Congratulations! You just found out you are pregnant! You are about to embark on one interesting journey. Expect to experience joys, as well as challenges, and discomfort throughout your pregnancy. The pregnancy journey is divided into three distinct trimesters. Each one represents different joys and challenges. LIsted below are the three trimesters of pregnancy, and the descriptions of what to expect with your own body, and the development of the fetus in each one.
The First Trimester
The first trimester spans weeks 1-12, and is the shortest of the three trimesters of pregnancy. In fact during weeks 1 and 2, a woman is not technically pregnant. Week 1 starts the day of the woman’s last menstrual period. Around day 14 of the cycle, or later depending on the woman’s cycle, fertilization happens when the sperm meets the egg. And then the fertilized egg ends up finding its place in the uterus, and implants itself in the lining. Sometimes light bleeding can happen as a result, and at times women may mistaken this kind of light bleeding as a mild and short period.
During this time, the fertilized egg has split into a ball of cells called the blastocyst. The blastocyst splits into 3 sections that later on becomes the mesoderm, ectoderm, and endoderm. The mesoderm creates the connective tissues, skeletal system, and blood system. The ectoderm will be forming the nervous system, the skin, and your baby’s hair. The endoderm will become the liver, kidneys, thyroid, pancreas, gastrointestinal tract as well as other organs. The placenta is being created as well which will be at work making maternal blood to feed the baby.
The fact of the matter is, a woman usually has no clue that she is pregnant until at least she is 4 weeks along. If she suspects it, she may buy a home pregnancy test from the drugstore which can find the pregnancy hormone in urine.That is what gives the test a positive. What may make her suspect that she is pregnant is the symptoms that are already starting. These symptoms are fatigue, dizziness, nausea and vomiting which is referred to as “morning sickness” (but the sickness can last through the day), and either no period or an incredibly light one.
She may also be experiencing painful and tender breasts which are worse than experiencing sore breasts during PMS. Another common first trimester symptom is increase in urination which will pretty much last throughout the pregnancy.
At this point, the baby is an embryo and it is approximately 1/16th of an inch long. It cannot be seen well by the naked eye, and the spinal cord and heart have started to develop at this point.
However, by week 6, the baby’s heart starts beating and you can have a vaginal ultrasound done at this point to confirm at heartbeat, but most doctors don’t feel it is necessary for pregnant women to go for an ultrasound this soon. That is unless the baby was conceived via IVF or you have had a history of miscarriages. The size of the embryo is ½ of an inch at this point, and is also growing little nubs where the arms and limbs will develop later on. The digestive system also develops at this point, as well as facial features, and the brain and bloodstream do as well. The creation is at its peak right now.
Symptoms are going to be experienced by the mother a lot more. The fatigue may be severe, as well as the nausea and vomiting. If that is out of control, then she must report the severity of her sickness to her doctor. She may require hospitalization if she can’t hold even water down. The reason these symptoms may be worse right now is because the pregnancy hormone levels are extremely high.
As the first trimester comes to an end, after 9 weeks, the baby’s facial features are quite present as the nose and ears form. Nail and teeth buds have started to form. The baby is moving even though it can’t be felt this early, and he or she is swallowing amniotic fluid. All internal organs start to form by the end of the 12th week which marks the end of the 1st trimester.
The Second Trimester
The second trimester which starts from week 13 and ends at week 27. For the majority of women, this trimester is referred to as “the honeymoon phase”, because the dreadful first trimester symptoms such as nausea and fatigue begin to ease off by now. Unfortunately some women still experience these symptoms if they are extreme. But the reason that symptoms die down for the majority of women is because the hormones have leveled off.
By week 13, your baby has developed the vocal chords. The organs are functioning, and the baby’s bone marrow is developing red blood cells, and even the hair is starting to grow. The uterus is about the size of a grapefruit and will continue to grow. Your breasts will develop colostrum as well, and our areolas begin to darken, and you will experience other skin changes. Beware that blood pressure will increase, and sometimes varicose veins can form.
Your baby’s heartbeat can be heard on the Doppler device, but between 17 and 20 weeks, the heartbeat can be detected by a stethoscope, and the baby will be sucking his or her thumb a lot now. Other changes that are happening is that movements are stronger and are felt, finger and toe-nails are forming, the hair keeps growing and the baby responds to light and noise, heartbeat can be heard with a stethoscope.
Your OBGYN will want to arrange an ultrasound to be done at this time too to make sure the baby is developing well, and you can also find out the sex if you choose.
By 21-24 weeks, the baby’s eyes are open, a creamy substance covers the skin called vernix, and skin is wrinkled making the fetus appear very thin, because he or she is!
Your appetite may be high at this point, but be careful to eat within limits, as you could end up developing complications such as gestational diabetes or pre-eclampsia if you gain too much weight. You will either way be getting large and uncomfortable as you near the third trimester, the last one before you meet your baby!
The Third Trimester
The third trimester starts from week 28 until week 40 (or birth as many babies are born before 40 weeks) and this is a hard period. The baby at this point is really bulking up, as a result you are as well. So getting around may become a challenge. Sleeping is hard because you are constantly being interrupted by having to urinate. You will experience more backache, heartburn, shortness of breath and leg cramps. And around this time you may have false contractions called The Braxton-Hicks contractions, which are light but they prepare you for the real thing.
The fetus will keep getting fatter in the meantimes, the body stores iron and the bones are no longer cartilage.
This is the time to have a baby shower, if you choose, start getting the nursery ready and you will be feeling a mix of excitement and worry as the time to meet your new little one comes closer. You may be taking lamaze classes to help you prepare for labor and delivery.
You will be so uncomfortable at this point that you will feel like this pregnancy will go on forever. Especially if you are having twins, then all of the above symptoms will be felt ten-fold. However, there is one promise and guarantee. The pregnancy never lasts forever! Once it ends, you will meet your new baby (or babies) for the first time, and then a whole new journey of parenthood begins!