Pregnancy can be an exciting, yet frightening and confusing experience for any woman. The medical terms doctors use, the unfamiliar sensation of a life forming within, and the stages of pregnancy itself can add to the uncertainty for many first-time moms-to-be. This quick reference pregnancy timeline is to help you understand and embrace your baby’s development and the affects of pregnancy. It explains the stages in simple terms from the time you first discover you are pregnant through to the day your bundle of joy arrives.
Generally pregnancy is only detected once you suspect you have missed a menstrual cycle, at which point you can use a home pregnancy test to check. The Clear Blue pregnancy test is a popular choice due to its accuracy in detecting the specific pregnancy hormone. After receiving a positive home test you should immediately schedule an appointment with your obstetrician to determine how far along you are; some women prefer to take several home tests as a precaution against invalid results. Your obstetrician will help you establish personal guidelines to follow during pregnancy based on your current health and schedule future appointments. In the case of teenage pregnancy, parental support throughout pregnancy is especially important as, depending on the age of the teenager, certain medical and financial decisions cannot be made without parental consent.
How Pregnancy is Measured
The pregnancy timeline is measured from the first day of your last period immediately prior to conception; thus, the fetus’ “menstrual age” is approximately two weeks ahead of the fetus’ physical development. The following will provide a week-by-week pregnancy guide to your baby’s development. The guide outlines average fetal development as recorded at the most common weeks for you to require a visit to the obstetrician’s office.
This is generally the earliest point at which a home pregnancy test will correctly indicate you are pregnant. Your baby does not look like much, but the cells have begun to develop; the fertilized egg has three distinct layers that will each play a role in the fetus’ development.
Your baby is starting to look like a tadpole and its heartbeat is now detectable by ultrasound. At this stage, the fetus is especially vulnerable to things like disease, cigarette use and second-hand smoke, and drug and alcohol consumption. As a result, miscarriages are most common between weeks 6-12. Be aware of what you allow to ender your body and follow any guidelines provided by your obstetrician. Cramps in early pregnancy are normal and experienced by many mothers-to-be up to the ninth week of pregnancy. You do not need to worry about light cramping, but should immediately consult your doctor if vaginal bleeding or spotting occurs.
By now your baby is getting larger and will generally measure around 6cm to 7cm from the top of its head to its bottom (referred to as crown to rump). The fetus will begin to take on the shape of a human baby and less than that of a tadpole as its arms and legs start to form. Your baby will begin to move around on its own at this stage in pregnancy. Headaches in pregnancy are common and generally are worst during the first trimester. Consult your doctor before taking any medication during pregnancy to ensure no unintentional harm befalls baby as a result.
This is an exciting time as you may start to feel your baby moving around in the womb and, while some mothers prefer not to know, you can determine gender based on the developing external genitalia. The fetus will weigh about 5 ounces and can now wriggle its toes, kick its feet, suck its thumbs, and stretch or yawn.
Now that your baby weighs around 1.5 pounds, it has reached a point at which the ears are developed enough to recognize and respond to noise. Many parents talk to their babies throughout pregnancy, but it is between 20 and 24 weeks that your baby begins to respond to your voice. You can experience baby’s reactions in the form of increased movement or by listening with a stethoscope for a quickened pulse. Fathers, when present, often tend to become more involved at this point in a woman’s pregnancy as they can begin to feel the baby kick or hiccup by placing a hand on the your stomach. If you have not already, you should decide on the exact hospital or birthing facility at which to give birth. Some women prefer to hire a mid-wife for a natural and holistic childbirth experience; your doctor should be consulted, but ultimately the birthing method is yours to choose.
Your visits to the obstetrician should become more frequent at this point in pregnancy. Baby should weigh just over 2 pounds; this is the earliest developmental stage at which a premature baby has a good chance of survival. The baby will become more active than ever inside the womb and should change positions frequently. This is the point at which you will generally begin taking Lamaze, or childbirth, classes. It is important to have support from the baby’s father or close family member during this time in your pregnancy as you will rely heavily on others as you get closer to your child’s arrival. Many parents will truly begin planning for the new addition at this stage by registering for baby items, and planning baby’s room.
At this stage, baby should weigh around 4 pounds and has a fatty layer building under the skin (baby fat). Your baby will begin to double its weight in preparation for birth and you may start to lactate as your body also readies itself. Most women take breastfeeding classes around this time or will determine to use formula. Your obstetrician can help you decide which option is best, as each woman is different.
National Health Services has many great resources and, according to NHS pregnancy services, this is the point at which you should slow down your level of activity o avoid back pain and additional stress. Your baby’s nervous system, lungs, and brain are fully developed by this point and he or she is almost ready to meet the world. While every one is different and many factors affect overall weight and length, the average baby will be approximately 5-6 pounds and 12-14 inches long. You will likely experience an increase in movement and baby is cramped enough now for you to see full hand and foot prints as baby pushes on your belly. Make sure you have a car seat, stroller, crib and enough clothes, diapers, bathing products, and other supplies to last at least the first few weeks after baby’s arrival; your bundle of joy may come any day!