Here’s why: Doctors measure pregnancy on a calendar that lasts 40 weeks and starts on day one of the cycle in which you became pregnant. So, your first official day of pregnancy is the first day of your last menstrual cycle — technically, before becoming pregnant.
It’s only when your body releases an egg from an ovary — generally between the end of week two and the start of week three — that you can actually become pregnant. This egg release is called ovulation, and it typically means that you’re fertile and ready to conceive.
So yes, as bizarre as it may seem, you won’t know when your first week of pregnancy was until after your pregnancy is confirmed.
In the wrong place? If you think you’ve just become pregnant and want to check out the symptoms, take a look at our handy week-by-week pregnancy calendar.
Or, take a look at the signs of being 4 weeks pregnant — most likely the earliest you’ll start noticing some changes.
The short answer is: Week 1 of pregnancy is exactly like the first week of your cycle — because that’s what it is.
You’re probably very familiar with what it’s like to have your period every month.
You shed blood and tissue from your uterus through your vagina and get to experience all the fun (sarcasm alert!) symptoms that go along with that.
Mostly, periods are annoying. But they’re also what your body must do in order to prepare for pregnancy.
Common period symptoms include:
- abdominal bloating
- anxiety and mood swings
- change in bowel habits, from constipation to diarrhea
- change in libido
- food cravings and increased appetite
- intolerance to alcohol
- joint and muscle pain
- stomach pain (also not-so-affectionately known as “cramps“)
- tender breasts
- weight gain due to fluid retention
You may not be pregnant in actuality, but there are things you can do to maximize your chances that you’ll be able to call this week 1 of pregnancy in hindsight.
In other words, it’s not too early for your body — and you — to prep for pregnancy.
So what on earth is going on in your body when you have your period? Well, first of all, for your entire previous cycle, your hormone levels have been shifting to prepare your body for pregnancy.
When you don’t get pregnant, your body sheds the lining of your uterus. Your uterus lining is where an embryo implants, but if you’re not pregnant, you don’t need a thick lining. And that’s where your period comes from.
On average, a woman’s period lasts about five to seven days as part of a 28-day cycle. Some women have cycles that run 21 to 35 days, and bleed from 2 to 10 days, so don’t fret it if that’s you. It’s still totally within a good range.
When your period finishes, your body will prepare the uterus for a possible pregnancy again. If you’re fertile, you’ll ovulate, typically somewhere between 13 to 20 days from the start of your period — though your cycle may be different.
Either way, it’s during ovulation that you’ll potentially be able to conceive and get pregnant.
During the week of your period, you can best prepare for pregnancy by:
1. Understanding when you’ll be most fertile
When your body releases an egg during ovulation, it has 12 to 24 hours to live. Yikes! It must meet a sperm during that time, or else it dies and you won’t get pregnant.
But here’s the good news if you’re trying to get pregnant: Sperm have a much longer life. (Don’t worry though. We have men beat in terms of how long we live.) In fact, sperm can live for up to seven days inside of your body.
So, it’s possible that if you have sex shortly before ovulation, you can get pregnant from sperm that was waiting inside your body.
You may want to track your fertility so you know when you have the highest chances of getting pregnant. At the end of week 1, it’s possible to get a better idea of when you’ll ovulate by:
- charting your menstrual cycle on a calendar
- checking your cervical mucus
- continuing to measure your basal metabolic temperature if you use this method of family planning
- using ovulation test strips that measure your body’s hormone levels, and can tell you whether or not you’re ovulating (most helpful if you tend to ovulate early)
All of this is sometimes called the fertility awareness method. It may help you get pregnant, but it’s not the most reliable form of birth control — so beware.
2. Starting prenatal vitamins
Taking prenatal vitamins is something that doctors advise when you’re pregnant or trying to become pregnant. Experts agree that folic acid is probably the MVP (most valuable prenatal) ingredient for pregnancy.
Taking prenatal vitamins can help prevent a serious problem called neural tube birth defect.
The guidelines? According to the
If you haven’t already added folic acid to your routine, week 1 is a good time to start. Prenatal vitamins usually include folic acid, as well as other good stuff — like iron, calcium, and vitamin D.
3. Drinking lots of water (but not alcohol)
During week 1, it’s smart to set up healthy lifestyle habits to maintain through your entire pregnancy.
For many moms-to-be, it can be tough to give up alcohol. But doing so is important for the health of your future baby.
It’s also a good idea during week 1 to give up sugary drinks, which can also be bad for the health of your baby — not to mention you!
We know that this is tough. But instead of grabbing that can of cola or bottle — er, glass — of wine, hydrate with the recommended 8 to 11 glasses of water every day. Besides, it’s good practice for when you’re pregnant and need to drink even more.
4. Eating well
When you’re pregnant, you’re eating for two, right? Well, hold off on the extra servings for now!
Later in pregnancy, you’ll need to consider adding another 100 to 300 calories to your diet every day — but not actually doubling your intake.
Eating well before and during your pregnancy is important not only for your baby’s health, but also your own.
When you’re trying to eat for pregnancy, focus on eating lots of fresh, nourishing foods like fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, healthy fats, and fibrous grains. Eat the rainbow, so to speak. (But we’re not talking about Skittles.)
During week 1, you may have food cravings that come along with getting your period. To avoid overindulging on unhealthy food, try to replace snacking time with other activities like going for a walk or meeting a friend.
5. Exercising regularly
When you have your period, exercising is sometimes the last thing you feel like doing. (Let’s admit, it’s much easier to lay on the couch and eat chocolate!)
But research suggests that many people find that their unpleasant period symptoms, like cramps, may actually go away faster when they exercise. Count us in!
Getting some exercise every day and trying to meet recommended exercise guidelines will keep you and your future baby healthy. Week 1 is a great time to start a new exercise routine that you can maintain throughout your pregnancy.
Keeping active while pregnant will boost both your physical and mental health, and make it feel easier to give birth.
6. Kicking your smoking habit
Smoking and taking other drugs is one of the most dangerous things you can do to your future baby. Smokers usually have a more difficult time getting pregnant than do non-smokers, and also have a higher rate of miscarriages.
If you smoke while pregnant, you also expose your unborn baby to toxic chemicals. This increases your baby’s risks of being born too early or with a low birth weight. We don’t mean to scare you, but on a very serious note, smoking also increases risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
If you live with someone who smokes, ask them to smoke outside and away from you so you’re not exposed to secondhand smoke.
Quitting smoking is tough! Let week 1 of your pregnancy be your motivator to stop.
Talk to your doctor about how to quit, or join a support group or program. You can learn more about your options by calling 800-QUIT-NOW.
7. Reducing your stress
Becoming a parent is a big life event that can be stressful at times. Set your pregnancy off on the right foot during week 1 by taking time to make yourself feel as happy and healthy as possible. This is an important part of self-care.
You’re probably excited to learn what’s next after your first week of pregnancy — or non-pregnancy.
If you take good care of yourself during week 1, you may have a better chance of getting pregnant when you ovulate some time during week two or three.
About two weeks after conceiving, most women will start to feel some subtle early signs of pregnancy.
Here’s what to look for:
- feeling more tired than usual
- food aversions and changes in food preferences
- light spotting that isn’t your period, which is called implantation bleeding
- mood swings and moodiness
- more frequent urination
- nausea, with or without vomiting
- not getting your period when expected
- stuffy nose
- tender, swollen breasts
Once you’re pregnant, your body will begin making more of a hormone called hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin).
By five days before what would have been the date of your period, some early home pregnancy tests may be able to measure enough hCG to tell you whether or not you’re pregnant.
But not everyone produces enough hCG in early pregnancy to trigger a positive pregnancy test. Early home pregnancy tests are usually most accurate if you wait until the first day of your expected period to test.
A blood test at the doctor’s office is the most accurate way to learn your pregnancy status.
If you’re looking to get pregnant and you get positive test results, congratulations! You’ve made a huge step toward becoming a parent. Keep up the healthy habits you set up during week 1 of your pregnancy.
It’s especially important during this time to continue taking your prenatal vitamins. This is also the time when you should schedule your first prenatal visit with your doctor.
Sure, you’re not pregnant yet, but there are many things you can do during week 1 to prepare for the best possible pregnancy outcome if that’s what you’re striving for. If it is, we’re sending baby dust your way.