Pregnancy: Signs, Symptoms and Health

Throughout your pregnancy, you will witness the miracle of nature as it prepares your body for delivery, and your baby for a healthy life. Though you may experience discomfort, it is fascinating to see and experience the phenomenon of creation.

As every woman is different, each pregnancy is different. Women experience different symptoms throughout different pregnancy trimesters. However, there are many symptoms that are popular among the majority of women, and it will help you prepare for your pregnancy by knowing what to expect and when.

This 5-part guide provides the following sections:

• Page 1 – Overview – Guide for First Time Parents: Caring for a Newborn Baby
• Page 2: Tips and Advice for First Time Parent
• Page 3: Pregnancy: Signs, Symptoms and Health
• Page 4: Birth Plan and Baby Checklist
• Page 5: Newborn Baby Care

Note: This guide offers tips, information, and resources for first time parents. Please consult your doctor, nurse, or other medical professionals with specific questions.

Chapter 1: Early Signs of Pregnancy and Symptoms

As you can imagine, your body will start to change soon after conception. Some women notice early signs of pregnancy starting to appear sooner than others, and the timing could even differ from your first pregnancy to your second. Of course, the surest way to be certain if you are pregnant is to take a test.

This page will introduce the difference stages the future mother will be experience over the next nine months before she delivers her first child.

Early Signs of Pregnancy

The first early pregnancy symptom for many women is missing a period. Unexpected nausea, particularly in the morning, is another early sign. The third most common pregnancy symptom is tender breasts; feeling heavy and sensitive.

Pregnancy Symptoms

When do pregnancy symptoms start? They can start to appear even as soon as within a week of conception.

Other common early signs to look out for when trying to conceive, or wondering if you could possibly be pregnant are:
● Spotting or light bleeding – This is associated with implanting, which is when the embryo attaches itself to the uterine wall between 6 to 12 days after conception. This usually is accompanied by cramping. Not every woman experiences spotting, so you may still be pregnancy even if you don’t have any light bleeding occur.
● Morning sickness – This typically shows up between 2 to 8 weeks after conception. Morning sickness is the feeling of nausea, and sometimes followed by vomiting though not necessarily. Morning sickness can also take place throughout the day at any time, contrary to its name.
● Tender breasts – you may start noticing changes in your breasts after only 2 weeks post-conception. They will feel noticeably heavier. This is due to hormonal changes.
● Fatigue – your energy may unexplainably drop off, and things that don’t normally tire you out may exhaust you. This could be due to becoming pregnant.

Chapter 2: First Trimester

During your first trimester, you may feel like your body changes the most since pregnancy is brand new to you. Your hormones are changing, and it’s important to know what to expect at each stage of your first trimester of your pregnancy.

First Trimester of Pregnancy

The first trimester of pregnancy is often when women experience the majority of the symptoms they will encounter over their next nine months. This is due to the fact that your hormones will be changing so rapidly after conception.

The first trimester of pregnancy is 12 weeks long, and during this time your baby will grow and develop quite significantly. During your first few weeks of your first trimester, you can expect drops in your energy level, tender or swollen breasts, possibly morning sickness, headaches, backaches, increase in urination, and diet aversions or cravings. These symptoms are unique to the first trimester and often disappear or diminish in later stages of pregnancy.

Week-by-Week of Your First Trimester

The following timeline is the transformation of development that your baby makes during your first trimester of pregnancy:
● Week 1: This is the first day of your last period, starting the new cycle in which you get pregnant. Though technically pregnancies are 40 weeks long, you only carry the baby for 38 weeks.
● Week 2: Ovulation occurs, and this is the most fertile time to get pregnant.
● Week 3: Wait to see if conception happened this week.
● Week 4: A pregnancy test shows positive results – you’re pregnant! You could be feeling PMS symptoms, like cramps and bloating, as well as the previously mentioned early signs of pregnancy – morning sickness, fatigue, backaches, mood swings, etc.
● Week 5: The organs of your baby are already beginning to develop. The heart is pumping blood, and arm and leg buds appear. You may start to experience brain fog, known as “pregnancy brain”.
● Week 6: The baby’s neural tube that will become the spine begins to close, which is why it is highly encouraged to take folic acid supplements before and during pregnancy. Your production of hormones is continuing to increase, which may result in nausea and fatigue, and your blood sugar will be higher than usual. Take precaution when standing up to avoid feeling dizzy.
● Week 7: The embryo doubles in size, but is still less than half an inch long. You could either be starving or very nauseous at this point, as hormones are continuing to increase in production. If you’re nauseated, try eating several small meals a day. The goal is to keep hunger at bay. Carry snacks to be prepared for unexpected hunger.
● Week 8: Your doctor can now listen to your baby’s heartbeat. Once this takes place, risk of miscarriage drops to about 2 percent. This is also the appointment that you will get assigned an official due date.
● Week 9: As your uterus continues to grow, you’ll begin to feel more and more pressure on your bladder, resulting in frequent urination. Practicing Kegels will help strengthen your uterine floor, helping to prepare your body for delivery.
● Week 10: Your baby is an inch long, and is now considered a fetus. You should start to feel your pregnancy symptoms begin to drift away, though now you may be constantly thinking about having a healthy baby. If you are 35 or older, this is the best timing to start scheduling testing for genetic conditions.
● Week 11: Your food cravings may be starting to become a rollercoaster. Your baby’s organs are almost fully developed, and the genitals start to develop now.
● Week 12: At this stage, your uterus has starting to expand beyond the pelvic bones, resulting in more of a “baby bump”.

Chapter 3: Second Trimester

In your second trimester, your body will continue to change as your baby progresses in its development. The second trimester begins at week 13, or when you are four months pregnant.

Now, you will start to feel your baby move around inside you, or “quickening”. You also might see your belly have repeated “blips”, which are your baby’s harmless hiccups.

By week 16, you will probably be well into your maternity clothes due to you expanding baby belly and widening hips. By week 27, it is normal to have gained between 16 to 22 pounds, which your baby only accounts for two of at that point.

Common symptoms that many women experience are:
● Nausea subsides – Thankfully, this unpleasant symptom of morning sickness usually starts to taper away if you experience it during your first trimester. Doctors will likely recommend that you up your intake of vitamin B6 if you are still feeling queasy at this stage in your pregnancy.
● Abdominal aches – Different from nausea, you may feel discomfort around your stomach as your uterus continues to grow and stretch.
● Fatigue – More than just being tired, you may start finding you are out of breath when you do simple activities that would never normally make you gasp for air, like walking to the bathroom. Your growing uterus is starting to crowd your lungs, making it more difficult for your air to flow in and out. Be sure to take it easy if you find this is the case for you.
● Formation of stretch marks – You can thank your growing belly for these. Most will fade into nearly invisible silver or white streaks after your baby arrives.
● Emotional changes – Your hormones are still in overdrive, and though you have had three months to adjust already, you may still experience mood swings.
● Your sex drive may return – Your body is producing plenty of estrogen, and as you begin to feel better during your fourth month of pregnancy, symptoms taper off and you may have a higher sex drive.

Second Trimester Screening – Blood test, Quad screen

During your second trimester, some testing will begin to take place when you visit the doctor to ensure the baby is healthy. The quad screen is done between 15 and 20 weeks, ideally done in conjunction with first trimester screening tests.

The quad screen test is a maternal blood screening test that looks out for the following:
● AFP: alpha-fetoprotein, a protein produced by the fetus
● hCG: human chorionic gonadotropin, a hormone produced within the placenta
● Estriol: an estrogen produced by both the fetus and placenta
● Inhibin-A: a protein created by the placenta and ovaries

The objective of the quad screen test identifies the risk for Down syndrome. All screening tests also take other factors into consideration, such as age, ethnicity, results from blood tests, etc. The result is an estimate of a person’s chances of having an abnormality. They do not diagnose it, but rather signal that further testing should be performed.

Week-by-Week Second Trimester

● Week 14: Your energy is back, and likely morning sickness is going away. You can work out if you’re up to it, but only hard enough that you can carry on a conversation without getting out of breath.
● Week 15: You enter the phase where screening and diagnostic tests are critical. Make appointments for the tests that diagnose chromosomal abnormalities and others.
● Week 16: You will start to feel your baby move. Decide whether you want to learn your baby’s sex or keep it a surprise.
● Week 17: You may start having vivid and bizarre dreams, reflecting anxiety about parenthood. Look into childbirth education classes as they fill up quickly, and can help you feel more prepared.
● Week 18: As your baby and belly grows, you will start to find a restroom more frequently. Drink plenty of liquids, but limit them toward bedtime to get a good night’s rest.
● Week 19: Your sex drive may return once you are feeling better.
● Week 20: This is the halfway point of your pregnancy term. You will start wanting to nest. Preparing for your baby is easiest to do while you are feeling energetic.
● Week 21: If you’re beyond the age of 35, have chronic high blood pressure or have diabetes, you may be at risk for preeclampsia. Watch out for signs and call your doctor if you experience swelling in your face and hands, sudden weight gain, headache, nausea or vomiting, or vision changes.
● Week 22: Your fetus weighs nearly a pound. Keep consuming fluids, as constipation may develop at this stage.
● Week 23: This is when your doctor will advise you to stay away from flying or long-distance travel. This is not so much of a safety issue as it is a proximity to your doctor issue.
● Week 24: Schedule an appointment for gestational diabetes, which includes a glucose screening. This is typically done between 24 and 28 weeks.
● Week 25: Leg cramps and heartburn may turn up. Tums are baby-safe and will help keep heartburn at bay. Be sure to stretch and switch positions often to avoid leg cramping.
● Week 26: Your fetus’s eyes are now open and begin to blink. If you are returning to work, it’s wise to start looking into childcare since they fill up so fast.
● Week 27: You will begin to gain about one pound per week from here on out. Be sure to eat whole foods to stay healthy.

Chapter 4: Third Trimester

The third trimester of pregnancy begins at week 28, or at six months of your pregnancy term. You will be well on your way to building your nest at this point, as the instinctual urge to “nest” will have kicked in during the second trimester, and the idea of parenthood may be becoming very tangible to you as your delivery approaches.

Babies can now blink their eyes, have eyelashes, are developing fingernails and toenails, and have some hair. Not to mention, they will be adding billions of neurons to their brain. Your baby will spend its final trimester in utero putting on weight.

Third Trimester Symptoms

It may become harder to get quality sleep during the third trimester, as this is a common third trimester symptom. It may be hormones or nerves, but resting and doing something relaxation can help trigger your body’s natural desire to sleep.

Other common third trimester symptoms are:
● Growing fatigue – you are carrying an extra 20 to 30 pounds at this point, and your expanding uterus has shifted your organs in your body. You will likely need to slow down in the third trimester, but keeping your energy up is important. Move around and do small amounts of exercise.
● Back pain – Your posture may be distorted with such a big baby bump. Pelvic tilts, under-the-belly support garments, and sleeping on your back may help relieve this discomfort.
● Nausea or upset stomach – You may feel these symptoms at the increase in estrogen production right before labor.
● Dizziness – This could be due to standing too quickly, lying down for too long, not eating frequently enough, being too hot, or having low levels of iron in your blood. Be slow when making what would normally be sudden movements.

Week-by-Week Third Trimester

● Week 28: You’re now six months pregnant, and possibly experiencing shortness of breath, aches, trouble sleeping, and Braxton Hicks contractions (small contractions that occur as your body gets ready for labor).
● Week 29: At the size of an acorn squash, your baby will likely be moving around quite a bit. Your baby is about 2.5 pounds.
● Week 30: At this point, your baby bump is big and noticeable. Braxton Hicks contractions are common at this stage, and often happen after exercise or sex, or when you’re tired or dehydrated. Relax often during your thirtieth week. You should have gained between 18 and 25 pounds by week 30.
● Week 31: Now, all five of the baby’s senses are fully developed. Your senses, on the other hand, may feel a bit foggy. “Pregnancy brain” starts to kick in, but can largely be attributed to having so much on your mind with your baby coming so soon.
● Week 32: Your baby’s arrival could happen early, so it’s wise to be prepared for the hospital. Inform your health insurance about your new arrival coming soon, and figure out how to install a car seat. The fetus has turned into the head-down position, ready for delivery.
● Week 33: Feeling overheated on top of your other symptoms is not uncommon at this phase of your third trimester. Reading up on postpartum care and stocking the medicine cabinet with new mom care supplies is a good way to pass this final month until your baby arrives.
● Week 34: The size of a butternut squash, the baby is measuring at around 4.7 pounds.
● Week 35: You are truly in the waiting game. Try not to stress, as the baby will come when he or she is ready. Make sure you have a safe place for the baby to sleep and the car seat in the car for the ride home, and basic needs are met.
● Week 36: Re-read your childbirth class materials and practice your breathing techniques. You should have an easier time breathing as the baby starts to drop, but at the same time, increased pelvic discomfort.
● Week 37: You are now “early term”, which means the baby will be here soon. You might experience spotting, which is normal at week 37 of pregnancy. If it is more than just spotting, be sure to call your doctor as this could be an issue with the placenta.
● Week 38: The baby is probably sitting very low now, and causing a lightning bolt-like sensation throughout your legs due to how close in proximity he or she is to your nerves. Be on the lookout for signs of labor, like strong contractions at more regular intervals, and “the bloody show”.
● Week 39: You have finally reached full term, and are likely wanting the baby to arrive already. The discomfort you start to feel at this point may be nature’s way of getting you mentally prepared for delivery.
● Week 40: Be on the lookout for water breaking, and signs of labor, as you are officially in your due date week.

Sources and Additional Readings: is the website for the magazine “Parents”, with healthy and supportive information for babies and children:

The #1 pregnancy and parenting digital destination, BabyCenter reaches more than 45 million parents a month in every corner of the globe through its 11 owned and operated properties in 9 different languages.

Fit Pregnancy shares information and advice on having a healthy pregnancy, the latest pregnancy news and research, week-by-week pregnancy updates, baby name inspiration and labor and delivery advice.

Expert advice about pregnancy and family time from the editors of Parents magazine.

Continue Reading

• Page 1 – Overview – Guide for First Time Parents: Caring for a Newborn Baby
• Page 2: Tips and Advice for First Time Parent
• Page 3: Pregnancy: Signs, Symptoms and Health
• Page 4: Birth Plan and Baby Checklist
• Page 5: Newborn Baby Care