Guide to the first Stages of Pregnancy

Pregnancy is a special time in a woman’s life, but it also brings a whole host of ailments, emotions and worries to contend with. The early weeks are perhaps the most challenging, below is a guide to the first stages of pregnancy.

Common early pregnancy symptoms

– Menstrual period is late or missed – if you are more than a week or two late on your menstrual period, then this is a strong indicator of pregnancy
– Feeling nauseous/vomiting – also known as morning sickness, the increase of hormones in your body, in particular progesterone, makes you feel this way
– More frequent urination – also caused by an increase in hormones
– Tiredness – your body is using all its energy to make a baby!
– Tender breasts/nipples – once again the surge of hormones.

Pregnancy tests

There are many reliable pregnancy test kits available from most pharmacies/drugstores. These tests detect the pregnancy hormone hCG in your urine, and is carried out by urinating on a stick on the test kit; after a minute or two, the result will show up as ‘positive’ or ‘negative’ in the form of line/s (depending on the brand); some digital kits actually state ‘pregnant’ or ‘not pregnant’.

Below are some tips for optimum use:

– Not too early – make sure that you wait until after your menstrual period would have been due to conduct the test, some tests do not work earlier than this
– Test in the morning – it is best to use early-morning urine as hCG hormone levels are higher at this time
– Don’t drink too many fluids – this can increase the volume of urine and dilute the pregnancy hormone
– Always read the instructions carefully.

Early pregnancy: what to expect

During early pregnancy, a miracle occurs: your body develops a fertilized egg into a human baby at a phenomenal rate so, as well as the symptoms listed previously, it is normal to feel more emotional and exhausted – take this time to relax and let the surging hormones do their work! Not only this but it will take some time to adjust to the idea of becoming a parent and all the responsibilities that go with it.

Once you have confirmed your pregnancy, it is a good idea to make an appointment to see your doctor; you can discuss your estimated due date and arrange appointments with the health professionals you will need to see throughout your pregnancy. Your doctor will also organize an appointment for your first dating scan, which is usually at around 12-14 weeks of pregnancy. Pregnancy is split into three trimesters spanning 40 weeks, so during the first three months of pregnancy you are in the first trimester.

Tips for a healthy mother and baby

It is advised that a woman takes folic acid if she is trying to get pregnant, and also for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Taking folic acid radically reduces the risk of the fetus developing problems of the brain or spinal cord. Women need 0.4 mg of folic acid a day, which can also be found in leafy green vegetables, oranges, bananas and milk. To ensure the intake of this, most women take a daily tablet.

Diet

You should continue to eat a balanced diet, including five daily portions of fruit and vegetables. Avoid junk foods which provide little calorific benefit to you and your unborn baby. Drinking six to eight glasses of water a day will help avoid constipation, which is common in pregnancy. It is a common myth that pregnant women need to ‘eat for two’, only a few extra calories are needed daily in the later stages of pregnancy.

Smoking

It is advised that you completely give up smoking during pregnancy as this can seriously affect the health of your unborn baby, cause miscarriage, a low birth weight and cause future health problems such as asthma. You can seek help from your doctor if you are finding this difficult.

Alcohol

Professionals now widely advise to completely avoid alcohol during pregnancy as this can lead to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), which can cause birth defects and future problems such as learning difficulties. Seek advice from your doctor if you need to discuss giving up alcohol.