hedgehog and baby

YOUR PREGNANCY: WHAT TO EXPECT
IN THE DIFFERENT TRIMESTERS

Following 2020 health guidelines

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

In our trimester overview article, we cover:

  • How your body is going to change
  •  
     
     
    What to do in each trimester
  •  
     
     
    Babies development and size
  •  
    How to prepare yourself

And everything else you may not have considered. Let's get started!

pregnant woman with list
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Pregnancy lasts, on average, for 40 weeks.

Anything from between 37 to 42 weeks is considered within the normal range. Medical professionals divide that time up into three-month (12 week) periods, known as trimesters.

Every trimester brings its own changes to your body, your baby’s growth and your emotions.

Knowing what to expect will help you to deal positively with each change as it comes. With that in mind, we’ve put together this guide for you.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

First Trimester (0-13 Weeks)

During the first trimester, there are rapid transformations happening in your body.

Even before you know you’re pregnant, hormones will tell your body to start nourishing the baby.

For most women, one of the first signs that they’re pregnant is a missed period.

Others notice nausea or breast tenderness even before that. Here are some of the changes you can expect during this trimester.

Breast Changes
Tender, slightly swollen breasts are normal at this stage and are caused by hormonal changes.

Morning Sickness
You may feel slightly nauseous or extremely sick. Some women experience vomiting.

Although it’s often called “morning sickness” it can happen at any time of the night or day. Many women find that avoiding an empty stomach relieves the nausea. Try to nibble on small, nutritious snacks frequently and try to stay hydrated.

Certain smells may trigger the nausea. You may find that you “go off” certain foods and crave others.

If you are suffering from severe nausea and vomiting, contact your healthcare provider. There are medications that are safe to take during pregnancy, but you must check with your doctor first. 

The nausea usually eases at about twelve weeks pregnant.

More ways to help with morning sickness

Toilet Trips 
You’ll probably find that you need to pass urine more frequently than normal. At this stage that’s because your body is making extra blood for the pregnancy, so your kidneys need to process extra fluid.

Tiredness 
Another thing that many women notice in the first trimester is increased fatigue.

Progesterone levels are now very high, and this can make you sleepy. Listen to your body and sleep more often.

Make sure you’re having a healthy diet and are exercising to keep your energy levels up.

Constipation
Progesterone is also responsible for slowing the rate that food passes through your digestive system.

This can lead to constipation. If you’re taking iron supplements, these can do the same.

Take in extra fiber and water to prevent constipation. Try natural laxatives like figs or prunes, but don’t use over the counter medication unless your doctor gives you the green light.

Emotional Changes 
You’ll probably find that your emotions are all over the place at this stage. Again, increased hormone levels are to blame for the mood swings.

Some women struggle to come to terms with having a baby, especially if it was a surprise, while others are elated.

It’s completely normal to worry if your baby will be healthy, how you’ll adapt to parenthood, and how you’re going to pay for everything.

This is a good time to start a routine of relaxation exercises, yoga or meditation. Find whatever helps you cope and commit to doing it regularly.

Baby Changes
In the first few weeks, your baby will just be a bunch of a few cells.

He quickly grows into a fetus the same size as a small apple. 

During these early weeks, the major organs like the heart, liver and lungs begin to form.

By the 11th week the heart can be heard on an ultrasound machine. At the end of this trimester, the cord and placenta will have developed, as well as all the main organs.

To Do
In the first trimester, you’ll need to find a health care provider like a family doctor, an obstetrician or a midwife, to see you through your pregnancy.

At this stage, your first visit will be to assess your overall health, check for risk factors, and confirm your pregnancy. Your caregiver will also check baby’s gestational age based on your dates and on the sonar.

After this first visit, you can expect to have scheduled checks every month. These give your caregiver a chance to make sure that Baby is developing normally and that your health is good.

They’re also a chance for you to ask any questions.

Read our extensive first-trimester guide

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Second Trimester (14-26 Weeks)

This middle trimester is the most enjoyable for many women.

The morning sickness has usually subsided, and you will probably have increased energy levels.

Baby isn’t yet big enough to make you uncomfortable. Here are some of the changes you can expect during this trimester.

Bigger Tummy and Breasts 
Baby is growing fast and your uterus is expanding to make room. The volume of intrauterine fluid is increasing, and the placenta is larger.

All of this makes your tummy grow, and it’s now time for a new wardrobe! Your breasts will grow too, so you’ll need some comfortable, supportive bras.

Read our article about baby essentials with product recommendations.

Practice Contractions
You may feel mild, irregular contractions now and again. These are called “Braxton Hicks contractions” and are normal. You may find they happen more after exercise or sex.

If they become painful or occur at regular intervals, see your doctor because they may be a sign of premature labor.

Skin Changes 
Pregnancy hormonal changes increase the number of melanin cells in your skin.

Some women get brownish patches on their face, especially with sun exposure. There may be a brownish line running from your belly button down to your pubic line.

This is called the linea nigra and will fade after Baby is born.

Some women get stretch marks on their stomachs, breasts, buttocks and thighs which can be itchy. These also tend to fade after the birth but won’t completely disappear.

Nasal Changes
Blame the hormones again! Because the body is making more blood at this time, some women experience a stuffy nose and even nosebleeds when they’re pregnant.

It’s safe to use saline nose drops. Drinking lots of fluids and using a humidifier may also help.

Dental Changes
During pregnancy, the gums can be more sensitive and may bleed more easily when you floss. Try saltwater mouth rinses and changing to a softer toothbrush.

Lightheadedness
The circulation changes associated with pregnancy cause some women to feel dizzy at times.

Try not to stand up too quickly and don’t stand for too long. If you feel really dizzy, lie on your side for a while.

Leg Cramping
These uncomfortable calf contractions often happen at night. They’re a fairly common pregnancy complaint which may have a number of possible causes.

They may be due to fatigue, pressure on certain nerves by the uterus, calcium deficiencies, magnesium deficiencies or dehydration.

Check that your shoes are comfortable and try stretching your calf muscles before bedtime. A warm bath before bed may help too.

Urinary Tract Infections
Many women get bladder infections in pregnancy. You’ll notice pain or burning when you pass urine and you may have a fever or pain in the kidney region of the back.

Don’t delay in contacting your healthcare provider for treatment because if left, a urinary tract infection may escalate to a kidney infection and premature labor.

Increased Energy and Feelings of Wellbeing 
It’s not all negative! Many women find that they feel better in the second trimester than at any other time of their pregnancy.

 Use the opportunity to take childbirth classes, decorate the nursery and do all the other things on your list.

Be careful not to overdo things though, and make sure you schedule time to rest every day.

Prenatal Care
The focus in the second trimester will be on baby’s growth and keeping a check on your weight and blood pressure.

The size of your uterus will be measured, and you will probably have an ultrasound scan or two. You’ll get to listen to your baby’s heartbeat.

Make a note of any questions you may want to ask your doctor while you’re there.

Baby Changes
By the end of the 6th month, your baby will have finger and toenails, eyelashes and even some hair.

She will be able to suck her thumb, yawn and stretch. The reproductive system and organs will have formed, and you’ll be able to tell on the ultrasound if it’s a boy or a girl.

At the end of the trimester, your baby will be about 6 inches (15 cm) long and weigh around 4 ounces (100 g).

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Third Trimester (27-40 Weeks)

Your last few months of pregnancy can be a little uncomfortable because the weight of baby has increased dramatically.

Your body will also change a lot to support the growing child. Here are some of the changes you can expect during this trimester.

Fast Weight Gain
Baby gains the most weight during the third trimester.

He’ll go from being about 2 pounds (900 gram) at 27 weeks to up to 10 pounds (4.5 kg) by the end!

His length increases by about 6 inches (15 cm) too. You’ll also gain weight from extra amniotic fluid, a bigger uterus, the growing placenta and more blood circulating around your body.

Leg Swelling
This increase in weight can cause swelling of your legs and ankles.

If you just have minor fluid retention, it’s probably nothing to worry about, but if your legs swell quickly and it’s painful, contact your doctor.

It may be caused by pre-eclampsia, a serious condition needing immediate treatment. Remember to keep well hydrated.

You may notice spider veins or varicose veins on your legs from the increased pressure too. Try sitting with your feet up to relieve them.

Breast Changes
Your breasts will start to produce a small amount of colostrum, a yellowish colored fluid which is the early breast milk.

Your breasts may also become larger and a little more tender in the last weeks.

Vaginal Changes
A little vaginal discharge that looks like mucus comes from your cervix and is normal.

However, any other discharges that are thick, yellowish or cheesy may mean you have an infection. It’s important to get this cleared up before the birth.

Any vaginal itching or bleeding should also be reported to your doctor at once.

General Body Aches
The increased weight you’re carrying can make things a little uncomfortable by this point.

Most women experience aches in the back, knees and feet. Check your posture when you’re walking, making sure to tilt your pelvis forwards. This will protect your back.

Also, rest with your feet up as often as you can.

Frequent Trips to the Toilet
You’ll feel the need to urinate often in the third trimester because baby’s weight puts pressure on your bladder.

Also, just before labor your baby moves further down into your pelvis. You’ll know this has happened because you’ll be able to breathe easier.

To Do
Try to walk outdoors a few times a week and keep up with the childbirth class exercises.

Practice your breathing and relaxation exercises.

Sleep on your side and use lots of extra pillows to get comfortable. You’ll be needing weekly appointments with your obstetrician in the final month to keep a check on your progress.

Emotions
In the final weeks you’ll feel tired and just want to get it all over with. You may experience a little anxiety about labor and the birth.

Many women feel a spurt of energy in the last week or so and begin “nesting”.

They tidy the house, decorate the baby room and generally prepare for the baby’s arrival.

Try not to do too much and wear yourself out but keep a healthy balance between activity and rest.

Baby Changes
Your baby looks more and more like a real baby because of increased fat deposits under the skin.

He’ll be about 4 pounds (1.8 kg) in weight by week 32 and will double that before birth.

Your little one will form a sleep-wake cycle and you’ll notice that at certain times he’s more active than others.

Third trimester babies make suckling movements with their mouths and even suck their thumbs. This is good practice for nursing after birth. The eyelids aren’t fused together anymore, and baby can see and hear. You’ll notice responses to noise and music.

We hope that knowing what to expect will help alleviate some of the stress and worry.Enjoy this very special time and remember to pamper yourself and your partner! We wish you all the best.

Lynette Stewart

I'm currently working as a professional freelance proofreader and editor. I also work for a doctor as a nursing sister in a busy rural town in South Africa. I am qualified as a nursing sister (general, community health, and psychiatric) and midwife in 1989. After my training I worked mainly in the midwifery area. I worked in a hospital maternity department for a while and then later did private prenatal classes for groups of expectant mothers in their homes. I have a particular interest in nutrition and how it affects our health. LinkedIn

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