WHAT TO EXPECT DURING PREGNANCY WEEK BY WEEK

Sometimes the first symptom of pregnancy is a missed menstrual period, but often a woman may have other symptoms pop up even before she has missed her period.

Because it’s nearly impossible to know one’s actual conception date, a due date is determined as 40 weeks from the first day of a woman’s last menstrual period (LMP). This is based on conception occurring approximately two weeks from the LMP. (See: http://www.pccchandler.com/pregnancy-calculator)

During the Third Week (from LMP) a woman may experience some slight spotting as the fertilized egg attaches to the uterine wall. This can be mistaken as a menstrual period but in fact can be an early sign of pregnancy. If there is heavy bleeding or a sharp pain, however, the woman should contact her doctor, as this could be a sign of a tubal (ectopic) pregnancy. (See: http://www.pccchandler.com/blog/ectopic-pregnancy)

The Fourth Week is often when a woman misses her first period, and a pregnancy test will show positive. At this time a common symptom is sore or tender breasts. This is usually the first physical sign of pregnancy, even before the dreaded morning sickness (See: http://www.pccchandler.com/blog/morning-sickness). Extreme sensitivity to taste or smell may also occur. Sometimes food that has been a favorite in the past will be repellant to a pregnant woman, while other tastes and smells are quite pleasant. The baby is about the size of a poppy seed.

In the Fifth Week a pregnant woman may be overjoyed one minute and stressed the next, laughing five minutes after having a crying spell. Mood swings are normal with pregnancy. Hormones! Mood swings seem to be most intense in the fifth week, and can surge again towards the end of the pregnancy. Also, 10-12% of women can suffer from depression during pregnancy, not just post-partum. A woman should see her doctor if she experiences depression longer than 2 weeks. (See: http://www.pccchandler.com/blog/perinatal%20mood%20and%20anxiety%20disorders%20%28pmad%29) The baby is about as big as a peppercorn.

By the Sixth Week most of the first trimester symptoms will have shown up, including morning sickness, exhaustion, mood swings, breast soreness, headaches, and constipation… side effects of some awesomely complex things the body is doing in creating new life. The good news is that most women find these annoying symptoms will go away, or at least subside, in a few weeks. (See: http://www.pccchandler.com/pregnancy-symptoms) A pomegranate seed is about the baby’s size.

By Week Seven, although most women aren’t beginning to show yet, they can feel that their jeans are fitting a bit more tightly around the waist. Their skin is changing as well. If they’re lucky, they will get that “glow”, but it won’t be surprising if their influx of hormones causes them to break out, as well.

Week Eight Cravings! This is a time when a pregnant woman starts craving various foods. This is also the time when she has to be careful not to gain too much weight, as it’s tempting to eat everything she wants (thinking she’s eating for two). She really only needs 300-600 extra calories a day for a healthy baby, so calories from potato chips and chocolate cake will go on her hips instead.

Week Nine A pregnant woman’s blood volume increases, which helps prevent damage to the baby when she stands up or lies down, plus safeguarding blood loss during delivery. This extra blood may cause bulging veins in her hands and feet. She may also experience some dizziness and frequent urination. Some vaginal bleeding also can occur in the first trimester, which is usually no cause for alarm, but if it becomes heavy or there is pain, she should contact her doctor, as it could be a sign of an ectopic pregnancy or a miscarriage. The baby is now about the size of a cherry.

Week Ten Pregnancy hormones and progesterone give a pregnant woman’s skin a nice, shiny glow by increasing the number of oil glands on her face, and the boosted blood flow also gives her skin a plump flushed look. In addition, those hormones and progesterone are causing milk glands to grow in her breasts, so “the girls” will probably be showing some extra cleavage. The baby is about kumquat size.

At Week Eleven a pregnant woman may be starting to show a bit. She may feel just bloated, but some women have a little baby bump by the end of the first trimester. If she likes to shop, now’s the time to enjoy buying those maternity clothes. Her uterus is now the size of a grapefruit and the baby, a fig.

At Week Twelve a woman’s vision may become a bit blurry. This is because the extra fluid her body retains during pregnancy may also thicken her lens and cornea and the pressure of the fluid within her eyeball may change, too. Together, that can cause blurry vision. Her eyes should self-correct within a couple of months after the baby’s birth, but she should also let her doctor know about her vision, as it could be from hypertension or diabetes. The baby is now about the size of a plum.

• A woman may be feeling clumsier during Week Thirteen and find herself dropping dishes or tripping. This is due to another pregnancy hormone, Relaxin (yes, that’s a real word) which loosens up one’s ligaments and joints in preparation for childbirth… but even though it’s only needed for the pelvis, it works on all of the body, including the hands and feet. The baby is about the size of a small lemon.

Week Fourteen entering the second trimester. This is called the “feel good” trimester, as most of the earlier annoying symptoms are gone, and the woman often has a burst of energy and an increase in appetite. Her risk of miscarriage also drops substantially… most miscarriages occur in the first trimester. The baby is about the size of a peach.

At Week Fifteen another set of odd pregnancy symptoms may occur… skin darkening, which is most common around the nipples and aureolas, the armpits, thighs, and even the navel. Some or all of these occur in around 90% of pregnant women. For women who have dark hair and fair skin, another area of skin darkening may occur called chloasma (also known as “the mask of pregnancy”) which is around the eyes, nose, and cheeks. It usually fades a few months after delivery, but is unlikely to go away completely. In addition, skin tags (small skin growths) may also develop. Baby’s size: an apple.

Between Week Sixteen and twenty weeks a woman may feel “butterflies” in her belly. This is the beginnings of her baby kicking (also called “quickening” or “flutters”). They’re pretty subtle, and can be mistaken for indigestion. New mothers-to-be may miss them initially. The baby’s size: an avocado.

• The belly has been getting rounded, but now at Week Seventeen it starts to pop, and people can tell there’s a baby going on. The uterus is gearing up for some major expansion. Baby’s size: a pear.

Week Eighteen is when the mother-to-be often feels the “butterflies” as actual kicking, although it’s still pretty gentle. The baby is now about the size of a sweet potato.

At Week Nineteen a woman’s growing belly has shifted her center of gravity, and she is more prone to slips and falls. As she shifts her stance to compensate, she may have backaches as her spinal alignment gets out of whack. Standing up straight so that hips and shoulders are aligned can help, as well as sleeping on her side in a fetal position. The baby’s size is about that of a mango.

Week Twenty Halfway through the pregnancy now, the “baby bump” is quite definite. The woman may feel pains in her hips, abdomen, and groin areas. This is normal. As the uterus grows, the round ligaments, which are attached to each side of the upper uterus and the pelvic sidewall, are stretched and pulled. The baby is now about the size of a banana.

• During a woman’s Twenty-first Week, she may feel fat and ungainly. While it is normal to feel this way, she should know that it is a short span of time overall, and she soon will be back to her pre-pregnancy body (or at least close to it). In the meantime, she should glory in her newfound voluptuousness. The baby is now about as long as a carrot.

• There can be some dizziness in the Twenty-second Week when standing after sitting for awhile, due to lower blood pressure, because the blood doesn’t move as fast as it used to. Also, pregnancy hormones make thicker hair and stronger nails, but also can cause unwanted hair to grow. Baby’s size: papaya.

During Week Twenty-Three a woman’s doctor may prescribe iron supplements in addition to her prenatal vitamins, as the baby takes a lot of nutrients which can cause anemia. Anemia can have some serious effects, as there are not enough red blood cells made which can cause dizziness, shortness of breath, fatigue, and weakness. The baby is as big as an eggplant.

By Week Twenty-Four some women find that as their belly expands their sex drive diminishes; others find their libido is stronger. Some women are fatigued, others energized. Baby’s length: ear of corn.

At Week Twenty-five the uterus is about as big as a soccer ball, and the baby weighs almost two pounds and is the size of an acorn squash. There may be a numb and tingly feeling in a pregnant mom’s fingers. This will go away once the baby is born.

By Week Twenty-six a woman has gained 15 or more pounds. This is mostly the weight of the baby, plus increased blood and fluid volume, expanded uterus, larger breasts, placenta, and amniotic fluid. The baby is about the length of a zucchini.

Week Twenty-seven Most women find that being pregnant makes them more assertive, as they are responsible for another person. It makes it easier to set boundaries at home and work, such as asking a coworker not to light up a cigarette nearby. The baby is about the size of a cauliflower.

Week Twenty-eight entering the “home stretch”, the third trimester. This is the time when many women are now ready to be done being pregnant. The extra weight gain can lead to muscle pain, and fatigue can slow them down even more. In addition, it is harder and harder to sleep, or even sit and relax. The baby is about the size of a Kabocha squash.

• One of the surprising symptoms of Week Twenty-nine can be colostrum leaking from a woman’s breasts. Usually only a small amount, this yellowish thin fluid is the precursor to breast milk and contains antibodies to fight infection and build resistance during a baby’s first days on the outside. Many women find that, even if they are not planning on breastfeeding over the long haul, they will nurse the baby for the first few days to give a nutritional head start. Baby’s size: butternut squash.

Week Thirty As a woman’s skin stretches to accommodate the growing baby, her skin can itch, as well as produce stretch marks. The itchy skin can often be alleviated with lotions or ointments, but her doctor may also prescribe antihistamines. Stretch marks can’t really be prevented, but they usually fade after a few months postpartum. The baby is now about the size of a large cabbage.

Around Week Thirty-one pregnancy hormones are causing ligaments and tendons around the pelvic area to relax, in order to allow the bones to spread, ready for delivery. As the uterus expands, it may also be putting pressure on the sciatic nerve, which can cause pain or numbness around the hip area and down the backs of the legs; called sciatica, it can be uncomfortable but isn’t serious, doesn’t affect the baby, and usually lessens in intensity as the baby shifts around. Baby’s length: bunch of leeks.

• The baby is pressing down onto internal organs by Week Thirty-Two, such as the bladder. This can cause some urine leakage, and heartburn is also common. Some pregnant moms also experience some nausea at this time. The baby is about the size of a Napa cabbage.

• Sometime around Week Thirty-Three a woman might experience some contractions. This is her body readying itself for labor with ‘practice’ contractions called Braxton-Hicks. They won’t lead to labor, but will prepare her body for the real thing. Sitting down with feet up and a glass of water will cause the contractions to subside, while real labor contractions won’t stop just by relaxing. Baby’s size: Pineapple

By Week Thirty-Four our pregnant mom probably can’t see her feet, but weight gain usually slows and plateaus around this time. She may find it more comfortable to wear a bra to sleep, and her belly button may have popped out. (Unlike a turkey, this does not mean she’s ‘done’.) Size: Cantaloupe.

Week Thirty-Five ‘Mucus plug’ sounds kind of gross, but it’s a ball of tissue that has been blocking the cervical opening to prevent germs from entering the uterus. If an extra-thick vaginal discharge occurs, it can be the mucus plug starting to drop, which is a pre-labor signal. It doesn’t necessarily mean that labor is immediate, however. Many women lose their plugs up to two weeks before labor.

Around Week Thirty-Six the baby may begin “dropping”, which is a term for the baby settling lower in the pelvis in preparation for the big day. This may cause a feeling of lightening in the belly. This often happens two to four weeks before delivery. Also, milk glands are expanding and filling with colostrum, due to an increase in a hormone called oxytocin, which can make the breasts feel somewhat lumpy. The baby is about the size of a head of romaine lettuce.

• Sex may be the last thing on a pregnant woman’s mind at Week Thirty-Seven, but it cannot harm anything, and many experts feel it is beneficial. There may be some spotting, as the cervix is engorged with blood at this point, but it is harmless unless it continues or is bright red, in which case a doctor should be consulted. The baby is about as long as a stalk of Swiss Chard. (Swiss Chard is sort of like spinach, but not.)

At Week Thirty-eight a woman’s water could break at any time. Most women feel a trickle or wetness down their leg, and have plenty of time to get to a bathroom or call their doctor. Now the baby’s as long as a stalk of rhubarb (which is sort of like celery, only red).

By Week Thirty-Nine a woman is ready to have her baby, but only 5% of women actually deliver their baby on the due date, so at this point it could be a few hours or a few days (or even a couple of weeks!) before the baby decides it’s time. Labor may start with mild cramps (most common) or with her water breaking. The baby is now about the size of a small pumpkin.

Week Forty! The baby is due this week, and if the woman is lucky she will go into labor and deliver. Contractions begin slowly and build in intensity and length once active labor has begun. There’s no getting around it, they’re painful; but pain-relieving epidurals are often given at this time. Once the baby is born, the placenta is delivered. The placenta, which weighs about 2 pounds, is the mass of blood vessels and tissue that has nourished and protected the baby for the past 9 months.

• Most women would rather not go into Week Forty-One But babies come to term anywhere from 38 to 42 weeks… 40 weeks is simply the midpoint between the two. If the delivery date has been planned the woman may go into the hospital and be prepped for a C-Section or given something to induce labor. At this point the baby may be watermelon size.

What?! Week Forty-Two? Although only 5% of women deliver on their due dates, over 80% deliver within two weeks after. Most babies are perfectly healthy and happy hanging out in their mother’s uterus until week 42. They are not considered overdue until the end of the 42nd week. At that point, the woman’s doctor may decide to induce labor by breaking the water or with drugs that bring on contractions. ,br/>

Some of the symptoms can be slightly unpleasant, some are fun and quirky, but all are a part of the wonderful process of making another human being. How awesome is that?