Nine Months of Pregnancy
By Jane Palmer
Perhaps you have just discovered you are pregnant, you are hoping to be, or your partner has just given you the news. This article gives a brief snapshot of what nine months of pregnancy holds in store.
There are three trimesters to pregnancy and you are just starting out on the first. While they say there are 40 weeks of pregnancy it’s week two when the actual conception occurs so for the first two weeks you’re not actually pregnant. The beginnings of life, a microscopic zygote, starts to implant into the wall of the uterus at around seven days after conception. From weeks one to three you typically feel nothing unusual. By around four weeks you may get an inkling that you may be pregnant.
This is the month when pregnancy is usually confirmed. Emotionally the pregnancy may be a long hoped and planned for event, or it may be completely unplanned. Don’t be surprised if you feel anything from pure joy, to fear or dread. During this second month your baby is changing miraculously. Its little heart starts beating and all the foundations of the baby’s body are being laid down. Morning sickness may well have taken hold by now, occurring at any time of the day. Your doctor or midwife may recommend an ultrasound during this time but keep in mind your baby is still very tiny.
The baby continues to grow and develop and by 12 weeks all the baby’s organ systems have developed and now are just maturing and growing. For the first 12 weeks the baby is quite vulnerable to environmental influences. It’s likely you’re feeling a little anxious this month due to the prevalence of miscarriage in the first trimester. This anxiousness should ease as you pass the magic 12 week mark. You may find your initial reaction to finding out you’re pregnant is now fading and the realisation that you’re going to be a mother is growing.
Month 4 marks the start of the second trimester of pregnancy. The baby continues to grow and develop and may even start to suck its thumb. At around 13 to 14 weeks the dreaded morning sickness typically starts to ease and you should start to feel a whole lot better both physically and emotionally. You may feel your baby move for the first time from around 15 weeks onwards. Don’t be concerned though if you don’t. The baby’s placenta may be developing on the front side of your uterus providing a cushiony barrier between those little feet and you… but not for long!
Twenty weeks heralds the halfway mark. This is the time when you may choose to have an ultrasound to check the baby’s development. This is referred to as a morphology scan and checks that all systems in your baby’s body – heart, lungs, circulation – as well as all their physical parts are properly formed. A lot of women find this an exciting event. Most women are noticeably pregnant by this stage and getting special attention by friends and strangers alike.
Your baby’s body is covered by soft downy like hair called lanugo and a creamy, white substance called vernix, both of which may still be present at birth. You may feel your baby move for the first time this month. Don’t be concerned though if you don’t. The baby’s placenta may be developing on the front side of your uterus providing a cushiony barrier between those little feet and you.
The excitement builds now and you typically start turning your thoughts to preparing for the baby and the birth. The baby’s skin is so translucent at this point that you can see the tiny network of veins under their skin and at the end of the month they may open their eyes for the first time. If a baby is born at 24 weeks it has a chance of survival in a neonatal intensive care unit.
The third trimester starts and you’re on the home straight. If you haven’t started childbirth education classes, now is a great time to think about booking in. Make sure you find classes that not only cover birth but what comes after. The baby’s lungs are almost fully developed and working now. The baby weights approximately 1.25 kg so it still has a lot of growing to do.
By around 32 weeks you’ll start to find the pregnancy a little more challenging and you’ll need to slow down. Listen to your body as rest is important. If you’re working make sure your plans for maternity leave are in place. Development-wise your baby is spending most of their time growing and laying down body fat stores ready for the birth.
This month you’ll find the discomfort of the pregnancy increased – your baby is growing fast and is starting to run out of room. Thoughts of the birth will be foremost on your mind. It’s a great idea to talk about any concerns you have with your midwife or doctor. Your baby’s head may start to move down into the pelvis ready for birth.
The birth is imminent and you may be feeling excitement or fear, or a combination of the two. You can feel signs of labour sometimes days or even weeks before it actually starts in earnest. It would be great if you had a sure fire way of knowing when it will happen, but even the experts have no idea. Your baby is fully formed and ready to be born.