Pregnancy is a natural process involving big changes in a woman’s body. Most women have uncomplicated pregnancies and their daily routines may not change until the last few weeks before delivery. Other women have difficult pregnancies throughout that change their daily lives, right from the start.
Most women experience emotional shifts and mood swings. It is natural to feel doubt, anxiety and fear over pregnancy and childbirth – as well as happiness, excitement and anticipation.
As soon as you think you might be pregnant, you should visit a pregnancy help centre or clinic right away for a pregnancy test. If you are pregnant, it is important to learn more about what to expect from pregnancy and how to care for yourself and your growing baby. If you smoke or drink, you should stop immediately – tobacco and alcohol can harm your unborn child.
Pregnancy typically lasts 40 weeks (or ’9 months’). That time is divided into three periods called trimesters (i.e. three-month intervals), during which different things will happen to your body and to the baby.
Below is a list of some of the normal things a pregnant woman may experience during each trimester. If you are pregnant, you may or may not experience all of the changes described here. They may also happen earlier or later than they appear on this list. Some might even continue throughout the entire pregnancy. The data listed below is however a very good general guide.
The First Trimester (Weeks 1-12)
During the first trimester, a woman’s body goes through many changes so that it can accommodate the growth and development of the fetus: menstruation stops or becomes very light; breasts become larger; the volume of blood circulating doubles; the uterus enlarges to about three times its normal size; “Morning sickness” occurs; nausea and sometimes vomiting occur in many pregnant women; many women experience fatigue; some women have bleeding at the time of a missed period. Constipation and heartburn are common.
The Second Trimester (Weeks 13-26)
The second trimester is often comfortable for the woman, as the discomforts felt in the first trimester pass. It’s during this time that other people start to notice the pregnancy and many women take on the “glow” of pregnancy. Some of the things that can happen to the mother during this time include: Water retention causing her feet and ankles to swell (this is called edema); the mother can feel her unborn child moving; nosebleeds and nasal congestion; breast enlargement and discharge; hemorrhoids and varicose veins; heartburn, indigestion; and constipation.
The Third Trimester (Weeks 27-40)
During this period, the shape of the abdomen changes a few weeks before the onset of labour as the unborn child drops towards the opening of the pelvis. During this time: movement of the fetus can be seen from the outside; the navel pushes out; and some women will experience backaches. In order to accommodate the weight of her unborn child, the mother will tend to walk differently until finally, labour is initiated and her baby is delivered.