Pregnancy refers to the series of changes undergoing a woman’s organs and tissues because of developing fetus. The process between fertilization and birth usually takes an average of 266-270 days, or nine months and is termed as ‘Pregnancy’.
How do I know I am pregnant?
Fertilization begins when the elements of a healthy sperm combine with a fertile ovum or egg. Successful fertilization of the sperm in the egg results to state of pregnancy.
Signs of pregnancy
Signs and symptoms of pregnancy defer across women. No two pregnancies will have similar symptoms. At times, early symptoms of pregnancy are often confused with signs of menstruation. Only an ultrasound or a pregnancy test can confirm pregnancy. However, the most common and early signs of pregnancy include:
- Missed Period: Once the implantation of sperm inside the uterus is complete, your body will produce a hormone (human chorionic gonadotropin) necessary to maintain pregnancy. This hormone also commands the ovaries to stop releasing mature eggs.
- Morning Sickness, Nausea, and Fatigue: Women tend to experience mild to severe morning sickness and nausea during the first trimester. Fatigue is caused in the early weeks due to the soaring progesterone levels, making you feel sleepy.
- Breast Changes: Due to the change in the hormonal balance, your breasts may undergo several changes, such as feeling sore, swollen, tingly, or heavy to the touch.
Other common signs include Dizziness, Vomiting, Frequent Urination, Mood Swings, and Constipation.
Pregnancy tests, aside from Ultrasounds are the most authentic way to determine pregnancy. These tests examine your urine or blood for the human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) hormone which is made by the body after the sperm fertilizes the egg. The hormone is released 6 days after fertilization and doubles in count every 2-3 days, making it easier for pregnancy tests to determine your pregnancy.
The Stages of Pregnancy Trimester Wise
An average pregnancy last about 40 weeks. These 40 weeks are divided into 3 trimesters wherein the fetus undergoes maturation.
First Trimester (Week 1- Week 12).
The first trimester is generally characterized by major hormonal changes in your body. Due to fertilization and implantation, many women feel little to high discomfort and are seen switching their daily routines.
Changes in women at 4 weeks
Generally, women don’t notice any symptoms in the first 4 weeks of pregnancy. After a delay in the start of the menstrual cycle, you will tend to see other symptoms such as morning sickness, mood swings, and breast tenderness.
Changes in your baby at 4 weeks
At 4 weeks, your baby is just an embryo and starts developing. The outer cells reach out and form a link with the mother’s blood. The inner cells begin to create the baby’s essential organs, such as the heart, lungs, and spinal cord.
Changes in women at 5-8 Weeks
At this stage, you may notice early signs of pregnancy. Craving new foods and suddenly feeling disgusted by the foods you loved may become common. There may be some smells that will drive you crazy. All of this, however, is natural and temporary.
Changes in your baby at 5-8 Weeks
Over the coming weeks, your baby will develop its arms, legs, muscles, and skin and grow to be about 1 inch long. You will notice your baby’s head looking bigger than the rest of its body because its brain is growing faster than its body. The tiny lump in the embryo center will become its heart, and the long tube developing will turn into its spinal cord.
Changes in women at 9-12 weeks
The mother’s breasts at this stage will have enlarged and become tender. Your first appointment or ultrasound can be done around this time if it hasn’t been done yet. Pregnancy hormones slow down digestion so your body can absorb more nutrients. This may cause bloating or constipation, making you feel uneasy.
Changes in your Baby at 9-12 Weeks
At 12 weeks, the baby is fully formed and now looks human, with its organs being well developed. Your baby may be around 60 mm in length and weigh about 14 grams. The cartilage in the baby’s body has developed, now turning into bones. Although the baby is moving, mothers may not be able to feel this yet.
Second Trimester (Week 13-28)
The following 3 months are the most relaxing for women as early pregnancy symptoms start to reduce or disappear. Your energy levels will increase, and certain foods and smells will no more make you nauseous. In this period, a woman’s pregnant belly also begins to show.
Changes in women at 13 to 16 Weeks
At this stage, although your nausea may begin to fade, heartburn and constipation will remain. With the growth of the baby in your body, new symptoms may start emerging. Clear vaginal discharge is normal in this period which isn’t a cause for concern. Your placenta continues to grow and change to effectively provide oxygen and nutrients to your baby and filter out waste. Stretch marks will begin developing as the skin stretches out quickly with the growing pregnancy.
Changes in your baby at 13 to 16 Weeks
At 13 weeks, your baby is almost 3 inches in length. Soft, fine hair called Lanugo begins to appear as hair follicles start developing. The hair helps hold a substance named Vernix on the baby’s body to protect it from the amniotic fluid. Furthermore, your baby now starts producing urine which gets mixed with the amniotic fluid. Your baby can also swallow, and its fingerprints will begin to appear.
Changes in women at 17 to 20 Weeks
Aches in your lower back and pelvic area may start to increase due to stretching muscles, joints, and ligaments. Another unpleasant sign that affects about 39% of women in these weeks is nasal congestion or rhinitis due to increased blood volume and production.
Changes in your baby at 17 to 20 Weeks
Before this point, your baby’s head was bigger than the rest of its body. However, the size of its head now becomes proportionate to the rest of its body. Eyelashes and eyebrows start to grow. Your baby can now move its eyes, although its eyelids remain shut. Most of the baby’s survival skills upon birth, such as sucking, swallowing, and hearing skills, begin to sharpen.
Changes in women at 21 to 24 Weeks
At 21 weeks, your baby starts marking its territory all over your body in the form of stretch marks. These marks keep the increase as the size of your belly grows. You may also start feeling more anxious about your weight and whether you can adequately nurture a baby. Remember, it’s normal to feel anxious, and it’s even healthier to talk it out with someone you feel comfortable with.
Changes in your baby at 21 to 24 Weeks
Your baby is now the size of a large banana, about 10 inches long. Your baby may start to feel cramped up inside the uterus. However, there is still enough space for some twists, turns, and an occasional summersault. The baby also begins drinking small amounts of the amniotic fluid and develops taste buds. With fully developed arms and legs, the baby’s movements will be much more coordinated.
Changes in women at 25 to 28 Weeks
The baby’s constant movements may keep you up at night and trouble during the day. Your feet will swell up, and the baby’s weight may cause increased back and thigh pains. As your baby shifts positions, you may feel sharp shooting pains in your lower back region, which can cause increased discomfort. Heating pads and stretching exercised may be extremely useful at this time.
Changes in your baby at 25 to 28 Weeks
During these last weeks of the second trimester, your baby will become much more active, responding and moving to loud sounds or touch, which you will be able to feel. Major organs like the brain and lungs are formed but not fully developed. Your baby’s eyelids are now open, and it will start blinking. From this point on, the remaining pregnancy is mainly growth, so mothers need to be careful about their consumption.
Third Trimester (Week 29-40)
As your due date approaches, the physical and emotional challenges of your pregnancy may increase. The baby’s size and position might make it difficult for you to feel comfortable. You may constantly feel mixed emotions such as tiredness, fear, excitement, and anxiety. This period lasts for an average of 3 months (Week 29-40).
Changes in women at 29 to 32 Weeks
As your baby bump pushes against your lungs, you may start feeling breathless due to the extra weight you’re carrying around. You may find it hard to sleep due to discomfort and increased leg cramps. At this stage, your belly is large enough that you cannot see your legs when standing. Remember to record your baby’s kicking pattern in these weeks.
Changes in your baby at 29 to 32 Weeks
As your baby is highly active in these last few weeks, you may start to notice a pattern in their movements. Contact your doctor in case this pattern changes drastically. By 32 weeks, the baby is lying with their head pointed downwards, ready for birth. However, if your baby isn’t lying downward yet, it’s not a cause for concern as there is still enough time to turn. Although the baby’s lungs are fully developed, it won’t fully breathe on its own till 36 weeks. Your baby will also develop hiccups and start smiling its sleep.
Changes in women at 33 to 36 Weeks
With your watermelon-sized belly, leg cramps, and constant bathroom runs, insomnia becomes common in the third trimester. Anxiety about the upcoming birth may increase, so try your best to get as much rest as possible.
It’s in the best interest of the mother and child to let labour progress naturally. However, some babies may be born prematurely. Premature births aren’t by choice and, in most cases, don’t come with risks at all. Pregnancy is said to complete its ‘full term’ between 38-40 weeks. Prematurely delivered babies stand at risk for:
- Respiratory Distress Syndrome
- Development Delay
Changes in your baby at 33 to 36 Weeks
At this point, the baby is anything around 17-19 inches in length and weighs about 4.5 pounds. The baby’s weight can double by the time of birth. Your baby can differentiate day from night with its eyes closed during dark and wide open in the light. Your baby has now developed its own immune system, and antibodies are passed from you to your baby.
Changes in women at 37 to 40 Weeks
In your 9th and final month of pregnancy, your weight is likely to remain stable in the last few weeks even though your baby continues to grow. Your cervix is now softening, and the mucus plus keeping the cervix shut may be released now to prepare for birth. Although in the final weeks, don’t be alarmed if you pass your due date or remain in labour for longer than expected. Long labours are perfectly normal, especially in the case of first pregnancies.
Changes in your baby at 37 to 40 Weeks
At 37 weeks, your baby’s lungs are likely to be fully mature, and it weighs about 6.5 pounds. Your baby’s organs are ready to function independently. The baby will have developed a firm hand grip and has shed almost all its lanugo. During the last week of pregnancy, your baby’s movements may slow down significantly due to a lack of space in the uterus. Your baby’s skull bones are prepared to pass through the birth canal.
Covid-19 and Pregnancy
While the overall risk of Covid-19 to women is low, the risks for severe illnesses and death still pertain. Pregnant women who have Covid-19 are more likely to develop a risk of respiratory diseases. Following are some precautions you can take to enjoy a healthy and happy pregnancy by effectively protecting you and your child from the effects of Covid-19:
- Wah your hands frequently with soap and water. Use alcohol-based sanitizers to properly disinfect your hands.
- Avoid hospital visits and limit yourself to meeting only the people you know.
- Regularly clean the areas to sit, touch, and hold.
- Stay 6 feet away from people with any kind of cold or flu symptoms.
- Wear masks and gloves when going outside and avoid overly crowded areas.
- Do not touch your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.