Written by: Cally Worden
When I fell pregnant with my first child I knew absolutely nothing. Pregnancy jargon was like a foreign language to me. The word ‘Trimester’ sounded mythical, strange and complicated. I quickly discovered that it’s actually a straightforward description for the three distinct phases of pregnancy. In the normal scheme of things, a full-term pregnancy will last anything from 37-42 weeks. Each trimester lasts for 12-14 of those weeks. For those new to the baby-game here’s a little of what you need to know about each stage.
First Trimester – Weeks 1-13
In many respects this is the period when your body goes through most of its pregnancy changes. And yet your body will not necessarily ‘look’ pregnant at all. It’s all happening on the inside. Weeks 1-2 are actually the time before the ovulation event that results in conception. So, for the first 2 weeks of your first trimester you are not actually pregnant at all.
But from the moment conception occurs it’s all change. Your hormone levels alter significantly to accommodate a growing foetus. And your womb adapts to support the growth of both your baby, and the placenta. More blood is produced by your body to ensure your baby gets the right amount of oxygen and nutrients. Your heart rate increases to ensure that all the new stuff is pumped effectively to where it is needed.
Naturally, all this is a bit of a shock to your body. As a result you may experience, among other things, morning sickness, headaches, fatigue and constipation.
In terms of the development of your baby, the first trimester is the most crucial. By week 13 your baby will have developed all of its organs and will basically resemble a miniature person, ready to grow. The growth of all these vital body parts requires Mum to have good nutrition, rest, and preferably a toxin-free body – so smoking and drinking are out and should remain out for the rest of your pregnancy.
Second Trimester – Weeks 14-27
Most women will tell you that the second trimester was the most comfortable time for them. It is a time when the body has adjusted to the shock of the initial changes. Although your baby is growing rapidly he is not yet too big to start making your feel uncomfortable. Morning sickness for most women will reduce or disappear altogether; some fortunate souls experience a baby bloom, which makes them look and feel bright and vibrant.
The fatigue of the early weeks should diminish for a while, you will feel the magical first movements of your baby inside. Your baby bump will now become more apparent, by the end of this trimester your baby will have quadrupled in size from week 13. A few new pregnancy symptoms can begin as your body copes with the increasing size of your baby – leg cramps, indigestion and heart burn are common complaints.
Third Trimester – Week 28-Birth
During the first two trimesters you probably have only seen your doctor or midwife once each month. By then, you normally would of had two scans – one at week 13, the other around weeks 20-22 – to check on the progress of your growing baby, also to monitor them for any visible abnormalities. Towards the end of the third trimester your contact with the midwife will become more frequent. Various tests may be ordered to:
- check your urine for the presence of protein
- monitor your blood pressure
- keep a check on the heart-rate of your baby
- measure your uterus
- keep an eye on areas of your body that may become swollen, such as the legs and ankles
Your midwife will also want to keep a check on your baby’s position, she may also need to examine you internally to check the condition of your cervix.
If you haven’t already been reading up on the process of labour and birth then now is the time to start. Enrolling in an ante-natal class can help prepare you and your partner for what lies ahead. Giving birth is an amazing but scary thing – understanding as much as possible before labour begins will help you through the process with confidence.