One of the greatest milestones in a couple’s journey is pregnancy. Though both partners go through a life-changing experience, it is the mother who will experience many differences in her body. With advancements in technology, these mini-milestones are easy to document, and some parents even create scrapbooks with images from scans.
During the nine months of pregnancy, an expecting mother’s body goes through a lot of changes, which can be downright terrifying. To understand what changes are taking place, it is important to understand the fetal development stages throughout pregnancy. This is easier if broken down into trimesters and the fetal development milestones in each trimester.
The Positive Pregnancy Test
Beginning with a positive on a pregnancy test, there are so many events that can be chronicled as the pregnancy progresses. For couples who have been looking forward to getting pregnant, a positive on the test strip is the first milestone in their journey towards creating or extending their family.
1) The First Trimester
A little poppy seed
The organ development of the fetus starts during the first three months of the pregnancy. During this period, the mother experiences more periods of tiredness and has to use the restroom often. Some others experience constipation. At about 4 weeks, a ball of cells, the blastocyst, will become an embryo that is roughly the size of a poppy seed. This is when organ development begins, and this stage lasts approximately six weeks.
This is also the stage where you cannot feel the kicks or even see a change in the size of your tummy, but you may experience morning sickness. Aversion to smells, cravings for food that you never ate before also mark the beginning of your pregnancy. Your first ultrasound would be around this time.
Baby’s first heartbeat
At 5 weeks, the heart of the baby begins to beat. The heartbeat of a baby is at about twice the rate of an adult heart. The ultrasound scan will help you hear the baby’s heartbeat. The rapid ‘thump, thump’ is a source of joy and reassurance for parents.
Baby’s body develops- your little plum
At 6 weeks, facial features begin to form, and little buds for the arms and legs start to develop. At 10 weeks, the embryo becomes a fetus. Kidneys, intestines, brain, and liver are beginning to function, and fingernails and toenails are starting to form. At about 12 weeks, you might be able to hear the heartbeat at a prenatal checkup, although this may have already happened at an ultrasound. The little poppy seed has grown to the size of a little plum by the end of this stage.
2) The Second Trimester
Spreading the word
By the beginning of the second trimester, months three to six of the pregnancy, many mothers feel more energetic and have less nausea. Some experience more headaches. The risk of miscarriage reduces considerably, and your doctor gives you the go-ahead to announce your pregnancy to the world.
Hydration takes a front seat during this period. At about 14 weeks, the baby’s kidneys are producing urine that is released into the amniotic fluid. The baby can make facial expressions and it is at this time that it may begin sucking his or her thumb. The little plum has now grown to the size of a ripe peach.
Knowing your baby’s gender
At 16 weeks, the gender might be detectable at a mid-pregnancy ultrasound, which is generally done between 16 and 20 weeks. Although the laws of many countries prevent doctors and healthcare workers from revealing the gender of the baby, medical practitioners will be able to detect the same. By the end of this time, the baby is the size of a banana, and your stomach is visibly protruding.
Movement and kicks
Although it is not the same for everyone, the movement begins around the 18th week. The mother can feel the baby moving around before this, in most cases. Other people should be able to feel baby movements from outside the stomach at 20 weeks. With this, interest in the baby’s movement increases, with everyone being excited about feeling the kicks. Expecting mothers, be ready to feel like a football at this stage.
Baby recognizes voices
At 23 weeks, the baby’s sense of motion has developed, and the hearing continues to improve. If you or your partner have not tried singing or talking to the baby yet, this would be a great time to start, as the baby starts to discern sounds, and can recognize voices.
The size of an ear of corn, at 24 weeks, your baby starts to experience taste when taste buds start developing, and both the brain and hair grow quickly. The baby may weigh just over half a kilo, and be up to 12 inches or more long.
At 27 weeks, the baby’s lungs are developing quickly, although they will not be functional for a few more weeks. The baby will inhale and exhale amniotic fluid and will have begun sleeping and waking at regular intervals. They’ll also likely begin opening and closing their eyes and sucking on their fingers.
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3) The Third Trimester
The baby begins to dream
The third trimester, six months to nine months, is a time to try and stay active. Mothers may feel some tightness in the uterus that are known as Braxton-Hicks contractions, which are preparations in the uterus for labour. It is recommended that there are more regular check-ups to avoid complications. This is a risky period as the baby begins to reach out and may grab the umbilical cord. The baby may begin dreaming and will have eyelashes and improved eyesight during the 28 to 32 weeks period. The baby has now roughly reached the size of a cabbage.
Baby’s soft skin
The baby will also grow fingernails and toenails and may begin to increase in weight, ranging between 1.3 to 1.8 kilos. At 34 weeks, the lungs and central nervous system continue to develop. The skin, which was earlier covered with hair to keep the baby warm, slowly becomes less hairy. With the accumulation of fat, the skin stops looking shriveled and starts becoming soft and smooth.
Baby is almost ready to meet you
At the 37 weeks point, the baby is considered early term. Babies born at this time usually do well, but in an ideal situation, birth won’t take place for a few more weeks to allow the brain and lungs time to mature fully. At 39 weeks the baby is now considered full-term and is ready for birth.
The average weight is roughly 3.4 kilos, and the average length is about 20 inches. This is usually when you have false labour pains and alarms, along with increased discomfort. You are also on high alert, watching for every pain, timing it to check if you are having contractions, and excited about meeting your little one.
At 41 weeks, you’ve passed your due date, and the baby is now considered late-term. Anything after 42 weeks is post-term. Baby health might be monitored with tests, and you may discuss inducing labour with your doctor to avoid complications.
…And your baby is here! Get ready to welcome your baby
Once labour has set in or been induced, anticipation builds up about meeting your baby for the first time. Contractions, labour, and delivery patterns differ from person to person, along with the duration of labour. However, at the end of that period of pain and uncertainty comes the most wonderful part-hearing the cry of your baby and holding it in your arms.
Your sleepless nights are here
Amidst all the excitement of your baby’s arrival, the love, affection, and well-wishes, remember that this is the most important time for both you and your baby. Post-pregnancy, it is important that the mother gets enough rest and focuses her attention on herself and her baby. Doctors keep track of fetal development milestones and knowing about these can help expecting mothers to understand these better and help in discussions with doctors.