Did your pregnancy tests confirm that you are going to be a mother? It’s all new, so give yourself some time to come to terms with what is happening. Knowing what to expect can help. Therefore, in the following lines, we will guide you through the different pregnancy stages.
By learning all about intrauterine baby development and the accompanying pregnancy symptoms, you will find it easier to accept the tremendous changes your body goes through. You will also be able to make every pregnancy stage easier and more enjoyable and keep track of your baby’s development.
Just take it easy. The typical pregnancy lasts three trimesters and between 37 and 42 weeks (40 weeks on average), calculated from the first day of your last period. You’ll have plenty of time to read and several doctor consultations to ask questions and learn everything you need to know. We’ll review the basics in the following lines.
Pregnancy stages and intrauterine baby development guide
1. The First Trimester of Pregnancy
This trimester covers the first 12 weeks of pregnancy and is probably the most important to your baby’s development. It begins when the egg and the sperm bond and form the zygote. A few days later, the zygote attaches itself to your uterus’ wall.
Its cells begin to divide themselves and grow, as it becomes an embryo. Slowly but surely, all the major organs and structures gain shape. The embryo measures only approximately 0.04 inches in its 4th to 5th week of existence, but it will reach approximately 3 inches before the trimester ends.
Week by week, the embryo grows and looks more and more like a human baby. You should be able to hear its heartbeat as early as the 8th week of pregnancy. Your baby’s body is now formed and functioning.
Depending on the doctor’s equipment, at the ultrasound, you could see anything from the closed eyelids protecting the eyes to the genitalia able to reveal if you’re expecting a boy or a girl, and the closed fist showing strength and determination.
As explained in our post on pregnancy signs, during the first trimester, you will experience various symptoms, from nausea and vomiting to breast tenderness, fatigue, and mood changes. You may crave certain foods or react unusually to common smells. Most of these pregnancy symptoms will fade by the end of the trimester.
2. The Second Trimester of Pregnancy
This trimester starts with the 13th week and ends with the 26th. During it, the baby grows from around 4 or 5 inches long and 3 ounces weight to approximately 12 inches and 1 pound.
This is when they develop important body parts, such as:
- taste buds
- fingerprints and footprints
If your baby is a boy, their testes will begin to drop into their scrotum. If you’re expecting a baby girl, her ovaries will begin to develop eggs. They will also develop regular sleeping/waking patterns, begin to hear sounds and practice swallowing.
Your pregnancy symptoms will hopefully fade but some women continue to experience cravings and aversions to certain foods and smells. Your belly will surely grow and make your pregnancy noticeable.
You should also begin to feel the baby kicking or “quickening”. At first, it feels like butterflies in your stomach. Then, as the baby grows, the movements become stronger. At some point, the kicks may target your bladder or the baby may press on it and cause an increase in your urination frequency.
Towards the end of the second trimester, you may experience Braxton–Hicks contractions. Other second-trimester pregnancy symptoms include round ligament pain, nipple darkening, and stretch marks.
To prevent stretch marks, you should rub a rich moisturizing cream, preferably from natural ingredients, on your belly every day. It will improve the elasticity of the skin and allow it to stretch easier, without tearing.
3. The Third Trimester of Pregnancy
This trimester begins with the 27th week and ends when you give birth. Babies delivered during this trimester usually survive outside the womb but every day, every week of uterine development is important.
During this period, your baby will grow from 12 inches and 1.5 lbs to approximately 20 inches and 7–8 lbs. Most of their organs and systems are already formed, so they now grow and perfect their functioning.
This trimester is very important for the baby’s lungs development. Your little one will start performing breathing motions. Their kicks and rolls will become stronger by the day, and you will feel them move regularly.
Your belly will grow with the baby and so will the discomfort. You may experience trouble walking, standing, and sleeping, and back pain from the belly weight.
Other pregnancy symptoms to expect are:
- stronger Braxton–Hicks contractions
- swollen feet
- mood savings
- breast and nipple changes, including milk leakage
- frequent urination
As the delivery term approaches, your baby should turn with its head down, so as to ease birth. You will feel your belly descending and pressing heavier on your bladder. Your back pain may aggravate. During your last days of pregnancy, you may notice a mucus discharge from the passing of the mucus plug, stronger contractions, and a burst of energy.
When your water breaks, it is time to rush to the hospital or get ready for whatever delivery method you have chosen. Until you get there, however, it is important to attend your doctor consultations, take the necessary prenatal texts, and monitor your baby’s development.
It’s all new to you, so it’s normal to feel lost, worried, or lose your self-confidence. You shouldn’t! You are a miracle in yourself and you have all the motivation you need to go through with your pregnancy and bring a beautiful and healthy baby into this world.
If you have doubts, BabyCenter has an impressive series of self-explanatory videos illustrating the miracle of pregnancy and walking viewers through the different baby development stages. You can watch them all here.
Now you know how your pregnancy will progress and what to expect at every stage. You also have your healthcare provider to turn to when you have questions or doubts. Finally, you have your own instincts to follow and an entire community to support you.
You have a mother’s heart, and mothers feel when something is wrong with their baby. Trust your instincts, follow your heart, and don’t hesitate to request advice and information when you need it. If you do that and you keep up with the prenatal care routine doctors recommend, everything should be alright.
As your pregnancy comes to term and you get to hold your precious baby into your arms, don’t hesitate to share your experience and recommendations for coping with the above-described pregnancy stages in a comment below. It is an easy way to help other mothers-to-be through this challenging but beautiful period!
Mihaela is a proud mother of two, happily married to the love of her life and passionate about reading, music, healthy cooking, and child psychology. A sociologist and expert copywriter, she now channels her knowledge and experience in writing for Iris Content, AM Navigator, Top 10 Picks, and, last but not least, her soul-project, BebeYoga.