The first week of pregnancy is the most confusing time for all women, especially who happen to be first time moms. Since, it is very difficult to know whether you have conceived. There are no major body changes to show that you are pregnant. Although you miss your menstrual cycle, you may still think it is delayed. Many a times you try to do pregnancy test at home to check the results. Once you are confirmed pregnant, the journey towards motherhood begins.
Diagnosis of Pregnancy:
The diagnosis of pregnancy requires a multifaceted approach. The diagnosis is done by conducting history and physical examination, laboratory evaluation and ultrasonography.
1. History and Physical Examination:
It is important for the doctor to gather information regarding the last menstrual cycle. The diagnosis will be successful only if correct information is provided. So please give all details regarding the onset of last menstrual cycle, the flow, duration and frequency. The use of any contraceptives and history of irregular menstrual cycles have to be told at the very outset.
Many women have vaginal bleeding during the first week of pregnancy making diagnosis really tough. Further, it is important to check the levels of human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG). Since the chances of miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy are high, the diagnosis should be done thoroughly and carefully. Any mistake in diagnosis can be dangerous. So don’t hide any information.
The physical and historical examination can also reveal whether the woman had tubal manipulation and tubal disease, tubal ligation, inflammatory disease and ectopic pregnancy in the past. Also these physical tests reveal whether the woman used intrauterine devices for contraception and underwent fertility therapies. Nowadays chemical assays and ultrasonography helps to detect pregnancy even before the symptoms like nausea starts.
2. Laboratory Evaluation:
Some hormones can be measured to diagnose pregnancy. Human chorionic Gonadotropin is one such hormone, it is a glycoprotein bearing similarities in structure with Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH), Luteinizing Hormone (LH) and Thyrotropin. HCG is composed of alpha and beta subunits. The beta subunits are disintegrated in the kidney by macrophage enzymes to create beta subunit core fragment, this can be detected by examining urine samples.
Generally, 4 main HCG assays are used, they are: radioimmunoassay, immunoradiometricassay, enzyme-linked immunosorbentassay (ELISA) and fluoroimmunoassay. Urine devices are often used to detect hyper glycosylated HCG, which is a key molecule in early pregnancy. Dimeric HCG and the alpha and beta units are produced by the pituitary glands of non-pregnant woman. Though the level of dimeric HCG is higher in post-menopausal women, it is below the sensitivity mark of the most sensitive clinical assays used to monitor pregnancy. 5% HCG can be detected in women eight days after conception and about 98% on the eleventh day.
The levels of HCG also determine whether the woman has ectopic pregnancy. If the rise and decline of HCG values in women is slow for those who had ectopic pregnancy or had spontaneous abortion. If the HCG levels are very high there are chances that the woman has molar pregnancy, chromosome abnormality and multiple gestations.
Measuring Serum Progesterone is important to detect chances of any early abnormal pregnancy. A dipstick ELISA is effective in determining the level of progesterone.
Early Pregnancy Factor is an immunosuppressive protein that has been isolated just after conception and it helps to indicate fertilization. It can be detected 36-48 hours post fertilization and the levels shoot up in the first trimester. EPF is used to determine the success rate of in-vitro fertilization embryo transfers. EPF can’t be detected after delivery or in cases of ectopic pregnancy.
The discovery of transvaginal ultrasonography (TVUS) has made pregnancy detection even easier and effective. It is the best method to detect intrauterine pregnancy and gestational age that usually happens during the first trimester. The vaginal probes are effective than abdominal probes, since frequency is higher and the resolution of the image is better.
[ Read: How to Confirm Pregnancy Without Test ]
Baby Development, Tips, Body Changes and Symptoms of Pregnancy at 1 Week:
There is not much difference in the body of the mother during the 1st week of pregnancy. Actually the mom to be will not be aware of her new condition for another 3-4 weeks, as that is when she will miss her period.
- Though there are no major changes in the physical appearance, the woman might face gastric problems, constipation and other digestive disorders.
- Nausea or morning sickness starts bothering you often. You tend to rush to washroom more than often. However, the signs of pregnancy in first week vary from person to person.
- Other symptoms of pregnancy in the first week are mood swings, tenderness of breast, fatigue and hormonal changes.
During the first week of pregnancy, the egg leaves the ovary and reaches the fallopian tube. You are not exactly pregnant at this time, since the conception only occurs two weeks after the last menstrual cycle. So it is important to give details of the last menstrual cycle to calculate the expected due date.
Pregnancy Due Date Calculator
Once the fertilization takes place the cells start to divide. The first week the foetus is defined as a blastocyte. The external part of the blastocyte will become the placenta and the internal part of the blastocyte becomes the embryo during the second week of pregnancy. If more than one egg gets released and fertilized then multiple zygotes are formed. The zygotes have chromosomes which determine the baby skin complexion, colour of the eyes, colour of hair, height, features and personality traits.
What we consider the first week of pregnancy is the preparation of the uterus for pregnancy. Many doctors call it as ‘get out of jail free week.’This is the most confusing time, some women might think they are pregnant but the results may show negative results. Don’t lose heart! You will get many more chances to become pregnant. You go through joy and anticipation at the same time!
Calculating the Dates for Pregnancy:
The pregnancy days are calculated from the first day of the last menstrual period (LMP) and not from the day the fertilization actually happened; because, by convention, menstrual cycles are counted from the first day of menstrual bleeding.
The medical term for this is LNMP, which means last normal menstrual period. The foetal age thus calculated is known as the gestational age. This is a convenient way of keeping track as it is not easy to detect or discern when the pregnancy actually happens.
- Even in case of IVF pregnancy, the gestational age of the embryo is calculated by adding 14 days from the day of oocyte retrieval.
- If a woman has a regular menstrual cycle, conception typically occurs about 11-21 days after the first day of the last period.
- If you have irregular menstrual periods or you cannot remember the first day of your last menstrual period, it can be difficult to determine gestational age of your baby.
In later stage of pregnancy the doctor may use an ultrasound exam to determine gestational age. That becomes difficult in cases where the baby is unusually large or small. So keep track of your menstrual cycle, if you want to know the exact gestational period of your pregnancy.
The Ovulation Process:
When the egg is released, the remains of the follicle in the ovary turn into corpus luteum, which is a temporary endocrine structure in the body of women that is involved in the production of relatively high levels of progesterone and moderate levels of estradiol and inhibin A. This plays an important part in influencing the endometrium or uterine lining to get ready for potential implantation of an embryo in case pregnancy occurs.
Once the ovulation takes place, fertilization has to occur within 24 hours, as the egg does not have longer life. The egg will embark on its adventurous journey down the fallopian tube to meet the one in a million lucky sperm that would fertilize it. If fertilization occurs the egg will implant itself in the thickened uterine wall. In case fertilization does not occur, the egg will be discarded.
Two weeks after the ovulation, the corpus luteum will cease to be, leading to a sharp drop in the female hormones – progesterone and estrogen. With the drop in the hormonal levels, the uterus receives the message that it is not required to nourish the fertilized egg, hence it begins to shed its lining which comes out as bleeding during the menstrual cycle.
Diet for the First Week of Pregnancy:
It is very important to take care of your health during pregnancy. In the first week you will experience morning sickness and your appetite will be down. Try to drink plenty of water and other fluids to prevent dehydration. Also eat small meals in intervals.
When the nausea ceases and you are feeling better try to have a proper meal. Eat fresh fruits and vegetables, starchy foods such as rice and chapatis, whole grain bread, pasta, baked or boiled potatoes, lean meats, eggs, chicken, pulses and soybean. It is important to include milk and dairy products like cottage cheese, plain cheese and yogurt in your diet. Since calcium is essential for both you and your baby’s growth.
Take 400 to 800 micrograms of folic acid every day as it will lower the risk of some birth defects of the brain and spine, including spina bifida for the baby. You can also eat folic acid rich foods like green leafy vegetables, dry fruits and nuts and breakfast cereals like oats and cornflakes. Avoid alcohol and junk food totally.
Taking Care of Your Health before Pregnancy:
You should take care of your health before you plan for conception. Even if you do not plan your pregnancy, it is better to be prepared for unplanned pregnancy in case you are sexually active.
- Exercise, eat healthy food, keep your mind clutter free and give up bad habits. If you have been procrastinating doing this, here is the right motivation for you now.
- Your doctor can help you by prescribing prenatal vitamins that contain high amounts of folic acid which will greatly benefit both you and your baby.
- Give up unhealthy habits of drinking alcohol and smoking, as it may contribute to infertility. Furthermore, it may also cause problems for you and your baby in the first week of pregnancy.
Factors Affecting the Chances of Your Pregnancy:
There are many other factors that affect the chances of you getting pregnant. If you do not plan properly for your pregnancy, it can get very frustrating, month after month for you. For a healthy couple, who have sex regularly, the chances of pregnancy are somewhere between 15-25% for every menstrual cycle. Even that fraction of chance is swayed by many other factors like the following:
- Irregularity in periods adds to your woes of calculating when ovulation happens. This is often the result of hormonal imbalance. As the egg has a short lifespan, having sex during ovulation is important for fertilization to take place.
- The chances of pregnancy begin to decline once you cross the 30 plus mark. As you age, the chances of your pregnancy continue to diminish, with a steep drop taking place once you reach your 40s. The age factor also affects the health of both mom-to-be and the baby. Having a child is a personal choice of the couple. The decision of having children also depends on the financial and physical condition of the couple. However, delaying is not a wise idea since age affects fertility. With age the number and quality of eggs produced by the ovary decreases. Also diseases like endometriosis, fibroids and polyps which crop up with age decreases the chance of conceiving. There is an increased risk of ectopic pregnancy and miscarriages. If delivery takes place the baby might have low birth weight, chromosome disorders and non-genetic abnormalities. With age the risk of birth complications like preeclampsia, placental complication and intrauterine restriction increases.
- Certain illnesses and diseases, especially those affecting the reproductive organs can prevent you from getting pregnant. Having an auto-immune disorder, lupus, diabetes, thyroid disease, or rheumatoid arthritis can interfere with your fertility.
- If you have been trying to conceive for more than a year without any positive results, it is high time you consult a doctor. Check for fertility in your partner as well, as both of you are equally responsible for the birth of a child.
- Being either overweight or underweight affects your chances of pregnancy to a great extent. If you have body fat which is 10-15% above the normal levels, your body is likely to produce more estrogen which will throw your reproductive cycle off balance. Similarly, low fat levels can lessen the whole reproductive process.
- Avoid medications like antidepressants, antibiotics, painkillers, and other drugs that are used to treat chronic illness, since they may cause temporary infertility. Consult your doctor for further guidance.
- Studies have shown that women who are exposed to occupation which involves high levels of stress, extreme temperatures, radiations, harmful emissions have developed fertility problems.
- Avoid lubricants and oral sex, since saliva and lubricants can be harmful to the sperm.The commercially available lubricants damage the sperm and affect sperm movement. Most sperms move in a forward direction and the woman’s mucous lining is enough to help the sperm move.
Getting Ready for Pregnancy:
Prepare yourself both mentally and physically for your pregnancy. Let the experience be a memorable one rather than chaotic and frightening.
- Stop your birth control a couple of months before you plan to start trying, so that you will understand the natural functioning of your menstruation.Birth control pills change your hormonal secretions; hence it is wise to give time for the hormones to fall back to their normal levels before planning on conception.If you were using birth control pills, give a gap before you try for pregnancy. Since birth control pills induce hormonal changes in the body and it takes time for hormones to bounce back to normalcy.
- You can try to get pregnant after stopping birth control pills, but make sure your body is in the normal mode. Since the purpose of having birth control pills is to prevent ovulation, once you stop taking pills and give your body some rest so the hormones start working again, the ovulation will begin again. You can take doctor’s advice regarding birth control pills, he will be able to guide you better.
- Do not assume you are pregnant because disappointment in this case can be painful for both partners. There are a wide range of pregnancy test kits available in the markets which are fairly easy to understand and use. All you need to do is collect your urine and follow the instructions on the kit. If you test positive, you can always confirm it with your doctor.
- Good pre-conception care is available for women these days, which can improve your chances of getting pregnant, having a healthy pregnancy and a fine baby. If you are opting for preconception care, than start at least 3 months before you actually plan on conceiving. Include your partner in this process for though he may not carry the baby like you do, his physical and mental health is equally important for both you and your unborn baby.
- It is important to inform the doctor about the family history of both partners before pregnancy, as it can throw light on the genetic risks that you may carry for the baby. Some couples may have to go through genetic counseling to understand the risk they carry.
- Do not hesitate to discuss with your doctor any concerns or doubts that arise in your mind regarding pregnancy.
- Knowing you are pregnant will lead to mixed feelings of excitement, anticipation, fear, anxiety, trepidation and apprehension as well. You end up wondering whether you will be a responsible mom and will be able to take care of the baby in a proper way. Suddenly, you may not be so sure of yourself.
The news of pregnancy evokes mixed reactions. Though pregnancy is like a bumpy journey, you will be rewarded at the end. When you hold your bundle of joy in your arms you will feel that all the pain was worthwhile. The 40 weeks’ time will be tough but try to be positive. All the anxiety, doubts and fear are not unique to you; they are part and parcel of pregnancy and parenting.
Knowing what is coming will keep you mentally prepared and also increase your level of confidence. Involve your partner in the process of pregnancy, so that he will not feel left out of the important phase of your life. This will also help him prove to be an equal partner to you on your journey to parenthood and later as a responsible parent in bringing up your child.Have a happy pregnancy!
Hope you like our post on symptoms of pregnancy at 1 week and will pay close attention to these tips when you start observing first week symptoms of pregnancy. Have a healthy and happy pregnancy.
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