Why is the First Trimester Considered the Most Crucial Period during Pregnancy?
Giving birth is undoubtedly a miracle. However, it is crucial to monitor every stage of pregnancy, especially the first trimester, so that you can give birth to a healthy baby. Not only does the fetus undergo many changes and grow rapidly during this trimester, it is also exposed to risks of miscarriage, birth defects, and genetic disorders. So, find out how your baby will develop during the first trimester, what are the risks you should be aware of, and why you should never miss an appointment with the doctor.
It is a Period of Rapid Fetal Growth:
Exponential growth takes place during the first trimester, during which the fertilized egg transforms from an embryo to a fetus. Your baby’s vital organs start developing during this period as described below:
- The nervous system, including the neural tube, which ultimately gives rise to the brain and spinal cord, forms.
- The digestive and circulatory system, including the heart, develop too.
- Eyes, ears, arms and legs in the form of limb buds form too.
- All organ systems continue growing rapidly and start operating, including the excretory and sensory systems. External organs like eyes, nose, mouth, jaws, ears, arms, legs, fingers, and toes become advanced. Bones start to grow too.
- The fetal heart starts to beat.
- Teeth buds, nails, eyelids, and external genitals continue to develop. The limbs are fully formed and the voice box starts developing.
It is a period of risks too:
- The risk of miscarriage is high in the first trimester. About 85% of all miscarriages happen during this period. This risk drastically reduces to as low as 5% afterwards, when the vital organs are formed. Miscarriage can be caused by chromosomal abnormalities or exposure to smoking, alcohol, excessive caffeine, recreational drugs, toxic chemicals, and infections such as listeria, rubella, and herpes. These risk factors can cause birth defects as well.
- As the fetal organs develop rapidly during the first trimester, the severity or amount of exposure to the above risk factors can cause malformations of specific organs, such as the head, spine, arms, legs, and internal organs like heart, stomach, and lungs. It could be a physical flaw that affects the structure or a functional defect which can cause the organ to function improperly later on in life.
- Rh incompatibility might occur too, if your blood is Rh-negative and the fetal blood is Rh-positive. Your body might create antibodies in that case, causing anemia in the fetus. The doctor monitors such cases closely and offers treatment to prevent antibody formation.
- If you suffer from diabetes, anemia, allergies, high blood pressure, urinary tract infections or sexually transmitted diseases, the fetus might be at risk. If there are genetic disorders or development or intellectual disabilities in the mother’s or father’s family, it can be a risk.
- The fetus might be at risk if you had terminations, miscarriages or stillbirths in the past or have an abnormal menstrual history.
Since your baby undergoes rapid development and growth during the first trimester, it has a lasting impact on his health and wellbeing in the future. Hence, during the first trimester of pregnancy, get screened and tested regularly, so that you can avoid or treat the risk factors. Following a balanced diet, exercising regularly and controlling stress is important too. This will ensure a safe childbirth.
Author Bio: Prapti Chauhan is a professor of Genetics in Bangalore. She has contributed to several online research papers. However, she passionately develops contents on pregnancy, childbirth, childcare and Stem Cell Banking and umbilical cord blood banking.