Your doctor or midwife may look or listen for the fetal heartbeat with ultrasound at your first appointment. In addition to being an exciting milestone, it can be a reassuring one: Once you see or hear the heartbeat, your risk of miscarriage drops to about 2 percent. Your caregiver will also give you your official due date, though very few women actually deliver on that day. Sometime between weeks eight to 10:
[ ] Make an appointment if you’re having chorionic villus sampling (CVS), a test that can diagnose Down syndrome and certain other chromosomal defects. Done in weeks 10 to 13, CVS involves removing a small piece of placental tissue via a tube inserted through the cervix or a needle inserted through the uterine wall.
[ ] Make an appointment if you’re having first-trimester screening, which assesses your baby’s risk for Down syndrome and trisomy 18 (an extra copy of chromosome 18). The test must be done between 11 and 14 weeks and involves taking a blood sample from you and performing a detailed ultrasound, called the nuchal translucency, that measures the distance between the soft tissue and the skin in the fetus’s neck. The results of the blood work are then combined with the results of the ultrasound.
Here’s an in-depth look at the screening and diagnostic tests you might undergo, and how some real couples dealt with the decisions and emotional issues involved fitpregnancy.com/prenataltesting.
Starting at around week 12, your uterus is growing rapidly and has begun to expand outside the protective pelvic bones. In other words, you’re probably “showing.” From now on, steer clear of any activities that pose the risk of a fall or abdominal trauma (always wear your seat belt!), and avoid lying flat on your back when exercising: The growing fetus can place too much weight on a major vein, risking reduced blood flow to your uterus.
Weeks 14 -22
Second trimester decisions
[ ] Around week 14, make an appointment if you’re having second-trimester screening, which assesses your risk for having a baby with Down syndrome, trisomy 18 and neural-tube defects. It consists of a blood test and must be done between 15 and 20 weeks.
[ ] At the same time, make an appointment if you’re having amniocentesis, which is most commonly performed between weeks 15 and 22. This test can diagnose chromosomal abnormalities such as Down syndrome, as well as structural abnormalities such as neural-tube defects.
[ ] Start researching what type of childbirth education you’re interested in—Lamaze, Bradley, HypnoBirthing and ICEA (the International Childbirth Education Association) are some common types. Classes fill up fast, so sign up early.
[ ] Decide whether you want to find out your baby’s sex. Many doctors do a detailed ultrasound between weeks 16 and 20, at which time the gender often can be determined.
Sometime from 16 to 22 weeks you’ll start to feel your baby move. It usually takes first-time moms longer to recognize the movements, while women who have been pregnant before typically notice them earlier. Movements are fluttery in the beginning (many moms say they feel like butterfly wings) and progress to full-fledged kicks as your baby grows. (Here’s how some moms describe that miraculous moment fitpregnancy.com/firstkick.)
Know the signs of preterm labor. Call your doctor immediately if you notice any of these symptoms:
➜ A change in vaginal discharge, either leaking fluid or bleeding.
➜ A low, dull backache.
➜ Menstrual-like or abdominal cramps, with or without diarrhea.
➜ Uterine contractions that occur every 10 minutes or less. These sometimes can be hard to detect; a good way to tell is if your abdomen hardens and tightens rhythmically.
➜ A feeling of pressure in your lower abdomen or pelvis.