Fetal Growth & Your First Pregnancy Signs
TTC Weeks 1 and 2: From Menstruation to Ovulation
> TTC Week 3: From Ovulation to Conception
> TTC Week 4: Implantation and the Luteal Phase
> Pregnancy Week 1: Pregnancy Symptoms & Fetal Development
> Pregnancy Week 2: What to Expect During Your First Trimester
> Pregnancy Calendar Home
Ah, your first positive pregnancy test – charted out and celebrated in Part 3… You are now officially pregnant! Continue taking your prenatal vitamin, which you hopefully started taking while you were just trying-to-conceive as part of a (proactive) pregnancy health and diet regimen. So what can you expect now? Well, that depends: Beyond a missed period and a + preg test, no pregnancy symptom will be felt exactly the same nor can any pregnancy experience be universalized. What we’ll provide is an overview of possible signs and symptoms, with the understanding that not all symptoms will be experienced – or experienced with the same intensity or duration.
But what’s happening in your body about now? In Part 3, the blastocyst implanted in your endometrium and became the embryo. hCG was secreted by the placenta which told your body to keep making progesterone. Around 10 days after ovulation, you used a pregnancy test to discover that you were indeed pregnant.
Now, with the formation of the placenta, we see the appearance of the yolk sac, which functions to create embryonic blood cells until fetal organs mature sufficiently to begin producing their own cells. Also, the umbilical cord develops to directly connect the embryo to the placenta so nutrients and oxygen can be exchanged between the fetus and mother-to-be. This is a phase of rapid growth for the embryo! And with this burst of growth, a band of cells appears on the surface of the embryo that will provide a genetic blue-print or autotelic coding for the diagrammatic arrangement of your baby’s tissues, organs, and general bio-systemic ordering. This cellular outline is called, laconically enough, the primitive streak.
Your missed period! If by chance you have not taken an early pregnancy test – or if you were not formally trying to conceive – then a common first symptom of pregnancy may be a “missed period”. As indicated above, the production of hCG let’s your body know that there is a embryo in the house and that progesterone production should continue on. Menstruation is caused by falling progesterone levels and the breakdown of the endometrium, so if progesterone levels stay high, then the endometrium stays healthy and the pregnancy is maintained. In short, menstruation does not ensue and you experience your missed period.
As we indicated previously, tender breasts and nipples are also commonly associated with high progesterone levels. Breast sensitivity is often experienced during the luteal phase (following ovulation) in non-pregnant women. However, a very common early pregnancy symptom is increased nipple and breast sensitivity. So, keep on the look out for intensified tenderness or breast/nipple sensitivity that may last longer than associated with previous cycles. Once you become pregnant, your body will begin preparing the breasts and breast glands for pregnancy. Breast soreness, tenderness, and swelling will likely ensue…
So the embryo is growing fast, practically doubling in size daily during very early pregnancy. If this exponential rate of growth were to be maintained, your baby would soon be as large as planet Earth itself – a rather uncomfortable thought to say the least. One predictable and common coefficient of this rapid growth – as well as the result of flowing hormones – is fatigue. Fatigue, even exhaustion, may be a primary sign of pregnancy. As they say, your are eating for two now, and nutrients/calories that would typically go to running your system are now re-directed to fetal development. Eat healthy, eat well, and also consider taking an Omega-3 supplement along with your prenatal vitamin. Of course, be in regular contact with your doctor regarding the best health, diet, and exercise regimen for you. Logically, hunger is an associated symptom. Increased hunger and food cravings are a celebrated pregnancy symptom. Sometimes food cravings may be unusual or even a bit bizarre as your body is seeking particular forms of nutrients and proteins.
Feeling queasy? While on the topic of foods, morning sickness is among the most famous (or infamous) of all pregnancy symptoms. Some women do not experience this nausea associated with pregnancy – about 30% of us will fall into this lucky category. For the rest of us, high levels of hCG and progesterone may have us feeling crummy – and not only during the early hours of the day. It’s a misnomer to say the morning sickness strikes in the morning: women can experience pregnancy symptoms of nausea during other times of the day or night. If you are feeling green, try a doctor-recommended Preggy Pop to wash the morning sickness blues away.
While you are in the restroom dealing with morning sickness issues, you may also note that you are urinating more and more often. Frequent urination is simply caused by the expansion of the uterus during pregnancy, which in turn exerts pressure on the bladder causing you to pee more often. One of the less uncomfortable pregnancy symptoms, increased frequency of urination can be a bit annoying at a Morton Feldman symphony.
So you have a pregnancy test, a missed period, and perhaps a few salient early pregnancy symptoms on the horizon. Inside the uterus, Gastrulation is now taking place – a key phase in the development of the embryo. Here, we see a migration of cells and a topographical formation into 3 distinct cellular layers. These layers stem from the systemic outline of the primitive streak and each will form discrete parts and organs of the body. The endoderm layer is the template for the lining of the lungs, certain glands, the bladder, and the digestive tract. The mesoderm is the middle layer from whence develops the heart, muscles, bones, lungs, and reproductive organs. The outer ectoderm is responsible for the formation of the sensory organs – the skin, eyes, ears, nose, and mouth – as well as the nervous system.
At this point, we also can observe incipient development of the heart and the neural tube. The latter is necessary for the development of the spine and the central nervous system. Maybe you have heard that prenatal vitamins containing folic acid can prevent birth defects? Well, neural tube birth defects are the category in question here, and evidence does suggest that taking a supplement containing folic acid (and/or eating foods rich in folic acid) can indeed reduce the risk of neural tube birth defects during early pregnancy, when the neural tube appears.
Okay, onto the following weeks – your first trimester pregnancy signs and experiences….
Week by Week Timeline
- From Ovulation to Pregnancy
- Menstruation to Ovulation
- Implantation & the Luteal Phase
- Pregnancy Symptoms & Fetal Development
- What to Expect During Your 1st Trimester
- What is Luteal Phase Defect?
- What is the “2-week wait?”