6 weeks pregnant
At six weeks pregnant, you’ve probably only recently discovered your exciting news and are still getting your head round it – so now’s the time to read up on what’s going to be happening womb-side in the weeks ahead, and relax into your pregnancy, ready for the onslaught of questions sure to come when you announce it to the world.
Your baby at six weeks
If you’re feeling a bit knackered at the six-week mark, it’s no wonder – your baby has been far from idle in there. Just four weeks since sperm met egg, here’s what she’s already been up to:
- She has tiny buds shaped like paddles that will eventually become arms and legs. Grooves develop in the paddles that will one day grow into fingers and toes.
- She'll have a big head with a bump on the top – that's her developing brain.
- Little dark spots can be seen on her face, which will develop into your baby's nose and eyes. She also has tiny dimples in the sides of her head that will become ear canals.
- Her nervous system is developing from a neural plate – a layer of cells you can see on the 16th day of development. It forms a groove down the middle and the edges of the groove will curl up and meet to make the neural tube. The front bit of tube becomes the brain; the rest becomes the spinal cord. The neural tube closes at six weeks. If it doesn't close, the baby develops a neural tube defect (such as spina bifida) or cleft lip or palate, where the roof of the mouth hasn’t fused together. Taking folic acid supplements can help protect your baby against these.
- Your baby's heart is dividing into four chambers and is beating at a rate of around 150 beats per minute. As her blood vessels grow all around the body, the heart starts pushing blood through them.
- Her lungs, liver and kidneys are all beginning to develop.
- She's starting to grow muscles and, during the sixth week, will start to use these to twitch her body and arms. The arms tend to develop a little earlier than the legs.
- She will be joined to you through the umbilical cord, which will do the job of sending in food and getting rid of waste products. Be grateful for that umbilical cord. In seven months’ time, and for the next 18 years at least, the job of putting food on the table and taking out the bins is all yours, so enjoy this period of rest while you can.
What size is the baby at six weeks?
From the top of her head to the middle of her bottom – what doctors call the crown-to-rump length – your baby will be a tiny 10-14mm long at six weeks: the size of a small bean or lentil.
How is your body changing at six weeks pregnant?
No one would know you’re pregnant yet just to look at you, though if you’re rushing to the loo with nausea or eating like a half-starved horse at a sugar lump festival, they might have an inkling.
What is changing is that your body is awash with hormones, such as HcG (human chorionic gonadotrophin), progesterone and relaxin, which, as well as doing their jobs in keeping the pregnancy going and softening everything up ready for birth, can also contribute to things like pregnancy headaches, nausea and heartburn.
Your womb is getting bigger and starting to press down on your bladder, which can make you need to wee more frequently. In a few weeks, the womb will rise up out of the pelvis, which will relieve this sensation briefly until the baby is big enough to start kicking you square in the bladder.
Pregnancy symptoms in week six
Some women feel pregnancy symptoms quite dramatically at this stage. Others just feel a bit off-colour and wonder what all the fuss is about. It depends on how well your body adapts to the fluctuating hormone levels. But you can expect to have some degree of the following:
Pregnancy sickness can strike at any time of day and can vary from mild nausea to full-on exorcist-style experiences. For some women, smells – such as a whiff of cigarette smoke or fresh coffee – can trigger it. Eating little and often, avoiding fatty foods, and eating foods that quell nausea, such as ginger biscuits, may all help.
An unlucky few will suffer from hyperemesis, a severe and debilitating condition that causes almost constant nausea, and affects one in 100 pregnancies.
Pregnancy tiredness seems to spread from your ankles up through your body and feels overwhelming at times. It can make you thankful you're pregnant because otherwise you'd think you were dying.
If you thought your boobs were tender when you had your period, you should know that pregnancy brings a whole new world of discomfort. The merest brush against them can make you scream. But they will be bigger, which for some of us is some consolation. In fact, this is the window of opportunity where your breasts may be larger than usual and your stomach isn't – so enjoy it.
Things to think about during week six of pregnancy
If you want to shout your news to the world (or perhaps just have a moan about how dog tired you are) and can’t yet spill the beans, use the time instead to gen up on some of the things you need to get on top of.
What supplements do I need to take during pregnancy?
Folic acid reduces the risk of your baby having spina bifida or cleft palate. It’s recommended you take a 400mcg folic acid supplement every day for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, and also while trying to conceive, but if you haven’t so far, start today.
It’s also a good idea to take 10mcg of vitamin D a day, too. This is essential for absorbing calcium, which is needed for healthy bones – both yours and your baby's – and some women may not get enough in their diet.
A multivitamin designed for pregnancy should cover both these along with anything else you may need, too. Remember that you should avoid supplements containing vitamin A because it can cause your baby to develop abnormally – things like liver and pâté can be high in vitamin A so they’re a no-no, too. Speaking of which…
What foods should I avoid during pregnancy?
The list of foods to avoid in pregnancy often changes – so you should ask your midwife what current advice is. Two of the main concerns are listeria, a bacteria that can cause miscarriage or stillbirth, and salmonella, which can give you sickness and diarrhoea and also potentially harm the baby.
- Listeria – Avoid soft and mould-ripened cheeses such as brie and camembert, as well as pâté, raw or undercooked meat (so no steak tartare) and unpasteurised dairy. Shellfish must be thoroughly cooked, too. Listeria can be found in soil and mud so you should ask your midwife what the latest views are about gardening or mud wrestling in pregnancy.
- Salmonella – Avoid partially cooked food (especially poultry). Advice used to be to avoid raw or undercooked eggs but now they are thought to be fine as long as they are stamped with the ‘lion mark’ – hurrah for dippy eggs being back on the menu.
- Toxoplasmosis – This is a parasite infection that can harm your baby's sight, hearing and brain. It can be avoided by making sure you thoroughly cook meat and poultry. But also avoid changing cat litter, as the parasite is often found in cat faeces, and taking care when gardening.
Do I need to stop drinking now I’m pregnant?
If you haven’t already, then yes. It's during the first eight weeks of pregnancy (so up to week 10) that your baby is most sensitive to any harmful effects from alcohol but government guidelines state that the safest level of alcohol is none at all. Many women do indulge in the odd glass now and again later in pregnancy but at this early stage, it’s pretty important to say ‘non’ to the vin rouge, and all other forms of booze. Same goes for smoking and obviously any recreational drugs you may have taken prior to pregnancy.
The reality is many women don't realise they're pregnant at this stage, and carry on drinking and smoking through the first few weeks of their baby's development. As long as you stop as soon as you realise, then it's extremely unlikely your baby will be affected. Babies seem to be remarkably robust, fortunately.