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Week #4 of Pregnancy

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Your Pregnancy: Week 4

By Erin Horner, edHelperBaby

Your Baby
           This week your little one is transforming into an embryo.  The plain and simple ball of cells known as a blastocyst is now developing three distinct layers of tissue.  Your sweet one's outer layer, known as the ectoderm, will become her skin, hair, tooth enamel, nervous system and the lenses of her eyes.  The middle layer, or mesoderm, will develop into her heart, blood vessels, kidneys, muscles, and skeleton.  The innermost layer, the endoderm, will eventually transform into your baby's digestive system, pancreas, liver and lungs.  From the moment of conception, your little one's DNA mapped out a master plan that mysteriously and miraculously helps each cell find its appointed spot to create the masterpiece that is your baby.  Let the journey begin!


Your Body
           You've missed your period, just taken a home pregnancy test and both lines turned blue.  Congratulations, you are pregnant!  If you typically have a twenty-eight day menstrual cycle, by this week you may now know that your life is about to radically change because you are expecting a baby!  If your monthly cycle is normally longer than twenty-eight days and a recent pregnancy test came back negative, you might still be pregnant.  It is very possible that you have conceived but that your current levels of HCG are simply too low to register on a home pregnancy test, even those that pride themselves on being able to detect a pregnancy early.  Try waiting one more week and then take a home pregnancy test again.

       Now that you know that you have a baby on board, you may be anxious to calculate your due date so that you know when you are going to have a baby in your arms.  Doctors initially calculate a woman's estimated delivery date (EDD) based on the date of her last menstrual cycle.  To do this yourself you can count forward 280 days from the first date of your last period. Another and perhaps easier way to figure your EDD is to find the first date of your last period, count back three months and then add 7 days.  If, for example, the first day of your last period was on June 9, your estimated delivery date would be March 16.  Remember, your estimated delivery date is just that, an estimate!  Now is not the time to order oodles of monogrammed goodies for your baby with her anticipated birthday embroidered on them.  If you did this, you would more than likely end up in the hospital with a beautiful newborn baby, wrapped up in a beautiful cuddly blanket that is beautifully personalized. . . with the wrong birth date.  On average, only 5% of women deliver on their actual due date so learn to view your EDD as a target, not the bulls-eye!


  You're Wondering. . .
            I was sick last week and had a high fever.  Could my fever have hurt my baby?

       There are some concerns that high body temperature early on in a pregnancy can harm a baby.  The medical community's concern is that a fever over 102 degrees Fahrenheit lasting for two or more days during weeks 3-7 of a pregnancy may have the potential to cause some neural tube defects, such as spina bifida.  These same concerns are the reasons why doctors instruct you to avoid hot tubs, saunas and steam rooms throughout your pregnancy.  While this increase in temperature may cause birth defects, it does not necessarily mean that it will.  Be sure to speak with your obstetrician if you have any lingering concerns about the health of your baby.

       If you become sick again and find yourself once again running a fever, be sure to call your medical provider and follow his or her instructions.  He or she may recommend a cool bath to bring down your fever or an over-the-counter fever reducer, such as acetaminophen.  Often more concerning than a fever, however, is its cause.  Different types of infections or viruses can be treated in many different ways to not only help you feel better, but keep your growing baby safe as well.  Your doctor may want to see you so that he or she can more fully assess your condition and provide the best treatment possible for you and your little one.


  Your "To-Do" List
           As you begin your pregnancy, I am sure that you are anticipating and looking forward to several changes that will occur within your family and within your body.  Within the next few weeks you will begin to notice many changes, most noticeably in the shape of your beautiful belly!  This week top your to-do-list with this: Take a picture of your tummy.  Then each month, on the date of your due date take another photograph of your growing and changing mid-section.  These photos will serve as a precious reminder of this wonderful stage of your life.  While you're at it, why not take a picture of your partner's belly too?  Who knows, his "sympathy symptoms" might just change his belly a bit over the next nine months as well!


Your Homework: Preparing For Parenthood
           When arriving at the airport ticket counter for a much anticipated trip, the ticketing agent always asks, "How many bags are you checking?"  Tucked deep within those bags are all of the goodies necessary for a week (or more, if you are lucky) of making memories.  You have a great dress, great shoes, great bathing suit, and all of your "make me look pretty" tools necessary for the many photo opportunities you hope to encounter along the way.

       Over the next few months you and your partner will embark on another type of trip, unlike any other journey you have ever experienced.  And you will most definitely take a bag or two with you on your journey.  Over the next nine months you will fill your suitcases with helpful hints that will assist you in successfully navigating your way through this pregnancy and on towards your final destination of the long awaited delivery room.  You will read pregnancy and parenting books and visit informative websites (like this one!).  You'll attend childbirth classes and numerous doctors' appointments where all sorts of information and ideas will make their way into your "luggage."  You will decorate and prepare a nursery and gather all of the necessary items to help welcome your baby home.  Might I also suggest, however, that tucked within your life-long suitcases are some unspoken parenthood expectations and experiences that might just need to be checked at the gate before your baby arrives.

       As you prepare yourself for the life-changing event that will soon occur, it is important that you not only physically prepare yourself for parenthood, but emotionally as well.  This week your homework assignment is to reflect on the emotional ties and relationships that you have with your parents and family members.  In other words, check your family "bags" (or baggage), before you start carrying a diaper bag.  In a recent research study, analysts found that pregnant women who reported having strong family ties and happy and healthy childhood relationships with their parents, were very optimistic about parenthood.  They were excited about motherhood and felt that becoming a mother would not only be a blast, but a breeze.  In comparison, those women who still carried a lot of emotional baggage from their childhood, were found to have low-self esteem, had negative thoughts about their growing baby and were nervous and fearful about their upcoming role as a mother.

       The good news about this research study, is that the pregnant women who had experienced painful childhoods and resolved those issues either with their parents or within themselves, reported feeling just as optimistic about their future role as a mommy as those women who's childhood memories were picture perfect.  While I hope that your life story is full of joyful childhood experiences, the fact of the matter is that several of us faced great adversity as children.  No matter what the past has held, the future for you and your child can be bright and promising, if you are able to take the time now to do the hard work necessary to resolve your issues and hurts from long ago.

       If you find yourself struggling with painful memories from your past, seek to heal those family rifts through counseling.  Past research studies have found that women who overcome difficult family circumstances and are able to heal old wounds are often more successful mothers than those women who had no hurts to heal.  Remember, it will be a lot easier to carry that diaper bag (plus the infant car seat and all of the other necessary baby goodies) in a few months if you are not trying to carry around a bunch of other "bags" from your past as well.


  My Experience
           I was blessed to be raised in a loving home by two parents who not only deeply loved my brother and me, but loved one another as well.  Growing up, I knew that I wanted to do everything in my power to recreate for my children, the family environment that my parents had given me.  I have several friends, however, who were not as fortunate as I was.  Their homes were marked with mental illness, alcoholism, abandonment, divorce and abuse.  It has been a privilege and an honor to watch these amazing women do the hard work necessary to check these painful memories from the past, and then leave them there, in order to become the amazing women and mothers that they are today.  It is not an easy task to take that which is familiar, unhealthy or not, and rise above it to create a completely different home environment for their own children.  I am awed by the way that they parent and inspired by the way they diligently work to insure that their children are raised with the type of experiences and magical memories that were unavailable to them during their formative years.


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