Week one of pregnancy begins on the first day of your last menstrual period, even though you haven't actually conceived yet. This is the time when your doctor will begin counting down your 40 weeks of pregnancy. Confusing, isn't it?
Tip of the week:
While your physician may have given you recommendations for prenatal vitamins and other supplements, it's a good idea to also consume foods that promote a healthy pregnancy. Items that are rich in folic acid include spinach, beans, asparagus, peanuts, oranges and fortified cereal. Also, be sure to eat lots of calcium- and vitamin D-rich foods, like milk, cheese and eggs.
So why do we jump the gun on the countdown? Because each time you have a period, your body is essentially priming itself for pregnancy by sweeping away unfertilized eggs. Roughly two weeks after your cycle begins, your ovaries release a new egg—meaning that you're ovulating and ready to get pregnant.
More specifically, a number of hormonal changes happen during your cycle that aid in conception. First, the follicle stimulating hormone (also known as FSH) begins inducing egg production. Then, as each egg-carrying follicle matures, estrogen is produced. This hormone encourages thickening of the uterine lining and spurs the production of luteinizing hormone, which helps the follicles break through the ovarian wall. This process is known as ovulation.
Pretty amazing process our bodies go through each month, right? It happens without you even knowing it, but that doesn't mean you can't do things to help ensure that all goes smoothly.
If you're trying to conceive, talk to your doctor about prenatal vitamins. Typically, this consists of folic acid supplementation, which is known to help reduce the risk of certain birth defects. Your health care provider may prescribe between 400 to 800 micrograms daily during the months leading up to your pregnancy.
You may also consider talking to your physician about any medical conditions you have and how they could affect your pregnancy. For example, women with asthma, diabetes, depression, thyroid conditions, high blood pressure, obesity or epilepsy may need to take certain precautions or ask for help getting their condition under control before trying to conceive. Additionally, discuss any medications you are taking to make sure they are safe for pregnancy. Click here for 10 questions to ask your health care professional.
This may go without saying, but you should also avoid drinking alcohol during this time and, if you're a smoker, make every effort to kick the habit. You may also want to steer clear of toxic chemicals and cat feces, as the latter can contain a parasite that causes toxoplasmosis, a condition known to be harmful to fetal health.