Stages Of Pregnancy

Stages Of Pregnancy – What To Expect During Pregnancy?

(Last Updated On: December 3, 2022)

Many women, especially most first-time pregnant women, experience some fear and anxiety during the stages of pregnancy. Are you one of them worried about the symptoms and problems during the stages of pregnancy? If yes, this article is for you. This article is about the different phases and spreads awareness about all the important information that is necessary for you to know and also answers all common questions about what to expect during pregnancy. Fetal development images and the list of trimester-wise symptoms and development of the baby are also added to solve all your doubts and fears.

Fear And Anxiety During Stages Of Pregnancy

Pregnancy is an important and precious time for a woman. Getting pregnant and becoming a mother is surely the happiest moment for a woman. But pregnancy is not necessarily an easy and happy time for all women. Changes and upheaval can lead to many questions and concerns for them.

During the stages of pregnancy, the expectant mother undergoes significant physical transformations that also can affect her mental health. Remember, it is only normal to experience some anxiety during the different stages of pregnancy. Regular checkups and following the advice of your doctor will solve all your problems.

Stages Of Pregnancy – Fetal Development Image

Stages of pregnancy - Stages human embryonic development
Stages of human embryonic development

Image by brgfx on Freepik

Pregnancy Calendar – Stages Of Pregnancy

Pregnancy lasts about 40 weeks, counting from the first day of your last normal period. The weeks are grouped into three trimesters. Find out what’s happening with you and your baby in these three trimesters.

Pregnancy Calendar
Pregnancy Calendar

Hand Drawn Fetal Development Infographic

Hand drawn fetal development infographic
Hand-drawn fetal development infographic

Image by Freepik

Common Symptoms – First Trimester (week 1–week 12) – Stages Of Pregnancy

During the first trimester, your body undergoes many changes. Hormonal changes affect almost every organ system in your body. These changes can trigger symptoms even in the very first weeks of pregnancy

  • Extreme tiredness
  • Tender, swollen breasts. Your nipples might also stick out.
  • Upset stomach with or without throwing up (morning sickness)
  • Cravings or distaste for certain foods
  • Mood swings
  • Constipation (trouble having bowel movements)
  • Need to pass urine more often
  • Headache
  • Heartburn
  • Weight gain or loss

Your Developing Baby – First Trimester – Stages Of Pregnancy

At four to five weeks:

  • Your baby’s brain and spinal cord have begun to form.
  • The heart begins to form.
  • Arm and leg buds appear.
  • Your baby is now an embryo and one-twenty-fifth inch long.

At eight weeks:

  • All major organs and external body structures have begun to form.
  • Your baby’s heart beats with a regular rhythm.
  • The arms and legs grow longer, and fingers and toes have begun to form.
  • The sex organs begin to form.
  • The eyes have moved forward on the face and eyelids have formed.
  • The umbilical cord is clearly visible.
  • At the end of eight weeks, your baby is a fetus and looks more like a human. Your baby is nearly 1 inch long and weighs less than one-eighth ounce.

At 12 weeks:

  • The nerves and muscles begin to work together. Your baby can make a fist.
  • The external sex organs show if your baby is a boy or a girl. A woman who has an ultrasound in the second trimester or later might be able to find out the baby’s sex.
  • Eyelids close to protect the developing eyes. They will not open again until the 28th week.
  • Head growth has slowed, and your baby is much longer. Now, at about 3 inches long, your baby weighs almost an ounce.

Second Trimester (week 13–week 28) – Stages Of Pregnancy

As your body changes to make room for your growing baby, you may have:

  • Body aches, such as back, abdomen, groin, or thigh pain
  • Stretch marks on your abdomen, breasts, thighs, or buttocks
  • Darkening of the skin around your nipples
  • A line on the skin running from the belly button to the pubic hairline
  • Patches of darker skin, usually over the cheeks, forehead, nose, or upper lip. Patches often match on both sides of the face. This is sometimes called the mask of pregnancy.
  • Numb or tingling hands called carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Itching on the abdomen, palms, and soles of the feet. (Call your doctor if you have nausea, loss of appetite, vomiting, jaundice or fatigue combined with itching. These can be signs of a serious liver problem.)
  • Swelling of the ankles, fingers, and face. (If you notice any sudden or extreme swelling or if you gain a lot of weight really quickly, call your doctor right away. This could be a sign of preeclampsia.)

Your Developing Baby – Second Trimester – Stages Of Pregnancy

At 16 weeks:

  • Muscle tissue and bone continue to form, creating a more complete skeleton.
  • Skin begins to form. You can nearly see through it.
  • Meconium (mih-KOH-nee-uhm) develops in your baby’s intestinal tract. This will be your baby’s first bowel movement.
  • Your baby makes sucking motions with the mouth (sucking reflex).
  • Your baby reaches a length of about 4 to 5 inches and weighs almost 3 ounces.

At 20 weeks:

  • Your baby is more active. You might feel slight fluttering.
  • Your baby is covered by fine, downy hair called lanugo (luh-NOO-goh) and a waxy coating called vernix. This protects the forming skin underneath.
  • Eyebrows, eyelashes, fingernails, and toenails have formed. Your baby can even scratch itself.
  • Your baby can hear and swallow.
  • Now halfway through your pregnancy, your baby is about 6 inches long and weighs about 9 ounces.

At 24 weeks:

  • Bone marrow begins to make blood cells.
  • Taste buds form on your baby’s tongue.
  • Footprints and fingerprints have formed.
  • Real hair begins to grow on your baby’s head.
  • The lungs are formed, but do not work.
  • The hand and startle reflex develop.
  • Your baby sleeps and wakes regularly.
  • If your baby is a boy, his testicles begin to move from the abdomen into the scrotum. If your baby is a girl, her uterus and ovaries are in place, and a lifetime supply of eggs have formed in the ovaries.
  • Your baby stores fat and has gained quite a bit of weight. Now at about 12 inches long, your baby weighs about 1½ pounds.

Third trimester (week 29–week 40) – Stages Of Pregnancy

Some new body changes you might notice in the third trimester include:

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  • Shortness of breath
  • Heartburn
  • Swelling of the ankles, fingers, and face. (If you notice any sudden or extreme swelling or if you gain a lot of weight really quickly, call your doctor right away. This could be a sign of preeclampsia.)
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Tender breasts, which may leak a watery pre-milk called colostrum (kuh-LOSS-struhm)
  • Your belly button may stick out
  • Trouble sleeping
  • The baby “dropping”, or moving lower in your abdomen
  • Contractions, which can be a sign of real or false labor

Your Developing Baby – Third Trimester – Stages Of Pregnancy

At 32 weeks:

  • Your baby’s bones are fully formed, but still soft.
  • Your baby’s kicks and jabs are forceful.
  • The eyes can open and close and sense changes in light.
  • Lungs are not fully formed, but practice “breathing” movements occur.
  • Your baby’s body begins to store vital minerals, such as iron and calcium.
  • Lanugo begins to fall off.
  • Your baby is gaining weight quickly, about one-half pound a week. Now, your baby is about 15 to 17 inches long and weighs about 4 to 4½ pounds.

At 36 weeks:

  • The protective waxy coating called vernix gets thicker.
  • Body fat increases. Your baby is getting bigger and bigger and has less space to move around. Movements are less forceful, but you will feel stretches and wiggles.
  • Your baby is about 16 to 19 inches long and weighs about 6 to 6½ pounds.

Weeks 37–40:

  • At 39 weeks, your baby is considered full-term. Your baby’s organs are ready to function on their own.
  • As you near your due date, your baby may turn into a head-down position for birth. Most babies “present” head down.
  • At birth, your baby may weigh somewhere between 6 pounds 2 ounces and 9 pounds 2 ounces and be 19 to 21 inches long. Most full-term babies fall within these ranges. But healthy babies come in many different sizes.

Source: Women’s Health

Stages Of Pregnancy – What To Expect During Pregnancy

Let’s start with the basics.

Urine Pregnancy Tests

When do you do your urine pregnancy tests? Whenever you miss the expected period date. Suppose you have a 28-day cycle, the very next day you can do a pregnancy test. Suppose somebody has a 35 days menstrual cycle, they can do it on the 36th day. So urine pregnancy test is a home testing kit which you can purchase from any medical store and perform the test. It is generally suggested that you do the test early in the morning with the first urine sample. The results of the test can be interpreted by yourself. Everything will be written on the kit itself with a pictorial depiction. So it is very easy to do the test. Once you have tested positive for pregnancy, you need to consult the doctor.

Consultation With Doctor

What to expect in the first consultation? Generally, the doctor would first inquire about your medical history.

  • Is it the first pregnancy?
  • Is it the second pregnancy?
  • If it is the second one, how did the previous pregnancy go?
  • Were there any complications,?
  • What was the mode of delivery?
  • If it was a caesarean what was the reason for the caesarean?
  • How is the baby doing immediately after birth?
  • Any other medical issues?

After this history doctor would also be checking on you if you have any other medical conditions which require attention during pregnancy. It is also important for you to know about your family history, history of diabetes in the family, high blood pressure in the family, and anyone in the family who had twins or babies with any abnormalities. It is important because we can make our predictions and try to understand what tests we need to perform in order to make sure that your baby is healthy.

Basic Vitals

After the complete medical assessment of the history, we perform the basic vitals, that is check your height, and weight to calculate your body mass index. Then your blood pressure is measured because that becomes the reference. Some women have high blood pressure at the beginning of the pregnancy itself for which they need to go on medication.

Medication

After this initial assessment, you will be put on a medication called folic acid. This is actually a vitamin supplement which helps in the baby’s brain development. To be very honest in a low-risk pregnancy this is the only medication which is given to pregnant women. If at all any additional medical issues are there, the doses of the medicines are ingested accordingly. After giving the prescription we also suggest the first ultrasound.

Calculations

Here come the calculations. At home, you would be calculating the pregnancy in the number of months starting from your last period. As doctors, we calculate the pregnancy number of weeks which have passed from the last menstrual cycle. That is the day you had the last menstrual period the number of weeks is calculated from there. The total duration of pregnancy is 40 weeks.

The first 12 weeks are called the first trimester. 12 to 28 weeks is taken as the second trimester and 28 to 40 weeks is the third trimester.

First Trimester – First 12 Weeks – Stages Of Pregnancy

The first trimester is usually the adjustment of the baby to the body and acceptance of the body to apply them to the pregnancy. There will be a lot of hormonal changes in this process. There will be immunity-related changes. So you may have a wide range of symptoms. It is important for you to understand what are the common changes and what are the common symptoms and what are the symptoms which should alarm you and you should report to the hospital.

Common symptoms during pregnancy

Some amount of menstrual cramps or periods, like cramps for the first two weeks of the missed period are acceptable. They usually last for about 30 to 40 seconds and then they disappear. It’s random. Maybe three or four times a day and they vanish by the time you cross six or seven weeks of pregnancy. Backaches when you sit for a long time, that’s where your posterior correction is needed. Breast heaviness because of hormonal changes.

You would observe that all these symptoms also occur before your periods every month. This is where most often women get confused but these are the same symptoms which happen in early pregnancy as well. You may feel your tummy is bloated for most of the time, the digestion is slowed down. There may be a lot of burping there, could be acidity, constipation, and loss of appetite. Some women, however, are lucky enough to have more appetite but usually, it is morning sickness and loss of appetite. Mood swings are expected, frequent visits to the washroom are expected, and a small amount of transparent or sticky white discharge is also common.

Symptoms which should report to the hospital

Now, for any amount of bleeding, be it brownish discharge spotting or flat bleeding, you need to report to the hospital immediately. If any severe pain which is bothering you in pregnancy which is lasting for more than 30 minutes, you have to report to the hospital. We perform the ultrasound to understand the reason for the pain and give you the medication accordingly.

First Ultrasound

The first ultrasound of pregnancy is done at seven weeks which is roughly one and a half months plus to identify if the pregnancy is in the right location and to see if it is a single pregnancy, multiple pregnancies and more importantly the heartbeat of the baby is documented. And once the heartbeat is seen it is confirmed to be a healthy pregnancy.

Blood Tests

After telling you about all the symptoms we would also suggest some blood tests. These blood tests are to establish your health condition at the beginning of the pregnancy. These would include your haemoglobin, sugars, thyroid, and the number of blood and urine infection testing.

Diet

Once we counsel you about all these things we talk to you about the basics of diet. Small frequent meals and then we also tell you what not to include and what specifically to focus on. The dietary advice is usually based on your initial body mass index and your family history and the results of your blood work. We also suggest you, do basic mild to moderate exercise during the first trimester.

Second Trimester – 12 To 28 Weeks – Stages Of Pregnancy

It is a myth that women say to take bed rest in the first three months. Mild to moderate exercise has to be done so that your appetite is good and your digestive capacity remains good. After these hormonal changes in the first trimester by the time you cross 12 weeks. You enter a happy zone because the symptoms are all vanishing slowly and then once you cross 12 weeks you are assured that this pregnancy is going to carry forward smoothly. 12 to 28 weeks is a happy phase. This involves assessment of the baby through ultrasounds and blood tests where we check for both structural problems if the baby is formed properly through some scans, we also assess the risk of chromosome problems through some blood tests.

The happy phase of pregnancy begins when you start feeling the movements of the baby. This is called quickening. In a first timer usually, the quickening or the perception of the fetal movements may occur anywhere from 18 weeks to 20 max 22 weeks. Once you feel the moments you actually start feeling pregnant and every day when you perceive the moments you get the assurance that yes this pregnancy is going on well.

This is also the time when checking sugars once again because 24 to 28 weeks is the time frame when the metabolism changes and your tendency towards diabetes increases. This is the time when we go for the glucose tolerance test or the glucose challenge test to see if there is any possibility of diabetes. Taking a balanced diet and exercising every day plays a very major role.

After you cross 20 weeks you get a very decent assurance up to 90 to 95 per cent that your baby is fine both structurally and chromosomes. Then onwards it is all about the growth of the baby. Eating the right kind of food and exercising every day are vital.

Third Trimester – 28 to 40 weeks – Stages Of Pregnancy

The third trimester is when when you cross 28 weeks and this is the time when the physical discomforts start. Your baby is growing very fast. So you may have backache for a long when you sit for a long time or stand. There could be swelling in the feet. There could be a lot of breathing difficulty when the baby pushes onto the lungs. So regular exercise especially breathing exercises will help you cope up with all these.

Vaccinations during pregnancy are also suggested in the second and third trimesters. We also talk to you about observing the fetal movements, how to keep a track of the moments, when to report to the hospital, and what is normal, or abnormal.

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As you cross 30-32 weeks you start feeling the practice pains or Braxton hicks contractions. Practice pains are not actual pains they are just the tightening of the tummy. As the tummy gets tightened for a few seconds you feel it like a stone or a rock and then it releases. These are the type of practice pains which gradually get converted to labour pains. So you may be suggested some scans called growth scans to keep a track of the growth of the baby, measure the amount of amniotic fluid present and assess the blood flow to the baby.

34-35 weeks – Stages Of Pregnancy

Finally, as you cross 34-35 weeks we talk to you about your birthing plan. What is your plan? Do you want to go for a natural birth? Do you want to go for a direct caesarean? If you want to go for a natural birth, would you want to have a cut at the bottom called episiotomy? Do you want to go ahead with some painless labor called the epidural injection? Do you want gas anaesthesia? So everything is discussed in detail so that you have an idea of what to expect at the time of labor. As you come towards the end of pregnancy the d-day arrives once you identify your own labor you report to the hospital and it is carried forward from there.

You may also like to read From Pregnancy To Birth – How A Child Is Born?

Conclusion

Hope this information helps you go through the stages of pregnancy in a smooth way. Awareness is always important. Being aware of what will happen in the stages of pregnancy, in each trimester helps you prepare mentally and physically for the d-day.

Wishing you all the best. Thank you.

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References & Credits: Dr Sandhya Rani, Senior Consultant, Obstetrics and gynaecology department, at Aster Women and Children’s Hospital, Bengaluru. You can watch the video.

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