Experts agree that the best way to have the pregnancy and birth that you envision is to begin with a qualified healthcare provider who shares your beliefs and values about pregnancy, labor and birth.
From pregnancy tests to morning sickness, here’s how it all begins
Welcome to your 1st and sleepiest trimester; during these 12 weeks your baby will grow from an embryo 1/5th the size of the period at the end of this sentence to a nice juicy plum. Every day, the pregnancy hormone HCG is increasing and it’s what makes your pregnancy test positive. It’s also responsible for feeling tired, tender or sore breasts, frequently needing to pee and for many women—morning sickness. It’s normal to want a nap every day—your body is working hard to grow your baby—it’s exhausting!
Start—or continue—habits that keep your pregnancy as healthy as possible all the way to term:
Before you knew you were pregnant, baby’s neural tube—what becomes her brain and spinal cord—formed and closed. The 800 micrograms of folic acid in most prenatal vitamins protect against neural tube birth defects, so it’s important to take a prenatal vitamin before conception and through pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Baby finishes the 1st trimester 10 times bigger than at conception. Your body is changing too: Your breasts are likely bigger and sore, you may have frequent headaches, fatigue and nausea. It’s not unusual to have some spotting or mild cramping and this doesn’t always mean miscarriage. Call your provider right away, especially if the bleeding is heavy or if you’re cramping.
Around week 8, you’ll have your first prenatal visit; after that you’ll likely see your provider:
You may be offered 1st trimester screening—non-invasive tests done between weeks 11-14 for chromosome disorders like Down Syndrome and genetic testing. Your nurse can talk with you about the risks and benefits of these tests. Bring your questions to every prenatal visit—your care providers expect and welcome them!
As you complete week 12, you can relax—all of baby’s organs and bodily systems have formed and the next 28 weeks are all about growing. You’ll be able to hear your baby’s heartbeat and the early symptoms of pregnancy should begin to subside.
Pregnancy is 40 completed gestational weeks, the count for which starts on the first day of your last menstrual period. Those 40 weeks are divided into 3 trimesters:
For pregnancy care, your provider may be a midwife, obstetrician or family practice doctor. Then evaluate the facility where she or he will help you birth.
Use our checklist to gauge how your potential birth facility may match your goals for labor and birth. This list is doesn’t cover everything but for each ‘yes’ you can give, the greater the chances that you may be supported toward your desired birth.
Ask if the facility where your provider will help you give birth is committed to:
It’s important to gain just the right amount of weight in pregnancy: Not too little, not too much. Follow these simple strategies to nourish you and baby together:
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Commit to go the full 40 weeks of pregnancy, wait for spontaneous labor and breastfeed your baby. Discover 40 reasons to go full term at GoTheFull40.com.
Some pregnant Hispanic women don’t eat ‘hot’ foods such as chilies or strong spices because it’s believed these foods can cause baby to have spots or rashes.
In many countries, such as England and Australia, pregnant women get care from midwives. Physicians care for women with high-risk pregnancies, complications or those needing cesarean surgery.
In Panama, moms-to-be won’t share how far along they are; they believe sharing this will put their baby at risk for complications.
In Germany, pregnant women carry a Mutterpass—mother’s pass—at all times. It tracks their pregnancy information, vitals and tests and they bring their pass to the hospital when labor begins.
Welcome to middle pregnancy—soon you’ll be half way to term! During this trimester, your little one grows from the size of a peach to an eggplant. You’ll have more energy, feel less sick and be hungry! At 13 weeks, your placenta starts producing the hormones that maintain your pregnancy, and it gives baby oxygen and nutrition and removes waste.
You begin to ‘show’, happily trading jeans for maternity yoga pants! Other changes can include:
Around weeks 17-20 you may be surprised by flutters in your belly—that’s your baby moving! More exciting is your 2nd trimester ultrasound. Will you try to learn whether you’re having a girl or boy?
Between weeks 24-28, you’ll be checked for the most common pregnancy complication: gestational diabetes. As many as 1 in 10 women develop diabetes in pregnancy. You’ll drink a sweet liquid and have your blood drawn at 1 hour. If your 1-hour test is high, you’ll do a similar 3-hour test, but only 1 in 3 women who need that test will have gestational diabetes.
Around 27 weeks, ask for the Tdap vaccine, which protects against pertussis (whooping cough). Newborns don’t develop immunity against pertussis until they’re 2-3 months old and pertussis can be deadly in infants. Also, get a flu shot in pregnancy before flu season—this vaccine is safe in any trimester.
Your baby’s heart is beating fast—about 140-150 beats/minute, which is normal. She’s sucking and swallowing amniotic fluid as she prepares for nursing. Don’t be surprised when you feel her hiccups! Her lungs are exhaling amniotic fluid, preparing for those first breaths after birth. Your baby can recognize your voices and will respond to them at birth.
Finish this pregnancy marathon strong by letting baby pick her birthday!
In these last weeks, your baby is growing more each day as she prepares to meet you—which means as she grows you also grow more uncomfortable. Your baby is blossoming from the size of a butternut squash to a large watermelon at birth. Her weight will more than double during this trimester as she puts on more fat to help keep her warm at birth. Her brain, lungs and other organs are rapidly developing—did you know your baby’s brain is only 2/3rds of the size at 35 weeks that it will be at term?
If you’re not yet registered at your birthplace and enrolled in childbirth and breastfeeding classes, it’s time to do so. To finish strong:
It’s normal to wonder if labor is starting with every twinge and cramp. Your vaginal discharge may increase, and your mucus plug may come out. It may look like a big, sticky piece of mucus or just heavier discharge, and it may be tinged with brown, pink or red streaks. This is all normal; call if you see heavy vaginal bleeding.
When you do go to the hospital in labor, your nurse will be with you during your labor and birth as your advocate, expert care provider and biggest supporter. Your nurse will alert your midwife or doctor to any urgent concerns that may arise.
Less than 5% of babies are born on their estimated due date—most are born between 40 and 41 weeks when labor starts on its own. Now is the time to remember your commitment to going full term and doing what’s healthy best for you and your baby—birthing normally following spontaneous labor when all is healthy and well.
You’ll have more frequent visits with your pregnancy care provider, probably twice a week, to ensure you and baby are safe and healthy. You might have a:
If either of these tests is abnormal, an induction of labor may be considered.