Check out this week-by-week pregnancy symptom timeline so you know what to expect while carrying a baby.

By Nicole Harris
Updated March 03, 2020
Advertisement
Illustration by Julia Bohan

Your body experiences a wide range of changes throughout pregnancy, ranging from breast tenderness in the first trimester to backaches in the third. Prepare for what’s coming with our list of pregnancy symptoms by week.

You’re not technically pregnant yet, since doctors calculate your due date from the first day of your last period. You’ll experience your typical menstruation symptoms: bleeding, cramping, sore breasts, mood swings, etc.

Ovulation occurs during week two. Your ovary will release a mature egg that travels into the fallopian tube, where it awaits fertilization with sperm. Symptoms of ovulation include twinging lower abdominal pain (mittelschmerz), breast tenderness, slippery discharge that resembles egg whites, and increased basal body temperature.

During week three, the fertilized egg implants into the uterine lining. Some women experience mild abdominal cramping or light spotting known as “implantation bleeding.” Call your doctor if you’re bleeding heavily or have intense pain; this could indicate an ectopic pregnancy where the embryo implanted outside of the uterus (usually in the fallopian tube).

Your pregnancy test comes back positive—congratulations! Breast tenderness, one of the earliest signs of pregnancy, might make your bra feel extra uncomfortable at this time. Some women also have a heightened sense of smell or taste, fatigue, constipation, bloating, and mood swings. But don’t worry if you don’t have any pregnancy symptoms at all; they might take a few extra weeks to show up.

Hormone-induced mood swings bring an onslaught of feelings during week five. Your emotions will change from happy to depressed to angry for no conceivable reason. Other early pregnancy symptoms—like fatigue and breast tenderness—have probably stuck around too.

For some women, week six brings one of the most dreaded symptoms: morning sickness (although it may start further along in your pregnancy). Your heightened sense of smell can further exacerbate this queasiness, which sets the stage for food cravings and aversions. Morning sickness might stick around until the second trimester, so it’s best to find ways to cope. Some women find relief by eating smaller meals, ingesting ginger, wearing acupressure wristbands, or avoiding certain trigger foods.

Frequent urination is another early pregnancy symptom. It’s caused by a few factors: the pregnancy hormone hCG, your growing uterus compressing the bladder, and the kidneys working extra hard to eliminate waste. Plan for plenty of bathroom breaks during your next trip to the movie theater!

Your pregnancy symptoms have probably appeared in full force now: nausea, breast tenderness, fatigue, frequent urination, mood swings, bloating, etc. Another unusual symptom is extra saliva in your mouth, which sometimes lasts until the end of the first trimester. Some women also experience headaches from hormonal surges coupled with caffeine withdrawal, stress, and dehydration. 

Did you know that pregnancy does a number on your digestive system? Many women suffer from constipation and excess gas, in addition to the nausea that accompanies morning sickness. Don’t worry—many of these gastrointestinal symptoms pass after the first trimester. 

Are you glowing, mama? Some women have the radiant “pregnancy glow” in the first trimester, while others suffer from hormone-induced acne. You’ll also notice your breasts—and your belly—getting bigger each week. 

Your growing baby bump might cause aches and cramping around your abdomen. This round ligament pain can be mildly uncomfortable or cringingly painful. What’s more, a clear discharge (leukorrhea) in your underwear signals that your body is attempting to clear bacteria. 

Did you know that blood volume increases by about 50 percent during pregnancy? One side effect is visible veins on the skin, which are especially noticeable in fair-skinned women. 

As you near the end of the first trimester, many early pregnancy symptoms will diminish. You might notice, however, that you feel dizzy throughout the day. You can thank hormonal shifts, reduced blood flow, and lower blood pressure for these dizzy spells. Combat them by taking deep breaths with your head between your knees. 

You’re official in the second trimester of pregnancy! Many women report increased appetite, renewed energy, and higher sex drive during the next few weeks. Take advantage of this “feel good” trimester by starting a doctor-improved fitness routine and preparing your house for Baby! 

The second trimester comes with a few strange symptoms. You might experience stuffy nose (thanks to an increase of blood in the mucus membranes), leg cramps, and sensitive gums. As the hormone relaxin loosens your ligaments, you might also feel extra clumsy at this stage of pregnancy. 

About 90 percent of pregnant women experience darkening of skin around the nipples, inner thighs, armpits, and navel. Sometimes the darkening extends to the cheeks and nose ( “the mask of pregnancy”)—especially if you have a darker complexion. 

Backaches are inevitable while expecting (you can thank pregnancy hormones yet again!) And if you’re feeling more forgetful than normal, blame the so-called “pregnancy brain” that many women experience. As a plus, many moms-to-be start feeling their baby kick around weeks 16 to 25, so be on the lookout! 

By now, your belly looks undoubtedly pregnant—and your boobs have swelled up to prepare for breastfeeding. Expect to gain weight regularly until delivery (usually about one pound per week). A few stretch marks might appear as you quickly pack on the pounds.

During the second trimester, some women experience heartburn, since pregnancy hormones relax the muscles of your lower esophageal sphincter (LES). Try eating smaller meals, staying upright after eating, and avoiding anything acidic, greasy, or spicy. Constipation might also occur as Baby presses against your intestines. 

By now, your little one might be kicking up a storm! The kicks feel like fluttering in your stomach. Also common during this time are leg cramps, swelling in the hands and feet, dry eyes, varicose veins, and trouble sleeping.

Although you might’ve had round ligament pain for a while, it tends to increase as Baby grows. You’ll feel sharpness in your hip, groin, and abdomen as they stretch to accommodate your uterus. The growing uterus could also put pressure on your lungs, causing shortness of breath

Although you’re constantly gaining weight, you’re probably looking prettier than ever! Pregnancy often causes thick and shiny hair and fast-growing nails as your body stocks up on extra nutrients. But you might also get dry, irritated skin on your stomach, since it’s constantly stretching and expanding. 

Your ever-growing belly can turn an “innie” belly button into an “outie”—but rest assured it will return to normal after delivery. During this time, you’ll probably continue dealing with leg cramps, pregnancy brain, backaches, increased discharge, constipation, headaches, stretch marks, and other second trimester pregnancy symptoms.

While some women may still have high sex drives, others notice a dwindling libido. They might feel too sore and tired to do the deed at all. Other pregnancy symptoms include tingling hands from bleeding gums, as well as snoring from swollen enlarged membranes and pregnancy weight gain.

Do your hands and fingers feel tingly? You may be suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome, which happens from swelling and fluid retention. This numb sensation should vanish after you give birth. In the meantime, avoid sleeping on your hands and try shaking out your wrists throughout the day. 

Sleep might not come easily as you near the third trimester, whether it’s because of anxiety, leg cramps, or frequent urination. You might also experience itchiness in your hands and feet. Mild itchiness is usually benign, and it can be treated with antihistamines, ointments, or calming lotions. But intense itching could signal a liver disorder called cholestasis of pregnancy that needs medical care.

As if backaches and leg cramps weren’t bad enough, some women get hemorrhoids during the second trimester. These itchy, swollen veins pop up in the rectum because of increased blood flow—and they can get worse with constipation. Relieve pain and bleeding with ice packs, sitz baths, or witch hazel pads.

Welcome to the third trimester! As you near the finish line, you’ll start feeling physically exhausted and uncomfortable. Aches and pains are commonplace—and some women will have symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD), which happens when the ligaments around the pubic bone become soft and unstable. 

As your body prepares for breastfeeding, you might notice yellowish colostrum leaking from your breasts. This fluid serves as a precursor to breast milk, and it helps your little one’s body adjust to life outside the womb. 

The itchiness, swelling, aching, and heartburn hasn’t subsided yet. Your stretch marks are probably getting more pronounced as well. These red or pink streaks can’t be prevented, but they’ll fade significantly after delivery. 

You were thrilled to put first trimester pregnancy symptoms behind you, but some of them have made a comeback. For example, your breasts become tender as they prepare for breastfeeding, you’ll need to pee often because of Baby’s head against your bladder, and you’re extremely exhausted with minimal effort. Hang in there—you only have a few weeks to go! 

After 20 weeks of pregnancy, your body might produce “practice” contractions called Braxton Hicks. They’re characterized by a sporadic hardening or tightening of the uterus— and they come more often as the pregnancy progresses. Braxton Hicks contractions usually last between 30 seconds and two minutes, and they’ll stop if you change positions. Call your doctor if you experience contractions that get stronger and more frequent; you may be going into early labor. 

Your baby is getting bigger, and he’s still pressing against your internal organs. The result: a leaky bladder, shortness of breath, heartburn, and general discomfort. 

You only have a few more weeks to endure your pregnancy symptoms, whether it’s backaches, constipation, breast leakage, hemorrhoids, blurry vision, fatigue, headaches, swelling, or heartburn. You’ll also regularly feel Baby kicking around inside your stomach. 

As labor quickly approaches, you’ll notice more regular Braxton Hicks contractions. Make sure you know how to differentiate these practice pains with actual contractions. Your weight gain might also begin to plateau around week 35, and insomnia has likely come in full force.

Your little one is on the move! About two to four weeks before delivery, your baby will begin “dropping” into your lower pelvis (also called lightening or engagement). This will take some pressure off your internal organs, allowing you to breathe easier. 

Your little one’s new position might lead to pelvic discomfort and abdominal pressure. You might notice a little spotting after sex, but you shouldn’t worry—this is probably a result of your sensitive, enlarged cervix. (Call your doctor if you’re bleeding heavily, though, since this could indicate a placental problem). 

Around week 37 or 38, most women “lose their mucus plug.” In other words, there's a ball tissue that’s been blocking your cervix to protect Baby from germs. It gets released about two weeks before labor, and it manifests as a thick pink or blood-tinged discharge. 

If your water breaks, you’ll notice a wetness down your leg. Other early signs of labor include regular contractions, pelvic pressure, dull back pain, and a feeling of restlessness. Early labor tends to last for hours; many doctors recommend heading to the hospital when contractions come every five minutes, last one minute, and continue for an hour (the 5-1-1 rule). 

You’ll keep experiencing pregnancy symptoms like insomnia, swelling, frequent urination, and pelvic discomfort until Baby arrives. If you’ve scheduled an induction or C-section, it may happen within the next few days or weeks. 

An overdue baby could lead to anxiety and restlessness—but hang in there and watch for signs of labor. Your little one will be here soon! 

Most newborns are born within two weeks of their due date, but if the doctor is concerned, he may recommend inducing labor. In the meantime, watch out for signs of labor! 

Infographic by Julia Bohan

Comments

Be the first to comment!