Stages in Pregnancy
Pregnancy is an extremely exciting time and a wonderful opportunity to learn about your little one’s growth and development. But sometimes it can be very confusing when there is way too much information available in books, magazines or on the internet for that matter. It could be almost impossible for one to go through all the information before giving birth to their new born.
Therefore, we’ve collected all the pregnancy information that you would need, and also some information to keep you and your baby healthy, all in one place.
DUE DATES & TRIMESTER
You must have noticed that after announcing your pregnancy, the first question that most people would have asked you is “When are you due?”
At your first prenatal visit, your doctor will help you calculate an expected delivery date (EDD). The average duration of pregnancy is 40 weeks or 280 days from the first day of your last normal menstrual period (LMP). All you’ve got to do is add nine months and seven days to that date and you would arrive at your due date or expected delivery date.
If your actual delivery date is the same as your EDD, then your baby is actually only about 38 weeks old. This is because your egg didn’t become fertilized until about 2 weeks after the start of your last menstrual period.
It’s also essential to keep in mind that your due date is only an estimate, most babies are born between 38 and 42 weeks from the first day of their mother’s LMP, and for a very small percentage of women the delivery date and the due date are the same.
Trimester is also a very common term that you would often hear during your pregnancy. A pregnancy is divided into 3 trimesters primarily,
- The first trimester is from week 1 to the end of week 12.
- The second trimester is from week 13 to the end of week 26.
- The third trimester is from week 27 to the end of the pregnancy.
Your Baby’s Development
The very first week is actually the week your Expected Delivery Date (EDD) is calculated from. This week is when you get your period and your EDD is calculated 40 weeks from the last day of your cycle. The second week is when the egg gets fertilized. It might sound strange but week 2 out of the 40 weeks is when you actually get pregnant. The baby’s gender is determined at the moment of fertilization. Every egg has an X chromosome; a sperm can have an X or a Y chromosome. It depends on the sperm that fertilizes the egg that has an X chromosome to determine whether the baby will be a girl or a boy. If the sperm and egg have the same chromosome then it will be a girl (XX), if it doesn’t, then a boy (XY).
For the third week, the embryo has started growing. And you may not feel it, there may be no apparent show of it but you have a healthy baby growing inside of you. The fertilized egg divides into two cells after about 30 hours of fertilization. The embryo becomes hollow and filled up with liquid. This is now known as a blastocyte which will attach itself to the uterine lining at the end of this week.
Four weeks in, the embryo will have two layers of cells – the epiblast and hypoblast – from which the organs start growing. Two other structures will develop during this period – the amnion and yolk sac. The amniotic fluid will help protect the embryo whereas the yolk sac will be providing blood and nutrition to the embryo till the placenta takes over.
It is around the fifth week that the baby’s body starts taking on a definite shape and form. An elongated tube called the Neutral Tube runs from the top to the bottom of the embryo. This later forms the spinal cord and brain. And around this time too, the placenta forms which helps nourishment from the mother reach her child. At about the sixth week, the baby’s heart will start beating. Your baby’s nose, eyes, chin and nervous system will now start forming.
Around the seventh week, your baby has become almost 10,000 times bigger than he/she was seven weeks ago! Hands, legs, arm are all forming slowly now.
The eighth week is when your baby’s fingers start forming along with the intestines. Around the ninth week, your baby’s head becomes more prominent. The reproductive as well as digestive system have been growing too. In addition, the tail at the end of your baby’s spine has almost disappeared.
By the tenth week, all of our baby’s vital organs would have developed too and chances of congenital defects will no longer remain. This signifies the end of the embryonic period and from next week, your baby will be considered an Embryo. Weeks eleven and twelve are for rapid development. Facial structures, toe nails and finger start taking better shape now. Bone development begin in week thirteen. The placenta has also formed completely by now.
Your health habits and your baby’s health are interlinked when it comes to pregnancy. You need to take the time to prepare your body for motherhood, when you’re planning to have a baby. Before becoming pregnant, there are some precautions that you must take,
- Drugs, alcohol and tobacco products are to be avoided completely.
- Ensure that you plan a healthy diet with your doctor that comprises of all the vital nutrients essential to keep you and your baby healthy.
- Talk to your doctor about the medicines you are taking on a regular basis.
Nourishment to the baby is provided by your uterine lining which is in the process of development. Your body secretes follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), which stimulates the maturation of an egg. Folic acid and calcium are also extremely important for this will ensure that you don’t become anemic. Eat a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables to keep a good flow of blood in your system. Around week four and five, a lot of bodily changes will start occurring. For example, frequent urination, fatigue, tenderness in breasts, will have begun their effects. Food-borne illnesses can cause birth defects or even miscarriages so it is important to avoid certain foods. Below are some of the foods you should avoid,
- Unpasteurized milk and juices
- Soft cheeses
- Raw or undercooked meats, including hot dogs and deli meats
- Raw eggs or foods containing raw eggs and raw shellfish
Around week 6, all the common pregnancy symptoms are what you would be facing in full swing will come by: extreme fatigue, tender, aching breasts, a full-bladder, heartburn and indigestion, increased sense of smell, bloating, queasiness and vomiting (morning sickness).
Your cervix will also have been undergoing changes: you will have developed a mucous plug, which forms in the opening of the cervical canal and seals off the uterus for protection.You would notice these pregnancy symptoms too: bigger breasts, fatigue, food aversions. Prenatal care is a must so make sure you keep taking your supplements and stay hydrated throughout the day!Around week ten, a few more symptoms will arrive: increased vaginal discharge, excessive food craving, occasional headaches, occasional faintness or dizziness. Make sure you keep going for regular check-ups and that no disease is affecting you. And as your baby starts moving in your womb, morning sickness might take a toll on you and could also have you running to the bathroom too frequently.
When week eleven arrives, the doctor will go through your family’s medical history with you. This week, you can listen to your baby’s heartbeat. A lot of checks will be conducted to find out if you’re immune against a catalogue of diseases. Nourishing your baby usually requires that you gain weight, but that needs regulation which can only be achieved through regular check-ups and communication with your doctor about the kind of diet you have to follow, etc.
As week twelve arrives, so does that pregnancy glow everyone keeps talking about! The increased flow of blood gives you that nicely flushed complexion that everyone will gush about as “that pregnant glow”. Enjoy it! Sometimes an accumulation or excess of oil might lead to acne.
It is essential that you take the supplements your doctor has asked you to, in addition to eating a healthy diet.Now that your body has gotten used to one whole trimester, you would see a decrease in the level of fatigue, as your body has learnt how to adjust to pregnancy during the first trimester.
Your Baby’s Development
Your baby will now be sprouting hair all over his/her body which will stay until the time of delivery, called “lanugo”. The eyes and ears would now be moving into the correct position and baby will learn how to suck and swallow. The production of thyroid hormone would have begun because the genitals would also be in place by now.
The sense organs keep growing as the ears have moved to the side of the head and the eyes, to the front. Internally, baby’s skeletal and muscular systems keep on growing and developing. Your baby’s weight would have increased too and facial muscles would slowly start developing. The placenta is at a rapid growing rate to give your baby the required nourishment.
Ears move to their final position and hearing improves. Loud noises may even begin to startle her/him! The bones also begin to harden and some of the first bones that begin to harden are the collar bone and those in the legs.
In the last trimester, your baby’s skin was covered with a white wax like substance called vernixcaseosa. This week your baby will be covered with layers of brown fat, keeping the baby warm even after birth. To prevent from drying or chapping, the vernixcaseosa is still there protecting baby’s skin. Premature babies may be covered in this cheesy coating at delivery. Otherwise, during the last trimester more layers of fat would get added.
In the twenty first week of pregnancy, the baby’s intestines, which have developed considerably, start absorbing sugars from the amniotic fluid. These sugars are then swallowed and passed through the digestive system to the large bowel. However, the placenta still remains your baby’s major source of nourishment.
In the beginning, it was only the baby’s liver and spleen that was contributing to produce blood but now the bone marrow is involved too. With the passage of time, your baby develops taste buds and a sense of touch. This is also the time when your baby’s reproductive system develops. In boys, the testes descend from the abdomen whereas, in girls, the ovaries, fallopian tubes and vagina are formed.
This is when your baby’s muscles become more prominent as he/she starts moving their muscle almost regularly. Sometime during the 22nd or 23 rd week, preterm labor and delivery may occur, but with expert physician help, the baby will survive.
The placenta is the major source of oxygen for your baby until delivery after which their lungs start taking air on their own. To prepare for that, your baby’s lungs start to develop the ability to produce surfactant, a mixture of proteins and fat which is made in the baby’s lungs.
By now, your baby has also grown tremendously. Your baby’s vocal chords and nostrils are also developing.
The baby will start to open his eyes and blink. He/she will also start to develop eyelashes, and the hair on their head will grow too.The baby looks the same and still needs his vital organs like lungs and liver to properly develop; also his immune system needs to strengthen.
The hearing of your little one grows too. The baby will start recognising your and your partner’s voice even though the sounds will be a little suppressed as there is a coating of wax called vernix around your baby’s ears to protect the skin from being chapped by harmful fluids.
Amniocentesis is a test done between 15 and 18 weeks to detect abnormalities in a foetus. If you’re older than 35 your doctor may discuss amniocentesis with you. Amniocentesis does carry risk of miscarriage, so speak to your doctor about your concerns and the risks and advantages of the test.
The start of the second trimester means less fatigue and more energy. Be sure to lap up on this.The changes in your body will become apparent in your teeth as well, with inflamed and aching gum also. Staying relaxed is vital and taking your nutrients and health boosts is vital too. This period stand for a lot of emotional bipolarity and being high on hormones. Hence, getting enough rest is extremely essential. One of the most highly recommended tests is the maternal blood screening test, also known as a “triple marker” test or “triple screen,” which measures the levels of alpha-fetoprotein (AFP), a protein produced by the foetus, and the pregnancy hormones HCG and estriol in the mother’s blood. The results of these tests can tell to-be mothers if their children are at risk.
The hormonal change in your body will bring about a change in your breasts. They will grow bigger to accommodate your child. You will start showing soon and others might feel the urge to touch your belly. If you’re comfortable with them doing so, then it’s good, and if you’re not, then speak up, do not be shy, and tell them firmly.
Your uterus will be the size of a melon by now and your centre of gravity would have shifted greatly which would cause your lower back to arch forward. Your baby’s movements in your womb might cause some rumblings in your stomach. Mild swelling in ankles and feet, varicose veins, stretch marks, leg cramps, are also some of the common symptoms you could be faced with. Your baby’s movements begin within the first 18-20 weeks, and this early sign is called quickening. At this stage, sex is not harmful, and also it is very important to communicate with your partner about these things.
The movements might feel like butterflies or growling in your stomach. During the rest of the pregnancy term, you may even feel hiccups, kicks and punches! Babies are different in how much they move during their stay in the womb but if you should feel that the frequency of these movements have decreased or increased, consult your health provider.
Exercise is of utmost importance because it keeps you flexible and varicose veins, backache and many other ailments at bay. Low- or non-impact exercises such as yoga, swimming, and walking are highly recommended. As a precaution though, consult for medical help before beginning on an exercise routine.
During this stage of pregnancy your uterus starts practicing for delivery. You may feel irregular, painless contractions called Braxton Hicks contractions. These give a squeezing sensation in your abdomen. If the contractions become more intense, painful, or frequent, contact your doctor immediately as it may be a sign of preterm labor.
Be prepared as anxiety, frequent urination, heartburn, leg cramps, and general discomfort become a regular feature and might result in a short night’s sleep for you. However, your baby’s health and your own, depends on you getting adequate rest. A warm bath, soothing music, a relaxing book, or a cup of herbal tea are some of the ways that will help you relax and ease out.
During weeks 24 to 28 an important prenatal test, glucose screening is conducted. It checks for gestational diabetes, a temporary type of diabetes that occurs during pregnancy and can cause problems in the newborn, such as low blood sugar. However, gestational diabetes can be controlled by eating a well-planned diet and getting regular exercise. In some cases, medication, such as daily insulin may also be required.
Reflux (also known as heartburn) is a common occurrence in pregnant women. The expanding uterus puts pressure on the valves; therefore it is important to consume small meals frequently as opposed to large meals. If the heartburn seems unbearable, visit your doctor and ask for a prescription of an antacid.
Since your body is a safe haven for your little one, once the baby is born you will have to learn the skills of proper motherhood. So sign yourself up for post natal classes on how to tackle pain, breastfeeding, formula feeding, baby proofing, etc. It will help you feel more confident about being a parent, especially if it’s your first time.
Your Baby’s Development
Your baby has now come into the breech position – the position in which he/she will be coming out i.e. head first. The body continues to grow while layers of fat continue to deposit.
Counting your baby’s kicks and keeping track of all the movement is a good idea around now. If your baby kicks more than 10 times in one hour, your baby’s movements are healthy. If this is not the case, you might want to contact your Health provider regarding this. To help your baby stay warm, fat will continue to grow around your baby. This will also make the baby look less wrinkly. The twitches in your stomach are happening because your baby is trying to breathe on its own by moving its diaphragm up and down. Your baby would be urinating into the amniotic fluid because of which, more frequent runs to the bathroom are guaranteed. If this is not the case, your baby might be having trouble with her/his kidneys. The lanugo hair has also almost fallen off and all body parts have formed. All vital organs and features of your baby have almost finished developing. Your baby can somewhat see, hear and feel and even experience some rapid eye movement and sleeps similar to a newborn. The baby will gain a considerable amount of weight during the final weeks. Baby’s lungs are also almost developed and matured.
Since your baby is still growing and there is no space for it to move around, its movements will decrease. If your baby is in a head first position then its head will rest on your pubic bone and would be prepared for labour. A phenomenon called molding occurs when the bones in your baby’s skull can move relative to one another and overlap each other while your baby’s head is inside your pelvis. This helps the baby pass through the birth canal. It might be surprising but your baby hasn’t stopped growing and he continues to fine-tune his brain and nervous system, getting ready to enter the world.
Waste material has been collecting in your baby’s intestines as it had to suck and swallow amniotic fluid. There would be a greenish-black substance, your baby’s first bowel movement. The reproductive organs of your baby would have been completely developed by now.
Sometimes the umbilical cords get tangled around the baby’s neck. A c- section is required then as the umbilical cords put pressure during the labor. The lanugo and the vernix that covered your baby’s skin has gone by this time.
Your due date is now almost here! And don’t worry if labor-day isn’t right on time, it’s always supposed to be an estimate. A baby born at 40 weeks weighs, on an average, about 3.17 kilograms, 3,300 grams and measures about 51 cm.
Now, your baby’s system, your baby’s genitals may appear enlarged because of your hormones in the baby’s system. Your baby may even secrete milk from the tiny nipples, be it a boy or a girl.Mucus will be suctioned out of your baby’s mouth and nose and you will hear the first cry. Your baby may then be placed on your stomach, and the umbilical cord will be cut. Apgar score, the very first test performed on your newborn, would assess your baby’s responsiveness and vital signs, and he or she will be weighed and measured.
Blood tests are performed regularly during Pregnancy. Rh factor, a substance found in the red blood cells of most people, is measured when taking a blood test. Not having the same Rh factor as your baby can cause health problems later. A vaccine called Rh globulin taken at 28 weeks can protect you from this mishap.
Iron deficiency is something to be avoided at all costs. Also, constipation is common during pregnancy which is why eat lots of fibre rich foods. And don’t keep idle and exercise and drink lots of fluids to keep yourself hydrated.
Your breasts will start making colostrum which is the first milk produced by them. During routine check-ups, your doctor may look for signs of preeclampsia which could be rapid weight loss or swelling. This condition is serious and can be problematic in the latter half, for both the mother and the child. Do not be scared of coming labor pains. Techniques like pain-relief medications and epidurals, where doctors can give an anaesthetic by means of a soft, thin catheter that’s placed in your lower back, are there to help you. All you need to do is be informed so that you can choose what is the best option for you and your little one. This is not only important, but also a wonderful experience for you both.
Prenatal check-ups at this stage of pregnancy are of utmost importance. You may experience lightening in your stomach area, which happens when for the preparation for labor the baby drops into the mother’s pelvis. Your appetite will be back as there is no pressure on your stomach and intestines anymore.
You might have a certain kind of discharge from your body, pink- or brown-tinged mucus discharge which means that the blood vessels in the cervix are rupturing as the cervix dilates in preparation for labor and delivery.
Since your baby is resting on your pelvis there is more pressure on your bladder. Get ready for repeated trips to the loo. False labor pains might occur during this period. These contractions may be as painful, strong and real as actual labor is. You should be alert about the rupture of your amniotic sac. When your water breaks, some experience a rush of water and some only feel a trickle. Do visit your doctor/gynaecologist if you experience frequent contractions or pains.
If you don’t go into labor within a week of your due date, don’t worry. Your doctor may give you a non-stress test, which monitors foetal heart rate and movement. Discuss what happens and the possible outcomes of this test thoroughly with your doctor. Your doctor may also induce labor by artificially rupturing the membranes or by administering the hormone oxytocin or other medications. If you have already decided to deliver via caesarean section and scheduled your baby’s “birthday” in advance, then it is easier to be emotionally and mentally prepared for the procedure. An unplanned caesarean should be no cause for disappointment or worry as long as you have a healthy baby!
Cherish this beautiful moment and congratulations on your motherhood!
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