pregnant woman holding her belly

The Stages of Pregnancy

admin Pregnancy, Women's Health

If you think you may be pregnant or just received confirmation that you are: Congratulations! Pregnancy can be such an exciting journey. You’re likely now wondering what this journey is going to look like, and although every pregnancy is different, we can provide you with the general things you can expect over the coming weeks.

A pregnancy typically consists of 40 weeks broken into three trimesters. Each trimester brings new things to the table and can include some adjustments. Let’s dive into what you can expect to happen within your body and your baby during that time.

What to Expect the First Trimester of Your Pregnancy

The first trimester of your pregnancy includes weeks 1 through 12 and comes with a lot of adjustment and bodily changes. Your body starts to go through many changes thanks to the hormones that will affect just about every system in your body.

You’ll start to notice physical changes, but will also experience some symptoms, including:

  • No more monthly period during your pregnancy (although spotting can happen)
  • Tender and swollen breasts, as well as more defined nipples and darkening areolas
  • Unpredictable tiredness throughout the day
  • Morning sickness throughout the day, with or without vomiting
  • Cravings or aversions to different foods
  • Difficulting having bowel movements
  • Mood swings
  • Frequent urination
  • Heartburn
  • Headaches
  • Weight fluctuations

To accommodate these bodily changes, it’s important that you talk to your doctor about what lifestyle changes would be best for you during this season. For example, some women may receive recommendations that they get more sleep, eat smaller and more frequent meals, reduce stressors, etc.

As we said earlier, every pregnancy is different, and what a woman may or may not experience differs. Many of the discomforts you feel in the first trimester should diminish as your pregnancy progresses. If you are concerned about anything you may or may not be experiencing during your pregnancy, feel free to reach out to your doctor!

What’s Happening with Baby During the First Trimester

Here’s what you can be expecting within these first weeks of your pregnancy:

Week 4-5:

  • Baby’s brain and spinal cord have started forming
  • The heart is growing
  • Arms and legs are budding
  • Baby is an embryo and is one-twenty-fifth of an inch in size

Week 8:

  • Major organs and external body structures are forming
  • Baby has a heartbeat
  • Arms and legs have grown longer and toes are sprouting
  • Baby’s sex organs are forming
  • Baby’s eyes are now facing forward and its eyelids have formed
  • The umbilical cord is visibly contributing to baby’s growth
  • Baby is a considered a fetus and looks more human now
  • Baby is roughly 1 inch long

Week 12:

  • Baby can now make a fist, as their nerves and muscles are beginning to work together
  • The baby’s external sex organs now reveal whether they are a girl or boy
  • Baby’s eyelids have now closed to protect their developing eyes and will remain closed until the 28th week of pregnancy
  • Baby is roughly 3 inches long

What to Expect the Second Trimester of Your Pregnancy

The second trimester of pregnancy spans weeks 13 through 28 and is typically easier than the first trimester. Symptoms such as nausea and fatigue tend to diminish, but you’ll likely start experiencing new symptoms as your body is adjusting and your belly is expanding. The most exciting part of this trimester is that you’ll be able to feel the movements of your baby before the end!

You’ll also begin to experience some or all of the following:

  • Aching throughout your body, including your back, groin, abdomen, and thighs
  • Stretch marks as your body expands to make room for baby
  • A line along your skin stretching from your belly button to your pubic hairline
  • The “mask of pregnancy”; darkening patches of skin on your forehead, cheeks, nose, and upper lip
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome; numbness or tingling in your hands
  • Itchiness on the palms of your hands, abdomen, and soles of your feet
  • Incremental swelling of the face, ankles, and fingers (contact your doctor right away if you have sudden or extreme swelling, as this can be a sign of preeclampsia)

What’s Happening with Baby the Second Trimester

Here’s what baby is experiencing during your second trimester of pregnancy:

Week 16:

  • Baby now has a more complete skeleton, as its muscle tissue and bones continue to form
  • Translucent skin is now present
  • Your baby is developing meconium in their intestinal tract, which will be their first bowel movement
  • Baby’s sucking reflex is kicking in and they’re likely making sucking motions with their mouth
  • Baby is now roughly 4-5 inches long

Week 20:

  • Baby is moving around a lot more, so you’ll likely feel some “fluttering”
  • Lanugo (fine, downy hair) and Vernix (a waxy coating) is protecting baby’s forming skin
  • Fingernails, toenails, eyebrows, and eyelashes have formed
  • Baby can now hear and swallow
  • Baby is now roughly 6 inches long

Week 24:

  • Bone marrow is now creating blood cells within the baby’s body
  • Taste buds have formed on your baby’s tongue
  • Fingerprints and footprints are established
  • Baby is now growing a head of hair
  • Their lungs have formed but cannot function yet
  • Hand and startle reflexes have developed
  • Baby now has a sleep and wake pattern
  • Sex organs are now more developed
  • Baby is starting to store fat and is roughly 12 inches long

What to Expect the Third Trimester of Your Pregnancy

This is your final stretch before the baby comes! Many women express feeling “huge” at this point but be assured that everything you’re experiencing is contributing to the baby’s health. You’re going to be experiencing a lot of the same things you did during the second trimester, with some changes. Your body is continuing to try to make room for the baby and it may get a bit uncomfortable. However, once the baby is born, you’ll see these discomforts dissipate.

With this final trimester, you’re likely to experience:

  • An increase in urination as the baby presses on your bladder
  • Shortness of breath as the baby is likely putting more pressure on your lungs
  • Continuation of incremental swelling of the face, ankles and fingers
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Tender breasts that may start to leak colostrum (a watery pre-milk substance)
  • A protruding belly button
  • Difficulting sleeping
  • The sensation of baby “dropping” as it moves lower in your abdomen
  • Braxton Hicks contractions or real contractions

As you close in on your due date, your cervix will be thinning and getting softer (called effacing) as your body prepares to give birth. Stay consistent with your doctor visits, as they will need to monitor your progress as you get closer to birthing your baby!

What’s Happening with Baby the Third Trimester

This is the baby’s biggest time for growth spurts! Here’s what they’re experiencing in the womb.

Week 32:

  • All bones are fully formed but remain soft
  • Kicking and jabbing is now taking place with a bit more force behind it
  • The eyes are able to open and close and they can sense changes in light
  • Baby is practicing breathing movements, but their lungs are still not fully formed
  • Lanugo is beginning to fall off of the baby
  • Baby is roughly 15-17 inches long

Week 36:

  • Vernix is thickening around the baby
  • Baby’s body fat is increasing
  • Baby’s movements will likely be less forceful, but you’ll feel and see stretches and wiggles
  • Baby is roughly 16-19 inches long

Weeks 37-40:

  • Baby is considered early-term at 37 weeks and full-term at 39 weeks
  • It’s head has likely turned down in preparation for birth
  • Baby is roughly 19-21 inches long

Healthy babies come in all different sizes; your doctor will be checking each visit to make sure your baby is growing well!

What Happens After Baby is Born

Many expectant mothers wonder what happens after they give birth. The quick answer is: Everyone is different. Obviously, you’ll want to keep up with your doctor’s appointments and strive for a healthy diet and lifestyle as you make this transition into motherhood.

If you’re looking for health professionals you can trust with your upcoming pregnancy and motherhood journey, set up an appointment with us!