Fertilisation occurs and a ball of quickly multiplying cells embeds itself in the lining of the uterus.
In the UK pregnancy is calculated from the first day of the woman’s last period so for as much as three weeks of this first month she might not be actually pregnant. When fertilisation does occur the tiny mass of cells called a blastocyst at this stage embeds itself in the lining of the womb which is already thickening to support it.
The mass of cells is developing fast and becomes an embryo. For many women the first sign of pregnancy is a missed period.
Shopbought tests are considered largely reliable so the mother-to-be does not have to have her pregnancy confirmed by her GP. If a first test is negative a second one a few days later may prove positive as hormone levels in the urine rise.
The embryo officially becomes a foetus. It is about the size of a baked bean and its spine and nervous system begin to form.
The foetus already has its own blood system and may be a different blood group from its mother. Blood vessels are forming in what will become the umbilical cord and tiny buds which will become limbs appear.
The baby´s heart is beginning to develop. Morning sickness and other side effects of early pregnancy may take hold.
Around this time many women find they experience the side-effects of early pregnancy including needing to urinate more often nausea and vomiting and feeling a bit weepy and irritable. All medication including supplements need to be carefully checked as the foetus is undergoing vital development in the first 12 weeks. If the woman has not told her GP or community midwife she is pregnant yet now is a good time to do so.
It is quite common to have a first scan at this stage if the woman has had a previous miscarriage or bleeding.
An early scan is often done through the vagina and is used to check the pregnancy is not ectopic. It should show up the baby´s heartbeat. The nervous system is also developing rapidly especially the brain. The head gets bigger and eyes form under the skin of the face. The foetus’ limbs are growing and look more like arms and legs. All internal organs are developing and becoming more complex.
Women who may be at higher risk of passing on sickle cell anaemia and thalassaemia should be offered a blood test before 10 weeks.
These conditions are rare but serious inherited blood disorders. They are more common in people of certain ethnic backgrounds including African, Caribbean and some Asian and Mediterranean communities. If the mother is found to carry the gene for either condition, the father is offered a test. If both parents are found to be carriers then they are offered the option of testing the foetus in the womb.
A scan at 10-13 weeks is recommended to pin down the date of the pregnancy.
The umbilical cord is fully formed providing nourishment and removing waste products. The foetus looks fully human now.
By this week the threat of miscarriage is much reduced. Many women announce their pregnancy to friends and colleagues.
The foetus is growing in length much more quickly by now it is about eight cm long and weighs about 60 grams. The placenta is now wellformed though it’s not yet doing its full job it takes over fully in week 14. The mother is likely to have her first scan this week.
The womans uterus is becoming larger and is starting to rise out of the pelvis. The foetus can move its head quite easily.
Third of the way through. The average pregnancy lasts 266 days or 280 days from the first day of last period.
Screening for Downs syndrome is offered about now. A simple blood test is carried out first then further tests may be offered.
On the basis of the blood test results the woman may opt for a Chorionic Villus sample or an amniocentesis which would diagnose Down’s syndrome or other chromosomal abnormalities. However these diagnostic tests have a small risk of subsequent miscarriage. An alternative to blood tests is a nuchal translucency scan a new scan offered by some larger hospitals. But again an amniocentisis would be required for firm diagnosis.
The foetus now has toe and finger nails eyebrows and eyelashes. It is also covered with downy hair.
The hair that will cover the baby until the last week or so of pregnancy – called lanugo – starts to form. This hair is very fine more like down and it probably serves as some form of insulation and protection for the skin.
The foetus can hear noises from the outside world. By this stage the mother is visibly pregnant and the uterus is rising.
By this stage the foetus is moving around a lot – probably enough to be felt
The foetus is now about 15-20cm long and weighs about 300g. Milk teeth have formed in the gums.
Half way through pregnancy now. Almost all mothers are offered a routine scan. The foetus develops a waxy coating called vernix.
The scan can show the foetus in fine detail and often reveal if the baby is a boy or a girl. However not all hospitals offer to tell parents the sex of the child – and not all parents want to know.
The mother may feel short of breath as her uterus pushes against her diaphragm leaving less space for the lungs.
The mother may be offered another ultrasound scan around this time. The scan can check the baby´s spine internal organs and growth are normal.
Senses develop: taste buds have started to form on the tongue and the foetus starts to feel touch.
The skeleton continues to develop and bones that form the skull begin to harden – but not fully.
Antenatal checkup and scan to check the baby´s position. A baby born this early does sometimes survive.
A baby born at 24 weeks may possibly survive but it would have severe breathing difficulties as its lungs would not be strong enough to cope. It would also be very thin lightweight and susceptible to infections.
All organs are now in place and the rest of the pregnancy is for growth. Preeclampsia is a risk from here onwards.
This potentially fatal condition causes high blood pressure protein in the urine and swelling caused by fluid retention. The causes are unclear but research suggests it may be linked to an immune reaction to the foetus or the placenta. If the condition is serious women may be advised to take drugs to lower their blood pressure and in some cases an early caesarean or induction may be performed.
The foetus skin is gradually becoming more opaque than transparent.
The foetus measures about 34cm and weighs about 800g.
Routine checkup to test for preeclampsia. Women with Rhesus negative blood will also be tested for antibodies.
If the mother has Rh negative blood but the baby is Rh positive she can develop antibodies to her baby´s blood during labour. This is not a problem in the first birth but can affect subsequent pregnancies and result in stillbirth. Fortunately treatment is simple and effective.
Some women develop restless leg syndrome in their third trimester.
This is sensations such as crawling tingling or even cramps and burning inside the foot or leg – often in the evening and at night disturbing sleep and making the mother feel she needs to get up and walk around. No-one knows what causes this harmless but irritating condition.
Braxton Hicks contractions may begin around now. They are practice contractions which dont usually hurt.
These are irregular, painless contractions which feel like a squeezing sensation near the top of the uterus. If contractions become painful or occur four times an hour or more, the woman should call a doctor as she may be in early labour.
The foetus can see now and tell light from dark. The mother´s breasts start to produce colostrum about now
This high calorie milk is produced by the mother to feed the baby for the first few days after birth before normal milk starts.
Another antenatal appointment. The foetus is about 42cm and weighs 2.2kg. A baby born now has a good chance of survival.
From now the baby should become settled in a head downwards position. A midwife can help to move it if necessary.
The mother may find it more difficult to eat full meals as the expanded uterus presses on her stomach.
If the mother has been told she may need a planned caesarean, now is a good time to discuss it further.
The baby´s head may engage in the pelvis any time now.
The baby´s lungs are practically mature now and it can survive unaided. The final weeks in the womb are to put on weight.
Babies born from this week onward are not considered early.
Another ante-natal appointment. The mother has reached her full size and weight by now
In theory the baby should be born this week. The motherÂ´s cervix prepares for the birth by softening.
First babies are often up to a week late but if there are signs of distress to mother or child the birth will be induced.