The Road to Motherhood: A Pregnancy Overview
Getting a positive pregnancy test brings a lot of overwhelming emotions: excitement, anxiety, joy, fear, happiness, denial. Once you become pregnant, your life will begin to change as you prepare to take care of another human being. The world of pregnancy and childbirth is full of advice, new products, and change. It’s hard to say exactly how pregnancy will be for you because it truly is a different experience for everyone, but a general pregnancy overview is surely beneficial.
Pregnancy typically lasts 40 weeks, or just over 9 months, and is divided into three trimesters. It’s important throughout your pregnancy to take extra special care of yourself, as nearly everything you do can affect your growing baby. This means getting plenty of sleep and eating well, avoiding alcohol, tobacco, and drugs, and not over-exerting your body.
First Trimester- Weeks 1-12
Baby: The embryo implants on the uterine wall and grows at an incredible rate. By week 9, it’s now called a fetus and is being supported by the placenta, which gives oxygen and nutrients to your growing baby. The fetus is just over 1 inch long.
Mom: It is common to feel ill and/or extremely fatigued during the first trimester. Your first prenatal visit is typically scheduled at 12 weeks where you’ll be able to hear baby’s heart beat for the first time and possibly even have an ultrasound. Although possible, the risks of having a miscarriage after 12 weeks drops.
Second Trimester – Weeks 13-28
Baby: Muscle, bone, and skin have all formed. Baby has begun regular sleep cycles. By 28 weeks, your baby will be approximately 10 inches long and weight 1.5 pounds (680 g). It’s possible for babies born at 28 weeks to survive, but usually have long-term health complications such as heart and lung problems.
Mom: Baby’s gender is viewable in an ultrasound at 16 weeks. You should feel your baby moving around week 20, give or take a couple of weeks. For many women, the second trimester brings some relief because energy returns, morning sickness subsides, and the challenges due to late pregnancy have not yet begun. It’s common to begin experiencing Braxton Hicks contractions during the second trimester.
Third Trimester – Weeks 29-40
Baby: Eyes can open and close and bones are fully formed by 32 weeks. All the organs are maturing and preparing for life outside the womb. Baby moves often, weighing around 3-3/4 lbs. (1700 g) and measuring 11 inches long. During the last 4-6 weeks, baby will gain about ½ lb. (230 g) per week. Babies born between 37-41 weeks are considered full term; before 37 weeks are preterm.
Mom: Sleeping becomes difficult in the last weeks of pregnancy. Some women experience heartburn, swelling, shortness of breath, backaches, vaginal discharge, and/or frequent urination. To prepare for childbirth and learn the signs of labor, you may find it helpful to take a childbirth course.
Pregnancy is a wonderful, challenging, and exhilarating process. Focusing on positive thoughts and building a strong support system can help you throughout pregnancy and after. Consult your healthcare provider and meet other couples who are expecting to address your fears and concerns about pregnancy. Remember there are no ridiculous questions during pregnancy and childbirth; ask anything and everything that comes to mind so that you can feel prepared for parenthood.
How did you feel when you found out you were expecting? We’d love to hear your story!