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A simplified guide to pregnancy

So, you’re pregnant and ready to take on the next nine months with enthusiasm and anticipation. Or perhaps you’re right in the middle of TTC (trying to conceive). It’s an exciting time, but let’s be honest: There’s a bit of worry and anxiety too.

Lots of books and publications have been written about pregnancy, and health recommendations are always changing to keep up with medical best practices. However, sometimes this means a woman might hear one thing, and then a well-meaning friend says another thing.

We’ve tried to take what we can and turn it into this simplified guide to the stages of pregnancy. However, if at any point during your pregnancy you are unsure about something, then it’s always best to consult your doctor.


There’s a strong focus on care when a woman is actually pregnant, but the time when a woman is actively trying to conceive can be the most important stage in the pregnancy journey and when she should be considering her health and nutrition.

A key recommendation from Health Canada is that, “All women who could become pregnant and those who are pregnant should take a multivitamin containing 0.4 mg of folic acid every day. Pregnant women should also ensure that their multivitamin contains 16-20 mg of iron.” Combine your multivitamin with a well-balanced diet and a good daily intake of water.

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First trimester

OK, you’ve hit the jackpot, and finally there’s a little boy or girl growing inside you. Now is the time to get serious about your health, consider what your daily diet is like and get some form of exercise.

These first 12 weeks are the most crucial in terms of your baby’s development. The baby’s body structure and internal organ system will begin to develop. This also means there will be a lot of hormonal changes occurring within you, causing morning sickness, tiredness, tender breasts and frequent bathroom trips.

Because this is such an important developmental stage for the baby, it is recommended that women continue taking a good multivitamin. Dr. Sivasamboo Kalaichandran from Toronto says, “Folic acid [consumption] reduces the risk of neural tube defects [spina bifida and anencephaly] in the fetus by up to 70 per cent.”

Second trimester

By now the hormones raging through your body should have started to settle down, and hopefully some of the morning sickness will have eased. This is the time when most women enjoy their pregnancy the most — the trepidation and nausea of the first trimester have gone, and the exhaustion and heaviness of the third trimester are yet to come.

Your baby will continue developing with rapid speed, and by around 16 to 18 weeks into your pregnancy, you should begin to feel the first flutters, followed by full-on kicks once you are at 20 weeks-plus. During the ultrasounds, you should be able to clearly see little arms and legs growing and facial features developing. If you want to know the sex of the baby, then you should be able to find out with great certainty at around 18 to 20 weeks.

In regards to your health, more hormones in the form of estrogen and progesterone will start to make an appearance, and this might cause some moodiness and body pains as your muscles loosen and stretch. Your belly will also really start to bloom at this stage, and people will go from suspecting you’re pregnant to reaching out to rub your bump.

If your morning sickness has disappeared, then get back into a good, regular eating habit. To keep your energy level up, try eating six small meals a day, particularly ones that include green, leafy vegetables high in folate and iron. Unfortunately the concept that you’re eating for two is a myth — the baby really doesn’t need all that much extra food. Health Canada says, “One extra snack is often enough. For example, have an apple or a pear with a small piece of cheese as an afternoon snack.”

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Third trimester

You’re on the home stretch now, yet you might feel like your pregnancy is never going to end. This stage is when you will become your roundest and heaviest, meaning lots of lower back pain and sore feet.

As the baby grows toward its due date, all its organs will be fully formed, its skin will be changing from translucent to a more opaque colour, and it might be sprouting a full head of hair. During your scans, you will be able to see a lot more detail, maybe even a sneak peek of its cute cupid lips and button nose.

However, with this massive growth comes quite a few obvious side effects for you, including more stretching, possible fluid retention, hemorrhoids, shortness of breath, some urinary incontinence and just a general feeling of being uncomfortable (particularly when trying to go to sleep). While it’s a hard time on your body, you will absolutely forget about it the minute you are enjoying newborn cuddles.

Don’t let your healthy eating slip away at this point. Instead, see it as a practice run for the nutrition you will need after pregnancy. You’ll need the support of a good, fresh diet to get you through the sleep-deprived days and also if you choose to breastfeed.

More on pregnancy

How does being a mother in Canada compare to the rest of the world
5 Things no one tells you about your body after pregnancy
Labour pains: What are your relief options?

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