Discovering that you are pregnant can be one of the most exciting and joyful things that you and your partner may ever find out. Now that you are pregnant, you are probably looking forward to the next three trimesters with much excitement and curiosity. But you and your partner may also be a little bit concerned about exactly what to expect during pregnancy. Early pregnancy is often the most difficult to deal with, especially as your body begins to adjust to your new baby. Here are some of the basics about what to expect during your first 20 weeks of pregnancy.
Signs of Pregnancy
Most women experience a number of different health symptoms after they become pregnant. You may notice some of these pregnancy symptoms, including:
- Food Cravings: It is not unusual to feel more hungry during the initial days of pregnancy, and you may find yourself craving some very strange items, ranging from pickles and ice cream, to hot dogs and chocolate syrup! These food cravings are actually caused by the hormonal changes that are going on in your body. This early sign of pregnancy is your body’s way of making sure that you get the proper nutrition needed to support your baby’s initial growth.
- Sore Breasts: Breast tenderness is often one of the very first signs of pregnancy that women experience. You may notice that the area around your nipples (the areola) begins to darken, and that your breasts become a little more tender and sore than usual. This is a sign that your breasts are beginning to prepare for breastfeeding.
- Morning Sickness: Morning sickness is one of the classic signs of pregnancy. In fact, more than 50% of all pregnant women experience some kind of morning sickness. You might find that you feel particularly dizzy or you may experience nausea and vomiting. This symptom is particularly common during the first trimester, but usually disappears by the 15th week of pregnancy.
- Fatigue: As your body begins to prepare for your baby’s future growth and development, you will likely notice that you are significantly more fatigued than usual. Even if you are getting a full night’s sleep, you will probably experience some type of fatigue throughout the first twelve weeks of pregnancy. This fatigue will pass in time, and by the second trimester you will begin to feel a sense of renewed energy and spirit.
Physical Changes During Early Pregnancy
Throughout the first 20 weeks of pregnancy, you will notice a number of changes in your body. As your baby begins to develop, your body will start to change in order to support his growth and development. These changes will be slow at first, but will pick up as your pregnancy continues. Changes can include:
- Growing Belly: Throughout the first trimester and first few weeks of the second trimester, you will begin to notice a small bulge in your stomach. This bulge will slowly grow as your baby begins to develop. Most women begin to show their pregnancy by the 12th week of pregnancy.
- Swollen Breasts: You will also notice changes in your breasts as your pregnancy progresses. Your breasts will become larger and more sensitive as your body prepares for breastfeeding. In particular, you may notice that your nipples become more prominent and that you areolas darken.
- Stretch Marks By the beginning of the second trimester, you might start to see faint stretch marks surrounding your abdomen or breasts. This is a sign that your body is growing just as it should during pregnancy. These stretch marks will fade after labor and delivery, or you can use anti stretch mark lotions to help them heal.
Other symptoms a woman may experience while pregnant is lack of sleep, varicose veins, forgetfulness, gas, or snoring. Look for compression stockings to help with the varicose veins. Find out about these common pregnancy symptoms and side effects and discover more about the many other pregnancy surprises you can expect from your body.
Baby’s Development During Early Pregnancy
During the first 20 weeks of pregnancy, your baby is growing at an extremely rapid pace. Specifically, by 20 weeks your baby will have developed:
- all of his organs and bodily systems
- his sex organs (which will determine baby's gender)
- his brain
- his heart beat
Your baby will also be growing quickly in length. By six weeks, she will already be 20 millimeters long, and by 12 weeks she will by over 100 millimeters long! By the beginning of the second trimester your baby will be able to hear sounds in the womb and will start to make movements inside of you (known as quickening).
Also check out our article on fetal development during late pregnancy.
Diet and Exercise
It is particularly important that you follow a healthy pregnancy diet during the early days of pregnancy. Your baby depends on you for all her nutrients and calories, which are vital for her growth and development. In particular, it is important for you to take a prenatal vitamin throughout the 20 weeks of early pregnancy. It is especially important that this prenatal vitamin contain folic acid. Folic acid has been clinically proven to help reduce the risks of neural tube defects in babies by up to 70%.
Pregnancy weight gain is also significant during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy. In the first trimester, weight gain should be slow: aim for approximately four to six pounds. During the second trimester, you can begin to speed up the weight gain process to about a pound a week. This will help to ensure your baby gets all the nutrients and calories she needs and help to keep you on target for a healthy pregnancy weight gain. If you are expecting twins, you may want to begin gaining up to a pound and a half per week, beginning in the 13th week of pregnancy.
Exercise should also form a part of your early pregnancy experiences. Exercise will help to minimize your pregnancy discomforts and help to keep weight gain in check. Be sure to consult with your health care provider before beginning any exercise routine, though. In some cases, exercise is not appropriate for mom and baby.
Also read up on why smoking can be dangerous for both you and your baby during pregnancy and discover some fun ways to enjoy being pregnant.
Complications During Early Pregnancy
Sometimes, early pregnancy can be marred by serious health complications. Now that you are pregnant, it is important to be aware of these problems, so that you can seek immediate attention should you need it. Complications include:
- Miscarriage: Miscarriages are very common in early pregnancy, particularly in the first 12 weeks. In fact, miscarriages are thought to occur in almost 50% of pregnancies, however, many women who experience them do so before they know that they are pregnant. Signs of miscarriage include vaginal spotting or bleeding, abdominal cramping, and pressure in the lower back. Should you experience any of these symptoms, visit with your health care provider as soon as possible.
- Ectopic Pregnancy: Though a much rarer complication than miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy can be extremely dangerous for a pregnant women. An ectopic pregnancy occurs when the fetus attaches outside of the uterus, commonly along the fallopian tube. This type of pregnancy can causes serious health complications, including tubal rupture and even death. Ectopic pregnancies are most commonly found between the eight and tenth weeks of pregnancy, and symptoms include dizziness, sharp abdominal or shoulder pain, and vaginal spotting.
Also check out are articles on cordocentesis (find out why you may need this prenatal test) and find out what to do if you are experiencing a prolonged pregnancy. Also get information on teen pregnancy for parents and teen pregnancy for teenagers, and find out how perfume can adversely affect fetal development. Also relive your concerns about flying while pregnant and learn more about whether it is safe to fly when pregnant.
Hear from experienced moms about the must have for new moms, and also discover why it may be worthwhile to keep a pregnancy journal. In addition, find out how to get your finances ready for the baby and what to do about working when pregnant.
Twins and Multiples
For those of you blessed with more than one baby then take a look at our articles on twins and multiples.Also read up on conjoined twins and find out why some twins are conjoined.
For more information on staying healthy while pregnancy, like the importance of maintaining good posture in pregnancy, check out our pregnancy forum.