Each day during pregnancy, your baby is developing and growing and you may notice changes to your own body. The guide below outlines the changes happening to you and your baby during the stages of pregnancy:
Weeks 0-13: the first trimester
During this time, the baby is developing quickly and the cells that form the organs, muscles, bones and nervous system are starting to form. From week 8 onwards, the hands, toes, eyes, mouth, nose and ears start to grow and by the end of week 13, the baby will be fully formed.
During the first trimester, many women experience nausea and their breasts may feel sore and tender; most women feel more tired than usual during this stage of pregnancy.
Weeks 14-26: the second trimester
During this time the baby is growing every day and you will be able to feel the baby start to move around for the first time.
During this stage, most women start to gain weight and notice the shape of their body changing; the bump will become increasingly visible as the weeks go on and most women have a noticeable bump by the end of this stage.
Weeks 27-birth: the third trimester
During this stage the baby is growing and putting on weight as it starts to develop its own stores of fat. The baby will develop senses such as taste and sight during this stage and they may start to move quite a lot.
Many women find it difficult to sleep and get comfortable during this stage as their bump gets bigger and bigger; many women also suffer from back pain, need to go to the loo more often and feel more tired than usual. As the due date gets closer, some women start to experience practice contractions.
Although every woman is given a due date, very few babies are actually born on the exact date; pregnancy can last anywhere between 37 and 42 weeks.
Looking after yourself during pregnancy
It is important to look after yourself during pregnancy; this will help to keep both you and your baby strong and healthy. Pregnancy can be a very stressful time but it can also be one of the most amazing times; below are some guidelines to help you keep healthy during pregnancy.
- Give up drinking alcohol: experts recommend giving up drinking completely but having a glass of wine as a one-off for a family party, for example, isn’t going to have any serious implications. However, excessive and regular drinking may cause your baby to have serious health problems, such as Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS); this can cause developmental problems, as well as restricted growth and disorders relating to behaviour and learning. When an expectant mother drinks, the alcohol from her bloodstream passes into the baby’s bloodstream; it is therefore safest to stop drinking.
- Stop smoking: smoking during pregnancy can be extremely harmful to your baby and may also cause difficulties during child birth; smoking has been proven to increase the risk of miscarriage, premature birth and stillbirth. Babies that are born to mothers that have smoked during their pregnancy are more likely to have low birth weight, develop respiratory problems and have growth and development problems. If you want help to stop smoking, contact the NHS quitline (there is a special service for pregnant women) or consult your GP; you will feel the benefits almost instantaneously.
- Avoid stressful situations; stress can contribute to several health conditions, as well as making you feel tired, frustrated, angry and emotional. Try therapies such as massage or gentle exercise such as yoga.
- Take care of your teeth: dental health has been proven to impact on the health of your unborn baby so make sure you take advantage of the free NHS dental care during pregnancy and for the first year after you give birth.
- Exercise: exercise will help to reduce stress, keep your body weight stable and keep you fit and healthy. If you are already used to exercising regularly, carry on exercising as normal until you start to feel uncomfortable (you will need to reduce the intensity as your pregnancy progresses). If you didn’t exercise before you got pregnant, introduce exercise gradually, as this will prevent any injuries. Remember to warm up and cool down thoroughly and drink plenty of water; avoid strenuous exercise, contact sports and sports that have a high risk of accidents including rock climbing, horse riding and skiing for example. Many pregnant women enjoy swimming as the water is able to support the weight of the baby.
- Take care when taking medication: many medications cannot be taken during pregnancy so ask a doctor or pharmacist before you decide to take medication.
- Take care at work: if you work in an environment where you may be exposed to chemicals that may harm your baby, you may need to ask to do alternative jobs during your pregnancy. Avoid lifting heavy items as this can place increased pressure on your baby and hurt your back.
- Take it easy, especially during the final stage of your pregnancy.