A normal term pregnancy lasts about 40 weeks or 280 days. To track your progress, your OB/GYN measures your pregnancy using trimesters. The first trimester lasts from the time of conception––when the sperm fertilizes the egg––to the twelfth week of your pregnancy.
During this period, your body undergoes a variety of changes. Educating yourself about the different stages of pregnancy can help you better prepare for the future.
How Will I know if I’m Pregnant?
In the first trimester of pregnancy, your body undergoes an array of changes. The first sign you may be pregnant is a missed period; If this happens, start taking prenatal vitamins as soon as possible. In the weeks following conception, you might also experience:
- Upset stomach
- Weight gain
- Tender breasts
Many pregnant women also experience cravings and resistance to certain foods. This is perfectly normal and is often a result of hormones. To ease these symptoms, you may need to eat smaller meals or rest more frequently.
If you suspect you’re pregnant, you should also make an appointment with your general practitioner or an OB/GYN.
What Happens at My First Doctor’s Appointment?
During your first pregnancy-related doctor’s appointment, your general practitioner or OB/GYN will likely perform an ultrasound to confirm your pregnancy. By taking your blood pressure, and checking your weight and thyroid levels, your doctor can estimate your date of delivery, or “due date.”
This first appointment is also a great time to ask your doctor about genetic screening. Noninvasive genetic screening tests can scan for chromosomal abnormalities such as Trisomy 21 (Down syndrome) and can also detect if you’re having a boy or a girl.
In addition to the standard tests to determine your pregnancy and due date, your first doctor’s appointment may include a preventative screening measure called a Pap test that can be used to determine your risk of cervical cancer.
How Much Does the Fetus Grow During the First Trimester?
All pregnancies begin the same way, starting with ovulation. Ovulation is the release of an egg from your ovary, which usually happens 13-15 days prior to the start of your menstrual cycle. If you have unprotected sexual intercourse during this time period, your egg can combine with sperm and conception can occur.
During the first trimester, your baby grows quickly. The internal organs start forming and the fetus starts developing a brain and spinal cord. The baby also develops arms and legs as well as fingers and toes. Towards the end of the first trimester, the fetus develops sex organs and its heart starts beating.
What can I Expect at My First Ultrasound?
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that all women get a first-trimester ultrasound. Doctors usually conduct this screening sometime between the first six and nine weeks of your pregnancy.
An ultrasound provides several insights about your pregnancy. These can include your estimated due date, whether or not the fetus has a heartbeat, and if potential complications such as an ectopic pregnancy are present.
When Should I tell Others About My Pregnancy?
Telling others about your pregnancy is a very personal decision. However, most miscarriages occur during the first trimester. As a result, many women choose to wait until the beginning of the second trimester to let friends, family members, and co-workers know.
If you’ve taken a pregnancy test that revealed a positive result or you’re experiencing symptoms associated with early pregnancy, make an appointment with your OB/GYN or general practitioner. Visiting your provider at least once a month during your first trimester is an easy and effective way to lower your risk of complications and monitor the health of your growing baby.