What is considered to be the early pregnancy stage?
Early pregnancy is the first trimester, which starts on the first day of your last period and lasts until the end of week 12. During early pregnancy your baby grows faster than during any other trimester. If you want to work out how far along you are and when your expected due date, use our Due Date Calculator. This calculator depends on your periods being a regular 28 day cycle. If your cycles are longer, shorter or irregular your doctor will need to confirm your days after a dating scan.
Which scans and tests should I have when?
There are a number of different antenatal tests to confirm that the pregnancy and the baby’s development are progressing well:
- Ultrasound scans: These are the most common ways to check your baby in early pregnancy. As well as being able to calculate your due date, ultrasounds can also see the exact location, the number of babies and the baby’s growth. Depending on the stage of the pregnancy, the scan will tell you different things. Often at around 6 weeks, ladies like to have a viability scan, this confirms the heartbeat, size and location of the pregnancy.
- The Harmony Test: This is a relatively new prenatal test that analyses fragments of the fetal DNA from a blood sample taken from the mother. This test is offered after 10 weeks and tests for common chromosomal abnormalities including T21 (Down’s syndrome), T13 (Patau’s syndrome), and T18 (Edwards Syndrome).
- The Nuchal Translucency test: This is a specialist ultrasound scan that measures a collection of fluid behind the baby’s neck. It is also commonly carried out with a hormonal blood test of the mother and the combined result indicates the baby’s risk of having certain chromosomal conditions, such as Down’s syndrome . This test is undertaken between 11-13 weeks of gestation.
- CVS / Amniocentesis: In some cases, usually when a specific gene disorder is suspected, a more invasive test may be advised to check the fetal chromosomes. There are two common tests that do this; CVS and amniocentesis. This involves taking a small tissue sample from the placenta (CVS) or aspirating a small amount of amniotic fluid from around the baby (amniocentesis) and analysing the DNA. A CVS is undertaken at 11-13 weeks and amniocentesis later on. As these tests are invasive they carry a small risk, approximately 1%, of miscarriage.
What signs and symptoms should I expect? Do these change throughout pregnancy?
Pregnancy symptoms vary widely from one women to another and are thought to be related to the changing hormones experienced in early pregnancy. Many women experience symptoms such as sore breasts, nausea and vomiting, being tired and having strange cravings. Pregnancy symptoms such as nausea and vomiting usually subside as the pregnancy advances.
About 7 in 10 women experience nausea and vomiting in early pregnancy, but in most cases these symptoms disappear by 12 to 14 weeks.
What red flag symptoms should I be aware of?
Sadly some women experience complications during their pregnancy and often these can occur during early pregnancy. Important key warning symptoms include vaginal bleeding, abdominal pain, excessive nausea and vomiting, dizziness and shoulder tip pain.
If you experience any of these symptoms please seek medical advice.
What is considered as recurrent miscarriages?
This is defined as a woman having a history of three or more consecutive miscarriages. Some people choose to be investigated after 2 miscarriages. Recurrent miscarriage testing may provide vital information for future conceiving reassurance and answers. However as random chromosomal abnormalities may play a major role, the investigations may be normal. Our recurrent miscarriage testing package includes all the key tests to help identify the reasons for miscarriage.
Should you change your diet when you are pregnant?
There are certain foods which are advised for pregnant women to avoid because they can be risky to the development of your baby especially in early pregnancy, these include:
- Unpasteurised dairy products such as undercooked meat, fish and eggs as these can cause food poisoning.
- Caffeine should be limited to 200mg a day which is equal to one strong cup of coffee or 2 cups of tea.
- Vitamin A can be damaging to the baby, so it is best to avoid consuming lots of liver or a cod liver oil capsule.
- The safest approach to alcohol would be to completely avoid it during pregnancy.
Should I take supplements during my pregnancy?
Certain nutrients are essential in pregnancy to help the developing baby. The key ones are folic acid, omega 3, and vitamin D.
- Folic acid is essential in the early stages of pregnancy to help prevent conditions such as Spina Bifida and cleft palate. 400mcg should be taken daily until 14 weeks gestation and ideally should be started 2-3 months pre-conception if possible. If you have had a baby with a neural tube defect or elevated risk factors your doctor may recommend a higher dose of folic acid.
- Omega 3 is important for the baby’s developing brain, whilst it is found in oily fish a supplement can also be beneficial throughout pregnancy
- Vitamin D deficiency is very common in pregnancy and it is one reason why many mums may feel very tried. It is also required to support bones in women and fetal bone development. Therefore it is recommended to take vitamin D supplements during pregnancy which may be included in a pregnancy multi-vitamin.
What happens if I bleed or experience spotting in early pregnancy?
Bleeding and spotting in early pregnancy is fairly common (40-50% of pregnancies) and can cause worry and concern for women. In many of these cases, reassurance is given by an ultrasound scan to show the developing baby. Unexplained bleeding in early pregnancy may be due to the developing embryo implanting within the uterine lining or hormonal changes.
Is it okay to take off the shelf pain killers in early pregnancy?
Paracetamol is safe during pregnancy but any other medication should be avoided unless advised by a doctor.