From the time of conception until the time you give birth, your body is going to go through some major changes. Find out what to expect with our week-by-week look at your changing body.
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If you're trying to conceive (or think you might already be pregnant), start making health changes to ensure that your body is in the best shape for carrying and nurturing your baby. The biggies: cut out alcohol, cigarettes, and any illegal or recreational drugs. You may also need to switch or stop taking some prescription and over-the-counter medications. So tell your doctor that you're trying to conceive and make sure any medications you're using are safe.
Is it official yet? Not quite -- but be assured that your body's got those baby-making mechanics well under way. After fertilization, your ovaries start ramping up the production of progesterone, a hormone that prepares your uterus to host the newly fertilized egg, or zygote, that will live there for the next 38 weeks or so.
You may experience some light vaginal bleeding when your egg implants, which many women mistake for a period. In fact, spotting that's lighter than your usual menstrual flow is one of the early signs of pregnancy. Do give your doctor a call, however, if the bleeding is fairly heavy or you experience abdominal pain, like a sharp stabbing in your pelvis or even mild cramping on just one side. Although uncommon, these symptoms could indicate an ectopic, or tubal, pregnancy. This happens when the fertilized egg attaches itself somewhere other than the uterine wall -- usually in a fallopian tube. The most common causes of an ectopic pregnancy are inflammation of the fallopian tubes and an infection in the uterus, fallopian tubes, or ovaries.
You just missed your period and the test came back positive -- that's right, you're pregnant! Can't bear to fasten your bra in the morning? For most women, breast tenderness is the first physical sign of pregnancy -- even before telltale morning sickness strikes. (If your breasts aren't sore now, odds are they will be within a few days or weeks.) You may also experience more extreme senses of taste and smell. In other words, that vase of peonies has never smelled better, but your coworker's tuna sandwich -- which he's eating three cubicles away -- might make you beeline for the bathroom.
Feeling overjoyed one minute and equally stressed out the next? It's all part of the normal mood swings that come along with pregnancy. You might feel elated, depressed, angry, sentimental, powerful, and insecure -- sometimes all in the same hour. Your hormones are flaring, so it's only natural for emotions to do the same, especially when a major life change is on the way. Mood swings are often the most intense during the next month, and they sometimes surge again toward the end of pregnancy. Also, you may be surprised to learn that about 10 to 12 percent of women will experience depression during pregnancy -- nearly as many as those who do postpartum. If at any point during your pregnancy you feel depressed for more than two weeks, call your practitioner.
Can you believe that just a few short weeks ago you were wondering if you were really pregnant? Chances are, by now your body is letting you know loud and clear (and if not now, soon). Sure, some of these signature first-trimester symptoms can be a bit jarring -- the exhaustion, nausea, vomiting, super-sore breasts, headaches, constipation, faintness, and mood swings -- but try to go with the flow and look on the bright side. Your body's doing some complex work in there, and most of the symptoms should subside in a few weeks. The tricky thing about this pregnancy stage, of course, is that you probably haven't spilled your secret to the world just yet.
Even though you're not starting to show yet, you may notice you've put on a few pounds and your pants are starting to feel tight. You aren't big enough for maternity clothes at this point, but you might want to start shopping for the future. Your skin may be going through some changes already, too. If you're lucky, you'll be sporting the pregnancy glow, but don't be surprised if your skin reacts to the influx of pregnancy hormones with a break-out.
You might not have a hankering for pickles and ice cream, but pregnancy cravings could be wreaking havoc on your healthy eating plan. Yes, you are eating for two, but you really only need about an extra 300 calories per day (or 600 if you're expecting twins) to nourish your baby-to-be. And even though chocolate cake or a bag of potato chips may be calling your name, try to reach for a healthier treat instead -- say, a 16-ounce mango smoothie, a cup of cottage cheese or a tall glass of milk.
As your blood volume continues to increase, you might feel the effects through dizziness and frequent urination, and you might see the effects in bulging veins on your hands and feet or from a nosebleed. But this extra blood is there for good reason -- it'll help protect your baby when you stand up or lie down, and it safeguards against the blood loss you'll experience during labor and delivery. Speaking of blood, vaginal bleeding can occur in the first trimester and it isn't necessarily a cause for alarm, but it could be a sign of ectopic pregnancy or a miscarriage, so you should always call your doctor right away if you experience bleeding.
Loving your new dewy, pregnant glow? Thank the hormones HCG and progesterone (they increase the number of oil glands in your face, making your complexion shinier and smoother) and your boosted blood volume, which can make your skin slightly flushed and plump. And if the girls are giving you all kinds of nice cleavage these days, it's because estrogen and progesterone are spurring milk-producing glands to grow there (and there's plenty more of that to come)!
Have you started to show yet? If this is your first pregnancy, you may just feel bloated, kind of like after a big meal. But some women have a little baby-belly pooch by the end of the first trimester. After all, your uterus is now the size of a grapefruit. At your next exam, your doctor will be able to feel the top of it.
Until now, your uterus has fit snugly within your pelvis. But as it begins to move north this week, the pressure on your bladder should start to let up a bit. This also means your belly has the room to swell, giving you that slightly rounded, "Yes, I'm pregnant!" look. And if your world is a little blurrier than usual, don't be alarmed. The extra fluid your body retains during pregnancy may also thicken your lens and cornea (the outermost layer of your eye), and the pressure of the fluid within your eyeball may change as well. Together, these changes can cause blurry vision. Your peepers should self-correct within two months of your baby's birth, but let your doctor know about your eye symptoms, as they could also signal hypertension or diabetes.
From tripping to dropping dishes, you might be feeling clumsier these days. Relaxin, another hormone that messes with you during pregnancy, loosens up your ligaments and joints in preparation for birth. Even though you need the extra give only in your pelvis, the hormone works on your entire body, which means your hands and feet are affected, too.
You've reached the second trimester! You can rest easier knowing that your risk of miscarriage drops substantially at the end of this week -- 75 percent of miscarriages occur in the first trimester. If you're feeling on the up-and-up, thank your hormones. As levels of HCG drop, and estrogen and progesterone shift again, you've entered the "feel-good" trimester -- typically marked by an energy burst and appetite increase. Not quite there yet? Unfortunately, some women continue to experience queasiness throughout pregnancy. But if your morning sickness is letting up, you'll probably notice your appetite starting to grow.
If you take a peek in the mirror, you might notice yet another set of strange pregnancy symptoms: Skin darkening -- most commonly around your nipples, areolas, navel, armpits and inner thighs -- affects more than 90 percent of moms-to-be. And if you have dark hair and fair skin, you're also more prone to a condition called chloasma (aka "the mask of pregnancy") -- a darkening around the eyes, nose, and cheeks. This darkening usually fades a few months after delivery (however, according to the ACOG, it's unlikely to go away completely), and there's not much you can do to prevent it. What does help? Avoid spending time in the sun and if you do go outside, wear a hat with a wide brim. You might also notice small growths of skin, or skin tags, developing during pregnancy.
Got butterflies in your belly? It could very well be your baby kicking! Most moms-to-be experience this major pregnancy milestone between their 16th and 20th weeks, but don't expect any big karate chops just yet. The first kicks, called quickening or flutters, are so subtle that they're often mistaken for stomach rumblings or indigestion -- and many first-timers may have a hard time detecting them initially.
Your belly may have been rounding out for a few weeks now, but pretty soon it's going to start to really pop (so everyone will be able to tell you're actually pregnant -- as opposed to simply more snack-happy). And once the world at large can see that you're expecting, get ready for lots of knowing smiles! From here on out, your uterus is gearing up for major expansion. This may sound odd, but it will have grown to as much as 1,000 times its normal size by time you deliver. (Picture a large pear morphing into a basketball.) And while we're on the subject of, um, enlargement, you may be gaining almost a pound a week right about now, although it's normal for weight gain to vary from week to week.
You might be feeling your baby really kick now! These kicks will be bigger and more defined than the popcorn popping, butterfly feeling of quickening that you've previously felt. Some moms see the first kicks as a confirmation that there really is a baby growing in there. Since many of your baby's movements aren't strong enough for you to feel yet, you might go a day without noticing any kicks and then feel several the next day.
Not as graceful as you used to be? Don't worry if you're a bit more wobbly these days; your growing belly has shifted your center of gravity, which can make you more prone to slips and spills. You'll adjust eventually, subconsciously tweaking your posture and gait to offset that expanding tummy. But these changes (and your compensations for them) can throw your spinal alignment out of whack, triggering an achy back. To prevent the pain, stand up straight when you walk so your hips and shoulders stay lined up. Sitting with your feet slightly elevated and sleeping on your side in a fetal position (just like baby!) can help.
This week is a cause for celebration -- you've reached the halfway point of your pregnancy! If you turn to the side these days, others will really notice a change in your profile -- you definitely look pregnant now. If you haven't felt round ligament pains yet, you may soon. These sharp pains in your hip, abdomen or groin are normal. As your uterus grows, the round ligaments, which are attached to your pelvic sidewall and each side of your upper uterus, are pulled and stretched.
When you look in the mirror these days, what do you see? Sexy curves or, well, Shamu? It's unlikely that you'll feel great about your body all the time -- every woman has at least one of those "Oh, my gosh, what's happening to me?" moments during pregnancy. But let us state the obvious: You are not fat -- you are pregnant! These nine months are a tiny little blip in the radar of your life, and you'll have your pre-baby body back (or at least something close to it) soon enough. In the meantime, appreciate your newfound voluptuousness. Show off your belly with a fitted T-shirt instead of hiding it under a tented top. And, hey, there's nothing wrong with flashing a little of that amazing new cleavage.
Feeling dizzy? This is another normal pregnancy side effect, and it's due to the fact that your blood pressure has dropped. Your blood can't move as fast as it used to, so you may feel lightheaded when you stand up or after standing for a long period of time. You're probably enjoying the benefits of pregnancy hormones now in the form of thicker hair and stronger nails, but along with the gorgeous locks, you may start to notice a few unwanted hairs. Stick to plucking, waxing and shaving for removal -- bleaches and depilatories contain unsafe chemicals.
That baby of yours sure needs a lot of nutrients. As she uses more and more of the vitamins and minerals passing through your body, you might need an extra dose. That's why doctors sometimes prescribe iron supplements, in addition to your prenatal vitamin, during the second half of pregnancy. The extra boost may help reduce your risk of anemia, a condition in which your body doesn't get the 30 milligrams of iron it needs every day to produce enough red blood cells; this can trigger symptoms like serious fatigue, weakness, shortness of breath, and dizziness. Contact your doctor right away if you feel any of those symptoms during your second or third trimesters. Anemia won't harm the baby in most cases, but it can really zap your energy levels. The good news, though, is that it's usually easily treatable with a daily supplement.
The only thing shrinking right now may be your libido -- so it's totally A-OK if your cravings for French fries trump your desire to do the deed. Many pregnant women report that their libidos are all over the map throughout these nine months. But especially now, as a growing belly translates to feeling more tired and achy, sex may become less and less desirable as your pregnancy drags on. But other women report a big can't-get-enough surge in their third trimester -- so if you're one of 'em, more power to you!
Get ready to kiss your petite little belly goodbye soon (if you haven't already) -- your uterus is growing big-time! It is now about the size of a soccer ball. As your uterus continues to expand upward -- the top is nearly midway between your breasts and belly button now -- your middle will grow longer and wider. Makes sense; your baby's going to be pushing past the two-pound mark in no time at all, and you've gotta make room for her in there. You may also be experiencing carpal tunnel syndrome, which causes numb and tingly fingers. Luckily, like most pregnancy symptoms, it usually goes away shortly after your baby is born and your pregnancy swelling subsides.
By now, you've probably gained around 15 pounds -- and possibly even more, depending on your pre-pregnancy weight. It may sound like a lot and you may not be loving your pregnancy size, but remember it's a necessity. Also, much of the weight can be attributed to the weight of your baby, an increase of blood and fluid volume, your expanded uterus, larger breasts, the placenta, and amniotic fluid.
Are you usually one of those shy, don't-rock-the-boat types? Many women find that being pregnant makes them more assertive than usual -- and better equipped to set boundaries at home, at work, or anywhere. The awareness that you're responsible for another little person is often motivation enough to speak up or say no when necessary -- say, asking a friend (or a stranger) to stamp out her cigarette when she's lighting up nearby. Pregnancy also has a way of making you hyper-attuned to your instincts. So that tiny voice in the back of your head telling you "I need a seat on this overcrowded bus -- stat!" is suddenly toting a megaphone, which helps you go with your gut and do what's best for you and your baby. And the more you can get in the habit of setting limits now, the happier and less frazzled you'll be once you're no longer a party of two.
You've made it to the third trimester and even though you're on the home stretch, you're probably about ready to be done with pregnancy! In your final trimester, you'll feel the physical toll of pregnancy. The extra weight can lead to musculo-skeletal pain, and fatigue can slow you down even more. You might also find it harder and harder to get comfortable whether you're trying to sleep, sit at work or relax on the couch. Shortness of breath can also plague pregnant women during the final trimester.
During pregnancy you'll experience a lot of surprising symptoms, and one that can happen during the third trimester is leaky breasts. The yellowish, thin fluid is colostrum, which is the precursor to breast milk. Usually you'll notice only a drop or two, if any at all, but if the flow becomes greater, you can put nursing pads inside your bra to keep things under control. This fluid contains antibodies that help fight infection and build resistance to many common illnesses during your baby's first days on the outside. So even if you don't plan on breastfeeding for the long haul, you might want to consider nursing just for a couple of days so your baby can take advantage of this nutritional head start.
As your skin expands to accommodate baby, stretch marks aren't always the only side effect. An estimated 20 percent of expectant moms also experience itchy skin. Your doctor may recommend antihistamines or ointments, but a calming lotion can also provide relief. As for those stretch marks? At least half of moms-to-be get them, usually in the sixth and seventh months of pregnancy. And no matter what the fancy-product pushers may have you believe, there's really nothing you can do to prevent them. The good news is that they will fade significantly over time, though they won't disappear completely. There are some prescription creams and in-office laser treatments that may help lighten them, but you're best off waiting until you're at least a few months postpartum (or until you're done nursing, if you want to try certain prescription creams) to weigh these options with a dermatologist.
You may be noticing more hip and lower-back pain. What gives? Pregnancy hormones are relaxing the ligaments and tendons throughout your pelvic area so that the bones can spread to make room for delivery. Your expanding uterus may also be putting some pressure on the sciatic nerve, which runs from your lower back to your buttock and hip area and down the back of each leg, triggering chronic tingling or numbness along its path -- a condition called sciatica. But it's usually not serious, it won't affect the baby and it will likely become less intense as he shifts around in there.
Because your uterus is now almost five inches above your belly, your baby is pressing more intensely on your internal organs. Expect symptoms such as urine leakage, heartburn, and breathlessness to intensify during the last few months. This might also affect your appetite in the coming weeks, causing your hunger to wane. Some expectant moms even feel nausea come back around this time.
Not all contractions mean that you're going to deliver soon, which at this point should have you breathing a sigh of relief! Just like your unborn baby's body takes time to develop and mature before he's ready for his birth, your body readies itself for labor by practicing. These beginner and sporadic contractions are called Braxton Hicks contractions. Although they do not lead to active labor, they do prepare your body (and your psyche!) for when the time comes. If you take time to sit down, put your feet up and drink a glass of water or two, these contractions will subside. Labor-inducing contractions don't stop even if you relax for an hour or two.
Feeling like you couldn't possibly get any bigger right now? Luckily, weight gain often plateaus or slows down by this time. That said, you probably can't see your shoes, you may (for the first time in your life) find it more comfortable to wear a bra while you sleep and your popped-out belly button might make you feel self-conscious. Remember, you'll be back to your old self in a few months -- with an amazing baby in tow.
Another labor signal to watch for is extra-thick vaginal discharge that's pink or even a bit blood-tinged. This is the start of your mucus plug dropping. The mucus plug is a ball of tissue that's been blocking your cervical opening during pregnancy to keep your uterus safe from germs. Losing your plug doesn't mean that labor's starting ASAP, though. Many women lose their plugs up to two weeks before labor officially begins.
Does your belly feel a bit lighter these days? It's called dropping, lightening, or engagement, and it's common around this time, as your baby settles lower into your pelvis to get ready for her big move outta there. In a first-time mother, the baby often "drops" two to four weeks before delivery. Also at this time, your milk glands are expanding and filling with colostrum, thanks to an increase in the hormone oxytocin. This might make your breasts feel a bit lumpy.
Sex might be the last thing on your mind now, but some experts believe it's beneficial and most agree it's harmless. At this point, your cervix is engorged with blood and feels sensitive, so you may see a little spotting after sex. If you notice persistent spotting or bright red discharge, though, call your doctor.
Your water could break any day now, and if you're thinking that means you're doomed for an embarrassing public scene, think again. Most women start to notice a wetness running down the leg, not a sudden gushing of water to the floor, so you should have enough time to get to a bathroom and call your doctor.
Less than 5 percent of women give birth on their actual due dates, which means your baby could come a few hours from now or not for another two weeks. But you're probably so attuned to the possibility of labor that every little twinge makes you think "Is this 'It?'" Labor may begin in several ways: mild cramps (the most common scenario), your water breaking, or, if you have a scheduled induction or C-section, a trip to the hospital. Labor has three stages -- when you get to the hospital you'll likely be in active labor (the second phase of the first stage), during which your cervix dilates from 3 or 4 centimeters to 7.
Your baby is due this week, and if you're lucky he will actually arrive this week! Soon you'll feel your first real contractions. They'll come fast and furious once you're in active labor -- lasting up to a minute each, or even a bit longer -- and yes, they huuuurt. You'll feel this intense pain radiating through your stomach, lower back and upper thighs. This is like nothing you've ever felt before -- and each woman copes with it differently. Now's the time when pain-relieving epidurals are usually administered, so don't be afraid to ask for one. While your baby gets the once-over, you'll be busy delivering the placenta -- the 2-pound, bluish mass of blood vessels and tissues that has nourished and protected your infant over the past nine months. Although you may continue to feel contractions, most new moms are too blissed out -- "I did it! He's here, he's healthy, he's gorgeous!" -- to notice them.
Still pregnant? That's okay. Babies come to term anywhere between 38 and 42 weeks -- your 40-week due date simply marks the midpoint of this period. If your delivery is scheduled, you'll check into the hospital and either be prepped for a C-section or, if you're going to deliver vaginally, given something to induce labor, like a prostaglandin gel to soften or ripen your cervix or an IV drip of pitocin (a synthetic version of the hormone oxytocin) to start up contractions. If you go into labor on your own (your water has broken or you're having contractions that are growing steadily more painful), call your doctor or midwife for instructions.
Baby's not here yet? Sit tight. Only 5 percent of newborns arrive on their actual due dates, but over 80 percent are born within two weeks of it. Most babies will be perfectly safe and healthy hanging out in your womb until 42 weeks. In fact, your baby isn't technically overdue until this week is over. After that, your doctor will likely want to consider inducing your labor by breaking your water or stripping your membranes, or with drugs (synthetic hormones, actually) that either bring on contractions or prepare your cervix.
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