8 Weeks Pregnant—Your First Prenatal Visit
At eight weeks pregnant, you’re about to finish up your second month of pregnancy. You’ll likely hear a heartbeat and confirm your due date during your first prenatal visit. Meanwhile, your baby continues his growth spurt. Now about the size of a raspberry, he has nearly quadrupled in size in the last two weeks.
How big is my baby?
Baby’s Length: 0.63 inches.
Baby’s Weight: 0.04 ounces.
How is my baby developing?
Besides a stronger heartbeat—which can typically be detected via vaginal ultrasound—fingers start to develop and leg buds begin to show feet, though your baby’s hands and feet are still slightly webbed. On the ultrasound, you’ll see him moving these little hands and feet. He can now move around in your womb though you won’t feel this movement for quite a while. By the end of this week, all of your baby’s essential organs and body systems have begun to develop.
During this time, your baby’s face will also further develop, starting to show ears, the tip of the nose, and eyes with very thin eyelid folds. Even your baby’s retinas, which will reveal her eye color, have started to form. The trunk of her body is starting to straighten out of the curved c-shape of the first several weeks of development. Your baby is growing about one millimeter every day.
On an ultrasound, you may notice how big your baby’s head is. This is completely normal. Right now, his brain is divided into three parts—the forebrain, the midbrain, and the hindbrain—and all that growing takes up a lot of room. His proportions will start to balance out in no time.
What’s happening in my body?
Even if you didn’t have a keen sense of smell before pregnancy, now you might be able to smell your neighbor cooking lasagna three doors down or the scent of garbage from halfway down the block. Many women become very sensitive to scents around this time. Foods and smells you used to love may cause waves of queasiness. Though the exact cause of this heightened sense of smell is unknown, many researchers attribute it to heightened levels of estrogen.
In a study comparing 36 pregnant women with 36 nonpregnant women, researchers found that pregnant women had better absolute odor sensitivity, meaning they could detect smells at a weaker concentration than the nonpregnant women. The pregnant women were also more likely to perceive odors as unpleasant. The researchers noted that the changes existed in olfactory functions at a perceptual level—not only in cognitive evaluations or interpretations of the odors.
Your uterus is continuing to expand, and ligaments are stretching, which can cause cramping and mild, minor pain. Of course, if the pain is severe or worrisome, you should contact your doctor right away. You may also experience some spotting. Light spotting is normal and nothing to worry about, but contact your doctor if you experience heavier bleeding.
You’re probably feeling exhausted as your baby continues to grow and your body adjusts to changes in your hormones, especially progesterone. Progesterone is also responsible for relaxing the muscles in your bowels, causing slower digestion and constipation. This may be unpleasant, but it allows you and your baby to absorb more nutrients. Drink plenty of water, go for lots of walks, and keep reaching for fiber-rich fruits and vegetables to keep things moving.
You’re also pumping 50% more blood per minute for your baby; your blood volume increases to accommodate this. Don’t be surprised if you’re making more trips to the bathroom. Headaches are another potential side-effect of this increase in blood volume. As with any other medical issue during your pregnancy, be sure to talk to your doctor about pregnancy-safe treatments before reaching automatically for the medication you’ve used in the past.
Even though you’re now, as they say, eating for two, it’s more important than ever to focus on a healthy eating plan. As tempting as it is to reach for whatever your body is craving, you only need about 300 extra calories per day to keep your baby nourished. At this point in your pregnancy, you should be gaining about a pound or two per week. If you’ve had a tough time with morning sickness, it’s even normal to have gained nothing at all.
Eat a varied, healthy diet
Researchers have discovered another good reason to reach for varied, healthy foods while pregnant: a mother’s dietary choices during pregnancy appear to affect the sensory development of her child. According to this research, a mother’s diet sensitizes her fetus to the smells and flavors of the food she eats while pregnant. This physically changes the structure of the brain, teaching the child that the food and drink the mother consumes is safe—even if it isn’t.
Prenatal visit (finally!)
Since you’re likely seeing a doctor for your first prenatal appointment, this means you’re going to see your baby and hear his tiny heartbeat for the first time. Aside from a vaginal ultrasound to measure the fetus, listen to the heartbeat, and determine your estimated due date, you’ll have blood drawn to check your hCG hormone levels and to determine your blood type and Rh-factor. During your exam, your doctor will probably perform a pap smear to screen for STDs, unless you’ve had one recently.
Urine tests will now become the norm; doctors will check your protein levels to monitor for preeclampsia and glucose levels to screen for gestational diabetes. Your doctor should also present you with information on genetic testing. While prenatal testing is not mandatory, the results can provide valuable information.
Take care of yourself
As tempting as it is to let thoughts of your baby consume all your time and energy, it’s important to take time for yourself. Pamper yourself a bit; you’re growing a new person—you deserve to rest and relax, too. Higher stress levels during pregnancy can affect your baby through the amniotic fluid, potentially leading to mood disorders in female offspring, issues with brain connectivity development, and a higher risk of asthma.
What else should I do?
Schedule your 12-week doctor’s appointment.
Discuss genetic testing with your doctor and your partner to determine if it makes sense for you.
Drink lots of water and eat a healthy diet rich in fiber to stave off constipation.
Talk to your doctor before making any radical changes to your diet and exercise. While it’s safe to work out while pregnant, don’t jump into anything new or strenuous without discussing things with your doctor.
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