The stages of pregnancy


The stages of pregnancy

Developing a new life is an amazing experience. It can also be somewhat daunting if you’re not quite sure what to expect.

It’s important to remember that each woman will have a different pregnancy experience. Even if you’ve been pregnant before, your new pregnancy can be completely different. Some women will sail through their pregnancy and enjoy every aspect, while others may not. That’s OK.

Your pregnancy is unique to you, and we’re here to help every step of the way. Our guide can help you prepare for the changes ahead by explaining the different stages of pregnancy and what happens during each stage.

A typical pregnancy lasts 40 weeks, counting from the first day of your last period. This can be broken into three trimesters. Each trimester will bring changes for you and your growing baby.

First trimester

During this trimester you should:

  • Begin taking a folic acid supplement as soon as you start trying to conceive.
  • Avoid harmful medications
  • Attend our healthy pregnancy class.

The first trimester lasts from the first week of your pregnancy to week 12. During this time, you probably won’t look pregnant, but your body will be going through many changes as pregnancy hormones, such as human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG), estrogen and progesterone, increase to support the growth of your baby.

Every part of your body will be working harder as it prepares for your new baby. This means you will likely experience a lot of symptoms that can include:

  • Morning sickness (which can strike at any time during the day)
  • Fatigue
  • Frequent urination
  • Tenderness in your breasts
  • Emotional highs and lows
  • Food cravings and aversions.

Though, it’s not all discomfort at this stage. You may also experience the famed “pregnancy glow” as more blood begins to circulate through your body.

Your baby

Referred to as an embryo until week eight of your pregnancy, your growing baby will be about the size of a pea during the first month. The embryo will start to develop a heart and lungs. The brain, spinal cord and nerves also begin to develop, as do arms and legs.

After week eight, your developing baby is referred to as a fetus. It will have grown to the size of a kidney bean by the second month. The fingers, eyelids and genitals will start to develop by this time. Major organs will also develop, and as you head into your second trimester, bones and muscles start to grow.

Second trimester

During this trimester you should:

  • Pay close attention to your baby’s movements
  • Sign up for a tour of our Maternity Ward
  • Take care of yourself physically and mentally

The second trimester lasts from week 13 to 27. Many women suggest that this is the most comfortable stage. Your body will have adjusted to your changing hormones, which means that some of the symptoms you experienced in the first trimester will start to subside. Though food cravings and aversions are likely to continue.

This is when you will start to see and feel physical changes as your body starts to prepare for your growing belly. Your uterus will grow beyond your pelvis, which means you will start to see a baby bump. As your baby grows, you may experience some physical changes as:

  • Weight gain
  • Itchy skin across your belly
  • Body aches, particularly in your back
  • Stretch marks
  • Swelling in your ankles, fingers and face.

You can expect to feel your baby’s first movements during the second trimester — an exciting moment in any pregnancy! This usually occurs around week 20 and has been described as a flutter, swish, kick or roll.

Your baby

By 13 weeks, your baby will be about the size of a pea pod and growing quickly. By week 14, it will be approximately the size of a lemon!

Eyebrows, fingernails, eyelashes and the neck begin to form. By the fourth month, your baby’s arms and legs can bend. Your baby will also begin to swallow and hear. As the second trimester progresses, your baby will move more and more. It will also begin to sleep and wake on a regular schedule.

By the sixth month, your baby will be roughly the length of an ear of corn. The eyes begin to open and hair begins to grow.

Third trimester

During this trimester you should:

The third trimester lasts from week 28 to the delivery of your baby. This is the home stretch! As your belly grows with your growing baby, it may start to affect simple bodily functions such as breathing and bathroom breaks. Your growing baby could start to push on your diaphragm, which can cause shortness of breath. It can also push on your bladder, which means you may need to pee more often.

Your backaches will continue, and you may experience pain in your hips and pelvis as your body prepares for delivery. Other common symptoms include:

  • Dark patches of skin on your face (also known as pregnancy mask)
  • Varicose veins on your legs
  • Heartburn and indigestion
  • ​Haemorrhoids
  • Yellow discharge from your breasts called colostrum

Your baby will drop to your lower abdomen as your due date nears, and you may find it harder to find a comfortable sleeping position.

Braxton-Hicks contractions (false labour) ​are also common in your final weeks of pregnancy, so be sure you know when it’s really time to get to the hospital. It’s also important to continue to monitor your baby’s movements. By now it will have developed a regular pattern. If this changes, contact your obstetrician or our maternity ward immediately.

Your baby

Your baby will start your third trimester around the size of a large eggplant. By the time your due date rolls around, it will be approximately the size of a small pumpkin.

At the seven-month mark, your baby will be kicking and stretching. It will be able to respond to light and sound, and its eyes will open and close. In the eighth month, your baby will start to rapidly put on weight, the bones will harden and different regions of the brain will develop.

In your final month of your pregnancy, your baby will begin to turn in a head-down position to prepare for birth.