Baby kicks and butterflies are a while away, but by week eight of your pregnancy your foetus is starting to move and grow rapidly – and that’s not the only thing that’s growing!
Your baby’s development
This week your baby is the size of a… cashew nut.
You may not have chosen a name for your baby yet, but it’s undergoing a name change all the same – from being known as an embryo to becoming a foetus (that’s Latin for ‘little one’).
Your little one is actually getting bigger – now developing its smaller features, such as fingers, toes and eyes. Its hands will also be able to bend at the wrist, while the feet are no longer looking so webbed. Not only that, but the tiny beating heart (which is pumping at a rate of 150 beats per minute) will now have developed valves.
At this point, your foetus will be starting to move about inside your uterus. The movements will be so small you won’t notice a thing, but it’s happening all the same. Not long until you start to feel the little one’s flutters and you can start to properly bond with your bump.
Your physical pregnancy changes
The main physical difference you’ll notice this week is the size of your breasts, which will have become larger and heavier. Investing in a pregnancy bra will help provide support, prevent back pain and improve your posture.
The rest of your body will be starting to change too, with your normal clothes suddenly not seeming to fit quite so well. Think of the shopping opportunities! It’s certainly better than thinking about how frequently you now need to go to the bathroom, all thanks to your growing uterus putting pressure on your bladder.
Sickness and tiredness will probably continue for a bit longer and, if you’ve been suffering badly, you may feel dizzy due to low sugar levels. If you’re taking prenatal vitamins but having trouble keeping them down, consider taking them before you go to bed.
Pregnancy vitamins: the basics
We all know vitamin and mineral intake is essential for a healthy body, and even more so during pregnancy when your body’s challenge is to not only meet your daily needs but those of your growing baby.
The good news is that most of your daily requirements can be met by eating fresh foods and maintaining a healthy, nutritious diet, but there are a few essential nutrients that will require supplementation.
Folic acid and iodine in particular have been found to be deficient in many western diets, and your doctor may recommend a pregnancy-specific multivitamin that contains these. It is recommended a daily dose of 400mcg of folic acid can greatly reduce your baby’s risk for neural tube defects of the brain and spinal cord. Check out our list of 9 foods that are high in folic acid and enjoy some healthy folate-rich meals in our recipes section.
Water-soluble vitamins, such as C and B-group vitamins, don’t generally accumulate in the body, so foods rich in these should be eaten on a daily basis. A good natural source of vitamin C, include foods such as red and green peppers, capsicums, leafy greens, kiwi fruit and oranges. Stock up on beef, tuna, brazil nuts, bananas, potatoes and avocados to get your fresh fix of vitamin B.
Fat-soluble vitamins, such as A, D, E and K can be stored in your liver and fat cells for use when the body is not getting them regularly. But this does mean they can accumulate to potentially toxic levels, particularly if you are taking supplements. An excess intake of certain vitamins has been shown to cause birth defects, particularly in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, and also when breastfeeding, so it is important to consult your doctor before supplementing your diet.
Essential fatty acids, or Omega 3s, are crucial for your baby’s growing brain and spinal cord development. You may have heard of these but the most important component for this is called DHA, which our body makes from other healthy fats. Great sources of these fats are cold-water fish such as salmon, ocean trout, mackerel and sardines.
Vegetarian and vegan mothers-to-be need to be particularly careful that their dietary requirements are met in pregnancy, and should seek advice from their doctor or an accredited nutritionist.
Essential vitamins for pregnant women
Here’s how to meet your daily needs for all the essential vitamins:
· Vitamin A: This is a fat-soluble vitamin required for bone development and growth. Pregnancy increases your requirements for vitamin A slightly. Good sources of vitamin A include eggs and fortified milk.
· Vitamin E: This vitamin protects cells from oxidation and therefore damage and contributes to the health of new cells developing in your baby. It may also help you deal with toxins. Vitamin E is passed from the mother to the baby in the last 12 weeks of pregnancy which is why some premature babies (born before 28 weeks) can show signs of vitamin E deficiency. Good sources of vitamin E include wheat germ and almonds.
· Vitamin D: This assists with bone mineralisation and helps you absorb calcium. Vitamin D needs increase during pregnancy and good sources of vitamin D include eggs, fortified milk and sunshine!The perfect excuse for a walk.
· Vitamin K: Helps in blood clotting. Vitamin K deficiency is rare in pregnant women and in a normal pregnancy supplementation is rarely required. Leafy green veggies and dairy products are rich in K1 so wake up tomorrow with our oat and fruit smoothie.
· Vitamin C: This water-soluble vitamin helps growth and development and supports the immune system. As Vitamin C aides connective tissue development it can reduce stretch marks and hemorrhoids! As requirements increase slightly during pregnancy, good sources of vitamin C include citrus fruits, capsicum and leafy greens.
· B vitamins: These are needed in small amounts to help make new red blood cells and extract energy from our food. Requirements of most B vitamins increase during pregnancy. Adequate folate is particularly important. Good sources of B vitamins include meats, grains and vegetables and especially those from the cabbage family), broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage and kale.
More about minerals
Minerals such as calcium, phosphorous, potassium, sodium, magnesium, iodine, selenium and zinc are also important in keeping us healthy. When you’re pregnant the body’s need for calcium and iron, in particular, are increased.
Good sources of calcium include dairy products and calcium-fortified breakfast cereals and for a fix of haem iron (which is more easily absorbed by the body) include red meat, poultry, and seafood to your diet. Cereals, green leafy veggies, legumes and nuts are sources of non-haem iron, which the body cannot absorb as well.
Taking the right vitamin supplements
If you think you’re not getting enough vitamins or nutrients please talk to your doctor and discuss any supplements you plan on taking while you’re pregnant. Generally they will recommend a good prenatal multivitamin that contains folic acid (to prevent neural tube defects such as spina bifida) and iodine (a lack of which can affect foetal and brain development).
Fresh fact: Eating vitamin C-rich foods at the same time as foods rich in iron will help your body absorb the iron, so enjoy a glass of orange juice with your breakfast cereal or squeeze some fresh lemon juice over your vegetables. Your doctor will be able to test for mineral deficiencies and advise accordingly
Your health and fitness during pregnancy
Feeling dizzy much of the time? Make sure you’re drinking enough water and eating a balanced diet – there’s no need to force-feed yourself (and you can still obey your cravings within reason), but do try to make healthy meal choices as much as possible.
Hormones racing around your body make you more susceptible to gum disease and tooth decay, so it’s best to stop any problems in their tracks. Booking a visit to the dentist is a good idea – don’t forget to mention that you’re pregnant because X-rays can be dangerous to developing babies.
Your week 8 pregnancy checklist
·Treat yourself – go shopping for a pregnancy bra, and maybe some maternity wear.
·Keep taking your prenatal vitamins.
·Plan some healthy meals, and maybe inspire your partner to cook up aromantic meal.
·Make an appointment at the dentist.
·Look at cashew nuts in a whole new light!