The early weeks of pregnancy are fragile—and confusing. Here, the answers to your questions.
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From the minute you have a positive pregnancy test, you’re counting the days until you meet your baby. All the while, there’s a lot happening behind the scenes. This timeline will provide you with a week-by-week look at what’s going on with you and your baby, as well as reminders about what you can do at every stage to have the healthiest pregnancy possible.
First things first
If you even think you might be pregnant, quit any risky behaviors, such as using recreational drugs, smoking or drinking alcohol, and start limiting your caffeine intake to no more than 200 milligrams daily (about two cups of regular coffee). But perhaps the most important thing you can do is start taking a daily prenatal vitamin with at least 400 micrograms of folic acid (many experts recommend 600 micrograms or even more; check with your doctor). Ideally, you should take it for at least a month before you conceive; doing so will help protect your baby against neural-tube defects such as spina bifida. (Here’s expert advice to help you choose a good one fitpregnancy.com/prenatalvitamins.)
If you’re using any prescription medications, do not stop them without talking to your doctor or midwife; many conditions, such as asthma and diabetes, require treatment throughout pregnancy. Otherwise, don’t take any meds, prescription or over-the-counter, without checking with your caregiver. (That includes herbal remedies.) Exception: Very high doses of vitamin A can cause severe birth defects, so as soon as you find out you’re pregnant (and preferably before you get pregnant), discontinue all treatments that contain vitamin A or its derivatives, such as Retin-A. Also avoid chemicals, including your pet’s flea treatments, and secondhand smoke from here on out.
A note about folate and folic acid
Folate is the naturally occurring form of folic acid that’s found in foods; folic acid is the synthetic form added to vitamins and fortified foods. It can be hard to get the full requirement of folate from foods alone, which is why folic acid is included in prenatal vitamins. Regardless of form, this B vitamin is one of the most important nutrients for pregnancy, especially early on. (Learn more at fitpregnancy.com/findingfolate.)
Develop an exercise habit
Experts recommend that pregnant women exercise for at least 30 minutes on most, if not all, days of the week. Doing so can help reduce backaches, swelling and constipation and help you avoid excessive weight gain; it may also help prevent gestational diabetes. The children of women who exercised during their pregnancies enjoy lifelong benefits, too. Whatever kind of exercise you choose, work out only so hard that you can carry on a conversation without being winded. Also be sure to stop immediately and call your doctor if you become dizzy, experience calf pain or swelling, develop a headache, leak amniotic fluid or have vaginal bleeding. (Essential exercise information and weight-gain guidance for pregnant women fitpregnancy.com/exerciseguidelines.)
Weeks 4 -7
Welcome to pregnancy!
Fatigue? Sore breasts? Nausea? Bloating? A frequent need to pee? Any of these may be your earliest pregnancy symptoms. While there’s not much you can do about most of these unpleasantries, an extra-supportive bra may help your burgeoning breasts (they may grow by a full cup size within the first few weeks).
If you develop morning sickness, don’t worry about it affecting your baby—the majority of cases are completely harmless. In fact, there is some evidence that nausea may actually be a good thing, as it may indicate higher levels of pregnancy hormones and a lower risk of miscarriage. The condition usually lessens or disappears by the beginning of the second trimester; in the meantime, try eating several small meals throughout the day instead of three large ones. Also avoid spicy and fatty foods and smells that bother you. Although scientific evidence is lacking, many women also say they get relief from acupuncture, motion-sickness bands and hypnosis; ginger and lemon also may be helpful. If you suffer from severe or persistent nausea and vomiting, you may become dangerously dehydrated; be sure to alert your doctor or midwife.
[ ] Make an appointment with an OB or midwife now; most want to see you for the first time during weeks eight to 10.
[ ] Start doing Kegel exercises: They help with urinary incontinence, a common problem during and after pregnancy, while preparing your pelvic floor for delivery. Squeeze the muscles around your vagina as if you’re stopping the flow of urine. Do several at a time, a few times a day, for the duration of your pregnancy.
Toxoplasmosis is a disease caused by a parasite that can be transferred to the baby and cause lifelong problems with the brain, eyes and heart. The parasite can be passed to pregnant women through the feces of infected cats, though the more typical transmission is through eating undercooked meat. So make sure all meat you eat is well-cooked, and either hand off the litter box duties or wear gloves while cleaning it. (10 top tips on what to eat now to better your baby’s future health fitpregnancy.com/rulestoeatby.)