About Your First Trimester (up to 13 weeks)
In the very early stages of pregnancy there are lots of changes to your body, hormones and circulation. Many women will experience breast tenderness, extreme tiredness, nausea and vomiting and running to the bathroom more frequently to empty their bladder. These symptoms usually improve or disappear by about week 13 or 14, although for some women it can last longer.
Some pregnant women experience excessive nausea and vomiting, even very early on. They might be sick many times a day and be unable to keep food or drink down. This is known as Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) and can be very serious. Safe treatments are available and we recommend a medical consultation as soon as you feel that these early pregnancy symptoms are becoming problematic or if you’re at all concerned.
From 5 weeks
Modern pregnancy tests are positive from about 5 weeks after the last period (3 weeks after conception) and are usually very reliable. They work by measuring the levels of pregnancy hormone (hCG) in the urine, which is produced by the afterbirth (placenta). However, they don’t show if the pregnancy is in the right place, (whether it is within the uterus or outside it in the tubes or pelvis known as an ectopic pregnancy) or whether it is viable.
From 6 weeks
An Early Pregnancy Scan can show that the pregnancy is in the right place and is not an ectopic pregnancy. The pregnancy sac can be measured to give some idea of your dates and estimated due date (EDD). This scan may be possible by scanning through your tummy area (transabdominal scan) but sometimes it may be necessary to perform an internal transvaginal scan.
After 7 weeks
It should be possible to see a heartbeat to confirm viability, to identify multiple pregnancies and also to date the pregnancy (although dating is more accurate around 10-12 weeks).
If you haven’t had pre-pregnancy carrier screening, this is also the time to have a simple blood or saliva test, checking 109 genes, to identify the risk of a baby inheriting a genetic condition from its parents.
From 9-10 weeks
One of the important decisions at this time is whether or not to have screening for common chromosomal conditions like Down Syndrome, Edward Syndrome or Patau Syndrome. These conditions can cause learning difficulties, cardiac and other structural defects and have other implications for the baby including the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth and lifelong health problems. At this time, Non Invasive Prenatal Testing (NIPT) is the most accurate and safe screening test for many of these common chromosomal conditions.
The NHS currently offers the Combined Test and only offers NIPT for patients who meet specific high-probability criteria; this means that about 15% of affected babies will still be missed.
From 10 weeks
This is also the right time to be thinking about whether you might have any infections that could affect your pregnancy and your baby.
Rubella (German Measles) is a viral infection which can cause significant harm to an unborn baby especially in early pregnancy. It is wise to confirm your Rubella status to provide either reassurance that you’re immune or so you can take steps to avoid contact with anyone known to be infected.
It’s also very important to know whether you have any other infections or conditions such as Syphilis, HIV, Hepatitis, CMV, Toxoplasmosis, Parvovirus, Bacterial Vaginosis, Chlamydia and Herpes.