Congratulations! You’re pregnant! Whether you’ve been planning this pregnancy for years or have been caught by surprise, you will likely want to know what the next nine months have in store for you.
Be prepared for each stage of pregnancy
From the first few weeks of excitement and nausea to the arrival of your little one, here’s what you can expect on this amazing journey.
For the next nine months you’ll be enjoying the ride of your life as your body does an amazing job of growing a new human. Whether you’re already experiencing the negative effects of pregnancy (all-day sickness, anyone?) or are simply glowing with excitement, here are some of the things you can expect to experience when you’re pregnant as well as some tips on how to cope.
From fatigue to nausea to needing to pee every five minutes, the first trimester of your pregnancy might not be much fun. If you’re not enjoying the ride so far, the good news is by the time you have found out you’re pregnant you’ve already made it through the first four weeks — only 36 to go!
The first trimester is full of early pregnancy symptoms, says Melissa Maimann, registered midwife at Essential Birth Consulting. “Morning — or all-day — sickness can be quite disabling. Combined with extreme fatigue some women really struggle with work and the usual demands of life,” she says.
The good news is that morning sickness tends to pass by about week 14 for most women. “Small, frequent meals, eating carbohydrates late at night and first thing in the morning, drinking apple juice, getting acupuncture, taking vitamin B and ginger and sleeping when you can will all help,” suggests Melissa.
If all else fails there are medications you can take that won’t harm your baby, so if you’re really struggling see your health care provider for assistance.
Growing a new human can knock you for six so if you’re struggling to keep your eyes open past 5 p.m. try to get as much rest as possible. Fatigue is a common complaint of the first trimester — as your body begins to transform and your little bean starts to grow, your energy levels will be depleted. But as with morning sickness you’ll start to get your bounce back in the second trimester so just take it easy and relish in taking as many naps as you possibly can.
In the first trimester of pregnancy your uterus begins to enlarge and when it does it places pressure on your bladder, explains Melissa. “Women often feel the need to urinate more frequently in the first trimester. But by about the eighth week of pregnancy the uterus usually lifts out of the pelvis and becomes an abdominal organ, removing the intense urge to wee all the time until the third trimester,” she says.
A rollercoaster of emotions
“Emotionally, the first trimester can be tough,” says Melissa. “Women experience a range of emotions from surprise at falling pregnant so soon or sooner than expected to fear of the unknown, concern for the health of the baby or financial concerns in regards to raising a baby.”
The decision to have a baby is a big one so it’s only natural that you’ll feel a range of emotions. Raging hormones don’t help either so if you’re feeling a bit out of sorts try to talk out your feelings with your partner or a friend. If you think you’re feeling more than a little hormonal, seek help — pre-natal depression is real but if you nip it in the bud early you (and your newborn) will be much better off.
The second trimester is like a spring breeze to a pregnant woman. Gone are most of those pesky first trimester symptoms and you will likely feel your best both physically and emotionally as you begin to show and feel your baby move for the first time. Here’s what you can look forward to.
If you’re normally small breasted then this is going to be one exciting change. Oestrogen and progesterone stimulate the milk-producing glands inside your breasts during the second trimester making them feel fuller and larger. You may still experience some breast and nipple tenderness so now is the time to get fitted for a supportive maternity bra.
Less exciting are the skin changes you may experience. As your belly grows your skin stretches, creating the potential for stretch marks to occur. Try to keep your skin well moisturised and drink plenty of water to minimise any marks. You may also notice brown spots appearing on your face and belly — don’t panic. These will fade but make sure you apply plenty of sunscreen to avoid aggravating them.
Feeling your baby move for the first time is a moment you will never forget.
“For a first baby, a woman will usually feel her baby move for the first time between 18 and 20 weeks,” says Melissa. “Second and subsequent babies, movements are usually felt sooner at around 16 to 18 weeks.”
You’ll start to notice your baby has quiet times and active times. It will most likely be lulled to sleep as you move, kicking up a storm when you’re sitting still. Keep track of the movements once they start and if you feel like your baby has stopped moving contact your health care provider immediately.
Discharge and cramps
Yep, it happens. When you’re pregnant you’ll probably experience a lot of discharge. Most of it is normal, but if you start to bleed contact your health care provider immediately.
“Bleeding can occur at any stage of pregnancy and should prompt you to seek help from your care provider,” says Melissa. “Also, any cramps or contractions should be reported to your care provider. These could be Braxton Hicks or they could be a sign of preterm labour, especially if they begin to come at regular intervals,” she says.
The third trimester of your pregnancy will probably be the most physically and emotionally challenging. Your baby will be of a size to start making you feel uncomfortable and you are probably eager to hold your tiny newborn. That moment is coming but there are just a few more hurdles to jump yet.
Back and belly pain
Your baby grows the most during the third trimester so this can be a time for back problems, says Melissa. You also might start experiencing Braxton Hicks, making your mid-section one giant mess of uncomfortable.
“Some women will experience Braxton Hicks or practice contractions later in pregnancy,” Melissa explains. “These are contractions that your uterus uses to tone, increase blood and oxygen to the baby, and prepare you for labour.”
Exercise — even if you don’t feel like it — will help alleviate some of the pain and help you get ready for labour, says Melissa, but don’t forget to stay well hydrated.
The need to pee returns in the third trimester.
“After 36 weeks your baby will engage,” says Melissa. “The largest part of its head will descend into your pelvis, leaving you with a sense of fullness and pressure.”
Just go with it. Relish in these last few moments of being able to go to the toilet undisturbed as once your baby arrives they will be few in number.
You might get cankles, especially if you’re having a summer baby. Talk to your health care provider about any unusual swelling, especially in your face or your hands as it may be a sign of pre-eclampsia. The best thing you can do for swelling is to rest with your feet up, try to cut any unnecessary salt from your diet and drink plenty of water.
Towards the end of your pregnancy you will most likely start to experience the moment you have been both looking forward to and dreading — labour.
“Labour generally starts with contractions that increase in frequency, intensity and duration. Once they are coming every 3–5 minutes, last for at least 40 seconds and they have been doing this for the past hour it is likely that labour has begun,” explains Melissa. “Once labour has begun it is time to contact your health care provider.”
Or you may not go into labour at all. You might be scheduled for a Caesarean section or you may need to be induced. No matter how it happens, giving birth is a miraculous experience that will stick with you for life — cherish the moment as it will be over before you know it.