START PREGNANCY RIGHT!
A GUIDE TO THE FIRST 3 MONTHS
Many women don’t know they’re pregnant until well into the first trimester. But so much is happening to your body and your growing baby in these first twelve weeks
B y the end of your first trimester, your baby is already fully formed. He is about 10 centimetres long and weighs around 28 grams (about the same as a slice of bread). Your baby will have arms, hands, fingers, feet and toes, will be able to open and close his mouth, and his circulatory and urinary systems will be working. All this happens in the short time from conception so it’s a critical 12 weeks between fertilised egg and recognisable proto-human.
For planned pregnancies, you can take care with what you do and eat; if unplanned, this is the time your body will be telling you that something’s up – best you listen.
HOW DO YOU KNOW?
Some women give off that glorious pregnancy glow from the first trimester; others spend it hanging over the loo. “Physiological adaption to hormonal changes at this stage of pregnancy usually results in symptoms such as nausea or vomiting, lower abdominal pains, leg cramps, shortness of breath and excessive heartbeats,” says Johannesburg gynaecologist Dr Kiran Kalian.
HERE ARE A FEW OTHER FLAGS THAT YOU HAVE A BABY ON BOARD:
Breast tenderness and morning sickness. These are the earliest signs of pregnancy.
Bleeding. About a quarter of pregnant women have slight bleeding during the first trimester – this light spotting may be a sign that the fertilised embryo (egg and sperm) has implanted in the uterus. Always visit your doctor if you experience bleeding.
Discharge that is thin and milky is common. Don’t use a tampon during pregnancy as it can introduce germs.
Tiredness. Growing a little human is hard work. Food cravings/aversions. Plenty of pee stops. Don’t hold it in, and don’t stop
FOR PLANNED PREGNANCIES, YOU CAN TAKE CARE WITH WHAT YOU DO AND EAT; IF UNPLANNED, THIS IS THE TIME YOUR BODY WILL BE TELLING YOU THAT SOMETHING’S UP
drinking fluids – your body needs them. Heartburn. Mood swings. Weight gain. During the first trimester, you should gain about 1.5 to 3kg. “Healthy eating is recommended and a balanced diet is key,” says Dr Kalian. “But the pregnant mother needs to understand that eating should be restricted to enough for one person, not two.” You only need about 700 extra kilojoules a day during the first trimester – the equivalent of half an apple and a tablespoon of peanut butter.
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO?
Assuming a healthy lifestyle, with a good diet and regular exercise, most women should be able to continue life as usual while they’re pregnant. “The healthy pregnant mother should be able to do all the activities she did prior to pregnancy,” says Dr Kalian. “Pregnancy shouldn’t be considered a disease.”
If, however, you haven’t been giving your body the attention it needs, it’s never too late to start.
The most important thing is to take a good pregnancy multivitamin. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for advice. Also you need to add folic acid, a B vitamin that promotes healthy red blood cells and helps to prevent serious birth defects. Your body doesn’t make this vital substance – it has to be taken daily through food or supplements. “Folic acid supplementation is essential in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, and should preferably be started before conception,” says Dr Kalian.
However, there are some vitamins you should not be taking. “Vitamin A, D