointment, you’ll see your doctor between 12-14 weeks.

What Comes Next

The first trimester is one full of emotions. You have the moment that you discover you’re expecting, which is a bundle of nerves, excitement, and worry. Then, you have to face nausea, tender boobs, and a variety of other not-always-fun symptoms that come with this trimester.

Many women wait to tell their friends and family about their upcoming bundle of joy until the risk of loss is lower. You have to navigate learning what to eat and what not to eat in the first trimester, adapt exercising, and start heading to the doctor more often.

But now, you’re heading out of the first trimester into the second trimester. Many moms consider the second trimester to be the golden time in pregnancy when your energy returns and you start to feel movement. Don’t worry; we have all of yours answers about this time answered in our Guide to the Second Trimester. Be sure to keep reading!


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