All About Baby
This is another big week for your wee one. Early in week 7, the embryo still looks like a tadpole, but by the end of the week it will have transformed into a tiny being that’s distinctly human-like. Its body is continuing to lengthen, the arms begin to bend at the elbows and curve around the heart, which is beating even more rhythmically now. By the end of this week the embryo’s whole skeleton—made of bendable cartilage, like a shark—will be fully formed. (To be replaced by bone soon enough.) The baby has a digestive system now, as well as kidneys, liver, heart, spleen, and even an appendix. Your placenta has sprouted hundreds of minute hair-like projections (called villi), making it look like a fuzzy ball. The villi have the important job of carrying nutrients and oxygen from your bloodstream to your growing baby.
All About You
While your fetus no longer looks like frogspawn, you’re may be feeling pretty green around the gills this week. That’s because the placenta—that glorious, ruby red organ that is a lifeline to your baby—is growing rapidly and its cells are releasing large amounts of the pregnancy hormone (hCG) into your bloodstream. Even if you don’t know it, you have a love-hate relationship with hCG. The rise in hCG levels is a sign of a healthy pregnancy, but it’s also what’s making you cringe at the smell of your mother-in-law’s perfume or clutch your stomach every time you pass a food court. Along with the nausea, mood swings, frequent trips to the bathroom, and extreme fatigue are still a fact of life. (Growing an entire human being in your body is exhausting!) If you’re not feeling these symptoms acutely, no worries! Every woman’s body responds to pregnancy differently and you may be one of the lucky ones who breezes through the first three months.
This Week: Cravings and Other Pregnancy Symptoms
If a greasy cheeseburger or a jar of pickles never appealed to you before pregnancy, you might be surprised to be craving them now. Plenty of theories exist about why pregnancy cravings happen, but there’s still no conclusive reason.
Filling a Nutritional Need
One prevailing theory explains that pregnancy cravings may be the body’s way of getting the nutrients it needs. Say you’re craving a steak; maybe your body lacks protein. And ice cream? Your body might need more calcium to support bones, which have added strain as your pregnancy progresses. “When you have a craving it’s usually based on some sort of nutritional need or nutritional balance,” says Dr. William Camann, MD, author of Easy Labor: Every Woman’s Guide to Choosing Less Pain and More Joy During Childbirth.
Shunning Certain Foods
The flip side of cravings is food aversions. In other words, foods you loved before pregnancy may be repulsive to you now. Dr. Camann believes the nutritional need theory may also explain food aversions. You need a healthy balance of foods and a varied diet to provide your body and your growing baby the nutrients they need; food aversions may be a way for your body to ensure that happens. If you craved junk foods before your pregnancy, you may turn your nose up to them now. For example, some chocolate lovers find themselves repulsed by the idea of eating chocolate once pregnant.
The Smell Factor
Part of your food aversion may stem from your increased nose power. Pregnancy hormones kick your sense of smell into high gear. If a food has an overwhelming odor—say, garlic-laced chicken—your stomach may lead you to shun that food. On the other hand, pleasing smells—or even the lack of an odor (think saltines)—can make these foods your new comfort.
While researchers don’t know why pregnant women crave certain foods, they do know that women share some common favorite flavors.
- Salt: Pickles, saltines, potato chips—they’re all packed with salt and can be oh-so-gratifying during pregnancy. Dr. Camann points out that with your body’s increased blood volume during pregnancy, your body may need additional sodium to pump up blood production.
- Sour: Pickles, lemons, and fruits have tart flavors that may ward off morning sickness and ensure that you eat enough fruits to provide nutrients for your growing baby-to-be.
- Bitter: Early in your pregnancy you may find that you have an aversion to bitter tastes. Researchers theorize that this may have evolutionary origins. Poisonous foods often have bitter flavors, so if you can’t stand the taste, you may avoid harm.
When to Be Concerned
Cravings are usually not a problem during pregnancy—in fact, they can be amusing and maybe a fine excuse to send your partner scrambling for ice cream at midnight.
Though uncommon, some women experience unusual, even bizarre yearnings called pica cravings. Women with this condition long to eat non-food substances like sand, dirt, bleach, even cigarettes. Doctors still don’t know why women would have these kind of cravings. Dr. Camann says there’s speculation that women’s bodies may be trying to supplement certain nutritional needs, but no one knows for sure. These cravings can be dangerous to you and your unborn baby if you act on them. If you find yourself yearning to munch on the sandbox, let your healthcare provider know; he or she may refer you to a specialist who can help you sort out these dangerous desires.
Q & A
What’s on your mind with Week 7? Other women have asked these questions…
Q: How can I manage morning sickness?
“If you feel nauseous, it is important to make sure that you are well-hydrated and nourished. There are a few tried-and-true tricks and tips that can help you through this unpleasant, but short-lived, part of your pregnancy…” Read More
Q: Is pain a sign of miscarriage?
“No. You can have pains that are growing pains. Also, adhesions (internal scarring) can get stretched in pregnancy, giving these types of pain. Nevertheless, you doctor may want to examine you to check for…” Read More
Q: Should I stay away from someone with chickenpox?
“In pregnancy, chickenpox is extremely dangerous, both because it’s dangerous in adults anyway and because pregnancy alters the immunological strength of the expectant mother. Varicella pneumonia is the complication that is feared, and such a complication can even lead to…” Read More
Q: What exactly is spina bifida?
“Spina bifida (translated from Latin, this literally means ‘split spine’) is a birth defect (specifically, a neural tube defect) that occurs in early fetal development. The neural tube is the immature, early beginnings of the nervous system—eventually forming the brain and spinal cord. With spina bifida, the neural tube cannot…” Read More
Managing Her Morning Sickness
For you, “morning sickness” probably conjures vague associations with overzealous nights out. But this hangover doesn’t go away by lunchtime. The nausea and other fun symptoms of pregnancy may last all day, and sometimes don’t quit by the end of the first trimester—or even the second.
A flood of hormones is diverting all her body’s resources to supporting the baby, so no matter how hard she tries to live her normal life, there’s no way around the exhaustion, emotions, and nausea.
Your role is pretty simple. If she craves a food, get it. When there’s food around that disgusts her, throw it out—even if it’s your dinner. Those in-between-meal snacks you’re supposed to avoid? Make sure she eats lots of them—it averts nausea. Press snacks on her frequently, and toss them in her bag when she’s leaving. Keep any kind of ginger chews or candies, or ginger tea, accessible at all times. And remember that famous pregnancy mantra: This too shall pass.