You just found out that you are pregnant and this is your first go-around. There are so many emotions running through you right now; you’re shaking, you’re happy, you want to cry, all at once.
Deep breath, my friend. This is all very normal!
Seeing a plus sign on your pregnancy test or reading the magic word “positive,” can be both exciting, as well as very overwhelming and scary – especially if you are a first-time mom. But don’t worry, you’ve got this!
There’s a first time for everything and a lot to learn, but the good news is you have nine months to study up.
Let’s find out what you can expect as this beautiful journey begins to unfold:
So, It Begins: An Egg is Fertilized
Ovulation typically occurs right around the middle of the menstrual cycle. As the average cycle is about 28 days, ovulation likely occurs around day 14. During ovulation, hormonal changes enable the body to release an egg from the ovaries.
Once the egg is released and combines with sperm, the egg becomes fertilized. This does not have to happen instantly as sperm can survive inside the body for several days. After fertilization, the egg will descend from the ovaries, move through the fallopian tubes, and implant into the uterus.
You may take a pregnancy test once you have missed the first day of your period. Pregnancy tests taken too early may give you a false negative. It is therefore a good idea to wait until the end of your cycle to take a test.
Your Test is Positive, What’s Next?
You are pregnant and a cute little human is growing inside of you. Getting a positive test result means that the test detected elevated hCG levels.
Human chorionic gonadotropin or hCG is a hormone that facilitates the production of both estrogen and progesterone. The hormone also assists in suppressing your immune system, so that your body does not reject your fetus.
First Trimester: Week 1 to Week 12
The first trimester of your pregnancy lasts for the first three months and encompasses week 1 to week 12. This first chapter plays a major role in your baby’s development, as organs begin to form.
Oftentimes, this first stage of pregnancy can be a bit challenging, as your body adjusts to being pregnant. You will slowly get used to a new normal and learn to cope with your growing pregnancy symptoms. Morning sickness and fatigue can be particularly draining and profound during the first three months.
Baby’s Starting to Grow
Your baby’s brain and spinal cord, two essential components of your baby’s body, are starting to develop now. The heart begins to form and a heartbeat may be detected on ultrasound as early as week 6.
Early structures that will evolve into little arms, legs, and feet will also begin to form. Even tiny little fingers and toes will slowly take shape within the first few weeks of pregnancy.
By the end of your first trimester, your baby will roughly be the size of a lemon!
As this interval of your pregnancy is of such significance, it is crucial that you take care of yourself and your body. Miscarriages are most likely to occur in the first trimester due to defects that may result in early development dysfunctions.
What You Can Do
Avoid smoking and drinking alcohol. Limit your caffeine intake. Try to eat a wide variety of foods to obtain as diverse nutrients and vitamins as possible. Of course, this is true for your entire pregnancy and applicable to all trimesters but is especially important now.
You should also avoid products made from unpasteurized milk, soft cheeses, and deli meats due to the bacterium listeria.
Your obstetrician will also advise you to start a prenatal vitamin; you want to make sure your baby is getting plenty of folic acid, omega 3, and DHA.
Folic acid is especially important in preventing or reducing the risk of neural tube defects (NTDs). These are more likely to occur as a result of a spinal cord maldevelopment in the first trimester. The most frequent NTD is spina bifida.
Changes in Your Body Begin
As your baby begins to grow and develop in this early stage, you will also start noticing some changes in your own body. Sometimes these changes can occur as early as 3 to 4 weeks into your pregnancy.
Some of the first indications that you are pregnant may be any of the following:
- Missed period
- Increase in hCG levels
- Sore and tender breasts
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Excessive fatigue
- Increased urination
- Sensitivity to smells
- Food aversions and craving
Second Trimester: Week 13 to Week 26
For most women, the second trimester is the “easiest” chapter of their pregnancy. Of course, easy is only a relative term, as you will still experience pregnancy symptoms.
However, you may experience some relief, specifically if you suffered from severe morning sickness before. You may also regain some energy, as your fatigue will improve temporarily.
The second trimester will stretch from week 13 to week 26. It marks the interval when most women will start to show, as their baby bumps continue to grow.
Baby’s Developmental Milestones
Baby’s bones and muscles continue to develop and your fetus will now gain weight rapidly. By the end of this trimester, he will roughly be the size of a cauliflower. Lanugo will cover your baby like a hairy coat and protect his underlying skin.
Your baby now starts practicing his sucking and swallowing skills. His hearing develops to the extent that he can perceive outside sounds and voices. While the lungs have already formed at this stage as well, they will need more time to function properly.
One of the most exciting milestones are baby’s first kicks, marking the start of the fetus’ more active period. Note that many babies are night owls and are therefore more active when mommy wants to rest.
What New Symptoms Can You Expect to Encounter?
Having very sensitive sore breasts will continue in this trimester, alongside food aversions and cravings. Your increased urination is likely something you will endure your entire pregnancy as well. However, there are also some new symptoms that may emerge during this second stage:
- Weight gain and belly growth
- Skin impurities
- Bleeding gums and nostrils
- Leg cramps, in particular, nocturnal cramps (at night)
- Swelling in your feet and hands
- Moms-to-be are also more prone to developing anemia and urinary tract infections
Third Trimester: Week 27 to Week 40
You’ve made it, the end of your pregnancy journey is now in sight! Your previously calculated due date is finally around the corner.
A pregnancy is considered full-term when the mom-to-be has reached her 37th week of pregnancy. Statistically, the majority of babies are born at around 39 weeks. This means that there is a good chance your baby will be on time and fully grown and developed.
Baby’s Almost Done Cooking
Your baby has come a long way since fertilization! Now that his bones are developed, he is just perfecting shapes and survival skills, as well as quickly gaining more body fat.
Your little one’s eyes have now fully formed and can open and close. Baby can even distinguish between darkness and light and sense outside changes.
The external coating, lanugo, now begins to fall off, as baby prepares for delivery.
What’s Typical for this Trimester?
Due to your growing bump, you may start to get a little uncomfortable and impatient at this point in time. Below symptoms are very common in this last pregnancy chapter:
- More weight gain and a protruding navel
- Back pain
- Braxton-Hicks contractions
- Joint pain
Prepare for Baby’s Arrival
Now that you are this close to your due date, it’s hard not to panic, but try to keep your calm! Make sure you plan for baby’s birth and are as prepared as can be.
- Decide on a birth plan
- Pack your hospital bag
- Set up baby’s nursery
- Stock up on diapers, formula, baby bottles, etc
- Buy a car seat to bring baby home in
- Buy baby clothes, burp cloths, and other newborn essentials
Pregnancy can be quite strenuous on your body, alongside labor and delivery. There will be times when you will be tired, exhausted, and completely lacking energy.
Nevertheless, when you reflect on your journey at the end, you will most definitely cherish all the extraordinary memories made. From finding out about your pregnancy to baby’s first kicks to his highly anticipated arrival.
But you will also cherish all the memories to come and all the joy your baby will bring. See for yourself, as your life will truly never be the same again!
Author bio – Kady Stoll is a copywriter with a background in clinical research, specializing in the medical and health niche. See kadystoll.com