4 Weeks Pregnant
Baby settles in
4 weeks pregnant:
inner cell massInner Cell MassThese are the cells that will become your baby's body.
fertilized egg (blastocyst)Fertilized Egg (Blastocyst)Your fertilized egg has attached to the lining of your uterus and will grow in complexity a little more each day.
trophoblastTrophoblastThese cells will form the placenta, your baby's life support system in the womb.
What's happening with you:
There are major changes occurring in your uterus right now, though you won't notice anything different when you look in the mirror. You're one month pregnant, but you probably haven't gained weight yet and your uterus is no larger than it was last month. However, that little group of cells that will become your baby has made it through the fallopian tube, into the uterus and onto the uterine tissue by now. Implantation has occurred, and now the embryo can focus on developing while your placenta begins to form.
Your placenta will be in charge of producing the progesterone needed for pregnancy, but it's only a small cluster of blood vessels right now and won't be functioning perfectly until sometime between week 8 and week 12. In the meantime, your body must rely on the corpus luteum, a small sac that forms on the ovary after the egg is released. It may be small, but you can rest assured that it's producing a good amount of progesterone, a fact that has become uncomfortably clear if you're starting to experience morning sickness. Since surging pregnancy hormones can lead to nausea, many women begin to suffer from morning sickness at this early stage when their hormones spike quite quickly.
What's happening with your baby:
This week kicks off with implantation, followed by the division of the blastocyst into the embryonic cells and the cells that will form the placenta. Your baby is becoming more distinct, even if he's still a fraction of an inch in length. Within that one millimeter-long miracle, different layers of cells called germ layers are beginning to form. The outer layer is the ectoderm and it will become the nervous system, the brain, the skin and the hair. The next layer, or endoderm, will become the gastrointestinal tract, the liver, the pancreas and the thyroid. The third and innermost layer is the mesoderm and it will develop into the skeleton, blood system, bladder, connective tissues, most of the muscles and the genital system.
Things to do this week:
Learn to relax when your body and mind need rest. You'll probably feel pretty tired during your first month of pregnancy and your emotions may be getting the best of you. If your job is particularly stressful or you're currently dealing with family drama, you could be downright drained by the end of your first month of pregnancy. And while some of these factors may clear up with time, you'll need effective tactics to overcome any stress and physical discomfort you meet over the next two trimesters and into motherhood.
Self care in pregnancy, though very important, is overlooked by many moms-to-be. When you're dealing with stress, let your anxieties surface and change your routine (or remove yourself from the situation) to relieve some pressure. If fatigue is your major issue, make a point to pre-package healthy meals and snacks so you can get energy when you need it, and pencil in a warm bath in place of your household chores. Finally, talk with other mothers-to-be -- discussing your concerns and meeting like-minded people can be the best way to decompress, and they'll offer the encouragement you need to get through the rough patches.
Get acquainted with what to expect and what to report to your doctor. The early stages of pregnancy can bring some startling changes, and if this is your first baby then you may begin to worry about anything and everything. Fears of improper fetal development and miscarriage plague many women, so learn what to look out for as you move through the first trimester in order to avoid unnecessary stress and worry.
Mild cramping or pressure on your abdomen is very likely nothing to worry about, as your ligaments are stretching and it's common to feel these sensations. Slight bleeding around the time that your period would have come is fine, as it's probably just implantation bleeding. Light spotting after sex is okay too, since it's usually prompted by mild irritation of your cervix. These first month pregnancy symptoms can be worrying, and it's always a good idea to mention them to your healthcare provider, but rest assured that they are quite common.
If your symptoms become more severe, you should seek medical attention right away. For instance, severe abdominal pain combined with nausea or vomiting, bleeding or sudden swelling is a sign that there is something wrong. Persistent diarrhea, fainting, vision disturbance and fever over 102 degrees are other causes for concern, so contact your health professional immediately if you experience any of these symptoms.
Tips for your partner:
Since these early weeks can bring the seeds of worry and emotional stress, do what you can to alleviate your partner's anxiety without making her feel foolish or isolated. This means that you need to stay strong, patient and empathetic, even if you're starting to share some of the worry.
One thing you can do is protect her from stress. Prompt her to slow down, breathe deeply and tune out the world when she's getting too worked up. Want to take a load off both your minds? Read up on everything that is happening and could happen, consulting a variety of books, professionals and friends. Become a prenatal library, filled with everything from the helpful wisdom of your parents and in-laws to medically-supported statistics. Sometimes her worry will get the best of her, but showing that you care enough to fill your head with pregnancy facts and figures will surely be comforting.
This week's FAQs:
What's the best type of pregnancy test to take?
Different pregnancy tests vary in accuracy, and sometimes you'll need to confirm your results with a different testing method. Home pregnancy tests can return a positive result as soon as 10 days after conception, when the amount of hCG hormone typically starts to increase. However, "typically" is a slippery term -- for some women, the level of hCG won't be high enough for a pregnancy test to detect until 12 or 14 days past ovulation. If you can't wait until your missed period to take a test, just keep in mind that a negative result may be inaccurate.
There are several brands of home pregnancy tests out there, but beware of any that promise suspiciously early results or complete accuracy. Since most operate by detecting this one hormone in your urine, any reputable brand that can provide over 99% accuracy and is easy to read will be a fine choice. However, for the earliest, most accurate results possible, you'll need to visit your doctor for a blood test.
My prenatal vitamin is making me nauseous. Is there any way to prevent this?
Unfortunately, the heady mix of hormones and extra nutrients in your body can have an unpleasant effect on your gastrointestinal tract. If you've started to experience morning sickness, it can be hard to muster the strength and courage to eat or drink anything. It also doesn't help that you have a big pill to swallow every day regardless of how your stomach's feeling.
Many prenatal vitamins contain a lot of iron, which can bother the intestines, and most supplements come in a rather large pill form, which can trigger your gag reflex as you try to swallow. Switching to a brand with a little less iron may be a good idea, and ask your healthcare provider if they can recommend a pill that doesn't include calcium (since calcium tends to make up a large part of the supplement). If taking the pill on a full stomach doesn't seem to make a difference, try switching from a tablet to a gelatin capsule: the chemical binders that are used in tablets can trigger nausea in particularly sensitive stomachs.
Should I getting tired throughout the day?
In a word, yes. Your pregnant body is working exceptionally hard to create a system that will support your baby for the next several months, and you're dealing with new emotional and physical forces. Between rushing hormones, placenta development and emotional stress, it's completely normal to feel your eyelids dropping by mid day.
Now, dealing with the fatigue in pregnancy can be easier said than done. Many women continue working until well into their third trimester, and if you have other small children to take care of, you may feel like there's simply no time for extra rest. If adding an extra hour of sleep or two each night is out of the question, grab a few moments wherever you can: rely on easy meals and trim your housecleaning routine if your body is demanding rest more often. Another good way to spike your energy levels is with some regular exercise like prenatal yoga, and you should ensure your diet is full of healthy food and free of excess sugar.
An optimistic attitude can make a healthier, happier baby. Since optimism cancels out stress, and stress in pregnancy can cause a variety of health problems for both mom and baby, optimism is extra insurance against a sick or unhappy infant. But looking on the bright side also brings good decision-making: expect the best, and you're likely to work towards that result without even trying. If you find it difficult to overcome your cloudy outlook or the discomfort you're beginning to feel, try to weave some calming meditation into your day and surround yourself with happy people. A little effort to remain optimistic can go a long way.