YOUR CHANGING LIFE
Let the baby countdown begin!
Now that your fertilized egg has nestled into the lining of your uterus, you're officially ready to start tracking your baby's growth and development (as well as your own symptoms!). So what's really going on right now, and what can you do about it?
The fourth week of pregnancy is the starting point from which your pregnancy will be measured, as it's the week when implantation occurs. But because most women can't pinpoint the exact time when they conceived, a pregnancy is typically given a starting point of the first day of your last period.
Many women don't sense much at this point in the process, as many of the first signs of implantation resemble those associated with periods, which you'll be expecting around this time. However, a missed or irregular period is often the first indication of pregnancy, so if you're noticing a change in your menstrual cycle, this is when you may start entertaining the possibility of being pregnant.
At this time, you might also experience slight cramping or implantation bleeding, as well as headaches, breast tenderness or backaches. You might even start feeling a bit of morning sickness at this point, although that usually kicks in a bit later!
Note: If you recently took a home pregnancy test that came out negative but your period is late, you might want to wait a week or two before trying again – some women take two or three weeks after a missed period to produce a detectable level of the pregnancy hormone hCG.
If the test is positive, now is the time to schedule a prenatal appointment with your doctor. He or she will probably want to wait to see you until the 8 or 12 week point, unless you have some kind of medical condition.
YOUR BABY THIS WEEK
Right now, your baby is about the size of a poppy seed and looks a bit like a little tadpole burrowed in your uterus. The embryo is starting to divide into layers, each of which will develop into different parts of your baby's body.
These three layers are called the ectoderm, mesoderm and endoderm. The ectoderm will evolve into the nervous system (including the brain), skin, hair, nails, mammary glands, sweat glands and teeth enamel – basically the outermost body parts of your baby. The mesoderm will become most of the innards, including the heart, circulatory system, skeleton, connective tissues, blood system, urogenital system and muscles. The endoderm will eventually form the lungs, gastrointestinal tract, liver, pancreas and thyroid.
Arm and leg buds have probably started to form around the fourth week, but they're not clearly distinguishable just yet. The placenta has also started to manifest at this time, preparing to give your baby the nutrients and oxygen he or she needs once organs become functional.
Listen, do you want to know a secret?
If you're positive you're pregnant, you're probably wondering how to share the news with your friends and family. Obviously, the first person who you may want to tell is your partner. How you choose to do it is up to you, but consider making the event special to get your pregnancy started off on the right track (a pregnancy test with a bow wrapped around it perhaps?).
You might also want to spill the beans to your friends or family members when you find out, but think carefully about it before you let it slip. Most people wait until after their first prenatal appointment to break the news, just in case something goes wrong in the first several weeks. It might be hard to keep such a huge development in your life a secret, but it'll feel that much better when you're finally able to let it out.
It's also a good idea to start gathering as much information as possible at this time. Whether you head to the nearest bookstore, download a pregnancy application to your smartphone or conduct some research on the internet, you'll need to find out what you have in store over the next eight months. You'll start reading about what kinds of vitamins you need to take, which exercises are safe, what foods you shouldn't eat anymore and everything in between.
There's also never been a better time to take a step back and evaluate how you're doing health-wise. Do you usually maintain a healthy diet? Could you make any improvements? Are you exercising enough? Now that you're responsible for your baby's health as well as your own, you'll want to make sure that you're doing everything possible to ensure that your growing fetus has everything needed to develop into a healthy baby.