By Dr Latiefa Vinoos
Congratulations Mom! You have an exciting journey ahead.
During the first trimester (first 12 weeks of pregnancy), your baby grows from a tiny egg to a little foetus measuring 6cm. Despite this rapid development, your baby bump is unlikely to be visible. In most cases, it is still too early to tell the sex of your baby when performing an ultrasound. While your body is adjusting to its newfound tenant, you may experience the dreaded morning sickness, mood swings, fatigue, breast tenderness, bloating and back pain.
Antenatal care is best to begin at 10 weeks. Ultrasound scans are performed to confirm the pregnancy and identify any risk factors for conditions such as Downs Syndrome or other structural abnormalities.
Some of the blood tests carried out include your blood type, iron stores, immunity against Rubella and Hepatitis B, HIV status and your blood sugar levels, amongst others. Your urine is tested for any signs of infection to limit the occurrence of pre-term labour.
Your pre-existing medical conditions and chronic medication may also need to be monitored and adjusted for the duration of the pregnancy.
Make a list of all your questions and discuss them with your doctor. Pregnancy can be a wondrously overwhelming journey and it is important that you feel comfortable and supported.
What you can do
A good multivitamin that includes folic acid and iron is important in keeping both you and your baby healthy. Folic acid reduces the chance of neural tube abnormalities such as Spina Bifida. A healthy and nutritious diet with added fibre will prevent acid reflux and alleviate constipation. Moderate exercise and an active lifestyle are encouraged.
What to avoid
Things to avoid during the first trimester include alcohol and smoking as this can affect the development and growth of your baby. Raw or undercooked foods including sushi are also discouraged. Changing cat litter is best avoided to limit exposure to Toxoplasmosis.
It is important to consult your doctor about all medications that you plan to continue or commence during the pregnancy, as some may be considered harmful to the foetus.
When to contact your doctor
If you experience heavy bleeding or you pass clots of blood, you should seek urgent medical attention. Severe abdominal pain should be investigated in hospital and if you are vomiting and unable to keep food or fluids down, you may need an IV fluid administered to prevent dehydration.
Severe calf pain or swelling can indicate a blood clot in the leg and severe or one sided headaches can indicate blood clots in the brain.
When to make the announcement
Many women are unsure when they should announce their pregnancy to their friends and families. Some may want to reveal the pregnancy as soon as they find out, while others may prefer to wait.
The risk of early pregnancy loss is highest during the first trimester and sharply decreases during the second trimester. There is no right or wrong time to make the announcement and it only depends on when you would feel most comfortable.
Good luck Mom! You are going to be amazing.
Dr Latiefa Vinoos completed her undergraduate training at Stellenbosch University in 2008. She developed an interest in obstetrics and gynaecology during her internship at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto and subsequently completed her community service at Mowbray Maternity Hospital. Through the University of Cape Town, she went on to earn her Fellowship in obstetrics and gynaecology with a distinction in the Masters of Medicine Degree. Thereafter she worked at Groote Schuur Hospital as a consultant in the andrology lab, family planning, gynaecology outpatient, mature women and endocrine clinics.