Your week by week guide on what to expect when you're expecting...

4 – 8 Weeks Pregnant

When you are 4 weeks pregnant, your baby’s major organs are developing rapidly and he or she is changing from an embryo to a fetus.  (They will become a fetus when all their major body parts are present and beginning to function.)

By week 5 the heart will be forming and will begin to beat around week 6.  The neural tube, which protects their spinal cord and connects it to their brain, is closing over.

By week 7, although they will only be the size of a small bean, arms and legs and even fingers will be forming, as will small spots on their head which will become eyes and nostrils.

By week 8, they will have a more developed brain and heart, which will be beating at about 150 beats per minute, double the speed of yours.   Their arms will be long enough for them to bend and their tiny legs may meet in front of them.

Make contact with your GP

You should inform your GP that you are pregnant as soon as you have had a positive test.  They may suggest you make an appointment with them or they may just let the relevant hospital know so that a Booking Visit can be organised for you between 8 and 10 weeks.  See 8 – 12 weeks for details on Booking Visit.


You may experience some kind of spotting, which can be alarming and worrying especially if you haven’t yet had your 12 week scan.  If the bleeding is light in colour or volume, or brown and without pain then it may not be a problem, but do call your midwife/doctor if you are concerned.  They may send you to your nearest Early Pregnancy Unit (EPU) for a scan to check that all is ok.

Please don’t keep doing repetitive pregnancy tests at this stage.  Pregnancy tests are designed to detect the pregnancy hormone HCG in your urine.  Even if you have had a miscarriage, this hormone will be present in your urine for period of days or even weeks, so tests will continue to show a positive result. So although it can feel reassuring to keep doing tests, there is not much point.

Early Scan

Waiting 12 weeks until the all-important scan can feel totally unbearable.  However, as soon as you have made contact with your doctor or midwife, you can request a dating scan which will confirm your pregnancy and help you to plan the date of your 12 week scan and nuchal scan (should you chose to have one).  Many people do not seem to know that this early scan is available to them – and perhaps your GP or doctor may not be forthcoming in offering this to you, but it is a provision made by the NHS for pregnant women in the UK.

If you have a scan before 12 weeks, it may be an internal scan as the embryo/fetus can be too small to be seen by trans-abdominal scanning methods (which are done on top of your tummy).

The internal scan is a painless and quick procedure – a small wand will be inserted into your vagina and a picture will immediately be visible to the sonographer who will be able to see the developing embryo/fetus.

At 6 weeks, a yolk sac should be seen, and sometimes a heartbeat can be detected.

By 7 weeks, the embryo will be about 1cm long and the heartbeat should easily be detected.

By 8 weeks, the embryo will measure about 1.6cm, and you might be able to make out the head and body, and some movements.

By 9 weeks, the head, body and limbs can be seen and it will be looking more like a baby. It is now known as a fetus.

Worrying about a miscarriage

Many women worry about the possibility of a miscarriage in the first 12 weeks.  So, if you find yourself unable to relax and continually scared of this prospect – it could be a good idea to go for a private scan to give yourself peace of mind. The cost can range from around £100 to £300 but this can represent great value for peace of mind, but again, if you can wait until 6 or 7 weeks this is a good idea.

Morning Sickness

At around 6 weeks you may start to experience nausea which can present itself in many ways, ranging from mild nausea to constant vomiting (hyperemesis gravidarum – HG) which in some cases can lead to dehydration- this can sometimes require hospitalisation.

The general term for this, “Morning Sickness” is for many women an inaccurate description.  The nausea can last all day, or even be worse in the afternoon. It can be made worse when hungry or tired or can be triggered by certain smells or motion.  Whilst some women compare the feeling to an all day hangover, others actually vomit on a daily basis.  Either way it can be unpleasant start to what many are hoping to be a wonderful time in their lives.

You may become sensitive to certain smells.  Walking past a previously inoffensive nail salon may have you retching!

On a positive note, feeling sick is a sign that your pregnancy hormones are high, which is good for the growing baby.  Nausea during the first few weeks of pregnancy is associated with a lower than average risk of miscarriage and may be the body’s way of stopping you from taking in “poisons”.  It is likely to improve somewhere between 14 and 16 weeks.

Tips for dealing with this include;

  • Eat as soon as you wake up, or even whilst still in bed.
  • Nibbling on crackers or biscuits often, even in the night, especially if you wake up hungry during the night.  Hunger can make the nausea worse.  Keep a cracker, biscuit or banana on your bedside table!
  • Ginger helps some women but not all – try tea, sweets or biscuits. Nairns Ginger Oat cakes are delicious and not too sweet.
  • Acupressure bands (Sea sickness bands) these can be found in most chemists or online.
  • Rest as much as you can as tiredness can make it worse.

If it is affecting your work then it could be a good idea to tell your boss.

If you are being sick, on the way to work or whilst out and about- take a plastic bag, bottle of water and chewing gum/toothbrush in your handbag. Or even better, try and work from home if you are able.

If you are worried you have Hyperemesis, please speak to your Midwife or GP.

Other Niggles

You may find that you go off tea, coffee, alcohol or certain foods. This can be helpful if you are trying to avoid drinking alcohol or too much caffeine.

You may also find yourself becoming absent-minded or preoccupied with your pregnancy.

You may also be feeling or acting more clumsy than usual.

These things are all very common and very normal!

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A post shared by Becca Maberly- Postnatal Expert- Author (@amotherplace)

Read about the next stage, 8 – 12 Weeks

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