It might not feel like much has changed in the 3rd week of pregnancy. Perhaps the only sign you’re pregnant at all is a positive pregnancy test. Rest assured that amazing things are happening; by week 3, your baby is already developing and is likely implanted in your uterine wall, and your body has already begun to make subtle changes that will later blossom into full pregnancy.
At week 3, many women have no idea they are even pregnant, in part because they haven’t missed any periods, and there are few signs of very early pregnancy. Others may have noticed they didn’t ovulate on time, or there might have been slight cramping or even spotting during fertilisation. Sometimes tender breasts might be the only clue that a woman is pregnant at this point, but this can also happen with some women during premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
Nevertheless, your actions can affect your baby, even as early as week 3 of pregnancy. Many doctors recommend that women trying to get pregnant already act as if they are pregnant, which means taking prenatal vitamins, eating a healthy diet, getting plenty of sleep, and engaging in moderate exercise most days of the week.
It is also a good idea to make sure you’re getting enough folic acid, which many pregnant women take as a dietary supplement. Folic acid supplementation before pregnancy and during early pregnancy helps prevent neural tube defects, which is a type of birth defect that can occur in a developing baby. The most common of these neural tube defects is spina bifida. The recommended daily intake of folic acid for most pregnant women is 400 mcg (microgram) a day. This can be higher for certain high-risk women, such as those with a history of a seizure disorder. Certain medications, such as Phenobarbital, have been shown to affect folic acid metabolism, so let your doctor know if you are taking any medications. Smoking reduces folic acid levels and should be avoided for this, and many other, reasons.
If you suspect you’re pregnant and you haven’t already been under the care of a doctor, start taking an over-the-counter prenatal vitamin with folic acid right away. By the time most women have their first antenatal appointment, long after week 3, the critical window when that extra folic acid is needed has already passed.
When it comes to exercise, there’s no reason to stop or change your exercise routine and if you don’t already exercise regularly, now is a good time to get started. Classes like yoga and Pilates are great for pregnant women as they increase flexibility and core strength. Keep in mind, however, that you are still pregnant, so it’s not a good idea to begin a strenuous new exercise program, start training for a marathon if you’ve never run before, or dramatically increase your training.
Overall, exercise has been shown to have profound benefits for pregnant women, increasing their strength and flexibility and making both labour and recovery easier later on. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that pregnant women get 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week and there is no reason not to start this during these early weeks of pregnancy.
Heading into week 3, your foetus is one week old. Doctors refer to this as the “foetal age” and it will always be two weeks behind your pregnancy week. At this point, the foetus is less than one-hundredth of an inch long and invisible to the naked eye.
During a normal fertilisation, the egg is fertilised in the fallopian tube, creating a ball of cells called a zygote. The zygote is a beehive of activity as the cells divide into blastomeres that join together to form a blastocyst. During the week after fertilisation, the blastocyst travels down the fallopian tube toward the uterus, where it will implant into the uterine wall.
By the time the blastocyst is firmly embedded in the uterine wall, usually by the end of week 3, many “decisions” have been made that will determine who your baby will be for the rest of his or her life.
When an egg is fertilised, the genetic codes of the mother and father are combined. A normal human has 46 chromosomes, which carry the unique genetic information that determines everything from hair color to your risk of heart disease later in life. This genetic code is finalised during fertilization, when a sperm carrying 23 chromosomes from the father merges with the egg carrying 23 chromosomes from the mother.
“You might fall victim to common first-trimester symptoms like nausea and fatigue.”
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