These "calendars" are often scientifically inaccurate to one degree or another, and they are universally so full of sickly-sweet rainbows and fluffy bunnies that they made me gag even before I got morning sickness. And they always, ALWAYS, compare the "size of your baby" to a fruit or vegetable. Sometimes, the fruit choices are downright bizarre. How does knowing that my fetus is the size of a kumquat help me visualize it? No one reading these things knows what a kumquat is!
So, I decided to do my own version of a pregnancy calendar. This first part is week one through my current week. My plan is to continue to follow my own gestational progress, or until I get bored with it or actually give birth. Whichever comes first. (The guide I'll be using is the Mayo clinic's book on pregnancy, which is succinct, scientifically accurate, never compares babies to fruit, and is completely humorless).
Warning: sarcasm and dark humor ahead.
Oh, and by the way, I considered not writing about pregnancy/parenting at all, since it seems a bit outside the normal topics I write about here. But then I was all like, dude, this is my blog. I write what I'm thinking about, and holy shitballs am I thinking about this. A lot.
Week 1, Day 1How big is your "baby"?
It doesn't exist yet, because today is actually the first day of your last menstrual cycle. Because OBGYNs want to make you do math, today is considered the first day of pregnancy... or gestation... sometimes. But... only once you DO become pregnant. So, this day only becomes important retroactively, two weeks in the future when fertilization happens.
This is an asinine practice; in all other mammals, we measure gestational period as starting with fertilization. So, if you want to compare humans with other mammals, subtract 14 days. Well, sometimes, because, to make it more confusing, sometimes doctors and scientists DO count only from fertilization (aka "conception" another word only used in humans). I'll be doing it this way, because the other way doesn't make sense.
Fun Fact: gestational period becomes more complicated to measure in some animals because "pregnancy" doesn't always immediately follow fertilization. In embryonic diapause, the zygote remains dormant until environmental conditions are more favorable, sometimes for months or years.
This alone is an interesting phenomenon, but not as interesting as the bizarre lab experiments it has inspired.
It sounds like a really handy trait to have (assuming you could control it somehow), and I'm surprised that the only sci-fi reference for it is Farscape (where it didn't work out very well).
Anyway, if you're trying to conceive on purpose, this is a time when you've probably already started taking a daily pre-natal vitamin. The irony is, if you have access to pre-natal vitamins (and the education to know that they exist in the first place), you may not need them because you probably get all the nutrients you need from your rich and varied diet. But it's still a good idea. Especially when a lack of folic acid can lead to such horrendous (and preventable) birth defects like anecephaly and spina bifida. Go ahead and google those. I'll be here when you get back (and the nightmares have subsided).
Fun fact: they make pre-natal vitamins that taste like sour patch worms! (which is to say: Man I love living in the United States in the year 2012! I am not being sarcastic!)
Actual Week 1, Day 1 (aka Week 2, Day 7?)This is the day you probably conceive, if you're the average woman.
This involves a man ejaculating, there's no getting around it. If you're fertilizing your egg the old fashioned way, approximately 280 million sperm are deposited into your vagina, but only a fraction of them make it to the egg which is hanging out waaaay up in the upper oviduct (a trip that takes between 5 minutes and an hour).
Fun Fact: Domestic bovines produce an average of 3 billion sperm per ejaculation and their travel time is only 2-3 minutes. This amazes me; the distance is further, the pathway more crowded, yet they gets there so much faster than in humans.
Extra-fun fact: I have personally, via anal electoprob, caused quite a few bull ejaculations in the last two years of employment at a mixed-practice veterinary clinic. I have lost count; more than a dozen, fewer than a hundred.
How big is your "baby"?
About the size of an amoeba. In the minutes after that one, special sperm wiggles through the egg's outer layer of cells, cell division starts and the separate haploid cells of egg + sperm combine to form a free-floating zygote (which includes the cells that will become the placenta).
Fun fact: if you were a domestic cat (or any other induced-ovulator), the act of copulation itself is what stimulates you to drop an egg or ten from your ovaries. Can you imagine how terrible it would be if humans were induced-ovulators? Every time you had intercourse: BAM! a follicle explodes an egg out into your tubes. Fun.
Still Week 1 (around Day 4)How big is your zygote?
Still about the size of an amoeba. Today is the special day that the zygote finishes its journey through the fallopian tube and reaches the lining of the uterus. There, it's secretes nasty destructive enzymes that eat through the lining of the uterus so the this little life-sucking creature can burrow deep into the wall of the uterus and attach itself to your lifeblood. Rarely, this process continues out of control and the woman can hemorrhage to death as the enzymes eat uncontrolled through large blood vessels.
Pregnancy is truly a wondrous thing.
Assuming the woman survives, the zyogote is now known as a blastocyst, and consists of about 100 cells.
This is also when the litttle bundle of joy starts secreting the hCG hormone (you know, this one), which causes most of the unpleasant side effects of pregnancy like nausea, vomiting, sore breasts, mood swings, and crying at Kay Jewelers commercials. Therefore, today is the day you could realize you're pregnant. It's also the first day that home pregnancy tests can be used accurately.
Week 2No one ever talks about week two. Week one is exciting because conception happens. Week three is exciting because it's the start of organ development. Week two is kind of relegated to "more of week one stuff". IE: cell division happens. Boooorrring.
How big is your embryo? About the size of an adult German cockroach. It's not much more than a worm-like tube lined with rudimentary mucus membranes and the beginnings of a circulatory system, however at this point we get to call it an embryo! It's the beginning of major organ formation, so now is an especially good time to avoid things like cocaine and high levels of radiation.
Week 4How big is your embryo?
About the size and shape of a housefly maggot. Though the heart may have started beating, the body is not recognizable. There is a "head region" and a tail, and maybe an opening where the mouth will be. That's about it.
Week 5How big is your embryo?
About 1/3 inch long. Now, in addition to a head region and a tail-ish lookin' thing, there's also stubby little limb-like projections.
Week 6 - 8How big is your embryo?
About the size of a newborn kangaroo. This is the point, in my opinion, when your embryo looks the most like an alien from a B movie: it has four flipper-like limbs, a long tail, bulbous head, and unblinking eyes.
Week 9-11This is the first week where you can start to relax a little bit (if you have a wanted pregnancy) and stop freaking out every time you get a gas cramp: the rate of miscarriage drops dramatically at this point, and greatest risk of environmentally-caused birth defects has passed. Most major organs are formed, and we can officially call this little bundle of joy a fetus.
The irony is, of course, that the riskiest time for birth defects happens during the period where many women don't even know they're pregnant yet, and may not know to be cautious about their lifestyle.
Then again, there are some women who don't realize they're pregnant until the day they give birth.
Week 12 (end of first trimester)How big is your fetus?
The size of a deer mouse.
Those of us with a wanted pregnancy can relax a little more as miscarriage rates drop even further at this point.
Sadly, this is also the point where, if you play contact sports like rugby or roller derby, you want to stop the contact part. The fetus is no longer fully protected by your pelvic bones. Ironically, at the same time that you have to slow down your own workout routine, the fetus is just starting to pick one up as this is the time when nerves and muscles start to function.
Tune in next week! There may be hiccups!