Welcome to Week 7! Your baby is now about 1 cm long, or the size of a grape.
Your baby is still tiny and has a lot of growing to do but has already grown an amazing 10000 times larger than he was at conception and continues to grow at a rapid rate. Technically he is still considered an embryo because he still has a tail, but that will disappear in the next few weeks. This week sees a period of quick growth, where he will double in size. He has a large head: much larger than his body. In that head, new brain cells are being developed at a rate of 100 a minute, his brain is developing into hemispheres, getting ready to be filled with amazing knowledge. Facial features are becoming more defined as eyelids start to form, the tip of his nose begins to show and mouth, ears take shape. His skin is paper thin and veins are clearly visible: if you were able to see him he would look pretty odd, and it will be a while before you will be able to see what he looks like.
Kidneys, respiratory system and digestive tracts are forming, and he will soon beginning to produce urine. The heart, spinal cord and some large blood vessels are forming: once these are ready they will begin to pump blood around his body, and create his first red blood cells in the liver, then later in the bone marrow. He now has a pancreas and appendix too. The umbilical cord has formed and begins to provide nourishment and oxygen, as well as removing waste products.
Your baby’s arms and legs now divide into hand/arm/shoulder and foot/knee/leg segments. What will become the hands look like bats and the legs look a little like fins. Although you can’t feel anything yet, he is moving around all the time – swimming and kicking in the amniotic sac, and getting stronger all the time.
You will not have changed much on the outside, despite the major changes going on on the inside: people won’t be able to tell you’re pregnant and you may not even feel very pregnant yourself. If you’re having pregnancy symptoms such as morning sickness, you will at least know something is going on, but for a lot of women the whole thing doesn’t really feel real until their first ultrasound scan at 12 weeks. If you’re feeling bad, there is (usually) an end in sight as morning sickness tends to ease off for most women in the second trimester. For some morning sickness can be extreme, resulting in a condition called Hyperemesis Gravidarum.
You may be surprised at how early your breasts begin to change in preparation for breastfeeding. Whether or not you plan on doing it yourself, your breasts intend you to and may already be swelling as much as an extra cup size, as well as being tender achy and tingly due to increased oestrogen and progesterone. You may notice your nipples and areola change too – they may appear darker or a different colour and might not be a welcome change, though when you think about the amazing changes your body is going through so that you can feed your newborn, it’s not so bad.
The mucus plug is developing in the opening of the cervical canal and sealing off the uterus to protect it from infection. This will stay in place until you are about to go into labour: you will lose it when your cervix dilates.
Weight-wise you may have gained or lost a few pounds, or it might be the same. It varies from person to person: some find that their appetite is increased, others can’t stomach much at all; some find the changes in lifestyle that come with being pregnant, such as giving up alcohol mean they lose a few pounds at first. Whatever is going on, you will need to come to terms with the fact that you are going to gain weight, and try to embrace your lovely new baby belly. For an woman with an average BMI, the recommended weight gain is 25-35lbs (11-16kg), for those who start off underweight it’s more and for those who are overweight, it’s less. Try not to worry too much about it though: while you should not be ‘eating for two’ and overdoing it, as long as you’re eating healthily, exercising regularly and gaining weight at a steady rate, you’re doing fine.
Your uterus, which was the size of a clenched fist prior to pregnancy, is now the size of a grapefruit!
Another common side effect of pregnancy is strange and vivid dreams: this is usually a combination of hormones and pregnancy worries and can often involve your baby and not knowing how to care for it. Most women experience them so do share them with others if they are worrying you: emotional ups and downs are part and parcel of pregnancy. If you are really concerned you can always call your midwife as she is there for support as well as the practical side of pregnancy. You might also have a beautiful combination of exhaustion and insomnia so try to rest when you can, and if you feel like you need to grab a nap in the afternoon and are able to do so, don’t question it, just follow your body’s cues.
If you have a cat, make sure you take over litter tray duty: cat faeces can contain a parasite that causes toxoplasmosis which can cross over the placenta and be very damaging for your baby, and can cause miscarriage and stillbirth. The risk of toxoplasmosis is at its lowest in early pregnancy, rising from 6% to 26% between 7 and 15 weeks, and highest in later pregnancy, when it rises to 32% to 93% from 29 to 34 weeks, though babies infected later on are not as likely to develop serious health problems.