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Pregnancy is a major life event and getting to know the signs, symptoms, and changes your body goes through can help reduce discomfort in the process. Classic cases of finding out you’re pregnant begin with a pregnancy test, but there are ways you can find out you’ve got that baby coming even before taking a test. Read on to find out how.
What Are The Physical Changes During Pregnancy?
Physical body changes in pregnant women are the primary markers of finding out whether someone’s pregnant. Here are some of the common symptoms or answers related to what changes occur during pregnancy:
- Missed Period – Sometimes a misleading symptom for cases of irregular menstrual cycles, a missed period can often denote you’re pregnant. If your menstrual cycle hasn’t yet begun despite the stipulated time having past since your last period, then you may be pregnant.
- Tender And Swollen Breasts – Sensitive breasts accompanied by soreness and slight discomfort is another sign of pregnancy. The discomfort occurs from hormonal changes occurring inside your body and gradually decreases with time.
- Nausea – Nausea can strike at any time of the time or night. Although not extremely clear, there is a co-relation between increased nausea during cases of pregnancy.
- Frequent Urination – Pressure on the bladder and uterus increases as your baby starts growing in the womb. This leads to frequent trips to the bathroom.
- Increased Fatigue – Progesterone levels are on the rise during pregnancies in the body. This will result in tiredness and fatigue.
- Shortness of breath – Breathlessness or shortness of breath is another common sign in pregnancy cases. This is often followed by fatigue.
Although the above-mentioned common symptoms can be indicators of other health problems or issues in the body when you experience a mix of these symptoms at the same time, you may be pregnant and that’s when you need to take a home pregnancy test to confirm.
Body Changes in Pregnant Woman – Week By Week Analysis
Your due date is calculated from the day your last menstrual cycle occurs. In just short 40 weeks, the body prepares for conceiving the baby.
Let’s take a look at what occurs at the different stages of physical changes during pregnancy month by month, week by week.
The sperm meets the egg between week 1 and week 2. Generally speaking, week 1 is usually the start of your pregnancy from the due date. Either of the two ovaries matures and releases an egg during this period. If both ovaries release eggs, you may bear non-identical twins. This is also the week from when you start taking your prenatal vitamins. The egg is swept into the fallopian tube and travels down the fallopian tube and awaits the arrival of sperm.
Ovulation occurs during week 2. Two or three days before the second week is the best time to have intercourse to increase chances of a successful pregnancy. The breasts begin to glow as the glands produce estrogen and progesterone, causing hormonal surges and tender breasts.
The sperm finally meets the egg and penetrates it out of 200 million competitors. The egg becomes the zygote at this stage and shuts down, preventing other sperms from penetrating it. Although physical changes are not imminent, changes on a biological level are definitely happening at this stage. The nuclei sets fuse with your zygote and assign it its gender and genetic characteristics, including eye colour, hair colour, and amongst 200 other similar genetically-determined characteristics.
Body changes in the first month of pregnancy start manifesting at this stage. Some of the body changes during early pregnancy, are swollen and sore breasts, tiredness, frequent desire to urinate, and nausea. Usually, these symptoms occur in a mix, as they’ve been mentioned above. The formation of the placenta and the umbilical cord begins and the fertilised egg can dig into the uterus and place pressure, causing it to shed a few drops of blood. Testing should be done after a week since false-negatives are common when tests are done on the very first day of the end of menstrual cycles.
The embryo begins to form and grows in size to that of a grain. Changes and development of the brain, organs, and blood vessels of the embryo take place. A groove develops on the back of the baby which seals itself to develop the neural tube, which later becomes the spinal cord of the baby.
The neural tube becomes the spine and the heart starts pumping more blood into the embryo. The C-shape of the embryo becomes more pronounced and you may be susceptible to nausea and fatigue. Your blood pressure will also drop as a result of the rising production of pregnancy hormone levels. The embryo gets surrounded by a protective membrane and becomes attached to the yolk sac. Exercising will help you cope with the stress and give relief.
Morning sickness worsens, the brain and face of the embryo start forming and taking shape. The eye lenses develop, nostrils form, and arms begin to form into a paddle-like shape. Mucus near the cervix thickens and seals the entrance to the womb. Fingers and toes form and signs of brainwave activity in the embryo start showing. You will experience mood swings, crankiness, and feel sick although this is a good sign since it indicates that your pregnancy hormones are in motion.
The start of brainwave activity in the embryo is marked from the eighth week. The pelvis may experience sharp pains when standing up. The doctor checks for signs of heartbeat or embryo activity by means of ultrasound imaging. Once the embryo is confirmed, chances of miscarriage drop to 2% and an official due date is given from this point onward. During the first trimester of pregnancy, you may experience bleeding.
Leakage of small amounts of urine occurs at this stage due to growing pressure on the bladder as a result of embryo development. The heart of the baby develops and eyelids, hair follicles, and nipples form. Bone development of the baby takes place in its arms and the embryo will give rise to hiccups. You may feel dehydrated and it is advised to drink plenty of water during this week since it’s considered the roughest patch in the pregnancy according to most doctors.
Genital formation occurs, eyelids become more pronounced, and the baby is now termed the “foetus”. Oxygen is delivered through the umbilical cords and occasional breathing movements may be noticed in the womb.
The first trimester body changes are prominent at this stage. The foetus can breathe, suck its thumb, and sigh. The head of the foetus is larger than the body. Food cravings become pronounced during the 11th week and you may find yourself craving for things unrelated to food such as pica, which may indicate a sign or deficiency in your diet. Consuming folate, fibre, and iron is essential and eating chives can help with this. The first-trimester ultrasound screening is done between weeks 11 and 13 to test for chromosomal abnormalities alongside a nuchal translucency test.
Now 3 inches in length, your baby starts growing even more. The face of your baby will look more human and the baby will weigh about half an ounce. The rest of the body grows with the head growth of the foetus slowing down to accommodate the proportions of other body parts. The baby’s posture changes into a curling and upright position. The muscles of your stomach slow down and your stools become a lot harder in nature. You will experience a gassy stomach, increased heart rate, and notice your hips widening to accommodate the growing size of your uterus. Since the uterus has a hard time fitting into the pelvis, it puts pressure on the abdomen and pushes into it to accommodate for space.
The first trimester ends and the second trimester body changes enter into full swing. Consuming a lot of fluids is important and you may start eating meals for two. You will experience more energy, reduced nausea, and swimming exercises are often recommended for pregnant women at this stage alongside low-impact yoga workouts. Prenatal hiccups by the baby are experienced to clear up diaphragm passages and facilitate breathing function. Kidney function inside the baby begins and the bone marrow starts white blood cell production to fight against various diseases. The pancreas, gall bladder, and thyroid will have also developed during this week.
The baby’s organs begin functioning and you’ll actually be able to see individual facial characteristics through ultrasound scans. The intestine moves into the baby’s body and insulin production in the baby begins. You’ll experience for the first time stomach flutters or the first signs of baby’s kicks. Your mood also improves and working out to the point where you can continue carrying conversations with others is recommended and not beyond that. The baby can now make subtle facial expressions as the facial muscles develop. Second-trimester screenings for neural-tube defects like spina bifida and trisomy 18 are done during this week.
Screening tests for blood proteins and signs of Down syndrome or genetic defects are done at this stage. Female foetuses show more mouth movements compared to males. The foetus is about 5 inches in length and 2 ounces in weight. A noticeable bump appears near the belly button. You will also experience Braxton-Hicks contractions in your abdomen. Contact a doctor if you experience more than four contractions an hour and uncomfortable and frequent discharge of mucus in the vagina.
A growth spurt begins followed by bone formation. You may find yourself gaining a pound per week. Your pelvic area will feel hard and firm. You’ll also notice signs of your baby’s movment becoming more prominent.
Lucid dreams which are often bizarre may be observed at this point. This reflects anxiety or worries regarding childbirth and parenthood which is totally normal. The baby weighs more than the placenta now. Brown fat responsible for heat generation in the baby’s body gets deposited. Your breasts grow further, becoming sensitive, tender, and sometimes even ache. You’ll even experience the “pregnancy glow”, a form of radiance on your face which is a sign of increased blood circulation. The first kicks of your baby are experienced from this week onward till week 22 usually.
The placenta is now fully functioning as it absorbs and distributes nutrients whilst eliminating waste.
More ultrasound tests can be done at this point to determine gender. Fluttery kicks can be felt even more and the baby may react to certain sounds. The baby’s retina develops and becomes sensitive to light. The baby can change positions, do somersaults, and even cross her legs. Teeth formation and fat deposition also begin. Pain in the legs, tailbone and in other muscles, can be felt.
Ultrasound scans of your baby may reveal pictures of the baby holding the membrane of the amniotic sac, sucking thumbs, or making movements in the womb. If the baby is a girl, then follicle formation inside her body begins, with half of your genetic material being formed inside her. Be sure to eat foods rich in B-vitamins and healthy fats since it contributes to the proper brain development of your baby.
The uterus grows towards your rib cage at a rate of 1 centimeter per week. This is the time when mothers enroll in childbirth classes to learn techniques on easing anxiety and sliding smoothly through the labour process. Your mood will greatly improve since you’re halfway there to giving birth to your baby. Immunities are transferred into the foetus from the uterus.
From this point on, if you’re 35 or older or if you have diabetes and other chronic conditions, you should be a little concerned about how body changes during pregnancy. Signs of being at risk of eclampsia begin to show from third trimester body changes. Otherwise, taking long walks and being relaxed is the daily regime at this point.
This is the fifth month of your baby. The brain develops rapidly and you may experience hemorrhoids or constipation. Yeast infections around the vagina and frequent vaginal discharges are common signs in the body during this week.
Douching is warned against and vaginal discharges are marked by redness, itchiness, and yeast-smells.
The organs of the baby develop more fully and blood traveling through the umbilical cord supplies the foetus with oxygen and a host of other nutrients.
Your baby’s eyes are formed but you can’t tell the color due to lack of pigmentation. Your doctor may advise you against long distance drives or travels not because it’s unsafe, but rather to ensure that they are ready to help you in case you go into labour.
Your body will experience heartburn during this week. The indication of heartburn equates to hair growing on your baby’s head. If you don’t experience heartburn, your baby will probably turn out to be bald. Muscle aches, sore feet, fatigue, and dizziness are other body changes while pregnant at this week.
Exercise is crucial from this point on to enhance the recovery process after childbirth. Your baby will have regular sleep cycles and their nostrils will open up. Its lungs will develop “surfactant” which helps with inflation and keeps the tiny air sacs open inside the lungs for better breathing. You will experience back, hip and leg pain in the body. Fatigue and dizziness will return.
The baby’s hearing system develops and is responsive to noises. You will experience discomfort during your sleep. Sleep on your side rather than the back because sleeping on the back will block blood flow to the baby due to the positioning of the uterus over a major artery. You may notice stretch marks forming near your abdomen.
Pain on the back intensifies. You may experience shooting pains known as sciatica. Lifting, bending, and walking worsens the pain and amniotic fluid volumes lessen. The point ends of toes and knees or rather, bony edges can be seen when the baby moves. Your heart rate increases and you may feel flushed.
The third trimester begins and you will begin experience Braxton-Hicks contractions near the abdomen which is basically a tightening sensation of the muscles in the abdomen. Weight gain rate increases and the baby’s body fat percentage increases to 2 to 3 percent. Avoid standing too long in hot weather or for long periods of time since it can cause dizziness and lowered blood pressure. Drink plenty of water and stay in shades if you’re pregnant during summers to get relief. Your belly will also grow in size and this will make your body feel uncomfortable. Legs cramps and aches are common too.
Frequent trips to the bathroom and napping are common during the 29th week. Your baby’s breathing system and organ functions become developed and require no assistance in breathing. Prolactin production increases and your breasts secrete colostrum. The baby’s adrenal glands produce estriol.
Your uterus grows and begins crowding your diaphragm. You will experience breathlessness or shortness of breath. Difficulty in breathing, pressure on your bladder leading to frequent urination. Your childbirth classes will continue and end around week 36.
The room in your womb decreases as your baby grows further and your belly expands even more. Ten kicks per hour denote the healthy rate of baby growth in the foetus and doctors assign women to keep track of how many kicks the baby does per hour. If you notice inactivity, drink a glass of fresh, natural fruit or vegetable juice.
The five senses of the baby are fully developed by now. Your baby will experience REM cycles during sleep and breathing movements intensify inside your womb to get ready in preparation for childbirth.
The baby’s position becomes head-down indicating it may be ready to go through the motions of childbirth. This position also delivers more blood into his/her brain and you may experience more contractions in the abdomen.
The pupils react when the light is shone on the stomach and dilate and constrict. Your baby sleeps a lot during this week inside your womb since his/her brain development is in progress. The baby also experiences REM cycles more profoundly during sleep and can see dreams too.
Measuring roughly around 16 to 20 inches in size, your baby’s size makes it look ready for childbirth. The baby’s nervous and immune systems are at maturing stages during this week and your body will experience the weight of those added pounds. You may need to take breaks and sit down for short periods when walking around or doing normal, everyday tasks. For the next two weeks from the 35th week onward, you will be tested for the presence of Group B Streptococcus, which are bacteria that live in the vagina and are capable of passing on infections to the baby. The test usually involves a gentle dab in the rectum with a cotton swab.
Your baby’s movements should slow down and you will notice movements of the foetus occurring around 20 times a day. If you’re concerned, you can drink a glass of orange juice and lie down on your side. This helps the babies to wake up and move around for awhile.
The baby’s intestines generate meconium. This will help with their first bowel movements once they come out from labour out into the open. The size of the foetus now becomes around 20 to 21 inches and the baby weights between 6 to 7 pounds. A resemblance of the face is noted and the baby also practices breathing in anticipation for labour. Your breasts discharge colostrum which becomes the baby’s nutritional source and your belly will feel bulging and discomfort.
The lanugo, which is the hair covering your baby’s body disappears. The baby is fully developed; however, connections in the brain are still being formed which continues even after childbirth. The nails mature and reach the ends of fingers and toes. Frequent bouts of back and neck pain are common. Decreased mobility is also common and you will have a hard time with the increased fatigue. Eat small, but frequent healthy meals to get relief.
The baby now weighs between 6 to 10 pounds and measures between 17 to 23 inches long in terms of size. Your baby continues to develop more neural connections and experiences hair growth and weight gain on the inside. You may consider taking a maternity leave a couple weeks before entering the last week. Relax, go for movies, and do hands-and-knees stretches along with pelvic tilting exercises to get relief.
Your baby is ready to be born from this week on. If your baby hasn’t been born yet or if you haven’t gone into labour during this week, doctors will monitor you for another two weeks. Pregnancies close at this stage; however, if it continues, then they are termed “post-dated.” Your body’s labour date slowly approaches and ends somewhere at the end of week 42.
If your baby hasn’t been born yet, your doctor will talk about inducing labour. It is deemed unsafe for both the mother and the baby if the pregnant woman doesn’t go into labour by week 42.
This is the week of new life and childbirth. Labour is induced on this day and your baby finally comes out of your womb either by a C-section or the vagina. If your cervix hasn’t softened, your doctor will induce labour mechanically by introducing hormones to ripen the cervix for baby delivery. Procedures such as stripping and rupturing the membranes are used and common methods of labour induction involve using drugs like oxytocin to begin vaginal contractions. If vaginal contractions don’t occur despite manual labour induction methods, you’ll need a C-section procedure for delivering the baby from the womb.
Conclusion: Once your baby is born, it is important to facilitate recovery by optimising your diet, exercise, and nutrition. It is recommended to avoid smoking, drug use and prevent alcohol consumption before pregnancies, even before week 1 to improve chances of a successful, hassle-free delivery. If you’re planning on getting pregnant, then be sure to take prenatal vitamins and over-the-counter medicinal supplements for folate acid.