What Is Happening to My Body?
Pregnancy—it's one of the most glorious and tiresome rollercoaster rides of emotions a woman will experience in her entire life!
Chances are, you are here because you are pregnant or think you may be pregnant. Here, I will go over many of the symptoms, both pleasant and not-so-pleasant, that a woman may experience during her pregnancy.
How Did I Get a Positive Result on My Pregnancy Test?
If you got a positive result on your pregnancy test, that means your placenta is producing human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG)—that's what the test looks for. It only happens when pregnancy occurs.
- If you have hCG levels less than 5 mIU/ml, then you are considered a non-pregnant woman. That's because you don't produce it if you're not pregnant.
- When the levels are 25 mIU/ml or higher, you will be considered pregnant. If you know you are pregnant and then notice that your levels are low, there are three possibilities: miscalculation of your pregnancy dating, miscarriage, and an ectopic pregnancy.
When Is My Due Date?
The best way to determine how far along you are is to determine when your due date is. Your due date is your baby's approximate day of arrival! To calculate your due date manually, take the first date of your last menstrual period (LMP) and add 40 weeks, or 280 days.
Don't feel like doing the math? Here's an easy Due Date Calculator you can use to figure out when your baby will arrive.
Early Pregnancy: Conception to 12 Weeks
The first trimester, weeks one to 12, is usually the hardest and most miserable for many expecting mothers. However, don't panic but breathe! This too shall pass, and you are more likely than not to feel like superwoman once you conquer this hill!
Are You “Pregnant” Before You’re Actually Pregnant?
Have you been wondering how far along you are in your pregnancy? First, try to think back to the very first day of your last menstrual period—a full menstrual period, not just spotting.
It seems weird, but when doctors speak in terms of “weeks along,” their number includes two weeks that you weren’t even pregnant yet. This is because the “weeks along” thing starts at the beginning of your last menstrual cycle, the cycle during which you got pregnant.
If someone tells you that you are 12 weeks along, you’ve technically only been actually pregnant for 10 weeks.
What Does Gestational Age Mean?
Gestation is considered to be the period of time between a baby's conception and birth. This is the developmental period inside the mother's womb. Gestational age is a term used to describe how far along a pregnancy is. The measurement gauge is in weeks, and it starts from the first day of your last menstrual cycle to the date it's being calculated.
Normally, the time of pregnancy ranges from 38 to 42 weeks.
- Babies born before 37 weeks are considered to be premature.
- Babies born after 42 weeks are considered to be postmature.
How to Calculate Gestational Age
- Pinpoint the date of the first day of your last period on a calendar. Using a monthly calendar will be very helpful in helping you keep track.
- Count the number of full weeks from that date to the date you're calculating it.
- The number you get is the gestational age.
For example, if your last period started on January 15th and today's date is February 15th, the gestational age would be four weeks.
- Crown-rump length is the measurement of embryos and fetuses from the top of the head (the crown) to the bottom of the, well, bottom (rump). It's typically calculated from ultrasound images and can be used to estimate gestational age.
What is the difference between gestational age and fetal age?
- Gestational age is what the majority of doctors use to calculate your due date.
- Fetal age refers to the actual age of the baby that started at the time of conception.
Month 1: Weeks 1 to 4
During the first month of pregnancy, most women don’t even know that they are pregnant! Some are lucky to get a positive pregnancy test during this time, but many times, it goes undetected.
It is important to note that early pregnancy symptoms are similar to those of PMS. The best way to tell if you have actually conceived is through a positive pregnancy test (typically done at home) or a blood test (done at the doctor's office).
Every woman's body is different, meaning that what one woman experiences is not guaranteed to be what another woman goes through. Some women are plagued with symptoms throughout their pregnancy while others experience very few. Each pregnancy is different, person to person, pregnancy to pregnancy. You might feel great during the first month, or you may begin to experience the very earliest pregnancy symptoms.
What to Expect During the First Month of Pregnancy
- Spotting can happen when the fertilized egg implants, and is often mistaken for a period. It Is typically a little earlier than the expected period, much lighter, and lasts only a few hours to a couple of days. It's a sign that the fertilized egg attached itself to your uterus wall.
- Cramps in the front or lower back can also accompany spotting.
- Inside your body, a fluid-filled cushion that's known as the amniotic sac is developing. The yolk sac is attached to it and will feed your baby during these early weeks.
- Your baby is smaller than a grain of rice!
Basically during the first month, if you have any symptoms, they are likely very similar to what you’d experience before a normal period.
What to Do During the First Month of Your Pregnancy
- Start taking a prenatal vitamin daily. Make sure it has 400 micrograms of folic acid, as it has been shown to help prevent neural-tube defects.
- Quit any unhealthy habits like smoking or drinking.
Month 2: Weeks 5 to 8
This is the time when the majority of women will receive their positive pregnancy test. As soon as this happens, you need to get on the phone with your OBGYN or midwife to schedule an appointment. How exciting!
How Long Does Morning Sickness Last?
What might not be so exciting is that around six or seven weeks along, you’ll likely start to feel morning sickness at full force. The good news about this is that it most likely won’t last the entire pregnancy! The majority of women who experience morning sickness in early pregnancy report that they feel relief after the first trimester. If you are feeling sick, hang in there!
Symptoms You May Experience:
- Increased appetite
- Increased thirst
- Frequent restroom breaks
- Lack of energy
- Sore breasts
- Mood swings/heightened emotions
- Changing of food preferences
You’re growing a little person, after all!
What to Do During Your Second Month
- Wait to tell people about your pregnancy until the end of the first trimester.
- How is your diet? You should be eating healthy, wholesome foods, whole grains, and lots of protein.
- Invest in a supportive bra, as your breasts may be getting larger.
- Perform some light exercise.
- Get a flu shot if you haven't already.
- Avoid cleaning the cat's litter.
- Ask someone to put the gas in your car.
As exciting as it is to be pregnant, it’s best to contain that excitement until you make it through the “critical period” known as the first trimester. It’s a very, very tough thing to have to tell people you’ve lost your baby after sharing the joyous news with them just days before. As much as you want to shout it to the world, just wait a little while.
Month 3: Weeks 9 to 13
By this time, you are in the home stretch of the first trimester. While some women are still not experiencing any negative effects, others will begin to feel some relief from their symptoms. Whew!
What to Expect During Your Third Month of Pregnancy
- Although you won’t be able to feel your baby moving just yet, this is the time that you might be able to hear that precious little heartbeat for the first time! If you cannot yet hear the heartbeat, don’t be alarmed! Sometimes, you just need to wait a little bit longer—it’s well worth the wait.
- Don't be surprised to step on the scale and find you've gained two to five pounds.
- If you're concerned about having a miscarriage, know that you're likely not going to cause one from your behavior unless you're engaging in extreme things like doing drugs. Just try to cut back on your caffeine intake, as a few studies have found that high doses of caffeine (300mg or more) were linked to early pregnancy losses.
- The pressure of your growing uterus on the bladder may lead to unintentional urine leaks. To combat this, start doing Kegels: squeeze the muscles around your vagina as if you're trying to stop the urine flow. Do a few reps of this a few times a day over the next few months. This activity will strengthen your pelvic-floor muscles, which will assist with controlling your urine while also preparing your body for delivery.
- Be careful! Avoid activities that leave you prone to falling. Also, stay away from exercises where you need to lie flat on your back. Your growing fetus can add a lot of weight on a major vein, which can reduce the blood flow to the uterus.
- You may see a dark line that goes from your belly button to your pubic hair. Known as the "linea nigra," it is caused by increased pigmentation in your skin and will fade after childbirth. Your nipples also might become darker due to the increased skin pigmentation.
You've been waiting patiently. Now that you've passed the 12-week milestone, it's time to shout the news to the world: You're pregnant!
Second Trimester: Weeks 14 to 26
Welcome to the second trimester of your pregnancy! Chances are, you are starting to feel great after many weeks of not being able to eat much because you're not able to hold anything down. The second trimester is often the time when women feel the best during their pregnancy.
What to Do During the Second Trimester
- Make sure you are not skipping out on your prenatal vitamins and folic acid!
- Don’t skimp on the fiber because you really will need it to keep things moving in there, and I’m not talking about the baby!
- Exercise and drinking lots of water is also important. Women often retain a lot of water during pregnancy as a result of not drinking enough water. Sounds weird, but that’s how the body works! If you’re not drinking enough water, the body will retain it because it needs it. You will still gain water weight, but keeping yourself hydrated can really help with not getting so puffy around the edges.
- If you look in the mirror, you may notice that your breasts have gotten larger. They are growing to prepare to feed your baby. Get comfortable with a breathable top!
- Learn about how to take care of a newborn. It's best to start early and be prepared rather than procrastinate and fumble around with your child once they're here!
Month 4: Weeks 14 to 17
Although the unpleasant symptoms of early pregnancy might be tapering off, other symptoms may be setting in.
What to Expect During Your Fourth Month of Pregnancy
- Around week 15, ask your doctor about a quad screening test to check for Down syndrome or other chromosome problems.
- By week 16, you may be noticing a lovely pregnancy glow about you. That's because your blood volume increased to supply your growing baby! Your flushed cheeks may also be accompanied by issues such as nosebleeds and larger leg veins due to the additional blood flow.
- This is right around the time that women begin to really start eating for two! You may put on some weight, but this is not a time to go on a diet. Did you know the average weight gain during pregnancy is 25 to 35 pounds? Chances are, you might be starting to show that weight gain too. If you're seeing an extra five pounds on the scale, who cares? You've got 20 to 30 more pounds to go! Remember, it’s all for the baby.
If you need even more affirmation, listen to that precious little heartbeat at your next checkup—you will almost certainly hear it at this point.
Month 5: Weeks 18 to 21
If this is not your first rodeo with pregnancy, then you’ve most likely been able to feel the baby’s first kicks! If this is your first pregnancy, you might still have a few weeks before you’ll feel anything. The first movements are often described as a “fluttery” feeling, like gas bubbles. Do note that it could very well be gas and not the baby!
What to Expect During Your Fifth Month of Pregnancy
- Heightened levels of exhaustion
Am I Having a Boy or a Girl?
Want to know if you’re having a boy or a girl? If you haven’t had an ultrasound yet, you’ll need one around this time to make sure the baby is growing nice and healthy. You always have the option of finding out your baby's gender during this scan!
Month 6: Weeks 22 to 26
By now, you should feel your baby moving. If you still don’t know, wait a few more weeks. As long as there is a healthy heartbeat during your checkups, the movements will come in good time.
What to Do During Your Sixth Month of Pregnancy
- This is a great time to start taking birthing classes, especially if you are planning on a natural and unmedicated birth or home birth.
- It’s important to learn how to manage your labor and decide what you want for your labor and demand it. It’s your body, your labor, and your baby—you’re in charge!
- Prepare yourself for stretch marks. As your baby grows, your belly will expand. Stretch marks may start forming across your abdomen. Although they should fade after you deliver, help your skin to adapt to the changes as best you can by staying hydrated, eating well, and getting some vitamin D.
- By the seventh month, you should take a glucose screening test to check and see if you have gestational diabetes.
Third Trimester: Weeks 27 to 40
How far along am I? Ah, the home stretch that is known as the third trimester! This period of pregnancy is filled with a whole different host of surprises such as seeing your baby move in your tummy, getting stretch marks, and giving up wearing pants entirely.
You might also be surprised with a baby shower from your friends and family. What a great way to get your mind off those third-trimester discomforts!
Month 7: Weeks 27 to 30
Congratulations, you've made it to the third trimester! Right about now, eating has become a sport, your feet are swollen beyond recognition, and you want to strangle the next person who says, "Enjoy this time! It goes by so fast!"
What to Expect During Your Seventh Month of Pregnancy
- By your seventh month of pregnancy, you’re looking undeniably pregnant to strangers! Mentally prepare yourself for this because you’ll probably hear a lot from strangers. The continual comments may get annoying, and it’s normal to feel irritated. Try to maintain a smile and a positive attitude because the strangers usually mean well!
- Get ready to start losing a little bit of deep sleep at this point. Your baby now has a schedule of its own—good luck!
- Your feet may start expanding as your joints loosen up to get ready for the labor process. Try to wear shoes without a heel that will help you stay balanced and comfortable!
- You'll probably find it increasingly difficult to fall asleep. Try to encourage your body to rest by using a body pillow to position yourself comfortably.
Month 8: Weeks 31 to 35
The most enjoyable part of your pregnancy has likely ended, and you are probably starting to feel fatigued again, but this should be expected because this child inside of you is beginning to plump up into that chubby little baby you’ll be greeting in a couple of months!
What to Expect During Your Eighth Month of Pregnancy
- Urinary Frequency: Also kicking into high gear if it hasn’t yet is urinary frequency. The baby needs to expand up and down and wherever it can to make itself fit, so this will include squishing your bladder and pushing up into your sternum. At times and in certain positions, you might find it a little hard to breathe! Oh, the joys of pregnancy!
- Braxton-Hicks Contractions: If you haven’t felt the “practice contractions” by now, you probably will soon. Don’t be alarmed though, they are just Braxton-Hicks contractions. Although they might feel a little crampy, it’s typically a painless tensing of the uterine muscles that is your body preparing your uterus for the real thing. They can sometimes begin in the second trimester, but they more frequently show up in the third semester.
- Hemorrhoids: They're more likely due to the combination of your expanding uterus, constipation, and an increase in a hormone called progesterone.
What to Do During Your Third Trimester
- Continue to eat healthily.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Get some rest because you will really need it!
Month 9: Weeks 37 to 40
As much as you’d love to meet your little bundle of joy right now, there’s still some more growing and developing to be done! It’s still a bit early to have the baby for it to be healthy outside the womb. While you’re making it through this long wait, how is the nursery coming along?
What to Do During Week 37
By week 37, you should make sure your hospital bag is packed so you're ready when the baby is!
Your hospital bag checklist:
- Important paperwork: picture ID, insurance, etc.
- Loose clothing and underwear
- Nightgown, robe, and socks
- Nursing bras
- Eyeglasses or contacts if needed
- Camera and/or video camera
- Cell phone
- Batteries, chargers, adapters
- Baby's stuff: 'going home' outfit, socks, hats, onesies, mittens, etc.
What to Expect During Your Ninth Month of Pregnancy
- Your nesting stage is probably kicking in, and I bet everything is looking great! This is also a nice way to break your boredom and yearning for the big day, for a little while at least!
- If you haven't noticed already, it's probably quite evident by now that you have heartburn. If it's becoming too much, try eating smaller, more frequent meals and sleeping in an upright position.
- You may begin to notice water retention at this stage, so make sure you drink lots of water. It'll both to help fight off retention and avoid preterm labor. Yes, dehydration can cause preterm labor, so I cannot stress the importance of drinking enough fluids!
Month 10: Almost There, Mama!
By “nine months of pregnancy,” they really meant 10, because you’re not done yet!
You are surely feeling like you’re about to pop at this point—that’s exactly what’s going to happen soon! At 37 weeks and beyond, the baby’s lungs are fully developed so it is now safe for him or her to meet the world!
By now, you’ve experienced aches and pains in places you didn’t even know you had. Unfortunately, that part is not over because labor is imminent. You’ll just know when you’re in labor—there is no mistaking it.
When asking yourself how far along you are, the best way to answer this question is to visit your OBGYN or midwife, who will then determine that for you. Good luck, and sticky baby dust to you! Or rather, vernix caseosa, which is a waxy white substance that acts as a protective coating for your newborn's skin.
What to Expect at the End of Your Pregnancy
- Hospital Bag Checklist for the Minimalist Mom
Be efficient and pack light for your hospital birth with this checklist that is perfect for the minimalist mama to be.
- Three Things a Lot of Parents Overlook When Planning the Arrival of a Baby
Found out you’re expecting? Make sure you don’t just plan the obvious in the months leading up to the arrival of your new child.
- Choosing If and When to Return to Work after Maternity Leave
Whether or not you return to work after becoming a parent is a difficult challenge faced by modern women. Finances and the prospect of being parted from your newborn are key challenges to consider.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
bloggerghost on April 18, 2014:
Thanks for nice hub
Cynthia Zirkwitz from Vancouver Island, Canada on April 08, 2014:
this is a very useful hub! I don't need it (Grandma here) but I'm going to share it out with all the young women in my Twitter domain! Good work! ~Cynthia