6th – Sixth week of pregnancy

During the 6th week of pregnancy in your belly the embryo is still positioned folded on itself in the shape of a “C” but it is growing rapidly: consider that only in these days it doubles in size in a week. During this phase, the mother’s body begins to take on new roundness and visibly change.

In this regard, it may interest you to know that,

  • according to some studies, ginger is an excellent ally in countering the frequent nausea you may have during this period and, for those who don’t know, there are also ginger candies. However, it is good to keep in mind that the effects can be very different depending on the quantity taken and that, in any case, there does not yet seem to be an absolute consensus on the effectiveness and on the absence of side effects. We advise you to consult a gynecologist or trusted healthcare personnel before starting any treatment during pregnancy.
  • against nausea there are also anti-nausea bracelets, which can also be purchased online for a few tens of euros, and which promise to treat this disorder by affecting those pressure points that traditional Chinese medicine considers important for this purpose. However, some medical reviews (studies that collect the primary studies done so far in the literature) have not shown a substantial improvement. This simply means that in some cases there have been improvements and in others not. 

The embryo at 6 weeks

the development of the facial and sensory organs of the embryo

In the 6th week of pregnancy the embryo still looks like a small tadpole.However, it is during this period that his cheeks, jaw, chin, nose and limbs begin to form. At the same time, the inner ear canals also begin to form; the prosencephalon gives rise to a hollow stem on each side, and forms two small cups which will later become the eye sockets. Inside the cups, epithelial cells begin to transform into the cornea and retina.

the development of the internal organs of the embryo

The liver, lungs, and kidneys also develop during this time. For now, the heart is only the size of a poppy seed. However, it beats well (between 100 and 160 beats per minute) and circulation works well too. Primitive erythrocytes (red blood cells) begin to  circulate through the embryo and the chorionic villi. At this stage, the two intestines (small and large) also begin to form.

the development of the limbs

The limbs begin to grow so that they eventually form the arms and legs of the embryo.

the development of the neural tube

These days the neural tube that connects the brain and spinal cord closes. The upper end of this tube will become the brain of the fetus; while the lower one will give rise to the spinal cord.

the umbilical cord

The umbilical cord , which supplies the baby with needed oxygen and nutrients, continues to grow.

size of the embryo at the 6th week

At the 6th week of gestation, the baby is about 4-5 millimeters long. At this stage of growth, it is measured – from the head to the pelvis – therefore, this measurement does not yet take into account the legs (which are still developing).

Now let’s see what are the big and small revolutions that take place in your body during this period.

The woman’s body at the sixth week

During the 6th week the most noticeable bodily changes consist of a slight increase in weight, swelling in the legs, and breasts.

It is normal that if you suffer from  morning disturbances (hyperemesis gravidarum) during this period, you may also lose weight. A pelvic exam may show you an increase in the size of the uterus due to the growing size of the embryo.

In this week, the high hCG values ​​increase the blood flow in the pelvic area, so that the embryo can receive enough oxygen and nutrients. This means that, similarly to what happened in the previous weeks, your kidneys have to work more efficiently with a consequent need for you to urinate more often. The increased pressure exerted by the uterus on the bladder also contributes to reinforcing this need of yours.

Depending on a number of factors related to the position of the baby in the womb and your height, during this week you may already begin to notice a  bulge in your belly . During the 8th week you may also feel pain in the lower abdomen precisely because the uterus begins to change and grow, and it is for these reasons that the nerve fibers inside are stretched and cause pain.

The clothes you usually wear may become tighter around your waist due to weight gain. Therefore, start considering the purchase of special maternity garments  or, at least, think about using a trouser-widening band, such as the Belly belt band .

Maternity pillows are one of the most advisable accessories for this, and for the subsequent period of pregnancy. There are some for all tastes and for all needs: from the mini pillow to the total body pillow.

Sixth week: the baby bump

Ultrasound in the sixth week of pregnancy

Most women have their first ultrasound in the 6th or 7th week. During these weeks an ultrasound – which at this stage of pregnancy will probably be a transvaginal ultrasound – will certainly show two large swellings; one consists of the heart; the other, positioned in the upper end of the neural tube, is the one from which the head of the fetus will develop.

Typically, on this ultrasound, your doctor will want to check for:

  • Heart Development – ​​The embryo has not yet fully developed a heart, but with a little luck you can now see and hear the tiny heart beating (at 90-110 beats per minute). During the entire pregnancy, the heart rate will gradually increase day by day, until it reaches 175-180 beats per minute, to then decrease and stabilize around 120-160 beats. There is nothing to worry about if, at six weeks of pregnancy, the ultrasound still does not allow the perception of the heartbeat : ​​probably a second ultrasound, performed 3-7 days later, will allow the heartbeat to be detected.
  • Number of embryos – With ultrasound it may already be possible to distinguish the number of embryos present and therefore understand whether or not you are in the presence of a twin pregnancy. Recall that twin pregnancies represent 1-2% of all pregnancies. Keep in mind, however, that sometimes 6 weeks is too early to distinguish one or more embryos.
  • Location – Ultrasound can pinpoint where the embryo is implanted. Your doctor wants to know if it’s high or low in the uterus, but especially if it’s in or outside the uterus. An ectopic pregnancy (a very dangerous condition for the pregnant woman) occurs when a fertilized egg implants itself in a fallopian tube or elsewhere outside the uterus.
  • Size – Your doctor will want to measure the size of the embryo to confirm your expected delivery date.
  • Yolk sac – At this stage of pregnancy, a yolk sac should be visible within the gestational sac. It tends to look like a tiny balloon, and the doctor wants to see its size and shape, which are indicators of the mother’s health.

In the following paragraphs we will talk about the possible symptoms that are felt during the sixth week of pregnancy and the possible complications that could occur during this period.

Symptoms 6 week of pregnancy

Apart from the normal symptoms which, we recall, can consist of nausea and vomiting, morning disturbances, flatulence, indigestion, heartburn and bloating (usually due to high progesterone levels), but also periodic abdominal pain and cramps lower back pain, dizziness, constipation /diarrhoea, cravings or aversions to food (accompanied by nausea) increased sensitivity to smell, headaches and increased emotionality (mood swings, depression) – around this time the following additional symptoms may occur.

  • frequent urination: expectant mothers now urinate for two people; in addition, the uterus puts pressure on the bladder; 
  • tiredness and fatigue due to the greater work that the body has to carry out: tiredness and fatigue mainly caused by a drop in blood pressure, which will begin to decrease following a process of hemodilution (more liquid blood), for which the circulatory system it will begin to introduce more and more water into it;
  • mild vaginal bleeding or spotting  accompanied by cramping; 
  • increased sensitivity and softness of the breasts that are preparing for feeding;
  • insomnia or trouble sleeping, often due to restless legs syndrome due to pregnancy hormones;
  • whitish colored cervical mucus;
  • groin pain: the body must, in fact, get used to pregnancy;
  • stuffy nose due to high estrogen levels (pregnancy rhinitis);
  • excessive thirst and dry mouth (this could indicate managerial diabetes
  • hot flashes and chills; [ 5 ]
  • rectal pressure: the uterus stretches to keep the embryo in a comfortable position;
  • shortness of breath;
  • pain in the joints and legs in the knee, hips and elbows;
  • itching, on the belly, breasts and legs;
  • pain under the ribs on one or both sides (rather rare);
  • yellowish discoloration of urine due to prenatal vitamins, high hormone levels, dehydration.

In any case, during pregnancy it is normal to have either only some of these symptoms, or none at all.

Due to higher hormone levels, women pregnant with twins or triplets may experience more morning discomfort than those expecting a single child.

The possible complications in this period

There are a number of symptoms, in the presence of which it would be advisable for you to go to your doctor. They can be given by,

  • severe pelvic pain, with or without bleeding;
  • a back pain or sharp abdominal pain on one or both sides (could result from a malfunctioning kidney or a urinary tract infection);
  • heavy bleeding, accompanied by blood clots;
  • yellowish or brown vaginal discharge;
  • white/grey vaginal discharge with a foul odor, or watery, odorless discharge when urinating (this may indicate infections such as bacterial vaginosis and candidiasis);
  • a continuous fever for 24-36 hours.

Some useful things to know about the sixth week of gestation

  • During the sixth week, the embryo begins to make its first movements. They are very slow movements, and are therefore not yet perceptible by the mother.
  • If you are expecting twins, you may experience more nausea and vomiting sensations due to more hormones circulating in your body.
  • Your sensitivity to smells could increase to the point that even a simple coffee could trigger a bout of nausea in you.
  • In this week the embryo still has a tail.
  • Your baby-to-be’s head is starting to take shape: you’ll probably notice that it’s very large compared to the rest of the body (almost one-third the size of the body). It is a disproportion that you will be able to notice even during the first two years of your child’s life.
  • If you suffer from insomnia at night, taking melatonin could help you fall asleep; however, talk to your doctor.

Tips for a peaceful pregnancy

  • If you haven’t already done so, this week you could schedule the first visit to your trusted gynecologist, who
    • will start compiling your obstetric record, collecting data on your family history and prescribing you monthly exams and visits for the rest of the pregnancy,
    • will measure your blood pressure and evaluate any specific risks of your pregnancy (both for you and for the embryo – fetus).
  • Stop smoking and drinking alcohol if you haven’t already.
  • Follow a diet based on foods (especially vegetables and fruit) that are rich in folic acid and vitamin C.
  • Avoid handling products with toxins, insecticides and drugs.
  • Before starting any medical procedures (such as x-rays), tell your doctor that you are pregnant.
  • Do some light physical exercise. 
  • Consult your doctor before taking anti-anxiety drugs (such as Xanax).
  • Be  careful what you eat to avoid the risk of contracting toxoplasmosis .
  • Also to avoid contracting toxoplasmosis, stay away from cat litter boxes.

Katherine Johnson, M.D., is a board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist with clinical expertise in general obstetrics and gynecology, family planning, women’s health, and gynecology.

She is affiliated with the Obstetrics and Gynecology division at an undisclosed healthcare institution and the online platform, Maternicity.com.

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