This is the week when you are most likely to know that you are pregnant. Missed periods, hormonal changes making you irritable, your breasts turning sore and tender to touch and increased urination can be some of the noticeable changes that will encourage you to take a home pregnancy test. While some women experience these changes, some others don’t so if you have been planning a pregnancy and have missed a period, Weeks 4-6 is an ideal time frame to test for pregnancy. While some urine tests and home kits might not confirm the pregnancy, visiting an OBGYN will help you with the confirmation and also with the kind of information you should equip yourself with.
This journey of 40 weeks begins here and as your baby grows rapidly in this crucial phase and there are a number of things that you should know about your pregnancy. Keeping yourself informed of the developments that your body and baby undergo, in detail will help you make informed choices about the pregnancy.
That image you instantly have of a wriggling and squishy newborn after looking at the home kit confirming your pregnancy is no longer a distant dream. You will realize this dream in less than 40 weeks and at 4 weeks, that tiny squish is around 1 mm long, almost the size of a poppy seed. While it is still too early to make pregnancy announcements, this is a very vulnerable period because a lot of pregnancies end up in early miscarriages because either the mother is unaware of the conception or the pregnancy itself is not viable enough to last.
This is the time to get to know your baby! She can now be classified as an embryo and there are rapid and complex changes happening with and around her. At this stage the embryo consists of two layers, the epiblast and the hypoblast that will largely contribute to the development of her organs and body parts. Your baby’s life force, the placenta also consists of two parts at this point and the cells of the placenta continue to form channels to your uterine lining through which your blood will flow and nourish the growing baby. The placenta is yet to take over the function of providing oxygen and nutrients to your baby and this generally begins at the end of Week 4.
Apart from the placenta preparing to take over, the amniotic sac to accommodate your baby, the amniotic fluid to help keep your baby cushioned, and the yolk sac that will help produce your baby’s red blood cells, is all ready to start functioning. The yolk sac is responsible for nourishing your baby till the placenta takes over.
Your baby’s neural tube starts forming in 4-6 weeks of your pregnancy and will end up as your baby’s brain and spinal cord. Your baby’s heart and circulatory system are also rapidly developing in order to help transport blood, oxygen and other nutrients by way of the umbilical cord.
What Are The Symptoms That You Could Expect?
Although most women sail through 4 weeks without showing or experiencing noticeable changes or symptoms, some other do and are quite visibly pregnant with all sorts of indicators. Are you experiencing any one of these?
- With the pregnancy hormone, HCG at work, you can expect a number of symptoms like nausea, vomiting and a strong aversion towards particular smells.
- Feeling dizzy and light-headed or feeling exhausted at work are also common symptoms that might go up to fainting.
- Sore, tender and tingly breasts are annoyingly common in the first 4-6 weeks of pregnancy. This could also be one of the primary reasons to trigger you to take a pregnancy test.
- Strong odors of any kind might put you off and worsen your nausea.
- While some women start experiencing increased urination early in their pregnancy, some others don’t till they are in their 6th or 7th.
As much as an ordeal the first trimester might seem, the signs and symptoms mostly disappear by the end of it.
How Will You Be Sure Of The Pregnancy Test Results?
While some of you might see two bright pink lines on your stick the day you miss your period, some others might have to wait for a week or so for it. To ensure that your test results are accurate, it is always advised to buy fresh kits at home because storing them for longer might hamper their efficacy.
The next step in the process is to always test for the first urine in the morning. Random tests can be taken and have shown to work but if you are taking the test as early as 4 weeks, it is recommended that you only do it with the first urine.
Reading the instructions carefully is important because every kit has a different method to follow and you might end up with invalid results if you do not follow each step properly.
What If I Test Negative At 4 Weeks But My Period Is Still Missing?
At 4 weeks, your HCG hormones are yet to settle down and they might not be as high in your urine as is required for a home kit to test positive. If you test negative and your periods are still missing, you could wait for another week to take the test. Resist the temptation to reach out for the can of beer during the weekend before you are completely sure of your test results.
What Does A Faint Pink Line Mean?
In test kits that show a pink line to mean a positive pregnancy, it might be a little confusing for you when you see a faint pink line. Before you dump the stick in the bin, assuming that the result is invalid, you need to know that there is a good chance of you being pregnant. As mentioned before, 4 weeks is still too early and your body is still in the process of producing enough HCG hormones1 to make a difference. Taking a test in a couple of days will assure you of your status.
What Should Your Next Step Be?
Now that you have taken the test, gleamed with delight at the wonderful news and read up about how your baby is growing, you should be hunting for the right OBGYN. Once you have found the practitioner with whom you feel you would be comfortable, it is time to fix up your first prenatal appointment. If you have had a medical history of miscarriages, early spotting or bleeding, Gestational diabetes and such, you could be asked to come in early for a checkup but most practitioners would recommend waiting till at least 8 weeks for a visit.
If you already have a doctor whom you are referring to and this pregnancy was a planned one, you must have started taking folic acid supplements before planning to conceive. If by any means you haven’t, let your doctor know about it so that he or she can prescribe the ideal dosage right away. While planning for a pregnancy, you should be consuming 400 mcg of folic acid and once the pregnancy is confirmed, that should go up to 600 mcg.
Now is the time to speak to your doctor about existing health conditions and the medicines that you use to keep them in check. Your OBGYN will recommend you to stay away from as many medicines as possible to allow the normal development of your baby and this restriction would hold for the entire first trimester.
Finding The Right Midwife Or OBGYN
As soon as you find out that you are pregnant, it is a wise idea to start hunting for the right doctor or midwife with whom you can be absolutely compatible during your pregnancy. If you already have a birth plan and intend to avoid unnecessary medical intervention, a doula or a midwife could help you out. Home births are also made possible with a proper plan in place.
While choosing your doctor, there are a few key factors you should consider:
Ask yourself if you want a male or a female doctor. This matters because there will be internal checkups, discussions and decisions that you might be comfortable with a particular gender.
If you have a low-risk pregnancy, you could opt for your family physician but he/she should have a good network with pediatricians or perinatologists, if any untoward incident were to occur.
If you have a high-risk pregnancy, it is always advised to be in touch with an OBGYN who is a trained surgeon and who can perform emergency C-sections.
Bleeding In Early Pregnancy
By week 4, when it is usually the time for your periods to arrive, you might experience bleeding even if you are pregnant. What are the reasons for bleeding and how would you differentiate between a harmless episode and an actual miscarriage?
1. Implantation Bleeding
The commonest reason for you to bleed in the early stages of pregnancy is because the fertilized egg attaches itself to the uterine wall which could cause spotting or streaking and is known as Implantation bleeding in medical terms. Most women don’t realize that this is not a normal period because it occurs a day or two around your period’s due date.
This bleeding is harmless and usually manifests itself as a light period lasting for a couple of days.
2. Breakthrough Bleeding
You are ideally not supposed to have a period once you conceive but if your hormones are still adjusting in place, you might have a period like bleeding for around 3 months till the placenta takes over the role of hormone production from the ovaries. You will feel all the usual symptoms of a period like a dull aching pain in the lower abdomen, backache, cramping, a heavy feeling in the pelvis etc. breakthrough bleeding is mostly common in Weeks 4, 8 and 12 and if you have had unprotected sex or are planning a pregnancy, a urine test will help you to find out the real reason.
3. An Actual Miscarriage
One third of pregnancies around the world have been seen to end in miscarriages. While this might sound disturbing to you, there is no need to panic if you are spotting. A lot of miscarriages happen even before the woman has tested positive for pregnancy and in most cases the body rejects a fetus that is not viable enough to last for 40 weeks.
If you notice that you are bleeding at around 4 weeks, do consider speaking to your doctor about it. if the bleeding is excessive and you are in a lot of pain, there is a possibility of an actual miscarriage and it makes sense to rush to the hospital right away.
What Should You Be Eating And What Should You Avoid?
Prenatal nutrition is often overemphasized, in the way that a pregnant woman is asked to stay away from harmless fruits and veggies and irresistible seafood without even explaining the logic behind it. While there are food varieties that could potentially put your body as well as your baby at risk, knowing your food choices is the only way out of unsolicited advice!
Load Up On Essential Nutrients
The importance of folate3 in the early weeks of pregnancy can never be emphasized enough. Even before you conceive, there is a good amount of folate that your body requires to prevent neural tube defects like spina bifida. By week 4, you should be consuming more of leafy greens beans, legumes and whole grains but your body will only partially absorb folate from food. Always remember to inform your doctor if you have missed out on your folic acid supplements.
You will need a decent dose of iron by week 4 when your baby is rapidly developing and is depleting your iron stores. In order to avoid the common symptoms of the first 4-6 weeks like dizziness and light-headedness, try and consume more nuts, fish, meat and leafy vegetables and always combine plant-based iron sources with Vitamin C for maximum absorption.
Your fiber requirements double or triple by the time you are pregnant, primarily because pregnancy hormones tend to constipate and you end up with hemorrhoids, if not taken care of. Constipation is a common complaint in the first trimester and you would do best by incorporating fibrous food like fruits, veggies, oats etc.
Start Stocking Up On Essential Omega-3 Fatty Acids
With your baby’s spine and brain just beginning to form, it is time you stocked up on food rich in Omega-3 fatty acids so that it can enhance the brain and neurological development of your baby. The consequences of such a diet are seen in enhanced vision, memory and language formation as the child grows up. It is recommended to look for fatty fish rich in Omega-3 but low in mercury that can effectively provide your body with nutritional benefits. Fortified eggs, walnuts and flaxseeds are also good sources.
It is advised that pregnant women should not skip meals because that might lead to your blood sugar crashing down and you will end up feeling dizzy. Grazing or snacking frequently on healthy, nutrient-dense food is the ideal way to go.
Ensure That Your Food Is Safe
Raw meat, eggs, fish or seafood should never be consumed in pregnancy because there might be traces of E. coli, Salmonella2 and Listeria that could wreak havoc on your body as well as your baby. Unpasteurized milk and cheese should also be avoided. Always check for the label of ingredients before trying new food varieties.
Drink Water And Keep Constipation At Bay
We all know how painful constipation can get, especially when you are still in the first 4-6 weeks and are petrified of applying more pressure while excreting. Drinking to thirst and keeping yourself hydrated will prevent constipation and hemorrhoids. As long as your urine is clear to light yellow, you are good to go.
Your Partner During The 4th Week Of Your Pregnancy
If the pregnancy is planned, there is every possibility that your partner will look forward to news from the home pregnancy test as much as you are. While it is easy to get carried away in excitement of it all, he might also find it quite challenging to put up with your mood swings and irritability. Even before 4 weeks, your pregnancy hormones can make you start throwing up and feeling irritated with every trifle. Communicate with him as much as possible and let him know what you are feeling at the moment so that he can also clear up misunderstandings with you.
If the pregnancy was not really planned, there is a chance that your partner might freak out. Before judging him for being irresponsible, try and see his point of view. Discuss the possibilities of this pregnancy. If he is not up for the talk, give him some time and space to experience the pregnancy in his own way. Your partner might be worried about finances, about how this pregnancy will change your lives, about health insurance and how your sexual lives could go for a toss. Not all men are equipped to feel confident about parenthood. This is the time to bond with him more than you have ever done. Taking him along for prenatal visits or letting him make the decisions regarding the nursery, the clothes etc can help him feel a part of this journey because you can’t deny that not feeling something physically yet being a quintessential part of parenthood is not a very simple thing to do.
How Should You Care For Yourself?
As crazy as it sounds, 4 weeks is just the right time to start a pregnancy exercise regime. If you were already exercising before conception, you can continue to do almost all your usual exercises after a brief consultation with your practitioner.
Exercising in pregnancy will not only help keep you fit through the exhaustion of it all, but will also provide you with the endurance you will require for labor and child birth. It is never too early to start walking for 15-20 minutes every day. Swimming is another fantastic activity that involves working out of all the muscles and also relaxes you in a good way. If you are obese to begin with, your doctor will probably give you a diet chart and an exercise regime to follow.
You will also manage to put on a healthy amount of weight if you follow some sort of a routine. Moreover, after delivery it will be easier to shed the extra pounds and go back to your pre-pregnancy shape and weight faster than you had thought.
Yoga is yet another incredible way to keep yourself fit all through your pregnancy. Yoga is not only meant to keep your body in shape but is also known to do wonders to the pregnancy itself. It helps uplift your mood and refreshes you instantly. You can also keep backaches, leg cramps, and swollen feet away in future if you begin to practice yoga early in pregnancy.
Whatever you choose to do, always remember to speak to your doctor or midwife about it beforehand. If you have a high-risk pregnancy or have a history of miscarriages, you might be advised to avoid any strenuous activity till the pregnancy is viable enough to continue.
Your 4 Week Pregnancy Tips:
This is to remind you of the essentials that you need to take care of as you embark on an adventurous journey called parenthood!
- Never forget your prenatal pills! Set reminders or alarms if required.
- Wear a sports bra if your breasts are too sore.
- Drink to thirst and eat small, frequent meals.
- Look for an OBGYN and fix your first appointment.
- Eat well and sleep well.
- Do not ignore bleeding or spotting and report to your doctor if it gets worse.