From this week on, you are officially considered an expectant mother. The most critical period is over, and you will start to feel better. The risk of spontaneous abortion is getting lower and lower with each passing day. If you have not done it yet, now you can share the news with your friends and acquaintances.
The expectant mother
The highly anticipated part of pregnancy is finally here! You feel nauseous and tired less and less often. Your tummy is growing, and your womb stretches as high as your pubic bone and will keep on expanding during the next weeks.
From this week, the embryo is called a fetus. He weighs 14 grams and is 8-9 cm long. He can make faces, purse his lips, grimace and even frown. He has reflexes and moves around while digesting. His pancreas starts to produce insulin, and his vocal cords develop. His brain reacts to the feeling of pain. Sometimes he drinks from the amniotic fluid that is replaced each day.
Further examinations are recommended during week 12: one of them is the ultrasound scan, where you are able to take a glimpse at your growing child, with all of his body parts developed and visible. Now is the time to undergo nuchal fold screening (by ultrasound) and a blood test. Based on the baby’s sitting height measured by the ultrasound device, the exact gestational age can be determined. During the same examination, nuchal translucency and the nasal bone are also checked. These are important in order to rule out Down’s syndrome, which is a genetic disorder caused by the presence of a third copy of chromosome 21 instead of two in cells. As the syndrome is not hereditary, the embryo can carry it even without a family history of the disorder. The combined test is also used to assess the risks of trisomy 13 and 18, Patau’s disease and Edwards’ disease, which are both chromosome disorders. If test results are negative, the next screenings are due at week 16 for AFP, and between weeks 18-20 there should be a repeated ultrasound screening for genetic disorders. After the examination, you are sent to see the health visitor, who will give you your maternity book. From then on, you will have to keep it on you at all times, so should something unexpected happen to you, it will let others know that you are pregnant.
The risk of the baby having Down syndrome is getting higher with the mother’s age. By undergoing the combined screening, this risk can be assessed, so the chance that you might give birth to a child with the disorder can be lessened. If you are above the age of 35, it is highly recommended to undergo a genetic screening to rule out all possible risk factors.
You might have noticed by now that as a result of the hormonal changes, your hair is fuller and your skin is tauter and more radiant. It is important to pay extra attention to skin care, as your skin may be dryer and more sensitive. To prevent stretch marks, you should treat your skin with lotions or cocoa butter daily.