You are 3 Weeks and 4 Days 255 days to go…

Do you feel different? You’ll find yourself analyzing every twinge in your body as you look for signs that you’re pregnant.

Your baby today

To embed itself in the lining of the uterus, the embryo-to-be needs the help of progesterone, secreted after ovulation by the empty egg follicle, the corpus luteum (shown in pink in this cross section of an ovary). Progesterone helps the lining thicken.

It’s still very early and you’re unlikely to have pregnancy symptoms yet—although you may have some light spotting (see You are 3 Weeks and 5 Days). Some women claim to “feel” pregnant, even before changes to their breasts are noticeable or before they start feeling sick. Some women say that they just “know.” You may be very in tune with your body and may notice that your body is changing even before you are able to take a test. Unfortunately, sometimes our minds can play tricks on us: you may want to be pregnant so much that you can sometimes convince yourself that you’re feeling different. If you don’t feel any different, don’t worry, this is also completely normal.

Either way the only definitive way to know whether or not you are pregnant is to take a pregnancy test (see How to use a home pregnancy test). You don’t need to go to your doctor to confirm your pregnancy since the tests that they use are the same as those bought over the counter. If the test is positive, you’re pregnant!

… Nutrition
Diet ban

If you were dieting before you conceived, it can be tempting to continue once you find out you’re pregnant. Don’t: diet, your baby may become undernourished and is more likely to be premature and underweight at birth. Do, however, eat a healthy, balanced diet. Don’t eat junk food when you’re pregnant since this can increase the risk of your baby developing weight problems.

If you are overweight or obese, your doctor may recommend that you gain less weight than other pregnant women. The recommended weight gain for overweight women is 15–25 pounds. And for obese women, the recommended weight gain is at least 15 pounds. (By contrast, normal-weight women should gain 25–35 pounds during pregnancy.)

In an ideal world, you should lose excess weight before conceiving, because obesity makes you more prone to diabetes and high blood pressure and means you’re more likely to need a cesarean.

… Nutritionist
Q: Should I give up coffee in case I’m pregnant?
A: The March of Dimes advises pregnant women or those trying to become pregnant to drink no more than 200 mg of caffeine a day (that’s a 12-ounce cup of coffee). Going without your caffeine fix is a good thing when you’re pregnant, since research shows that, in high doses, it can increase the risk of miscarriage.

One study discovered that pregnant women who consumed two or more cups of coffee (or a caffeine-rich equivalent) were twice as likely to miscarry as those who gave up caffeine. Before switching to decaff, be aware that decaffeinated drinks may raise cholesterol. The good news is that many women find they naturally stop wanting coffee in early pregnancy.

You are 3 Weeks and 5 Days 254 days to go…

As the fertilized egg becomes completely embedded in your uterus, it may cause some light bleeding.

Your baby today

The first stage of placental development—your baby’s life support system—is shown here. The image shows nuclei (blue) within a continuous network of cells that will become the placental villi. At first the tiny villi are solid; later, they will contain blood vessels.

The ball of cells, known as the blastocyst, that will form the embryo has now completely embedded within the lining of the uterus and the lining has regenerated over it.

Unfortunately, in the complex process of conception, only about half of all fertilized eggs progress to become a blastocyst and only about half of these go on to become successfully implanted in the uterus.

When the blastocyst embeds, there may be some bleeding, known as “spotting.” This often leads to confusion regarding the dating of the pregnancy, not least because it can occur around the time that you would normally start your period.

The color of the blood can vary. In most cases it is pinkish, although bright red blood (fresh blood) can occur, as can brownish, old blood. As long as it is not profuse, the color really doesn’t matter. If the bleeding lasts for a short period, and you don’t experience discomfort, it’s likely that things are just fine, but do see your doctor for a checkup.

Around 25 percent of women will experience some bleeding in early pregnancy, but most go on to full term. However, in some cases, bleeding does mean a miscarriage is occurring so always report the fact that you’ve bled to your doctor.

This computer-generated image shows the ball of cells—the blastocyst—as it appears situated within the uterus. The outer ring of interconnected cells that will eventually form the placenta are clearly seen.

It is thought that around 50 percent of pregnancies might miscarry before implantation.

Up to a third of pregnancies miscarry up to the fifth week and around a quarter will end in miscarriage between the fifth and seventh week. Thankfully, the risk of miscarriage becomes much lower as the weeks go by, decreasing dramatically after the 12th week of pregnancy.

Doubling up

As with many parents, you probably thought long and hard about trying to conceive your second child. There’s no ideal age gap between children, but consider:

The pros:

  • You are in “baby mode” and will be used to the routine and all aspects of baby care. You will have all the equipment you need from bottles to a carriage and crib.

  • A two-year-old might find it easier to accept his new sibling than a four-year-old who is much more conscious of having the sole attention of his parents.

  • There will always be squabbles, but children close in age tend to play better together.

The cons:

  • It’s tiring caring for a one- or two-year-old while pregnant.

  • It can put a strain on your body to have pregnancies close together.

  • If you have a second baby before the first one can walk, you could be doing a lot of carrying, increasing the chance of backaches.

  • You won’t have as much time to get to know your first child before your second is on the scene.

You are 3 Weeks and 6 Days 253 days to go…

Complex changes are taking place inside your uterus to create a safe and nourishing environment for your unborn baby.

Your baby today

This microscope view of an embedded blastocyst shows the amniotic cavity (semicircular white area at top), with the cells that will develop into the baby just below (dark oval at the 12 o’clock position). The yolk sac is the pink area below.

The ball of cells embedded in the uterus is already laying down the foundations for its future life as an embryo. At two layers thick, the germ cells form a flat disk that divides the fluid-filled inner part of the ball of cells into two chambers. The smaller of these fluid-filled chambers will become the amniotic sac. The larger chamber, lying closest to the future placenta, will become the yolk sac that supports the early embryo. The umbilical cord will eventually develop close to the smaller chamber. The inner germ cells have been developing at a slower rate than the rapidly expanding outer cell layers.

At first the umbilical cord is a simple stalk, containing no blood vessels but simply anchoring the embryo to the future placenta (see You are 4 Weeks and 6 Days), which will eventually become your unborn baby’s lifeline.

… Nutritionist
Q: I’m hoping I’m pregnant, but I’m already worrying about the amount of weight I might put on, and am scared I’ll never be slim again!
A: These days, it is almost impossible to pass a newspaper stand without seeing the latest celebrity who has not only fit right back into her clothes after having her baby, but who actually weighs less than she did before pregnancy. However, this is concerning for health professionals, since a dramatic weight loss after the birth is not good for mother or baby.

The recommended weight gain during pregnancy is 25–35 lb, if you have a Body Mass Index (BMI) within the normal range. Your baby and her support system will make up a good proportion of this (see How much weight will you gain?), as will the increased pregnancy fluids, fats, and an enlarged uterus. Much of this extra weight will be lost as soon as your baby is born. Also, after the birth, some of this extra weight provides nutrients for breast-feeding, which uses up to 500 calories a day.

The most sensible approach to controlling your weight during pregnancy is to eat a healthy diet and get gentle exercise to ensure that weight gain is not too dramatic. You should be aiming to eat around 2,100–2,500 calories a day, increasing this by 200 calories in the last trimester of pregnancy—the equivalent of a banana and a glass of milk.

Newborns are getting heavier.

This is mostly due to improved diet and living standards. However, obesity in the mother is another factor—if the mother is overweight, there is an increased risk of diabetes , which can increase the baby’s weight.

You’ll gain weight in the months to come but not necessarily an excessive amount. Try not to become obsessive about weighing yourself.

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