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Changes in Pregnancy

[Pregnant Woman]

Pregnancy is a natural process involving big changes in a woman's body. Most women have uncomplicated pregnancies and their daily routines may not change until the last few weeks before delivery. Other women have difficult pregnancies that change their daily lives right from the start.

Most women experience emotional shifts and mood swings. It's natural to feel doubt, anxiety, and fear about pregnancy and childbirth, as well as happiness, excitement, and anticipation.

As soon as you think you might be pregnant, you should visit a pregnancy help center or clinic right away for a pregnancy test. If you are pregnant it is important to learn more about what to expect from pregnancy and how to care for yourself and your growing baby. If you smoke or drink, you should stop immediately -- tobacco and alcohol can harm your unborn child.

Pregnancy typically lasts 40 weeks, or 9 months. That time is divided into three periods called trimesters (three-month intervals), during which different things happen to your body and to the baby. Below is a list of some of the normal things a pregnant woman may experience during each trimester. If you are pregnant you may or may not experience the changes described here. They may happen earlier or later than they appear on this list, and some may continue throughout the pregnancy.

? DID YOU KNOW... Pregnancy is counted from the first day of a woman's last period. This means that at conception, the unborn child is already considered two weeks old!

The First Trimester
(Week 1 - Week 12)

  • Your period stops or becomes very light.
  • You may feel nausea or queasiness. Some women vomit. ("Morning sickness" can happen any time of day -- it may help to eat small meals throughout the day, snack on crackers or toast, or drink juice or lemonade.)
  • Your breasts swell and may be tender.
  • Your nipples and the area around the nipples (areola) get darker and broader.
  • You have to urinate more often.
  • You feel tired.
  • You may become constipated and have heartburn (Tums may help).
  • You may have headaches.
  • You experience mood swings -- feel angry, sad, or happy for no reason.
six week embryo

Six Weeks: By twenty-one days after fertilization, the embryo's tiny heart has begun beating.

More about the First Trimester

! WARNING Although most pregnancies are uncomplicated, dangerous situations can develop. If you experience a sharp pain on the side in early pregnancy, or bleeding and/or cramping at anytime during pregnancy, call your doctor immediately!

The Second Trimester
(Week 13 - Week 26)

  • You gain weight.
  • You can feel the fetus moving.
  • The skin on your stomach stretches and may get dry. (Use lotion to lessen the chance of stretch marks.)
  • Your breasts get bigger. It helps to wear a supportive bra.
  • A small amount of thin fluid (called colostrum) may come out of your nipples.
  • You may experience ongoing heartburn, indigestion, and constipation.
  • You may get nosebleeds.
  • Your feet, hands, ankles and face may swell (this is called edema).
  • A dark line develops on your skin between your navel and your pubic area.
  • A "mask" or darker area or pigmentation may develop on your face. (It disappears after the pregnancy ends.)
18 week fetus

Eighteen Weeks: By this time eyebrows, eyelashes, and fine hair appear. The child can grasp with his hands, kick, or even somersault.

More about the Second Trimester

The Third Trimester
(Week 27 - 40)

  • You can see the fetus move from the outside.
  • Your navel pushes out.
  • You begin to get backaches.
  • You begin to walk differently to accommodate the weight of the fetus.
  • You experience painless "practice" contractions.
  • You have shortness of breath.
  • Finally, labor and delivery!
18 week fetus

Twenty-four Weeks: Seen here at six months, the unborn child is covered with a fine, downy hair called lanugo and a waxy substance called vernix. The fetus still has much growing to do, but some babies could survive if born this early.

More about the Third Trimester

For More Information

For more information about pregnancy, visit your nearest pregnancy help center. Tell your clinician about your symptoms, and be sure to call immediately if you have unusual bleeding, feel pain, or have any other symptoms that worry you. If you need a referral, click here and fill out the form for a center near you.

  • "How a Woman's Body Changes During Pregnancy," Teen Wire, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, 2001
  • A Child Is Born by Lennart Nilsson (also in paperback),October 1990.
  • "Fetal Development," Westside Pregnancy Resouce Center, 2001.
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 Updated: May 4, 2003