The early weeks of pregnancy are fragile—and confusing. Here, the answers to your questions.
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In the span of just 38 weeks, your baby grows from a miniscule group of cells that could fit on the head of a pin to an infant who weighs an average of 7 1/2 pounds and possesses every physical feature he needs to live outside your body. It’s an amazing transformation, and one you probably wish you could watch. In this last installment of our three-part series, you’ll find the next best thing: a conception-to-newborn look at your baby and tips on making his very first home a safe, healthy place to grow and develop.
Get your baby off to a safe start
Don’t wait for a positive pregnancy test or your first visit to the obstetrician to clean up your act. “By the time of your first prenatal exam, all the baby’s major organs have started to form,” says Siobhan M. Dolan, M.D., assistant medical director of the March of Dimes. Here’s what you need to do:
Schedule a preconception visit with your obstetrician or midwife. Talk about getting your immunizations up to date, clearing up any existing infections, reviewing your medications and getting genetic counseling if indicated. Have your blood sugar checked, too: Very high levels put a baby at risk for heart and neural-tube defects.
Begin taking folic acid supplements (400 micrograms daily) at least one month before trying to conceive.
Don’t smoke cigarettes or use recreational drugs. Alcohol—in any amount—is also off limits throughout pregnancy.
Avoid contact with cat feces, which can transmit toxoplasmosis, a dangerous infection.
Don’t take any herbal remedies or over-the-counter medications without your doctor’s knowledge.
Stay out of hot tubs and saunas, and don’t get overheated during exercise.
Don’t eat raw meat or fish, unpasteurized cheeses or other foods that can harbor dangerous bacteria, such as listeria.
Protect yourself against infections, including chickenpox and sexually transmitted diseases.
Stay away from harmful chemicals, pesticides, solvents, lead and mercury, as well as medically unnecessary X-rays.
From Conception to Birth: A TIMELINE
The ages in this timeline refer to the age of the embryo or fetus, not the length of the pregnancy (40 weeks from the first day of your last period). Example: When your embryo is 6 weeks old, you are in the 8th week of pregnancy.
Size>>Smaller than the head of a pin
Looks like>>A cluster of cells
What’s going on>>Zygote is traveling through the fallopian tube to implant itself in the uterus.