During week 6 your baby’s neural tube is closing¹ and their heart continues to pump blood around their tadpole-like body. Learn why folic acid is so important at this time, and what may help to ease the queasiness of morning sickness that may have started.
Your baby's development at 6 weeks
Although only measuring around 2–4mm from the crown of their head to their bottom2, your baby has grown significantly since last week. In this 6th week of pregnancy they have a tadpole-like appearance, but with the tiny buds of their arms and legs developing, this won’t last long3. Once the limbs grow longer, your baby is still measured from head to bottom because the legs are often bent and difficult to gauge.
Your baby’s heart, which is no bigger than a poppy seed4, is now beating at around 110 beats per minute1, while the beginnings of their digestive tract are starting to form3. With the neural tube continuing to develop, week 6 is a good time to check that you’re getting the nutritional essentials, such as folic acid.
Your pregnancy hormones are building by the time you’re 6 weeks pregnant, which can often lead to nausea. Eating little and often may give some relief. Many mums say a dry cracker in the morning before getting out of bed can help to settle the stomach.
Even if you can’t tolerate your usual amount of food, try to stick to a healthy diet: it will give you and your baby the nutrients you both need.
The gift of future health
Focus on folic acid
The Department of Health recommends taking a daily folic acid supplement for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy6. This important nutrient supports the development of the neural tube, which is already closing to form your baby’s spine and nervous system7.
Taking 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid as a supplement is the best way to reduce the risk of neural tube defects, such as spina bifida.
The naturally occurring food source of folic acid is called folate. It is present in green, leafy vegetables, lentils, chickpeas and kidney beans, and folic acid is also added to some
If you find out you’re pregnant and haven’t been taking folic acid supplements or a prenatal multivitamin containing folic acid, don’t worry: simply start taking them straight away and carry on until you reach 12 weeks.
1. NHS National Genetics and Genomics Education Centre. Neural tube defects: anencephaly and spina bifida [Online]. 2014. Available at: www.geneticseducation.nhs.uk/genetic-conditions-54/688-neural-tube-defects-new [Accessed June 2014]
2. Papaioannou GI et al. Normal ranges of embryonic length, embryonic heart rate, gestational sac diameter and yolk sac diameter at 6-10 weeks. Fetal Diagn Ther 2010;28(4):207-19.
3. Deans A. Your New Pregnancy Bible, The experts’ guide to pregnancy and early parenthood. 4th ed. London: Carroll & Brown Publishers Limited, 2013. p. 31.
4. Murkoff H, Mazel S. What to Expect When You’re Expecting. 4th ed. London: Simon & Schuster Ltd, 2009. p. 149.
5. NHS UK. Nausea and morning sickness [Online]. 2013. Available at: www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pages/morning-sickness-nausea.aspx [Accessed July 2014]
6. Department of Health. Report on Health and Social Subjects 41. Dietary Reference Values for Food Energy and Nutrients for the United Kingdom. London: TSO, 1991.
7. NHS UK. Spina Bifida [Online]. 2012. Available at: www.nhs.uk/conditions/Spina-bifida/Pages/Introduction.aspx[Accessed June 2014]
Last reviewed: 7th July 2016
Questions about feeding and nutrition?
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