The First Trimester

How long is the first trimester?

That seems like a simple question that should have a simple answer, and yet, it doesn’t. There was a time when pregnancy was regarded as a nine-month process. However, depending on when those months fall within the calendar year, nine months can be anywhere from 36-39 weeks. The average pregnancy lasts 40 weeks. For most women, that’s closer to 10 months than nine.

Another significant reason for calculating pregnancy by 40 weeks, rather than nine months, is that doctors now view the first day of your last period as the start of your pregnancy. (That removes any speculation about when a woman actually conceived.)

When I first found out that I was pregnant, I was six-and-a-half weeks along, according to the doctor’s calculations. In reality, though, the embryo was three-four weeks less than that in terms of development.

The first trimester is important from a medical perspective because most miscarriages occur within that period. At the age of 39, I had a 30% chance of a miscarriage during the first trimester. That risk would drop to 5-10% in the second trimester.

Most pregnant women wait to share the news that they’re expecting until they’ve made it through the first trimester. The first trimester technically ends after the third day of the 13th week of pregnancy with the first day of a woman’s last period counting as day one. However, doctors and patients vary as to whether they view the end of the first trimester as week 12 (when the risk of miscarriage noticeably decreases as long as there is a strong heartbeat) or week 14.

I regarded the first trimester ending after the 13th week of pregnancy. I waited to post the news online until I was 15 1/2 weeks. That didn’t mean that I didn’t want to share the news sooner, though.

Since I began participating on social media sites, I’ve been very open about my life in general and my health in particular. I’ve shared the good, the bad, the blessings and the heartbreak with you all.  It was incredibly tough not to write about this experience in the moment, especially since I regard many of you long-time readers as friends. But, my comfort in shouting about every major life event from the rooftop had to be tempered against my loved ones’ preference to be cautious.

Now that people know that I’m pregnant, one of the first questions I’m asked is how far along I am. When I respond in weeks, not months, most people are confused. After explaining how pregnancy is now calculated, most then inquire as to my due date.

“It’s in early June, right?”

“Well, it is,” I respond. “But, the hope is that I’ll have a C-section in late May.” (Scheduled C-sections are typically performed one week before a woman's due date.)

At the end of the day, though, whether she arrives at 39 versus 40 weeks or the exact date in which the first trimester ends isn’t that important. What matters far more to me is that I have thankfully been doing well throughout my pregnancy and she is growing as she should be. I continue to hope and pray that all continues as such.

Do you think that there’s a right time to share the news? For those of you who have been pregnant, when did you tell others?

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