From the moment conception occurs, changes take place as your body prepares to grow a baby. Although you might not notice anything at first, there are often signs and symptoms of early pregnancy if you know what to look for.
Once your pregnancy is confirmed, your prenatal care for the first trimester might include blood tests, ultrasounds, or other forms of screening to monitor your health and your baby’s development. Dr Ljiljana will support you on your pregnancy journey and looks forward to providing care during this important time of your life.
Signs and Symptoms of Early Pregnancy
Conception usually occurs around 12 – 14 days before your next period is due. During this time, you might experience symptoms similar to premenstrual symptoms. These include:
- Dull ache around the lower back or pelvic region
- Tender, tingly or sore breasts; breasts may also feel fuller
- Mood changes
- Slight bleeding or cramping (known as implantation bleeding, when the fertilised egg attaches itself to the uterus wall)
- Abdominal cramps that feel similar to menstrual cramps
The most obvious symptom of pregnancy is a missed period or a period that is much lighter than usual. Other symptoms that you might experience during the first trimester of pregnancy include:
- Nausea with or without vomiting. This may begin as early as two weeks after conception.
- Food cravings or aversions
- Headaches caused by hormonal changes that increase blood flow
- Feeling faint or dizzy due to lower blood pressure or low blood sugar levels
- Constipation associated with hormonal changes
- Elevated basal body temperature for more than two weeks
- “Feeling” pregnant – you might feel dizzy, queasy, or just not your usual self. Some women intuitively sense that they are pregnant and often turn out to be right.
It’s worth noting that you can be pregnant and have no symptoms or you can have symptoms but not be pregnant. The best way of determining pregnancy is to have a blood test.
First Trimester Prenatal Testing
During your first trimester of pregnancy, you will have some standard tests to check on your baby’s development. You might also be offered other tests, ultrasounds or screening, depending on your health and individual circumstances.
Routine Blood Tests
Your first blood test checks for elevated levels of human gonadotrophin hormone (HGH), which is a reliable indicator that you are pregnant.
Two types of blood tests known as sequential integrated screening and serum integrated screening, check specific protein and hormone levels. Elevated amounts of either one indicate that the baby has a higher risk of a chromosomal abnormality.
You might also have a blood test to check if you are immunised against rubella and to screen for HIV, syphilis, hepatitis B and hepatitis C.
Your blood type may be tested to ensure that your Rh factor is compatible with that of your baby’s. If it is found to be incompatible you will receive injections later in pregnancy to help avoid complications.
You might need to do a midstream urine test (meaning that the sample is collected when you have partially emptied your bladder) to check for kidney or bladder infections, diabetes, a urinary tract infection or other disorders.
You might undergo an ultrasound early in your pregnancy to check on the baby’s size, position and exact age if you are not sure when you conceived. A more comprehensive ultrasound is performed in the second trimester to check on the baby’s development.
Nuchal Transparency Ultrasound
The nuchal transparency ultrasound may be performed between the 11th and 14th weeks of pregnancy. Its purpose is to check the accumulation of fluid at the back of your baby’s neck. If there is more fluid than usual, it indicates that the baby is at greater risk of Down’s syndrome.
It’s important to note that only diagnostic tests can reliably identify abnormalities. Ultrasounds and blood tests give an indication of higher risk but do not positively identify abnormal development. Dr Ljiljana can answer any questions you have about the diagnosis of abnormalities.
Healthy Eating in Early Pregnancy
Growing a baby means that your nutrition needs change. Steady weight gain during pregnancy is normal and healthy, with women in a normal weight range expected to gain 11 – 16 kg. If you are underweight, it’s recommended that you gain 12 – 18 kg. If you are overweight, it is recommended that you gain 5 – 11.5 kg (1).
Good food choices will help you to maintain a healthy weight and provide your growing baby with the right nutrition. Try to include the following in your diet:
- A variety of fruits and vegetables – eat as many different colours as you can for extra nutrients
- Iron-rich foods such as lean red meat, seeds, nuts, legumes, dark leafy greens and tofu.
- Get plenty of calcium from dairy foods such as cheese and milk, dark leafy greens, broccoli, soybeans and fortified orange juice.
- Choose wholegrain options for bread, pasta and rice
- Drink plenty of water (you need up to 1000 ml extra per day)
- Avoid or limit foods that are high in sugar, salt and saturated fat
- Avoid drinks that are high in sugar
- Avoid alcohol and smoking
- Take a supplement that is specially formulated for pregnancy. Your needs for iron, folate, zinc and some other nutrients are higher when you are pregnant.
Dr Ljiljana looks forward to providing you with care and support during early pregnancy. If you would like to know more about early pregnancy, call us or use the email form in the Contact Us section of our website.