You're bloating, cramping and riding an emotional roller coaster that has you crying one minute at the sight of a new puppy and being irritated by the way your partner cooks spaghetti the next. You're expecting your period to arrive any time now. But it hasn't.
Could you be pregnant? Four weeks is the right time to find out by taking a home pregnancy test. Home pregnancy tests are a simple, fast and accurate way to confirm your suspicions. The tests can diagnose 90 percent of pregnancies on the first day of a missed period by measuring the amount of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG, the pregnancy hormone) in your urine. Even if the test comes back negative, it doesn't necessarily mean that you aren't pregnant. It might just mean that there isn't enough hCG in your urine yet. Levels of hCG double every few days, so you'll want to take the test again to be sure.
This may be a surprise to you -- or not. Some women recognize early pregnancy symptoms as being just that. Others swear they knew they were pregnant the moment they conceived. Still others might not truly believe they are pregnant, even when presented with the facts.
At week four, you're at the beginning of what is known as the embryonic period and you're already a third of the way through your first trimester. What should you expect and how should you adjust to this life-changing news? Keep reading to find out.
What You Might Be Feeling
At week four, you'll notice that your breasts feel full, tingly and tender. It's one of the first signs of pregnancy and just nature's way of preparing your breasts to produce milk for your baby.
A trip to your favorite Mexican restaurant might also include a trip to bathroom, as that nauseated feeling might overcome you. Progesterone, estrogen and hCG hormones are to blame for your "morning sickness," which can actually happen at any time of day. Eating smaller meals and drinking plenty of fluids can help.
The desire to sleep might be overwhelming. After all, your body is working a lot harder, using more energy to prepare for the baby. If you can, go ahead and succumb to that desire to take a nap. A brisk walk might also help wake you up.
Hormones are also causing an increased blood flow to your kidneys, helping them to more efficiently rid the body of waste. Efficiency is good, unless you're a long way from the nearest restroom. Try to plan ahead, if you can.
Along with racing hormones will come racing emotions. At different times you might be feeling excited, anxious, happy and scared. Or, you might feel all of these emotions at the same time. Worry could also take over as you question your ability to be a mother, have concerns about the baby's health or think about the financial demands of raising a child. A talk with your partner or a close friend might help alleviate your anxiety.
What's Going On In Your Body
Week four features increasing hormones and a wide range of related side effects from moodiness and fatigue to breast soreness and nausea. At this time, progesterone is slowing down your digestion to allow more nutrients to enter the bloodstream. You might start noticing complexion problems and a little dizziness when you get up quickly due to normal circulatory changes.
There are also changes going on in your body that aren't quite as visible. Your baby now is about the size of a poppy seed and too small to even see on an ultrasound. The ball of cells that will develop into your baby has completed its journey from the fallopian tube to your uterus. It will divide into two separate bodies, with one becoming your baby and the other the placenta, your baby's lifeline until delivery. Your body is starting to produce the human chorionic gonadotropin hormone, or hCG. This hormone helps maintain the uterus lining and causes your ovaries to stop releasing eggs and your periods to cease.
You're now at the beginning of the embryonic period. The embryo is beginning to develop into three layers. The endoderm (inner layer) develops into the digestive system, liver and lungs. The mesoderm (middle layer) forms the heart, sex organs, bones, kidneys and muscles. And the ectoderm (outer layer) forms the nervous system, hair, skin and eyes. Yes, all that in something you can hardly see! This is a critical time for baby and any exposure to harmful substances such as alcohol, tobacco, lead, mercury or pesticides could have adverse effects.
What Your Partner Should Know
Whether you left a Father's Day card on his pillow or just blurted it out over breakfast, it was important that your husband or partner be the first to know. Now he needs to be aware of a few other things.
Although accurate data doesn't exist, some researchers estimate that 11 to 65 percent of expectant fathers experience Couvade syndrome, a father's sharing of his partner's pregnancy symptoms, including weight gain, nausea and fluctuating emotions. If your guy isn't one of these, he still needs to be aware of the changes you're going through.
Your partner needs to understand that your irritability doesn't mean you hate him. Explain to him that your mood swings are due to raging hormones and not a sign that you're going crazy! Tell your partner that you really would like to stay up to watch the football game, but you're just too tired. You need as much as 10 or 11 hours of sleep each night to feel refreshed.
You might be less interested in sex, or maybe more so. Either way, your announcement could put a damper on the excitement in the bedroom. Your partner might be concerned that sex could harm the baby. It won't and you should reassure him that it's OK.
He might also worry about your health, upcoming expenses or how he will act as a father. Encourage him to discuss his feelings openly and honestly. Your partner should know that you need his support, understanding and encouragement. He especially needs to know you love him.
Some Things to Consider
When's the best time to spread the news to others? With about 10 percent of pregnancies ending in miscarriage within the first 12 weeks, many couples wait until then to share their joy. If you can't keep a secret, confide in a close friend. Or, just let it out. It's really up to you.
Week four is the time to make that first doctor's appointment. If you don't have an obstetrician, ask others for referrals. Determine if you want a doctor in a group or solo practice, and if you prefer a man or woman. Schedule an appointment just to get to know the doctor and ask questions. Will he give you the time you need? Does she share your beliefs regarding medications during delivery? How does he feel about cesarean sections?
You should drink plenty of fluids during pregnancy, but stay off the alcohol. That goes for tobacco and potentially harmful medications as well. You might want to consider taking a vitamin, as pregnant women need more of almost every vitamin and mineral than other women do. And, if you exercised regularly before pregnancy, it's usually safe to continue. If you didn't, be careful not to overdo it.
You'll hear a lot of conflicting information regarding what foods to eat, the activities to avoid and even whether or not to color your hair. It's best to rely on your doctor's advice for what is right for you and to lessen concerns. However, there are some things you shouldn't worry about and we'll talk about them on the next page.
Don't Worry If...
If you've been taking birth control pills during your early pregnancy, it isn't a great cause for concern. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, it doesn't increase the risk of birth defects. However, a 2009 study does suggest an association between the use of birth control pills at the time of conception and low birth weight or premature delivery. So, it's best stop using the pill if you think you're pregnant. The same goes for a contraceptive patch and contraceptive implants.
Light spotting sometimes occurs around week four when the egg settles into your uterus. This is called implantation. As long as abdominal cramping and pain don't accompany the spotting, it probably isn't a cause for concern, but check with your doctor to be sure. On the flip side, don't worry if you don't have bleeding, as only a small percentage of women experience it.
You might end up having all or just some of the many symptoms that go along with early pregnancy. It's all a normal part of becoming a mom. But don't worry if you just feel wonderful. That's normal too.
- Guide to Being One Week Pregnant
- Guide to Being Two Weeks Pregnant
- Guide to Being Three Weeks Pregnant
- Guide to Being Five Weeks Pregnant
- Guide to Being Six Weeks Pregnant
- Guide to Being Seven Weeks Pregnant
- Guide to Being Eight Weeks Pregnant
- Guide to Being Nine Weeks Pregnant
- Guide to Being 10 Weeks Pregnant
- Guide to Being 11 Weeks Pregnant
- Guide to Being 12 Weeks Pregnant
- Guide to Being 13 Weeks Pregnant
- Guide to Being 14 Weeks Pregnant
- Guide to Being 15 Weeks Pregnant
- Guide to Being 16 Weeks Pregnant
- Guide to Being 17 Weeks Pregnant
- Guide to Being 18 Weeks Pregnant
- Guide to Being 19 Weeks Pregnant
- Blott, Maggie "Pregnancy Day by Day." DK Publishing. 2009
- Harms, Roger W. "Birth control pills: Harmful in early pregnancy?" MayoClinic.com August 6, 2009 (February 16, 2011)http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/birth-control-pills/AN01662
- Iovine, Vicki. "The Girlfriends Guide to Pregnancy." Pocket Books. January 2007
- Konopicky, Kate. "100 Things I Hate About Pregnancy." Sourcebooks.Inc. 2006
- Mayo Clinic staff. "First trimester pregnancy: What to expect." MayoClinic.com June 20, 2009 (February 16, 2011)http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/pregnancy/PR00004
- Murkoff, Heidi. "Week 4 of Pregnancy." What to Expect. (February 16, 2011)http://www.whattoexpect.com/pregnancy/4-weeks-pregnant.aspx
- Murkoff, Heidi. "Early Symptoms of Pregnancy." What to Expect. (February 22, 2011)http://www.whattoexpect.com/pregnancy/pregnancy-health/early-symptoms-of-pregnancy.aspx
- Nemours. "Your Baby's Development: Week 4" (February 28, 2011)http://kidshealth.org/parent/pregnancy_center/pregnancy_calendar/week4.html
- Nilsson. Lennart; Hamberger, Lars. "A Child Is Born." Delacorte Press. September 2003
- Riley, Dr. Laura. "Getting Proof of Pregnancy." Parents.com (February 16, 2011)http://www.parents.com/pregnancy/week-by-week/1-4/getting-proof-of-pregnancy/
- Riley, Dr. Laura. "Sex During Pregnancy." Parents.com (February 16, 2011)http://www.parents.com/pregnancy/week-by-week/1-4/sex-during-pregnancy/
- Riley, Dr. Laura. "The Fatigue Factor." Parents.com (February 16, 2011)http://www.parents.com/pregnancy/week-by-week/1-4/the-fatigue-factor/
- Riley, Dr. Laura. "The Inside Story: Your Baby in Weeks 1 Through 4." Parents.com (February 16, 2011)http://www.parents.com/parents/printableStory.jsp?storyid=/templatedata/parents/story/data/1255363036175.xml&catref=prt1734
- Riley, Dr. Laura. "Your Hormones." Parents.com (February 16, 2011)http://www.parents.com/pregnancy/week-by-week/1-4/hormones/
- Riley, Dr. Laura. "Your Partner: How Men React to Pregnancy." Parents.com (February 16, 2011)http://www.parents.com/pregnancy/week-by-week/1-4/how-men-react-to-pregnancy/
- Similac StrongMoms™ "Wellness and Nutrition at 4 Weeks Pregnant." (February 16, 2011)http://similac.com/pregnancy/4-weeks-pregnant-nutrition-wellness
- Similac StrongMoms™ "Your Changing Body at 4 Weeks Pregnant." (February 16, 2011)http://similac.com/pregnancy/4-weeks-pregnant-your-changing-body
- Women's Healthcare Topics. "Pregnancy Week 4." (February 22, 2011)http://www.womenshealthcaretopics.com/pregnancy_week_4.htm