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Pregnancy 101


A typical pregnancy lasts 40 weeks from the first day of your last menstrual period (LMP) to the birth of the baby and is divided into three stages called trimesters: the first trimester, the second trimester, and the third trimester. Both you and your baby will experience changes during these three stages. Each of these stages are completely different, present a unique set of challenges, and are filled with magical moments. Below is a breakdown of each of these pregnancy stages with information about baby growth, development, and physical changes to the mother.

 

  • First Trimester- This is week 1 - week 12 and includes conception. During the first trimester your body undergoes many changes and unfortunately carries the highest risk of miscarriage, which is the natural death of embryo or fetus. During the week after fertilization, the fertilized egg grows into a microscopic ball of cells (blastocyst), which implants on the wall of your uterus. This implantation triggers a series of hormonal and physical changes in your body. During this time, many women feel discomforts of pregnancy like nausea and tender breasts. The development of the mass of cells that will become the infant is called embryogenesis during the first approximately ten weeks of gestation. During this time, cells begin to differentiate into the various body systems. The basic outlines of the organ, body, and nervous systems are established. By the end of the embryonic stage, the beginnings of features such as fingers, eyes, mouth, and ears become visible. Also during this time, there is development of structures important to the support of the embryo, including the placenta, which connects the developing embryo to the uterine wall to allow absorption of nutrients, waste elimination, and gas exchange, and the umbilical cord, which is the connecting cord from the embryo or fetus to the placenta. After about ten weeks of gestational age, the embryo becomes known as a fetus. At this stage, a fetus is about 30 mm (1.2 inches) in length, the heartbeat is seen via ultrasound, and the fetus makes involuntary motions. The first trimester is a time of amazing development considering the embryo starts out looking like a tiny seed, then a tadpole with a tail, and then more human.

  

  • Second Trimester- Week 13 - week 28. Most women find the second trimester of pregnancy easier than the first cause symptoms like nausea and fatigue start to go away and the abdomen expands as the baby continues to grow. Before the end of the second trimester, around week 19, many women begin to feel the baby move. During this trimester, the fetus is still building up body fat and starting to put on a lot of weight. By the end of the second trimester your fetus is about 10 in. long and weighs about 1.5-2 lbs. This time period often brings an increased sex drive, tiredness, and weight gain for many women. All of these things are results of the baby's development and growth. The good is around week 24 is when the baby has a chance of survival outside the womb since many of the organs have developed enough.

 

  • Third Trimester- Week 29 - week 40 and beyond. The third trimester of pregnancy spans from week 28 to the birth. Although your due date marks the end of your 40th week, a full-term pregnancy can deliver anywhere between week 37 and week 42.  This trimester is the home stretch, and for many, the hardest part of pregnancy due to the aches and pains of late pregnancy. Sleep becomes harder for many as the bump continues to grow and frequent bathroom breaks are typical. By about 32 weeks the baby is usually lying with its head pointing downwards, ready for birth. The baby’s bones start hardening now, but the skull bones will stay soft and separated to make the journey through the birth canal easier. At 37 weeks, your pregnancy is considered full-term. In the last weeks, the baby’s head should move down into your pelvis. When your baby’s head moves down like this, it is said to be ‘engaged’. Most women will go into labour between 38 and 42 weeks of pregnancy. Any pregnancy lasting longer than 40 weeks is considered to be overdue.
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