Week 4

Congratulations, you’re pregnant!

Sometime this week you probably peed on a stick and you got that second little line and found out that you were pregnant, and it’s pretty crazy.

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If you didn’t get that second line, there’s no need to panic. Most tests claim to be 99 per cent accurate on the first day of your missed period, but this is pretty misleading. Independent research shows that only 16 per cent of pregnancies are detected at this point. The tests work by measuring a level of a particular hormone in your urine, which may not be very high yet if you’ve only just missed your period. But, it will be rising very quickly and it will be high enough soon to easily detect, probably within the next week or so.

As a result, you are much more likely to get a false negative result and extremely unlikely to get a false positive result. Now, I did this myself, I totally panicked. I did the pregnancy test and I wasn’t pregnant and I got really upset about it and it turned out that it was a false negative. So if this happens to you, just be patient. You can check again later on in the week, preferably one week after the first day of your missed period. That’s when they really are getting to be 99 per cent accurate. Although most tests advertise working in under five minutes, another study found that the results were actually much more accurate after ten. So don’t throw it in the bin straight away, just be patient, hold your horses and check it again after a few more minutes. Even if the line is super faint, if there’s any second line at all, it probably means you’re pregnant.

So what’s happening to your body?  You might not be able to feel anything yet. Lots of people don’t. But some people feel pregnant even before the pregnancy test shows up. You might feel your breasts are getting tender; you might feel a bit bloated around your stomach; you may even be starting to feel a little bit nauseous; you might be having a few cravings, although cravings are a little bit of a pregnancy myth and they’re much less common than food aversions. So, if you’re finding yourself really thinking that a food sounds disgusting, something that you usually like, that’s a sure sign that you’re pregnant. Emotionally, you probably are starting to have a few mood swings and ups and downs. It’s a bit of a roller-coaster ride and you’re probably just starting to feel all that stuff now.

Your baby, on the other hand, is the size of a poppy seed. The placenta cells are tunnelling into the lining of your uterus and forming what will eventually be your baby’s umbilical cord, and then finally your baby’s cute little belly button.

It may feel weird now that you’re four weeks pregnant, because you only just found out. If you’re a bit confused I’ll tell you why.

Due Date

The common way of calculating your due date is based on the first day of your last period; this is called LMP, Last Menstrual Period. For the first two weeks, although they’re counted as part of the pregnancy, you’re actually not pregnant. Conception usually takes place at around week three. You may also calculate the due date by the date of conception, if you happen to know it. But obviously most people don’t know exactly the date that they conceived, so that’s why most due date calculators are based on the day of your last period.

So, the LMP method assumes that every woman has a 28-day cycle and ovulates on day 14. But you’re probably listening to that and laughing out loud because your cycle probably isn’t exactly 28 days and ovulating on day 14. Most women don’t fit the box. My cycle, for example, is 23 days and I ovulate on day eight. I know that because I can feel a little twinge in one ovary alternating sides and it usually happens about eight days after my period. So, what this means is that if I ovulate six days earlier than most women, then it follows that my baby will probably be due six days earlier as well. So that’s just a little bit of understanding and insight into how inaccurate these due dates are. In the end, my daughter was actually born on her due date, which happens to only five per cent of babies. My son, on the other hand, was born eight days late. So, the due date is such a rough estimate.

I know a lot of people talk about due dates these as though they were set in stone and for some mothers they are. You can book in an induction or cesarean at a convenient time for you, for your hospital, for your partner, That way you can actually plan the exact moment that your baby arrives. But, if you are more of a ‘go with the flow’ kind of gal, then birth is generally considered safe between 37 and 42 weeks, provided there are no other complications. Most first babies are born about one week later than the due date. So, some women decide to tell nosey friends and strangers a general due month or perhaps a date that is a week or two later than what the actual estimated due date is. This just helps to keep the pressure at bay and the unwanted advice and comments which can be really challenging if you do go overdue. And, I know you are probably not thinking about that yet, but if you are going to be telling people your due date it is just a little thing to keep in mind.

If you want a more accurate due date, for example, if you didn’t find out you were pregnant until a couple of months later and you can’t remember when your last period was. Before you laugh, don’t, because it happened to me and it happens to many other busy mums. Particularly if it’s your second or third baby, sometimes two or three months can go by and you can go, “Oh my goodness! What happened to my period?” In that case, you obviously can’t use the Last Menstrual Period method, so you can get a scan. You don’t generally need an early scan, but they can be reassuring. The earlier that you have a scan, the more accurate the due date you’ll be given. Even if you have scans later on that predict a different due date, your medical carers will still usually use the due date that you were given in your earliest scan. The problem with early scans is they’re more invasive. Because the baby is so tiny and still buried really deep and low in your tummy, the scans are more invasive because they are done with a probe that is actually placed inside your vagina instead of the usual abdominal scanning equipment. So, lots of women want to avoid this scan if they can. If you are super skinny and if your baby is developing fine and maybe if you’re eight or twelve weeks along, then you might need to have the probe anyway. You might be able to figure it out just with the regular scanning equipment. You may also have an early scan if you have a history of miscarriage or have experienced some bleeding. If you’ve got any pregnancy complications then your doctor will probably refer you for a scan, although most women won’t have this early scan, so don’t worry about it. It’s not important unless you need to know your due date or if your doctor has told you need to have one.

What's Next?

So the next thing you do, now that you’ve figured out you’re pregnant, is schedule your first prenatal appointment. In Australia, most women see a GP who will ask you what your private health insurance is and then refer you to a relevant obstetrician. Before this happens I just want to plant a little seed of dissent; I want you to know there are other options. A review of midwifery continuity of care models in the Cochrane Library included 13 trials involving over 16,000 women from all over the world, including trials in Australia. I will tell you the results of that in just a second, but before we go on I want to explain, ‘continuity of care’ means having the same care provider throughout your pregnancy, at your labour and birth, and for your postnatal checkups. So, this model of care, compared to women who usually see a GP or an obstetrician, or whose care was shared by a mixture of doctors, nurses and midwives. So, women who had one midwife as their lead care provider for the whole pregnancy, birth and postpartum, have amazing results – really mind-blowing, amazing results. They have fewer interventions, they’re less likely to deliver a premature baby, they’re less likely to have an epidural, less likely to have an episiotomy, less likely to need a forceps or vacuum-assisted delivery. Also, less likely to have their baby prior to 37 weeks of gestation, and also less likely to lose their baby before 24 weeks. It’s crazy good. Really, continuity of care midwife is the gold standard of pregnancy, birth and postpartum care. But, it can be really hard to find this model of care in Australia and sadly the vast majority of women are not even aware that this is an option. I will be talking to you more about choosing your care provider and your options later on in your pregnancy in future pregnancy podcasts. So, make sure you sign your name below, enter your email and we’ll keep the pregnancy podcasts coming so you get what you need along the way.

Unless you actually have a medical condition or have had problems with a previous pregnancy, or you are worried at all about this pregnancy, you don’t need to see anyone at all. But, if you see a GP and if you start getting filtered down the mainstream funnel, I just wanted to plant that seed that you have options.

Now, you’re pregnant and you haven’t really got a care provider yet, often it feels a bit like you’re in ‘No Man’s Land’, or should I say, ‘No Woman’s Land’? This bit of pregnancy can be really nerve-racking. If you haven’t told friends and family yet and you don’t go to your healthcare provider yet and you haven’t even had a scan, you probably don’t look pregnant and maybe you don’t even feel pregnant yet, so those first few weeks of pregnancy when it’s just so up-in-the-air. Particularly if you’ve experienced any previous pregnancy losses, it can be an extremely difficult and stressful time. Since stress is pretty much the worst thing you could do to your baby, and people love telling you that, I’m going to share some of my favourite tips on staying calm. But, I also want you to know that I really understand; being told not to stress is pretty much the most stressful thing anyone can say to you. So, I’m not going tell you, “Oh, just don’t stress out” or “Just relax”, I’m going to give you actual practical tips on how stress works, including some super useful stuff. Please listen to the end because I’ve got something amazing to share with you about stress and making stress your friend, right at the end of the podcast.

Don't Worry!

So, a couple of little tips before then; if you are irrationally worried, then it’s quite possible that it’s your crazy hormones. I think some people find that they feel so much anxiety and fear, they’re worrying, worrying and worrying about their pregnancy, and you might find this over the next few weeks, even over the next few months or your entire pregnancy. If this feeling is irrational for you, it’s quite possible that it is just because you are pregnant that you are going crazy. Try to feel comforted by any irrational fears. In a way, it’s probably just your hormones giving your body the message that everything is doing great. ‘Yep, I’ve got some mental hormones flying around here and I’m feeling awful, but that’s actually a good sign that I’m pregnant.’ So, just try and remind yourself of that.

Some people find affirmations really helpful. If you’re into hypnobirthing, you can try hypnobirthing tracks, which are positive pregnancy affirmations, there are relaxation tracks. You might try meditation or breathing, and some mums that work with me say they’ve had affirmations that have really worked well for them, and these are the examples that these mums gave. Someone said that their affirmation was,

“I am ready to be a mother. I am ready to be a mother.”

If you’re feeling anxious and you’re not sure if you’re ready for this, just keep telling yourself, “I’m ready to be a mother”. Someone else was using the affirmation,

“My baby is healthy and safe. My baby is healthy and safe.”

So try repeating whatever affirmation works to reassure you. Whenever you start freaking out, then the affirmations can really be a good anchor, they can help you feel much more grounded, in addition to any other relaxation techniques like getting a bit more sleep, breathing and those kind of things.

Stress Less

The next thing I want you to bear in mind, when you’re thinking about stress and pregnancy, is it can really help if you let go of control. One of the really big messages of motherhood for most people I think, the really big learning curve that we go through when we go from being a woman, to being a mother as well as being a woman, is realising that we are not in control. You can see this as sort of an initiation in motherhood; you can’t control life and death anymore than you can control your pregnancy. I don’t know if you fell pregnant on purpose, I don’t know if you’ve taken years to conceive, I don’t know if you’ve been shocked or surprised by this pregnancy, but the point is you can’t control it. If it helps at all, just trust in whatever you believe in; the God; the Universe; whatever it is you feel might be out there in the world – or nothing at all, whatever works for you. But just trust that it’s going to keep your baby safe and try not to think about it as something that is within your control. So, if you need help to let it go you can sign up for my free video course, the sign up is just right below. The first video of the course is all about nature and nurture and how you don’t have to be a perfect mum. It’s a really good time now, early in your pregnancy to just really start to feel that you are letting it go.

Now, before I get to the really, really juicy bit, I just want to make sure that you know that if you are having a really, really hard time combatting your stress and none of the things that I am suggesting here are working, it’s quite possible you could have an antenatal mood disorder. We’ve all heard of postpartum depression, and actually, anxiety is much more common than depression. Anxiety during pregnancy, and indeed depression and all mood disorders, are very common in pregnancy as well. So, if you feel like your worries are out of control or that your worries are controlling you, then it’s time to see to your GP or counsellor to see if you need some extra help. There really is no shame or guilt about this, because stress is one of the most damaging things that you can do to your baby. If you feel like you can’t get control of it, that worry, that fear, that anxiety, then just go and get professional help for it. Ask for help, it’s really no big deal. Lots of mums before you have gotten help with these things and I’m sure you’ll be able to get it under control too with a bit of extra help.

So seriously, here’s the biggie. The one you’ve all been waiting for. The one that I’ve been waiting to share. My favourite, favourite stress tip, ever. Not just for pregnancy, but for life. Kelly McGonigal has been studying stress for over a decade and what she shares in her TEDTalk absolutely blows my mind every time I watch this TEDTalk I am just like “Wow! this is something that could change everything.” So, here’s what she says;

“People who experience a lot of stress in the previous year had a 43 per cent increased chance of dying.”

— Kelly McGonigal

So, people who experience stress in the previous year have a 43 per cent increased chance of dying. That’s massive, right?  So, that’s really bad news.

But, here’s what the study also found; 

This is only true for people who also believe that stress is harmful for your health. People who experienced a lot of stress but did not view stress as harmful, were no more likely to die. In fact, they had the lowest risk of dying than anyone else in the study, including people who had relatively little stress.

Basically what Kelly is saying is that it’s not stress that’s bad for you, but it’s the belief that stress is bad for you, that’s bad for you. So when you’re stressed, your heart is racing, you’re breathing faster, you might be sweating. Normally your body interprets these physical symptoms, these changes, as anxiety and signs that we aren’t coping very well. But, Kelly’s message is that when you view stress as helpful, when you see your body as engergised and preparing to meet a challenge, then your blood vessels actually stay relaxed. It actually looks a lot like what happens in moments of joy and courage.

I want you to watch this TEDTalk. It’s Kelly McGonigal’s TEDTalk and it’s called ‘How To Make Stress Your Friend’. I’m going to link the video below. The harmful effects of stress on your health and on your baby’s health are not inevitable. How you think and act can transform your experience of stress. When you choose to view your stress response as helpful then you create courage instead. So, whatever you’re stressed about, be it money, relationships, maybe you’re not sure about this pregnancy yet. Anything that you’re stressed about in life, it’s not always the baby. Watch this TEDTalk, I really feel like it can make a big difference for you.

Your take home actions this week are to:

  • Know your options and choose your care provider carefully;

  • Have a really good think about your due date; and

  • Watch Kelly McGonigal’s TED Talk and make stress your friend.

That’s your three take home actions. Thank you for listening. Next week I’ll be sharing with you the pros and cons of revealing your pregnancy. When and who you should be telling. And some tips and tricks for hiding your pregnancy in the first trimester, if you’re not ready to tell people.

Please share this podcast with your pregnant friends. I’m wishing you peace and joy in pregnancy and I’ll see you next week.

TedTalk by Kelly McGonigal: How To Make Stress Your Friend