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The basic building blocks of your baby’s body are almost in place.

This week will mark the end of your baby’s embryonic stage. This means that the basic building blocks of his body are almost in place.

His facial features are slowly becoming more defined: the face is being formed, the eyes and ears are more visible and the baby can now open his mouth. The top of his nose is discernable.

The vital organs are already created: the heart, brain, lungs, kidneys, liver, and intestinal. The bronchi are starting to branch. The ultrasound registers the heartbeats and they are much faster than yours, around 160 beats per minute.

There is a lot happening to your baby’s body this week too: his arms are long enough for his hands to meet over his chest and his legs are lengthening too. However, ankles, thighs, knees and toes are not yet distinct. The embryonic tail is almost gone, and the area where it was will become the tailbone (coccyx).

Nerve cells in your baby’s brain are branching out to form early neural pathways. The part of the brain responsible for the sense of smell is also taking shape.

Your body is doing a wonderful job of helping your baby to grow, but increased blood flow, pregnancy hormones and your growing womb can make you prone to varicose veins. These happen when blood collects in weak spots in your veins, causing them to bulge under your skin. Symptoms often start to appear in the first trimester. You should mention them to your midwife at your first antenatal appointment if they cause you any discomfort.

Even though you are unlikely to have gained much weight, parts of your body are certainly growing. You have probably noticed that your breasts seem bigger. This is because your pregnancy hormones have triggered the layer of fat in them to thicken and your milk ducts to multiply. Soon you will likely need a larger size with better support.

 

Learn about your first trimester prenatal tests:

Your doctor or midwife will offer you a range of tests during your pregnancy that can help determine whether your baby has Down syndrome and other conditions. Some are relatively simple blood tests, while others involve more invasive procedures. All are optional.

Ask your healthcare provider to explain what it is, how it’s done, and what the results will tell you.

The current diagnostic protocol consists of the first-trimester screening, followed by an invasive procedure in case of positive findings.

The first-trimester screening includes a blood test that measures the levels of two proteins in your blood and a special ultrasound scan called a nuchal translucency (NT).

The test combines the result of different parameters:

  • Age of mother
  • Nuchal translucency (ultrasound measurement of fetal neck fold)
  • Serology testing (PAPP-A and free β-HCG)

Invasive procedures:

  • Chorionic villus sampling (CVS) 10-13 weeks of pregnancy: This diagnostic test involves collecting cells from the placenta, which are then sent to a lab for genetic analysis. CVS can identify whether your baby has any of hundreds of chromosomal abnormalities and other genetic disorders.

 

  • Amniocentesis 15-20 weeks of pregnancy: is a prenatal test in which a small amount of amniotic fluid is removed from the sac surrounding the fetus for testing. The sample of amniotic fluid is removed through a fine needle inserted into the uterus through the abdomen, under ultrasound guidance. The fluid is then sent to a laboratory for analysis.

These procedures cause distress for the mother and for the family and it has an associated risk of miscarriage estimated at 1%.

NIPT (non-invasive prenatal testing): During pregnancy, cell-free fragments of the baby’s DNA circulate in the mother’s blood. Fetal DNA is detectable from the 5th week of gestation and its concentration increases during the following weeks. The amount of fetal DNA present in the mother’s bloodstream from the 10th week of gestation (12th week for twin pregnancies) is sufficient to perform the test and guarantee the accuracy of the results.

The Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists states that fetal DNA tests enhance the information available to pregnant women while greatly reducing the loss of uncomplicated pregnancies as a result of miscarriage caused by unnecessary invasive procedures.

Tranquility is Genoma Swiss Biotechnology risk free prenatal test based on DNA for the early detection of the most common trisomies including Down Syndrome.