first trimester

The first trimester of pregnancy will yield many big surprises for all future mummies.

Finding out that you are carrying a child will transform your life at all levels already during your first trimester, and you need to get ready for it. Planning ahead may be the first in a long list of things to do if you don't want to be caught unprepared.

From CaptainMums, we don't want you to miss any detail, so you can excel at this first pregnancy stage. That's why we've created a first trimester of pregnancy guide, where you'll find the most useful information to go from week 1 to week 13 of pregnancy.

First trimester: Your body doesn't lie

Whether you've got a positive in a pregnancy test or not yet, your body will start experiencing many changes that may dispel any doubts about your new status. Some symptoms will strike you very early, while others won't show up until later on. However, during your first weeks as an expecting mum, you will experience some early signs of pregnancy, such as:

  • Morning sickness: pregnancy hormones are responsible for most of the symptoms that you will experience. Among these, nausea is one of the most typical during the first trimester. You can suffer from it either in the morning or at night, and it is often triggered by your now heightened sense of smell.
  • Sore breasts: the combination of high progesterone and oestrogen levels will result in sore and enlarged breasts that will be very sensitive to the touch.
  • Tiredness: fatigue also heads the list of early pregnancy symptoms. You'll find yourself resting and sleeping a lot more than what you are used to!
  • Mood swings: you may also jump from feeling excited to being a 'Debbie Downer' before you know it. Don't worry, ups and downs are pretty common in this stage.
  • Constipation: these troublemaking hormones don't give you a break and can make your bowels relax. That can lead to constipation and excessive gas, which will make you feel uncomfortable

Other symptoms that you may be experiencing during the first trimester of pregnancy include heartburn, weight gain, food aversions, pregnancy cravings, headaches and dizziness.

First trimester: From the embryo to the foetus 

Considering pregnancy trimesters, the first is the one in which the baby's development may be the most fascinating. A fertilised egg turns into an embryo, and then the foetus takes over. All of this process takes place in just a few weeks, which makes it even more astonishing. To be brief, these are the expected steps in a baby's development during the first trimester of pregnancy:

  • Week 1 and week 2: at this point, you aren't technically pregnant yet, though doctors do start calculating your due date from the first day of your last period. Just think that, throughout these days, your body is getting ready for ovulation.

  • Week 3: you may not notice anything yet, but inside your body there are a lot of things going on. The egg that left your ovary travelled through one of the Fallopian tubes and got fertilised by sperm, resulting in a zygote, a union of cells that normally has 46 chromosomes. The zygote will initiate the way down the Fallopian tube toward the uterus. While travelling, it will start experiencing mitosis, cell division that in this case will form a structure known as morula.

  • Week 4: This is the week in which implantation will happen. In other words, this mass of cells, ball shaped and by now called blastocyst, reaches the uterus and gets separated into two different parts. One, the inner group, will form the embryo, whereas the outer part will attach to the uterine wall and will soon become creating the placenta.

  • Week 5: from this point on, we can start talking about the embryonic period, which will last until 10 weeks pregnant. By now, your future child is the size of an orange seed and it's going through some changes: his brain, heart and spinal cord are getting formed.

  • Week 6: the embryo will undergo a growth spurt these days, as he starts getting human-shaped. His most remarkable feature is an oversized head, but he also stands out for his beating heart and his small buds, placed where he'll soon have his arms and legs.

  • Week 7: your baby is developing rapidly from head to toe. The sprouting brand-new extremities are the most noticeable milestone, but there are others: veins, mouth and tongue are already visible, and we can't forget about internal organs, such as the pancreas and a growing liver. 

  • Week 8: your future munchkin may measure about half an inch long. His physical features are becoming more clear, as he 'brags about' having visible eyes, ears and nose. The tailbone that he had had up to this point is now gone.

  • Week 9: the baby's framework is laid down, including bones, skin, brain, physical features and internal organs. Toes are present as well!

  • Week 10: your baby, who now is 'officially' a foetus, is as big as a strawberry and has all his organs placed and ready to develop. Focusing on the details, it's important to highlight that the foetus is now growing nails, peach-hair and nerves in his spinal cord. His head is getting more round. 

  • Week 11: the foetus starts moving but you can't feel it, since he's still too small (around 2 inches). His vocal cords are forming, and so are blood cells in his liver. The baby's genitalia are also getting set up, but they are not visible yet.

  • Week 12: Your little baby isn't that 'little' anymore, since he weighs about 14 grams and measures 2.5 inches. He's definitely human-shaped and some of his organs, like the kidneys, are already functioning! 

  • Week 13: Your baby’s boy is catching up in size with the head, and he’s already covered by a thin layer of a type of hair called lanugo. His bones are hardening, and he already has fingerprints!!

Red flags in the first trimester of pregnancy

Though we've already listed the most common symptoms that you may undergo these days, you should also be aware of those that should raise health concerns during the first trimester. Don't hesitate to contact your doctor right away if, throughout these first 13 weeks as an expectant mum, you notice symptoms like the following:

  • Severe vaginal bleeding
  • Abdominal pain that knocks you down
  • Having high fever, over 101.5 F, accompanied by child or and backache
  • Visual problems
  • Sudden thirst
  • Swollen hands and or face

Get an agenda for the first trimester!

Yes, you read it well. Get an agenda to write down all your prenatal appointments, so you can be properly monitored by a doctor. The first trimester of pregnancy will basically put you through physical exams and blood tests, but you will also get a lot of advice to adopt the best lifestyle for you and your growing baby. 

Once you know that you are pregnant, you'll have to schedule your first prenatal appointment for the first trimester, where you'll be asked about your medical history and you'll be asked to follow certain healthy habits, like cutting down on caffeine and giving up smoking. In addition, the doctor or midwife will set a due date, and he or she will also perform a physical test, through which they'll be able to determine your Body Mass Index (BMI)--according to this, you'll have a weight gain reference for your pregnancy. Besides this, expect to have your blood pressure measured, along with heart and breathing rate. Blood tests to check your haemoglobin and your immunity to infections will complete this visit.

By the end of the first trimester of pregnancy, you may have to schedule the 12 week scan or dating scan, commonly offered by 11 to 14 weeks pregnant. This appointment consists of an ultrasound that will let you see your baby for the first time!

The first trimester: Many things to do!

Being pregnant isn't just about waiting; there's so much to do and many factors to keep under control. We at CaptainMums want to provide you some essential tips to deal with both medical and logistical concerns without going off the deep end.

These are some of the healthcare steps that you should follow in the first trimester: 

  • Get a positive: simple, but essential. Use a home pregnancy test to confirm that you are carrying a child, but remember that it won't detect it until two weeks after ovulating.
  • Prenatal vitamins: once you get a 'thumbs up', you need to start taking prenatal vitamins, mostly folic acid. These will prevent your future munchkin from abnormalities, such as the spina bifida.
  • Choose a practitioner: decide on an obstetrician or a midwife. It will be better if you pick a person that you feel comfortable with and that you trust. You'll see each other very often, so your choice matters.
  • Schedule a prenatal appointment: doctors recommend not having the first prenatal appointment until you are 8 weeks pregnant, unless there are complications. However, you should schedule it soon enough, so you can be visited whenever you want to and not whenever it's possible.
  • Do some research: make sure that you have the basic information about your medical history. Keep track of any unusual genetic components, chronic diseases and medication that your doctor should know about.

Moreover, there are many things you can do in your first trimester to suit your routine to your future mum status. Here's some advice:

  • Give up smoking: even if you are a heavy smoker, you should really get rid of your cigarettes even before being pregnant. Smoking can lead to many pregnancy problems, like miscarriage and placental conditions. If you were looking for an excuse stop such an unhealthy habit, this is your chance. If you find out that you are pregnant and you still haven’t quit, it’s important that you do it now!
  • Don't drink alcohol and cut down on caffeine.
  • Have a balanced diet and, as much as possible, stay away from those foods that could contain bacteria or toxins, like raw fish.
  • Resting must be a priority for you. Try going to sleep early and set a routine that allows you to take naps.
  • Make a budget: growing a family is always exciting, but it's also expensive. Be aware of your financial situation and plan around it from the first trimester on. Try writing down all the expenses you may need to cover during your pregnancy, so you don't end up broke!
  • Exercise, a plus: being active while being pregnant has a lot of advantages, as long as you avoid risky activities.
  • Plan on your baby's name: as easy as it may sound, sometimes choosing baby names ends up becoming a nightmare. The sooner you start thinking of names, for both boys and girls, the better. Make a list and work on it regularly with Dad, ruling out options until you have two finalists!
  • Don't keep yourself from having sex: some couples get suddenly weird around each other when the woman gets pregnant. But the truth is that, in general, sex during pregnancy doesn't pose any risks for your baby's development. If you have any doubts about it, talk to your doctor.
  • Plan to announce your pregnancy: announcing your pregnancy requires some planning. Not only because of who you want to know it, like family and friends, and when, but especially regarding your job. Be sure that you previously know your company's maternity leave policies. Also, find the best moment to tell your boss.

As you can see, the first trimester of pregnancy is such an 'adventure' that will challenge you in many ways. Hopefully, you now have a better idea of what to expect and do when you get to this point. It can seem very stressful, and it can actually be overwhelming, but as long as you start working on the details in advance, it will be fine!

Keep reading about the other two trimesters of pregnancy with CaptainMums' guides for the second trimester and the third trimester!