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A Guide To Pregnancy At Eight Weeks

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A Guide To Pregnancy At Eight Weeks

By week 8 of pregnancy, the first semblance of the human body begins to develop and the embryo becomes a fetus. Organ systems such as the lungs, and features such as the eyes and ears are beginning to form now and the growing fetus looks more like a baby, even though it is only about half an inch long. The phase of morning sickness will come to an end in a few weeks, so that is something to look forward to. If you notice any abnormal bleeding or extreme fatigue, don't wait to report these to your doctor.

Two months into being pregnant! At week 8, you’re two-thirds through your first trimester and are probably waiting for all the nausea and sickness to end. Although you may not be feeling it yet, better times lie ahead. For most women, symptoms such as nausea, morning sickness (which doesn’t always strike in the morning alone), and a strong aversion to certain foods ends by week 14. Hang in there, mama!

What Happens During The Early Weeks Of Pregnancy

The first 4 weeks of pregnancy usually go by without too many telltale signs other than a missed period. After all, it’s only been about 2 weeks since conception. Some women do have a little bleeding during this time. Bleeding usually happens when the embryo attaches to the wall of the womb. It’s important to keep your doctor informed about any bleeding, especially if it’s accompanied by stomach pain.

At around 8 weeks of pregnancy, your womb has grown to the size of a lemon (or a raspberry, if you like). Your breasts probably feel enlarged and sore. You might also be making frequent trips to the bathroom. You’re likely to feel tired and have some minor physical discomfort around this time.1

Week 8: How Much Has Your Baby Grown?

It’s A Fetus Now: Your baby is no longer an embryo but, rather, a “fetus” now. Your baby now has a form and shape, and a detectable heartbeat. What’s more, by the end of this week, all of the baby’s organ systems would have begun to develop, including the eyes.2

The Placenta Develops: The placenta that will nourish the baby through the rest of the pregnancy is slowly developing as well. It forms chorionic villi, tiny finger-shaped structures that attach to the wall of the uterus to derive nourishment. Until your placenta is fully developed, your baby will draw nourishment from what is known as the yolk sac.3

Leg Cartilage Forms: Another distinct feature of this week is that the legs of the fetus begin to lengthen and form cartilage. Until this point, limbs have been no more than webbed structures, but they begin to be more defined now. In human bone development, we first develop a firm tissue called the cartilage, which later transforms into the harder, less flexible bones. This may be an evolutionary benefit – the more flexible cartilage is easier to deliver through the birth canal. The parts of the leg will take a little longer to develop so there is no distinct thigh, knee, ankle, or toes yet.4

Organs Grow And Develop: The baby’s nervous system starts developing from around week 5 and the foundation for its major organs is set. The brain, and consequently the head, has been growing rapidly so the fetus has a large forehead by week 7. The heart starts growing from week 5 too, including some blood vessels. The umbilical cord’s future development begins at this stage. Around the beginning of week 8, the baby’s inner ears have started developing. The arms are like paddles now, and the hands are yet to develop.5

The Dating Scan

Between week 8 and week 14, most expecting parents go for an ultrasound scan upon their doctor’s recommendation. The first fetal heartbeat is heard during this scan and is a moment to cherish. The fetal heart, much like a moving train, chugs along at 120 to 160 beats a minute, nearly twice the heart rate of an adult.6

A low heart rate or the absence of a heartbeat may be a cause of concern. But if the doctor doesn’t hear a heartbeat at this stage, don’t panic yet. Sometimes, conception would have happened later than anticipated, and this can cause you to be behind a few weeks. You will be asked to get a repeat ultrasound in a week or so.7

This first scan is also called the “dating” scan. The head to bottom length of the baby, generally referred to as the crown to rump length (CRL), is measured. This gives a pretty accurate gestational age of the baby. The due date of your baby is also estimated based on this scan. Other reasons for this scan could be to rule out an ectopic pregnancy or any other problem such as Down’s syndrome.8

Signs And Symptoms To Watch Out For At Week 8

1. Morning Sickness

Feeling nauseous and throwing up are quite common during early pregnancy. It may strike some women at any time while others suffer through these symptoms all through the day or night, making “morning sickness” a rather misleading term. Although very unpleasant, neither symptoms affect your baby’s development. In most women, morning sickness disappears by week 14 though it may last a little longer in others.9

In some women, however, a very serious form of morning sickness called hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) can develop. It is now widely known as the condition Kate Middleton, the Duchess Of Cornwall, had during her pregnancies. In this condition, you experience such severe vomiting that it makes you lose nutrients rapidly. Women with this condition often find it very hard to keep food down at all. Loss of nutrients, dehydration, weight loss, and low blood pressure when standing are symptoms of HG. This is a condition that does not ease with time and medical intervention is required. If treated correctly, HG does not have any adverse effects on your baby. The excessive weight loss may cause your baby to have a low birth weight.10

2. Fatigue

In the first three months of pregnancy, it is normal to feel tired and drained due to hormonal fluctuations. Fatigue can also be a result of anemia. It is important to remember that low iron levels can cause complications during childbirth. Your doctor may advise you to start an iron supplement later in your pregnancy.11

3. Spotting

While some spotting is common in several pregnancies, always remember to discuss spotting with your doctor. It may not be anything serious, but it is better to put all doubts to rest. Anything more than mild spotting may require immediate medical attention.12

4. Headaches

If headaches are bothering you, this should improve as your pregnancy progresses. Like most pregnancy-related problems, headaches also occur because of hormonal changes in your body. Headaches usually improve with rise in estrogen levels and since estrogen increases as pregnancy progresses, headaches predictably improve.13 Headaches usually stop completely after the first 12 weeks. Although uncomfortable for you, most headaches do not affect the baby. Adequate rest and relaxation are usually enough to settle most headaches.

However, if your headaches are frequent and really severe, it’s time to check with your doctor. It could be a sign of high blood pressure, which in turn could indicate a serious condition called pre-eclampsia. Prominent signs of pre-eclampsia are high blood pressure, fluid retention, and protein in the urine. This condition needs to be treated to prevent complications during pregnancy or delivery.14

5. Backache And Other Niggling Problems

While backache during later pregnancy is quite common given your increasing weight, it can happen in the early weeks too. Your body is already getting itself ready for delivery, so some of your ligaments and joints are loosening. This puts quite a bit of strain on your lower back and pelvis, leading to backaches.15

During early pregnancy, constipation due to hormonal changes and the need to urinate very frequently are common problems.16

In 50 percent to 70 percent of pregnant women, hormonal imbalances can cause the pigmentary disorder chloasma or melasma. These are the dark spots you suddenly spot on your skin and face. An effective sunscreen is usually enough to control this problem.17

Tackling Week 8 The Natural Way

Perhaps the greatest concern you have at this point is how to make the morning sickness go away. Remember that it is all part of the process, and the only true solution to this type of nausea is the restoration of hormonal balance. There are some natural remedies that you can use to deal with the less severe forms of morning sickness. Try these:

RestPamper yourself with lots of rest. A known solution to nausea is rest.18

Have Small And Bland Meals: Eat small, frequent meals. If you have a heightened sense of smell and strong aversions to certain foods, it may be a good idea to avoid hot and spicy meals. It is often the aromas given off by hot foods that trigger nausea. Foods such as dry toast and crackers are sometimes easier to tolerate first thing in the morning.19

Avoid Oversweet Or Tart Drinks: Avoid drinks that are too cold or too sweet or too tart. Both sweet and tart drinks can worsen existing nausea.20

Try Ginger: Ginger is a powerful herb to help alleviate nausea, and no side effects have been observed across several studies.21 Ginger can be consumed in many ways. You could cook with fresh ginger, drink ginger ale or ginger tea, or nibble on ginger candies. Limit your intake to a maximum of 2 cups of ginger tea per day.22

Use Shatavari: Considered a powerful herb in Ayurveda, shatavari or Asparagus racemosus is considered to be a tonic for the reproductive system. It helps to protect and nourish the growing fetus and also increases the mother’s breast milk. Its inherent properties enables shatavari to settle the stomach and improve morning sickness. You can find it in the form of powder, capsules, or a liquid extract. You can also drink a milk-based drink with shatavari and other mild spices such as cardamom and ginger mixed in. An ayurvedic practitioner will be able to guide you through this.23

Try Acupressure: After completing the 8th week, the use of acupressure therapy can help with nausea. In a study, nearly 71% of the 97 participants reported feeling much better after regular acupressure therapy. It might be a good idea to get an acupressure wristband before trying any medication to help with nausea and vomiting. But be sure to consult your doctor first and get their go-ahead.24

Exercise: Mild exercise during the first trimester can set you up for a healthy pregnancy, both physically and mentally. Beginning a mild exercise routine or continuing your pre-pregnancy exercise routine is sure to help you control weight gain and stay fit. Fitness during pregnancy ensures an easier delivery too. Work in tandem with your doctor and trainer to arrive at a moderate routine.25

Studies show that practicing yoga or tai chi can help reduce sleep disturbances, anxiety, and stress. If started in early pregnancy, yoga is a known antidote to stress and pain as pregnancy progresses.26 Get a go-ahead from your OB/GYN first and consult a trained yoga instructor who can create a schedule for you.

References   [ + ]

1, 3, 4, 12. 4-8 Weeks. NHS Inform.
2. Prenatal Development: How Your Baby Grows During Pregnancy. The American Congress Of Obstetricians And Gynecologists.
5. You and your baby at 0-8 weeks pregnant. NHS Choices.
6. Fetal heart rate. Radiopaedia.org.
7. Laboda, L. A., J. A. Estroff, and B. R. Benacerraf. “First trimester bradycardia. A sign of impending fetal loss.” Journal of ultrasound in medicine 8, no. 10 (1989): 561-563.
8. Ultrasound scans in pregnancy. NHS Choices.
9. Morning Sickness. NHS Inform.
10. Hyperemesis gravidarum. NHS Inform.
11. Stoltzfus, Rebecca J., and Michele L. Dreyfuss. Guidelines for the use of iron supplements to prevent and treat iron deficiency anemia. Vol. 2. Washington^ eDC DC: Ilsi Press, 1998.
13. Marcus, Dawn A., Lisa Scharff, and Dennis Turk. “Longitudinal prospective study of headache during pregnancy and postpartum.” Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain 39, no. 9 (1999): 625-632.
14. Headaches. NHS Inform.
15. Backache. NHS Inform.
16. More common problems. NHS Inform.
17. Lakhdar, H., K. Zouhair, K. Khadir, A. Essari, A. Richard, S. Seité, and A. Rougier. “Evaluation of the effectiveness of a broad‐spectrum sunscreen in the prevention of chloasma in pregnant women.” Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology 21, no. 6 (2007): 738-742.
18, 19, 20. Morning sickness. NHS Inform.
21. Fischer-Rasmussen, Wiggo, Susanne K. Kjær, Claus Dahl, and Ulla Asping. “Ginger treatment of hyperemesis gravidarum.” European Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive Biology 38, no. 1 (1991): 19-24.
22, 23. Bachman, Margo Shapiro. “Yoga Mama, Yoga Baby: Ayurveda and Yoga for a Healthy Pregnancy and Birth”. Sounds True, 2013.
24. Norheim, Arne Johan, Erik Jesman Pedersen, Vinjar Fønnebø, and Lillian Berge. “Acupressure treatment of morning sickness in pregnancy. A randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study.” Scandinavian journal of primary health care 19, no. 1 (2001): 43-47.
25. Brown, Wendy. “The benefits of physical activity during pregnancy.” Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport 5, no. 1 (2002): 37-45.
26. Field, Tiffany, Miguel Diego, Jeannette Delgado, and Lissette Medina. “Tai chi/yoga reduces prenatal depression, anxiety and sleep disturbances.” Complementary therapies in clinical practice 19, no. 1 (2013): 6-10.