Pregnancy is the period between conception and birth.
The desire of every mother is to deliver a healthy baby. It is thus important for you to know what to expect as it concerns your body and your baby.
Pregnancy is divided into 3 trimesters:
First trimester : 1 – 3 months
Second trimester : 4 – 6 months
Third trimester: 7 – 9 months
Usually, the duration of pregnancy is counted in weeks, however, this guide is for the general populace who count in months.
Your last menstrual period (LMP) is counted as part of your pregnancy. The Expected Date of Delivery (EDD) is calculated from the first day of your last period.
It is important because, even though your baby has not yet formed, it is the period during which your body prepares for pregnancy.
Physically, there is nothing that shows in a woman’s body for her to know that she’s pregnant within the first 4 weeks, however, some women claim to have an aura or ‘feeling’ of being pregnant.
The common symptom here is that you will notice that your period has been delayed!
- By the 4th week, a urine or blood pregnancy test will show a positive result.
Although, an ultrasound scan is the confirmatory test for pregnancy.
This is the period of fertilization and implantation.
A cluster of cells called blastocyst, which develop into the placenta and embryo is formed.
Your baby is enveloped in a gestational sac and is now called an embryo.
- By the 5th week, you would be certain that you have missed your period.
Some women experience bleeding which may be misinterpreted for a period.
It is important to start taking folic acid supplements if you haven’t been doing so to prevent birth defects.
This phase is very critical because it is the period where your baby starts to develop its organs. More than ever before you should avoid alcohol, cigarettes and any other medications not prescribed by the doctor.
- Towards the 8th week, You may begin to experience some symptoms such as lethargy, irritability, low moods, nausea, heartburn. However, some people may be symptom free.
You may also urinate frequently due to your kidneys making lot of fluid for the baby.
At week 5, a pelvic ultrasound scan may be inconclusive, however, a vaginal ultrasound would be able to confirm pregnancy.
- In the 6th week, a pelvic ultrasound scan shows a gestational sac with fetal pole and cardiac activity – your doctor can see your baby’s heart beat, this helps to confirm that the pregnancy is viable.
The heart at this stage will begin to function. The umbilical cord forms and growth is generally rapid.
Your baby will develop major organs such as the heart, brain , kidneys, reproductive organs, intestine, liver and bladder in this month.
Buds that will form the arms and legs develop. The eyes, ears and mouth also begin to form.
By week 7, your baby is the size of a kidney bean! The arms and legs continue to develop, although no toes or fingers yet.
The brain is growing as well as development of the eyes, nose, pancreas, lungs and intestines.
Week 8 ushers in the development of your baby’s elbows and fingers.
Week 9 is the time where you realise that you are missing your second period in case you hadn’t realised you were pregnant.
Symptoms increase, nausea, vomiting, irritability, mood swings, aversion to certain foods intensify.
You may begin adding weight, however, weight loss is common in women with morning sickness. You may also start experiencing heartburn and indigestion.
Your breasts become fuller as they prepare for lactation.
By the end of the month, Morning sickness is fully established for most women.
Avoid having an empty stomach which worsens queasiness. Snack on healthy foods on the go.
Your belly will start showing if it hasn’t been obvious yet.
You may urinate more often due to the pressure in your pelvis caused by your growing womb.
- In the 9th week, your baby starts developing bones and cartilage. The eyes, tongues and intestines continue to develop clearly. Fingers and thumbs have appeared on both hands by now.
In the 10th week, most of the major joints are formed in your baby. There is also fluid by now in your womb where your baby perpetually swims.
By the 11th week your baby will have attained the size of a grape fruit. The placenta will start to function and blood will begin to circulate between your baby and your womb. This marks the beginning of the fetal period.
Week 12 is a period of rapid growth. The most critical part of your baby’s development is over by this time. Nearly all the organs and structures of the foetus will be formed by now.
Hair and finger nails will begin to grow. The intestines will start working and the kidneys will begin to function too.
As your womb stretches to accommodate your growing baby you may feel achy, tired and have difficulty sleeping. Some women still continue to experience morning sickness.
An ultrasound can be used to know your baby’s gender by week 15. You can even see your baby sucking his or her thumb at this stage.
Your womb will be getting bigger and would have risen out of the pelvis, so that a bump can be felt in your lower abdomen.
You should register for antenatal care at this stage if you haven’t done so already. It is a preventive measure used to assess risk factors and ensure a healthy mother and baby at the end of pregnancy.
By week 16, Most of your symptoms would be easing off if it hasn’t already. Be sure to increase the fibres in your diet (fruits, vegetables, etc) during this time, as constipation may become an issue.
Your nipples and areola will become darker too.
At 14 weeks, The placenta is developed enough to supply all your baby’s nourishment.
Facial features are beginning to form and the fetus is beginning to look like a baby.
By week 16, Your baby would start growing hair called ‘lanugo hair’, this would be shed later.
Experienced moms feel quickening (kicks) by the 16th week, however, First timers may not feel it until a couple of weeks later.
First time moms would feel their baby move sometime between 18 – 22 wks.
Your doctor would give you your first dose of antimalarial and tetanus toxoid around this time.
Your antenatal appointment would be scheduled monthly.
Due to your baby’s rapid growth you will add more weight during this month.
Week 20 marks the mid stage of pregnancy.Your womb would have reached your navel by now.
There will be a dark line between your navel and your pubic hair. Don’t worry this line will disappear after delivery.
Your baby will begin to form fat under his/skin by the 17th week. It is a period of rapid growth.
The placenta and baby will be at about equal sizes by this time.
At week 18, your baby can suck, swallow and blink!
A pelvic ultrasound scan would be able to show your baby’s sex by week 20.
You should be feeling more comfortable with pregnancy now.
Your ankles and feet may begin to swell especially in the evenings. Drink a lot of fluids, rest and elevate your feet on pillows.
Stretch marks, dryness and itchiness may be present. Drink a lot of water to reduce the dryness, moisturize and remember to eat healthy.
You may begin to develop low back pain because of the weight gain. Be sure to avoid sitting or standing for long periods.
You may also notice increased vaginal secretions, contact your doctor if there is a change in colour, odour or if it gets itchy.
Your baby’s organs are maturing.
At 20 weeks your baby develops a white substance on its skin called vermix caseosa. It protects your baby’s skin from its aquatic environment.
In the 21st week, your baby’s rapid growth will begin to slow down a bit. The heart beat is stronger and your doctor can listen to it through your tummy with a Pinard stethoscope.
The teeth buds are forming.
By week 24, eyes begin to open, and your baby responds to external stimuli, you may even feel your baby having hiccups.
Your weight gain will be more at this stage, you would gain approximately 0.5kg/week. Your tummy will be much more obvious by now.
Those back aches will only get worse by this stage. You can use ice packs on those sore areas or take a warm bath every now and then.
By week 28, You may feel your womb tighten and relax at irregular intervals, known as Braxton-Hicks Contraction. Do not be worried. It is just your body’s way of practising the real thing.
Your antenatal appointment would be increased to every 2 weeks.
You would be given a second dose of malaria prophylaxis.
At 24 weeks, your baby continues to become stronger. Those kicks will get even meaner. You may even see your tummy move as your baby swims around in amniotic fluid.
Your baby will be weighing well over half a kilo by 24 weeks. However, it can not survive on its own if delivered at this stage.
Week 25 marks the beginning of the formation of the structures of your baby’s spine. The blood vessels of the lungs will be developing and the nostrils will begin to open.
At 26 weeks your baby should be at least up to 1 kilogram in weight.
Your baby’s hearing is fully developed.
Your baby has definite sleep/wake patterns.
The brain and lungs will continue their rapid growth and development in the 27th week. The eyelids will begin to open and the retina will begin to form.
By week 30, the hands are fully formed and fingernails are growing.
You may begin to experience shortness of breath. As your womb is now closer to your rib cage, your lungs may not be able to fully expand.
Practice breathing exercises which would help during delivery.
You may feel leg cramps, itchy skin, heartburn and even haemorrhoids by now. Just always remember that it is temporary.
You may want to sleep on your left side so that there will be good flow of blood to your organs.
You should start preparing for your baby’s arrival, write out all what you need to buy for your newborn. You may start planning your baby shower.
Your baby can recognise your voice and even your partner’s voice. So you can talk and sing to your baby.
At 29 weeks your baby’s eyes should be fully formed by now. The head is no longer bigger than the body too. They are now proportionate.
In week 30, your baby’s bone marrow can now start to produce red blood cells.
The only major organ of your baby left to fully develop at 31 weeks is the lungs.
All the five senses (smell, sight, taste, feeling, hearing) of your baby would be fully developed at 32 weeks.
Week 32 is focused on weight gain. Your baby will weigh up to 2 kg by now.
Its harder for your baby to move, because of limited space in the womb.
During the 35th week you may not notice much difference with the previous weeks. At this stage you should talk with your doctor about knowing the signs of labour and being prepared for labour.
Week 36 is the time where your doctor will change your ante natal visits to weekly. Your baby can come at any time now.
You may notice a “drop” in your tummy, known as ‘lightening’. This occurs due to the movement of your baby’s head downwards towards the birth canal, in preparation for delivery.
You are expected to have gained about 12 – 15kg during the entire pregnancy
Rest well and prepare for labour.
Pack your hospital bag as your baby may come any time now.
The amniotic fluid is at the highest level at 33 weeks. The level will be maintained till delivery.
Accumulation of fat under your baby’s skin will turn the colour from red to pink.
At 34 weeks your baby’s lungs are mature. If delivered at this stage it can survive on its own. However the next few weeks are important for your baby to develop his/her immunity.
Your baby will keep accumulating fat in the skin and if he’s a male, the testes would have completely descended to the scrotum by now.
A baby that has completed 36 weeks in the womb is known as a term baby.
Your baby will have attained the ideal birth weight by the 37th week.
You may be concerned now about the position of your baby. Your doctor can ascertain the position from examination. If your baby is breech there are options your doctor will talk to you about.
Most babies are born between week 38 and 40.
Statistically, most babies are born in the 39th week.
There is little room for he/she to move around and can enter into the birth canal at any time.
Week 40 officially marks your due date if you calculated your expected date of delivery (EDD) from your last menstrual period (LMP). However, your baby is still safe even if your labour does not kick in at the end of this week.
When your pregnancy has gone past 40 weeks, it is known as “Post-date”. You should discuss your concerns with your doctor. Your baby is still safe but you may want to consider being induced into labour.
Your pregnancy should not get to 42 weeks “Post-term”. At this stage, your baby is not safe and if you realise you are at week 42 you should get to your doctor so you can be induced for delivery.
Dont forget to enjoy your pregnancy before arrival of your baby!