The Pregnancy Timeline

Pregnancy means some major changes, not only in lifestyle, but inside the body of the mother-to-be. Understanding what to expect as your pregnancy progresses is a big step toward making the experience as positive as possible.

The first trimester

During the first three months of pregnancy, or the first trimester, your body undergoes many changes. As your body adjusts to the growing baby, you may have nausea, fatigue, backaches, mood swings, and stress. These things are all normal.
Most of these discomforts will go away as your pregnancy progresses. If you have been pregnant before, you might feel differently this time around. Just as each woman is different, so is each pregnancy.
As your body changes, you might need to make changes to your normal, everyday routine. Here are some of the most common changes or symptoms you might experience in the first trimester.

Tiredness

Many women find they're exhausted in the first trimester. Don't worry, this is normal! This is your body's way of telling you that you need more rest. After all, your body is working very hard to develop a whole new life.

Nausea and vomiting

Usually called morning sickness, nausea and vomiting are common during early pregnancy. For many women, though, it isn't limited to just the morning. Although it can seem like it will last forever, nausea and vomiting usually go away after the first trimester.

Try these tips to help prevent and soothe nausea: Eat frequent small meals (six to eight per day) rather than three large ones, and avoid fatty, fried or spicy foods.

Also, try eating starchy snacks like toast, crackers or dry cereals when you feel nauseated. Keep some bread by your bed and eat something before you get out of bed in the morning. ItÕs also a good idea to keep snacks with you throughout the day.

Frequency of urination

Running to the bathroom all the time? Early in pregnancy, the growing uterus presses on your bladder. This causes frequent urination.

See your doctor right away if you notice pain, burning, pus or blood in your urine. You might have a urinary tract infection that needs treatment.

Changes in your baby

By the end of the first trimester, your baby is about three inches long and weighs about half an ounce. The eyes move closer together into their positions, and the ears also are in position.

Doctors visits

During the early months of pregnancy, regular doctor visits are especially important. Become a partner with your doctor to manage your care. During the first prenatal visit, you can expect your doctor or nurse to ask about your health history, your familyÕs health history, as well as do a complete physical exam, including a pelvic exam.

First trimester tests and procedures

For special genetic or medical reasons, you may need other lab tests, like blood or urine tests, cultures for infections, or ultrasound exams in the first trimester. Your doctor will discuss them with you during your visits.

The second trimester

Most women find the second trimester of pregnancy easier than the first. But it is just as important to stay informed about your pregnancy during these months.

You might notice that symptoms like nausea and fatigue are going away. But other new, more noticeable changes to your body are now happening. Your abdomen will expand as you gain weight and the baby continues to grow. And before this trimester is over, you will feel your baby beginning to move!

Changes in your baby

By the end of the second trimester your baby will weigh about 1 3/4 pounds and be about 13 inches long. With this growth comes the development of fingers, toes, eyelashes, and eyebrows. Around the fifth month, you might feel your baby move! By the end of this trimester, all of your baby's essential organs like the heart, lungs, and kidneys are formed.

Second trimester tests and procedures

During the second trimester, you should continue to see your doctor. Most pregnant women have monthly office visits with their doctor or midwife until the end of this trimester.

Some of the diagnostic and screening tests your doctor might suggest in the second trimester include:

- Amniocentesis - performed between 15-20 weeks gestation
- Maternal Serum screening test - Performed between 15-20 weeks of pregnancy
- Targeted Ultrasound - Performed between 18-20 weeks gestation.

Your doctor can also use ultrasound to see if your baby has any neural tube defects, such as spina bifida. In most cases, if you want to find out the sex of your baby, you can ask your doctor during this test. This is not the most accurate test for Down syndrome.

The third trimester

Some of the same discomforts you had in your second trimester will continue. Plus, many women find breathing even more difficult and notice they have to go to the bathroom even more often. This is because the baby is getting bigger and it is putting more pressure on your organs. Some aches and pains will appear for the first time, including heartburn, swelling of the ankles, fingers and face, hemorrhoids, tender breasts and trouble sleeping.

If you notice any sudden or extreme swelling, or gain a lot of weight quickly, call your doctor. This could be a sign of preeclampsia or toxemia.

During the second trimester your doctor can use an ultrasound to see if your baby is developing in a healthy way and to find out your baby's sex. You will also be offered screening tests to look for genetic birth defects.

Changes in your baby

Your baby is still growing and moving, but now it has less room in your uterus. Because of this, you might not feel the kicks and movements as much as you did in the second trimester. During this final stage of your pregnancy, your baby is continuing to grow. Even before your baby is born it will be able to open and close its eyes and might even suck its thumb.

As your body prepares for birth, the baby will start to move into its birth position. You might notice the baby dropping, or moving down lower in your abdomen. This can reduce the pressure on your lungs and rib cage, making it easier to breathe.

Sleeping in the third trimester

Your energy may lessen as you enter the ninth month. So you may begin to slow down. This is normal. It's important to get enough rest now, even though it can be more difficult to sleep as you get larger. The baby's movements, bathroom runs, and an increase in your body's metabolism can make sleeping difficult.

Doctors visits

Be sure to continue seeing your doctor or midwife regularly. In the last trimester of pregnancy, women usually see their doctors or midwives more frequently. From 30 weeks to 38 weeks of pregnancy, most doctors and midwives recommend one office visit every two weeks. After 38 weeks, women normally see their doctor or midwife every week until delivery.

As your due date approaches, ask questions and share concerns you have about labor and delivery. You and your doctor will discuss what kind of delivery you will have, including cesarean section (c-section) or a non-surgical, vaginal birth.

When to call your doctor

Before your due date, make sure to talk with your doctor about how to reach him or her if you go into labor. It's also helpful to be familiar with the hospital or birthing center, where you should park, and where to check in ahead of time.

Remember, throughout the process of pregnancy, you should be a partner with your doctor. DonÕt be afraid to ask questions and make sure you have all of the information you need.

Information provided by the National WomenÕs Health Information Center.