Why pregnancy Awareness is so Important
Pregnancy awareness is vital when it comes to the health of both you and your unborn baby. Receiving high-quality and timely pregnancy education can help you to make the very best lifestyle choices to promote a healthy pregnancy, birthing experience and most importantly a healthy baby.
Furthermore, proper pregnancy awareness will help you to recognize the warning signs of potentially dangerous pregnancy complications and empower you to know how to seek help and support. Many conditions during pregnancy can be resolved with quick intervention by an obstetrics team, so knowing what to do if something doesn’t feel quite right is extremely important. Pregnancy awareness also helps women to understand the need to seek antenatal care from early pregnancy.
Finally, pregnancy awareness helps women to understand what their rights are when it comes to antenatal care, giving birth and post-natal support. Many women are unclear on what types of support and treatment they are entitled to during pregnancy, birth and following delivery of their baby. Understanding your rights allows you to insist on the best care and treatment possible for you and your little one.
Stages of pregnancy month by month: fetal development
Pregnancy is an exciting time for many women and their partners. It’s a time of huge change, and as your pregnancy progresses you’ll be sure to notice plenty of changes on the outside. However, as you progress through the stages of pregnancy, you may be wondering what’s going on with fetal development month by month.
In this article, we’ll guide you through your baby’s amazing prenatal development, month by month. We’ll also take a close look at month by month pregnancy symptoms, so that you know what to expect while your baby grows. So, what happens during each month of pregnancy? Read on for our in-depth guide.
Month 1 (0-4 weeks)
The first stop on our pregnancy month by month guide is Month 1. As your pregnancy will be dated in weeks by your doctor, this is week 1-4. Incredibly, for the first two weeks of your pregnancy, you’re not actually pregnant at all! That’s because your pregnancy will be dated from your last menstrual period. You may see this abbreviated to LMP on your pregnancy notes.
During weeks 1 and 2, your body is gearing up to ovulate and your womb is developing a thickened lining to welcome a fertilized egg. Ovulation occurs around day 14 of your cycle when one of your ovaries releases an egg. If the egg meets a healthy sperm in the fallopian tube, it will be fertilized and your baby will begin to grow!
During week 3, the cells of the fertilized egg (zygote) begin to divide repeatedly until it turns into a tiny ball of cells called a blastocyst over the next few days. The blastocyst travels down the fallopian tube towards the uterus. By week 4, the blastocyst will burrow into the lining of your womb in a process called implantation.
At this point, the blastocyst splits into two distinct groups of cells. One group will develop into your baby while the other will go on to form the placenta. At this stage, the amniotic sac will also begin to grow. The embryo now forms 3 specialized layers of cells. Each layer will form different parts of your baby.
Chances are that you won’t feel any particular symptoms this month as the levels of pregnancy hormone in your blood won’t be high enough to give you a positive pregnancy test until the day of your missed period. However, every woman is different, and some may already start to notice bloating, fatigue and fullness in their breasts. You may even feel a little nauseous, although it’s unlikely until month 2. You may also notice some bloody staining or spotting in your underwear. Some women mistake this for the start of their period when it is, in fact, light implantation bleeding from the embryo implanting in your uterus.
Month 2 (Weeks 5-8)
Congratulations, you’re pregnant! Most women will get a positive pregnancy test round about now. It’s now that we will start charting the effects on the mother month by month as the levels of hormone in the blood increase. You definitely won’t be sporting a baby bump yet, but chances are you’ll start experiencing a whole raft of pregnancy symptoms this month. So, while you won’t look pregnant on the outside, you’ll more than likely start to feel pregnant.
In week 5, your baby is still tiny (about the size of a satsuma pip) and looks like a tiny tadpole. It’s around this time that the cardiovascular system develops. Although the heart is still rudimentary, it will start beating this week. A part of the body called the neural tube is also forming, which will form baby’s spine and brain. In week 6, baby measures 5-6 mm from the top of the head to their little bottom. Babies this small are measured in this way, known as the crown-to-rump measurement, because any forming limbs are too folded up to measure the full body length. Facial features begin to develop this week including the eyes, nose and ear canals. Baby’s lungs, liver and kidneys are all beginning to develop this week as well.
In week 7, the brain starts to develop apace, along with your baby’s mouth. Teeny-tiny buds of limbs start to grow this week, with tiny paddle-like ends which will develop into little hands and feet. By week 8, your baby has a crown-to-rump measurement of 0.63 inches, which is about the size of a raspberry. The facial features continue to form this week along with little legs. It’s around now that your baby will start making tiny movements, although you’ll be unaware of them for some time yet.
Mum-to-be won’t have a bump yet, although you may be feeling bloated which can make your pants fit a little tighter. You may now be experiencing lots of symptoms, just a few or none at all. Every pregnancy is different and this is all normal. Common symptoms in month 2 include feeling very tired and sleepy. Nausea and vomiting are also common, and this can occur at any time of the day, not just in the morning! Your growing uterus may be pressing on your bladder triggering more frequent urination, and you could develop digestive symptoms such as gas, constipation or heartburn. It’s likely you’ll notice changes in your breasts as well, as they increase in size and become more tender.
Month 3 (Weeks 9-13)
This is our final step in pregnancy development by months towards the end of the first trimester. Symptoms may be troubling you this month, but hang on in there. Many women find that the going gets much easier in the second trimester. Also, there’s plenty going on with your developing baby this month to be excited about!
By week 9, your baby will have reached 0.9 inches in length. This is about the size of an olive. Your baby’s head and brain will be developing plenty this week, along with the muscles which will give baby some control over his or her limbs. At week 10, your baby is officially a fetus and no longer an embryo. Baby’s skeleton will start to develop with the beginnings of tiny knee and elbow joints. Your baby’s digestive system will begin to function and kidneys continue to make urine.
In week 11, your baby starts to form individual fingers and toes complete with tiny nail beds. By week 13, baby has grown to 2.9 inches and is looking much more baby-like. Their intestines are now moving to their permanent location and the beginnings of vocal cords are starting to form.
Although it’s unlikely that you’ll be feeling a baby bump as such yet, you’ll probably be looking a bit thicker around the middle as your uterus grows and rises. Symptoms this month are similar to month 2, although visible veins may be putting in more of an appearance in month 3. Mood swings are also a common symptom, and it’s normal to feel a bit up-and-down around this time.
Month 4 (Weeks 14-17)
You’ve reached an important milestone in the stages of pregnancy month by month: the beginning of the second trimester! If you’ve been really suffering with unpleasant pregnancy symptoms, you’ll be glad to know that a lot of women start to feel much better during the second trimester. At this stage in pregnancy, the rate of growth between different babies starts to vary more.
In week 14, your baby begins to straighten out and hair starts to grow not only on the head, but all over the body. This fuzzy coating is there to keep them warm as they will not yet be carrying their own body fat. By week 15, baby’s eyes and ears have almost finished shifting to their final position. Baby can also make deliberate movements and can swallow, even potentially sucking their thumb!
In week 16, the eyes begin to move, and baby gains yet more control over their muscles. Although you probably can’t feel it yet, baby is moving, kicking and stretching inside you. By week 17, baby is putting in lots pf practise sucking and swallowing and is just beginning to put on some body fat. They’re also now measuring around 5.1 inches in length!
Nausea, bloating and indigestion may continue this month along with tiredness, although may women feel these ease in month 3. You may start to experience pregnancy-related rhinitis and be feeling quite stuffy and congested. Your long-awaited baby bump may also be putting in an appearance, although it might take a little longer to become noticeable if this is your first baby.
Month 5 (Week 18-22)
It’s another exciting time as we travel through the pregnancy stages month by month, because this month you may start to feel your baby’s movements for the first time. This is a thrilling reminder that your baby is getting stronger by the day, but don’t worry if you don’t feel anything this month. If you’re a first time mom, you may not feel those first movements until next month. Many moms describe these early movements as flutters or ‘pops’, but these will soon turn into hefty kicks as the weeks roll by.
Around week 19, a greasy substance called vernix develops, coating your baby’s skin. This is to protect it from wrinkling in the amniotic fluid. Most babies will lose this coating by birth, although some may be born with their vernix if they’re a bit early. Baby’s sex organs continue to develop this month, with the testicles beginning to move downwards in boys and the vagina starting to form in girls.
Baby is working hard this month practising swallowing amniotic fluid. Believe it or not, your baby may well be able to taste the flavours of the food you’re eating in the fluid! Your baby now has good control over their muscles and the cartilage of the skeleton is busily turning into bone. By week 22, your baby measures around 10.9 inches long and is piling on the weight at around 15 ounces. Baby’s senses of hearing and sight are developing, and although the eyelids are fused shut, they may be able to detect light if you shine a torch at your bump.
By the fifth month, most moms will be sporting a visible pregnancy bump, which may be larger if this isn’t your first baby. Many women report feeling more energetic this month, which is great news if you’ve been feeling flat-out exhausted. Achiness in your back and sides is common now as your body stretches to accommodate your growing baby. You may also notice cramping in your leg muscles and some movement from your baby as the month draws on. Some women also get swollen hands and feet at this time, although you should seek medical advice if this is severe.
Month 6 (Weeks 23-27)
If you haven’t already, it’s likely that you’ll feel definite movement from your baby in Month 6. Most likely you’ll be sporting quite a bump these days, although fortunately many women continue to feel more energetic in month 6. So, what’s happening in your pregnancy month by month development in Month 6?
Your baby is laying down fat stores this month, ramping up the gain around week 23. Although you can still see blood vessels and organs through baby’s skin, these extra fat stores will gradually make baby more opaque. At this stage in the pregnancy, your baby’s cute little face is nearly completely formed.
Your baby’s lungs are developing lots this month, with capillaries growing in the air sacs. Although they’re not ready to be used yet, your baby will start practising breathing this week. Their nostrils will start to open to allow for this process. In week 26, your baby’s eyes will start to peep open, and although there’s not much to see inside your uterus, they will be able to detect light from the outside word. By week 27, baby measures around 14.4 inches and weighs in at 1.9 pounds!
Mom may continue to have aches and pains in her back, lower tummy and sides this month as the ligaments continue to stretch. Nosebleeds and congestion are common in month 6, and you may start to notice your gums bleeding when you brush. Expect your appetite to ramp up this month as well.
Month 7 (Week 28-31)
You’ve hit yet another milestone in your pregnancy month by month development- it’s the start of the third trimester! Just 3 short months until you meet your baby face-to-face for the first time. It’s likely that you’ll start to feel a little more tired and achy as you head towards your due date. However, the excitement (and, possibly, anxiety) will be starting to ramp up too.
Experts believe that baby may now even be dreaming, and their little lungs are almost completely developed. Your baby continues to pile on the fat, which means that things begin to get tighter for space inside your uterus. Baby’s brain is also developing fast this week, and they will begin to lose the layer of downy hair that’s been covering them so far.
By week 31, your baby has grown to 16.1 inches and weighs an impressive 3.3 pounds. By now, baby will have settled into more of a pattern of sleeping and wakefulness, which you’ll probably have noticed. You may start feeling Braxton Hicks (or ‘practise’) contractions occasionally round about now, along with stretch marks, shortness of breath and soreness in your legs, back and abdomen. Your breasts may start leaking colostrum (a precursor to milk) in Month 7.
Month 8 (Weeks 32-35)
With only a few short weeks until the arrival of your baby, you may be getting super-excited about their imminent arrival. However, it’s also completely natural to feel a little anxious. Some moms at this stage are still enjoying being pregnant, while others are beginning to get sick and tired of it and can’t wait for the baby to put in an appearance.
This month, baby is busy practising the skills they need to survive outside the womb. These include swallowing, sucking, breathing and moving their arms and legs around. As he or she continues to lay down fat supplies, the skin will no longer be see-through. Baby is also working hard on developing an immune system this month, and brain development still continues at lightning speed. By week 35, baby measures in at 18.1 inches and 5.25 pounds, and will probably have settled into a head-down position ready for birth. If your baby is lying in the breech position (bottom down, head up) or the oblique position (lying sideways), your health care provider may give you some exercises to do at home to encourage your baby to turn.
By this point in your pregnancy, you should be feeling very strong and regular movements from your baby. You will probably be feeling aches and pains in your back, tummy and sides and even underneath your ribs. Braxton Hicks contractions are also likely this month, although these should be sporadic. Always consult with your doctor if your contractions are feeling painful or regular. Your increased size and weight may be making you feel a little clumsy this month, so take a little extra care.
Month 9 (Weeks 36-40)
Congratulations! You made it! This is the final month of your third trimester, and the final month of your entire pregnancy. At this stage, some moms may be savouring the last few weeks of being pregnant, while others are getting very uncomfortable and can’t wait to get that baby out! However you’re feeling, most moms will be feeling a mixture of excitement and perhaps a little apprehension or fear about labour and birth. This is all very normal, and it can help to talk to someone if you’re feeling worried.
As you pass week 36, your baby’s vital systems are developed enough to cope with life on the outside world. By the time you reach 37 weeks, your baby is considered to be full-term and ready for birth. For its last few weeks in the womb, your baby is putting in the final touches to prepare for being born. The vernix coating on its skin will begin to fade along with any traces of the fuzzy hair that’s been covering the skin. Baby is also producing a substance called surfactant to get its lungs ready for those first breaths.
You’ll most likely feel baby drop down deeper into your pelvis to get ready for birth around week 39. This takes some of the pressure off your lungs and stomach, so indigestion and any breathlessness you may have been feeling are likely to ease. However, this can also give you that pregnant lady waddling gate as baby’s lower position makes walking more arduous.
By week 40, you’ve reached your due date! However, don’t be too surprised if baby doesn’t put in an appearance for another couple of weeks, as it’s common for babies to go overdue. However, if you get as far as week 42, you’ll most likely be induced.
You’ll probably feel less defined kicking and more wriggling movements in this final month as baby is squashed in tightly. Once baby drops down, you may experience a return to frequent urination. Moving around may become more difficult at this stage and you are likely to feel very tired. However, some women get a sudden burst of energy towards the end of their pregnancy that causes them to ‘nest’- in other words, clean and prepare their home for the arrival of little one.
The final word
Hopefully, you now understand more about baby development month by month in pregnancy. As you follow the pregnancy stages by months, you can see that your baby undergoes a phenomenal change from a tiny ball of cells to a new born. However, it’s not just baby that goes through some immense changes. Moms also go through seismic changes month by month, which can feel both exciting and alarming. Remember that every pregnancy is different, and what is normal for one woman may not be for another. Always consult with your physician if you have any concerns about your own or your baby’s health during any stage of pregnancy.
Importance of Physical Awareness in Pregnant Women
Perhaps one of the most confusing parts of pregnancy is knowing what is best in terms of health, fitness and diet. With so much information out there, it can be hard to know what is sound medical advice and what is just an old-wives-tale. Ever noticed how when you’re pregnant, suddenly everyone is an expert? While all of this advice is often kindly meant, it’s enough to put a mom-to-be’s head in a spin, especially if this is your first pregnancy.
That’s why Pregnancy Awareness Month is such a great educational resource for expectant mothers and their partners, as it helps to sort fact from fiction when it comes to maintaining your physical wellbeing during pregnancy. So, you can be sure that the advice you’re receiving is the very best thing for both you and baby.
It’s also important to develop a sense of body awareness during your pregnancy. Knowing what is normal in a healthy pregnancy is important to spot any potential medical problems early so they can be treated promptly. It can also help to prepare you for the inevitable changes that will happen to your body and alleviate any fears, especially if this is your first baby. However, there are a wide range of sensations and symptoms that are considered ‘normal’, and what one woman experiences during pregnancy is completely unique, just like her. So, it’s important to be well-educated on what to expect when you’ve got a bun in the oven, and what signs and symptoms should have you calling a doctor.
Why Should You Participate Pregnancy Awareness Month?
Every expectant mom should know how to keep herself and her baby safe and healthy during this important time. Also, if you’re a first time mom, pregnancy can feel like a daunting and confusing prospect. It’s likely that you’re asking yourself all kind of questions right now. What should you be eating to help your baby develop and grow? Is it safe to continue your exercise routine in pregnancy? These are just some of the concerns you may be having as you embark on your journey to parenthood.
Pregnancy Awareness Month is all about empowering and educating women on optimum health, fitness and nutrition during pregnancy. So, by participating, you’ll be armed with all the knowledge you need to have the healthiest pregnancy possible.
First Time Pregnancy Questions to Ask Your Doctor
One of the most important steps in achieving a healthy pregnancy for both mom and baby is to find a doctor that you are comfortable with to oversee your pregnancy, birth and post-natal care. Women have different preferences when it comes to obstetricians, but it’s a good idea to look at reviews and recommendations to find a practitioner who has a great track record in caring for expectant moms. Do not wait until later in the pregnancy to arrange ante-natal care- in fact, ante-natal care and advice as early as possible in your pregnancy is important for both your safety and that of your baby.
Many women feel uncomfortable asking too many questions of their doctors, but you should feel free and able to ask anything that is confusing, worrying or concerning you. After all, this is your pregnancy and your baby. Here are some questions that all pregnant women should be asking at their ante-natal appointments, along with our expert advice.
Am I at risk for genetic diseases?
Around 3% of babies born in the USA are born with some kind of genetic defect. For the vast majority of couples, genetic diseases or birth defects are of little risk. However, for some moms-to-be and their partners, there may be an identified risk factor. A maternal age of 35+, already having had a child with an inheritable genetic condition or family history are some of the factors that may put you and your baby at higher risk. In this case, you may be offered genetic counselling and possibly further tests to check that your baby is healthy and give you the information you need to make informed decisions. This is one of the reasons that seeking prompt ante-natal care when you learn you are pregnant is important, as your doctor will be able to advise you on your individual risk.
How much weight should I gain during pregnancy?
Every woman will need to gain some weight during pregnancy, and it’s important to remember that the weight of the baby and placenta are sure to make you heavier. However, while you’re eating for two, it’s important to remember that one of you is really, really tiny, especially in early pregnancy! Women with a healthy BMI (18.5-24.9) should aim to gain around 25-35 lbs, while underweight women should aim to gain between 28-40 lbs. If you are already overweight or obese, you will need to aim to gain less than this. Your doctor will be able to give you an ideal weight gain target for your body weight, and will help you to monitor your gain to make sure it stays within healthy limits. If you are a overweight and feel pain in the back then make sure you have a best supportive mattress to avoid back pain during pregnancy.
Am I gaining weight too fast?
Many pregnant women worry that they are gaining weight too fast. On the other hand, you may be struggling to gain enough, especially if you’ve been struggling with morning sickness. If you are worried about the rate at which you are gaining weight, your doctor should be your first port of call.
How should I alter my diet (especially if I am a vegetarian or a vegan)?
What you eat, your baby eats. To give your baby the best possible start in life, it is important that they get all the nutrition they need. Also, your body will need a highly nutritious diet to help it cope with the demands of pregnancy and birth. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables and proteins is important. While it is possible to have a healthy pregnancy and baby if you’re a vegetarian or vegan, you should discuss your diet with your doctor to make sure you are getting everything you need.
What tests should I have and when should I schedule them?
There are various tests that you will need to have throughout your pregnancy to monitor both yours and baby’s health. You may also have the option of having other tests for conditions such as Downs Syndrome, and it is your choice whether to have these tests or not. Your doctor will advise you on which tests will be necessary in your situation.
Am I a high-risk patient?
While most pregnancies are low-risk, there may be factors that mean you have a higher-than average risk of developing complications in your pregnancy or during childbirth. Your doctor will assess your health status carefully at your first ante-natal appointment and advise you on whether you are deemed high-risk, and what can be done to ensure the safety of your pregnancy.
What is my risk for cesarean birth?
Luckily, most women are able to have a normal vaginal delivery. However, there are some situations where a cesarean section is advisable for safety reasons, for example if the baby is in the breach position. Ask your doctor to explain the likelihood of you requiring a cesarean section.
What exercises are safe?
Whilst it used to be believed that abstinence from exercise was best, it’s now known that keeping fit and active during pregnancy can lead to fewer complications and even easier births. However, there are some forms of exercise that are unsafe during pregnancy and you may need to adapt your existing fitness routine now you’re pregnant. This should be discussed with your obstetrician, including if you intend to start a new fitness regime in pregnancy.
What vaccinations should I receive during pregnancy?
There are several vaccinations that you can receive during pregnancy to keep you and baby healthy, although it is up to you whether you choose to vaccinate. You will need to discuss which vaccines you have already had with your doctor before forming a vaccination plan.
What medications may I take?
Unfortunately, many of the medications you are used to taking routinely such as cold and flu remedies and painkilling medications have been proven to be unsafe during pregnancy. Various others, while not proven unsafe, have no medical evidence to reassure pregnant women that they are completely harmless. Therefore, most moms-to-be choose to avoid these medicines as well. Always consult with a doctor or pharmacist before taking any medication, and make sure any practitioner is aware of your pregnancy before prescribing any medication.
May we develop a birth plan?
You have the right to make various choices about the birth of your baby, including who is present when you give birth. Be sure to discuss your options regarding important decisions such as where to give birth, pain relief medications and other factors so you can make informed decisions.
Should I hire a doula?
Unlike midwives and obstetricians who are responsible for the medical wellbeing of you and your baby, a doula provides emotional and practical support to women during childbirth. Although they are not common, many women benefit from this type of support, especially if they are nervous or fearful about birthing or they will not have a birth partner present.
Will I be allowed to have keepsake ultrasound pictures?
Many practices will print you out pictures from your scans, and these can become important keepsakes and a reminder of the new life inside you. Some offices even have the facility to provide 3D images of your unborn baby. Check with your doctor whether these will be available and whether any extra charges will be applicable.
Newborn checklist: Everything you need before your baby arrives
When you find out you’re expecting, it can be tempting to run out and go wild in the aisles buying all the latest equipment and clothing for your new arrival. However, in reality you don’t need to buy an awful lot for a newborn. While there are loads of cute products on the market, many of these come with a hefty price tag and are not really necessary, although if you can afford them, go for it! Knowing what you really need to buy for a newborn can be hard, especially for first time parents. So, what are the new-born must-haves? Here’s our list:
Crib or Moses basket
The most important item your baby will need in terms of bedding is a safe place to sleep. Both cribs and Moses baskets are suitable for infants- just bear in mind that baby will outgrow a basket very quickly. Ensure it is in good condition, especially if you are buying second-hand.
You will also need to buy the crib mattress which is designed especially for newborns. Make sure the mattress is the perfect size to fit snugly against the sides of the crib as babies can get caught in the gaps. According to matter mattress, If you want your crib mattress to last your baby through toddler-hood, you can buy a dual-sided design with a side for newborns and a side for toddlers.
At least 4 cotton sheets
As a rule, it’s a good idea to cover your baby’s mattress with a fitted sheet. Cotton is best as it’s cool and breathable.
At least 3 light blankets ideally made of cotton
Alternatively, you may choose to buy a few baby sleeping bags. Many parents feel these are a better option as they will stay firmly in position throughout the night.
Please note that your baby will not need any kind of pillow as a newborn.
At least 8 all-in-one bodysuits
While some of the outfits available for newborns are super-cute, they really don’t need anything other than all-in-one bodysuits for the first few months of life. These are soft and comfortable for your baby and much easier to dress them in than more fiddly outfits. If it’s summer you can opt for short sleeves and legs, while you can get longer options for colder months. Built-in feet are a good idea too- as anyone who’s ever tried to get socks to go on (and stay on) newborn feet will tell you.
When you have a newborn, it’s important to keep their head warm and out of direct sunlight. If your baby is born in Summer, then a light fabric such as jersey will work fine. Opt for warmer material in colder weather.
At least 8 pairs of socks
Socks may be necessary in colder times of the year, or if your all-in-one suits don’t have feet. Bear in mind, however, that it can be tricky getting socks onto such a small baby and they tend to lose them! Bootees can make a nice alternative, especially if it’s chilly. There’s really no need to buy baby shoes at this age, although they look cute.
2 warm garments such as cardigans
These are especially useful if the weather is cold, so if it’s the height of summer you can probably do away with these altogether. An all-in-one quilted snowsuit is another option if temperatures are likely to be very low.
Gentle laundry powder or liquid
Young babies have very delicate skin that can be easily irritated by many laundry detergents. So, it’s a good idea to buy detergent that’s unscented and hypoallergenic.