A pregnancy lasts a total of 40 weeks on average. These weeks are grouped into three trimesters. Within each trimester, you will experience your body changing as the baby grows and your emotional state fluctuating. For many women, knowing what is happening with their baby, their bodies and what to expect adds to the excitement of being pregnant. It helps to be well-informed plus for many women it can be great fun to read up on the trimesters or week-by-week pregnancy guides.
The first trimester
The first trimester starts on the first day of your last period until the end of week 13. For most of this trimester, you will not look pregnant although you probably feel different.
Three weeks into your pregnancy, you have conceived and the fertilized egg begins to rapidly multiply into a group of cells. This group of cells travels down the Fallopian tubes into your uterus where it implants.
Your body is filled with increased levels of hormones making you tired, nauseous, constipated and other early pregnancy signs. Your uterus is working hard to house your growing baby and placenta. By week 9, your baby is called a fetus and your uterus has grown as big as a grapefruit.
During the first trimester, your baby will develop all its organs, thus things like maintaining a healthy lifestyle, resting well, avoiding alcohol and other toxins are vital to ensuring your baby grows strong and healthy.
By 12 weeks, you will go to your doctor for your first scan when your doctor will do an extensive check to ensure that your baby is developing well. Your doctor may check for any defects in the spine, heart, lungs, kidneys and other organs. You may also have to do certain blood tests for your doctor to establish your blood type, check for down syndrome, and establish if you have an immunity to Rubella.
By the end of the first trimester, your early pregnancy symptoms are beginning to lift. You are about to enter what I like to call the honeymoon stage of your pregnancy.
The second trimester
The second trimester is comprised of weeks 14 to 28. By this stage, you will probably find that you have a bit of a muffin top around your midsection. Your pants don’t quite fit but you’re not ready for maternity clothes just yet. Clothing that is loose and elastic works best at this stage. You are probably and hopefully feeling more like your usual self. Your energy levels are returning as is your appetite. Welcome to the honeymoon stage!
By week 16, you’ll probably be feeling a slight fluttering in your uterus. This is your baby moving. At first, it is irregular; you may even dismiss it as gas. Over the next few weeks, you will become more aware of your baby’s kicks. You may even find that whenever you lay down, you feel your baby moving the most. This is also the time in your pregnancy when you may choose to know the gender of your baby. This can be a time of great excitement for many couples as they begin to plan the nursery, purchase baby items, and talk about names.
By week 20, your baby can hear outside activities and conversations. Your tummy is probably showing at this point and suddenly those maternity clothes look like a good idea. Your uterus will continue to expand over the next trimester bringing with it a variety of pregnancy symptoms and altering the way you walk.
You may experience backache, pains in your hips as your ligaments soften and stretch to accommodate your expanding belly. Pigment changes on your skin may occur and a dark line going from your naval to your groin may appear. You might begin to see stretch marks making their unwanted appearance. Your appetite may increase and/or you might have different cravings.
Your baby will quadruple in size during the second trimester reaching about 10 inches in length and about 1.5 lbs in weight.
The third trimester
During weeks 29 through to 40, your baby continues to lay down fat under its skin while the organs continue to grow and strengthen. In this trimester you will probably find yourself getting more tired, insomnia may kick in not too mention heartburn and leg cramps. Other symptoms include pelvic pain, swollen legs, ankles, and feet.
Around week 36 your baby will probably have changed position to prepare for birth with its head facing down in your pelvis. The closer your due date gets, the more your baby will move into your pelvis. This will result in a “dropping” of your tummy. At this point of your pregnancy (anytime in the last four weeks), you may find yourself having a lot more breath thanks to the baby no longer being pressed against your diaphragm. The flip side is your pelvis may feel heavier and a bit more tender. Hang in there: the baby is almost ready to come out!
This is the time for preparing for childbirth. If you haven’t already signed up for antenatal classes, now is the time. You may also want to go for the hospital tour of the hospital’s maternity ward. This is also the time when you may have a baby shower, finish up the nursery, and go on maternity leave. Although the third trimester ends theoretically at 40 weeks, your baby could be born anytime from weeks 37 to 42. Your baby’s birth will also depend on your birthing options: a scheduled C-section may bring a baby earlier than a natural birth.
Enjoy each stage of your pregnancy as a journey of creation!