THE FIRST TRIMESTER
During the first three months (trimester), the fetus is undergoing a tremendous amount of changes. At six weeks your baby was about the size of a grain of rice. During this period all of the major body organs are formed. Growth is so rapid during the early phase that within a week or two the fetus will look far more like a baby. At about eight weeks your baby’s face will have formed including eyelids and ears. In the third month the fetus develops fingers and toes with soft nails. By this time the fetus will be roughly four inches long and weigh in at about an ounce.
During the first weeks and months of pregnancy, your body is adjusting to increased levels of the hormones, estrogen and progesterone. You will probably feel more tired, this is caused by the increase in progesterone in your body. Take extra care of yourself now! Fatigue is nature’s way of encouraging rest. Your energy will return, but now it’s needed for your baby’s development.
Your breasts will begin to grow and feel sore due to the increased estrogen in your body. Your growing uterus is going to begin to push against your bladder, causing you to urinate more frequently. You may experience “morning sickness,” nausea and vomiting that can occur at any time of day. You may have cravings , or hate foods that you usually like. These are normal reactions and you may experience some or none of them. In the first trimester your waistline will begin to disappear and your breasts will become larger. Everyone’s weight varies and not all doctors will agree on how much weight gain is allowed during pregnancy. Most women gain about 15-30 lb. total, but consult your own doctor for his recommendation on your own weight gain. Pregnancy is not the time to start an unsupervised weight loss campaign. Your weight will be closely monitored by your doctor. By means of regular and careful examination your doctor can identify most problems as they arise. He can also provide early treatment for any condition which might put you or your baby at risk. Prenatal care is one of the most important things that you can do for your baby, you occasionally may feel it is a waste of time, but regular exams are vital in the care of yourself and your baby.
THE SECOND TRIMESTER
The Fetus grows dramatically during the second trimester. The baby’s movements will become increasingly more active and strong enough for you to feel them. It now sleeps and wakes at regular intervals , swallows and passes urine. Your abdomen will now have visibly enlarged. The baby will weigh between 1 and 1 1/2 pounds and is roughly 11 to 14 inches long. His face will be fully formed at 24 weeks. Your doctor will also be able to hear the heartbeat at this time.
During the second trimester you growing abdomen becomes more obvious to yourself and others. From the third or fourth month you will begin to feel fetal movement. This is called quickening, and feels like tiny bubbles or the fluttering of wings. Your body will have adapted to the increased hormones and your energy will probably begin to return. Morning sickness and the need to urinate so often will begin to disappear by this time also. Leg cramps are common in the second half of pregnancy and will usually occur when you are sleeping or lying down. Stretching your legs before you go to bed may help, but make sure you don’t point your toes, as this can cause your legs to cramp even more. Many women experience increased heartburn and indigestion during this stage of pregnancy. To relieve heartburn, eat smaller meals more often and drink plenty of fluids. Avoid spicy or greasy foods, and don’t eat right before bedtime.
THE THIRD TRIMESTER
The baby continues to grow rapidly during the third trimester. You will feel stronger kicks but the baby will not be able to move around as freely. By the end of the ninth month the baby will position itself head-down in preparation for birth. At 36 weeks the top of the uterus will have extended to just below the breast bone. All your baby’s organs will now be mature. The babies head will engage soon. This means the widest part of his skull will be down inside your pelvis. If the baby is not in this position your doctor will decide whether to attempt to turn the baby or if special delivery techniques will be necessary. At 40 weeks your baby is considered full term. More than 18 inches long now, it weighs between 6 and 9 pounds. Your baby should arrive anywhere between 37 and 42 weeks.
In the last three months of pregnancy, many of the symptoms you experienced in the beginning will return. You will feel increasingly tired, irritable and uncomfortable. Colostrum may begin to leak from your nipples. This is the thick yellowish fluid that will nourish your baby before your true breast milk comes in. In the later weeks of pregnancy you will notice the baby dropping lower into your abdomen. This is also known as lightening. At this stage your cervix is becoming softer and is beginning to efface. Your water may break before you are actually in labor. The water is actually the amniotic fluid that has protected the fetus throughout the past nine months. If your water breaks, call your doctor, as your labor will start soon.