Pregnancy and childbirth are very special moments in a couple’s life. For first-time parents, there will be many questions about pregnancy care and choices, such as what to expect in the first few months of your pregnancy, and when to book your first appointment to see a doctor. A good time to confirm your pregnancy with your doctor is around week 7, when the embryo is about 10 millimetres long from head to bottom. At this stage, your embryo gets its nourishment from the yolk sac to grow and form the different organs in the body.
Your doctor will ask you questions about your health and previous pregnancies (if any) to understand how to care for you. A transvaginal scan will be offered to confirm that the pregnancy is in the womb and healthy. If you have pain or bleeding, have health issues or previous pregnancy problems, you should see your doctor as soon as possible.
Adopting a healthy diet and light exercise will improve your pregnancy and experience. During pregnancy, you should avoid smoking, alcohol, caffeine and certain foods listed below as these can harm your baby.
- Raw or undercooked meat such as salami and prosciutto
- Raw or undercooked egg
- Pâté including vegetable pâté
- Unpasteurised milk and dairy products
- Soft cheese such as brie, camembert, goats’ cheese and Danish blue
- Liver and food high in vitamin A, such as cod liver fish oil, as high levels can harm the baby
- Some types of fish like shark, swordfish and marlin, as they have high levels of mercury
You should have already started on folic acid to reduce your baby’s risk of neural tube defects. Your doctor may also advise you to take antenatal supplements including vitamin D to promote your baby’s healthy growth.
Pain and bleeding are common in early pregnancy. Many women also tire easily. If you experience these symptoms, you should discuss them with your doctor. You may also be offered progesterone hormone if you have pregnancy bleeding to reduce the risk of miscarriage.
A follow-up visit is usually arranged about one to two weeks after you have confirmed your pregnancy. The estimated due date is about 40 weeks from your last menses if you have a regular 28-day cycle.
At this stage, your baby is now called a foetus. A foetus at 9 weeks is about 22 millimetres long and the body features are slowly taking shape.
If the pregnancy is healthy, your doctor may request for routine blood tests to assess your blood count, blood group and antibodies, as well as testing for hepatitis B, syphilis and HIV. If you have a medical history, you may be offered additional testing.
Your doctor may also discuss Down’s syndrome screening or screening for genetic diseases. These would typically be at the first trimester screening (FTS) involving the measurement of the foetus’ neck thickness, mother’s hormones and age at 11 to 13 weeks, or noninvasive prenatal testing (NIPT) assessing the foetal DNA in the mother’s blood from 9 weeks.
Nausea and vomiting generally peak during this time and improve as you enter the second trimester. If your symptoms are not controlled by dietary changes and antiemetics (nausea medicine), your doctor may request further tests to exclude other illnesses such as urinary tract infection and thyroid disease.
It is also common for couples to experience emotional ups and downs during this time even though they are excited about having a baby. If these feelings are troubling, you should seek help. Finances may also be a concern for many couples. You may wish to check what financial support is available with agencies such as the Ministry of Social and Family Development.
This is the final week of your first trimester! Your foetus is now fully formed but will continue to grow and mature. During this check-up, your doctor will discuss the results of your routine blood tests and FTS or NIPT. Some couples may require further testing if there is any concern with their results.
Most early pregnancy symptoms should improve. The pregnancy is also more stable – most couples reveal they are expecting at this time. If you are working, you may wish to inform your employer so that you can continue to work in an appropriate manner and your duties can be covered when you go on leave. You may wish to check your rights and obligations with agencies such as the Ministry of Manpower.
Week 13 and beyond
If this is your first pregnancy, couples generally benefit from attending antenatal classes and hospital tours. This usually happens during the mid-trimester. Parental classes can prepare you and your partner for pregnancy, labour and child. They can also allow you to meet other parents-to-be to share experiences.
Short frequent episodes of exercise (approximately 30 minutes) three to four times a week is preferred over prolonged intense regimes. Brisk walking, jogging, swimming, antenatal gym and yoga are suitable exercises. Avoid activities where you may fall, get hit or overheat. You should not become breathless and should be able to continue a conversation during your exercise. If all is well, your next doctor’s visit is usually around 16 weeks.