The Only Pregnancy Guide You’ll Ever Need: Month-By-Month Baby Development
What Are The 5 Signs Of Pregnancy?
The most common signs of pregnancy are a missed period, tender breasts, morning sickness, mood swings, and fatigue. Read more about pregnancy symptoms here.
What Week Do Pregnancy Symptoms Start?
Most women suspect a pregnancy after a missed period, usually around four weeks after your last period. Before that, you may already have mood swings, tender breasts, nausea, and fatigue but may have associated it with PMS symptoms.
What Part Of The Breasts Hurt In Early Pregnancy?
Your breasts and nipples may feel tender or full, like when you’re about to have your period. Breast changes are common during the early weeks of pregnancy, which often decrease after the first trimester. Breast and nipple tenderness may come back on and off throughout your pregnancy to prepare for breastfeeding. (1)
How Does The Stomach Feel In Early Pregnancy?
Pregnant women may experience mild abdominal cramps with or without light bleeding during early pregnancy. This happens as the uterus expands to accommodate your growing baby. (2)
How Can You Tell If You’re Pregnant Without A Missed Period?
Without a missed period or other symptoms of pregnancy, taking a pregnancy test is the only way to confirm a pregnancy. According to the Office on Women’s Health, home pregnancy tests are 99% accurate (as accurate as a qualitative hCG blood test done at a doctor’s office.) (3)
What Are Some Unusual Signs Of Early Pregnancy?
Hormonal changes and increased blood volume can cause discomforts, including: (4)
- Metal-like taste in the mouth
- Strange dreams
- Increased saliva
- Sensitive teeth and gums
- Back pain
- Larger feet
- Loud snoring
- Varicose & spider veins
- Increased sweat
Early Prenatal Care
If you suspect a pregnancy, consider taking a pregnancy test to confirm. This will allow you to get proper prenatal care and ensure a healthy pregnancy.
Schedule a visit to an OB-GYN or a midwife. Prenatal visits usually include physical exams, blood tests, and ultrasound exams, depending on your pregnancy stage.
If it’s not a high-risk pregnancy, your doctor will set a monthly checkup from months 1-7, then every two weeks from months 7-8. On the last month of your pregnancy, your doctor will set a weekly checkup until you give birth. (5)
Regular prenatal checkups can help:
1. Minimize Risks Of Pregnancy Complications.
During your regular checkups, your doctor will encourage you to eat healthily, stay hydrated, stay active by practicing pregnancy-safe exercises, take prenatal vitamins, and avoid harmful substances like alcohol, tobacco, and recreational drugs.
2. Minimize Risks Of Fetal Complications.
Cigarette smoking (even secondhand smoke) and alcohol consumption during pregnancy increase the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. (6)
Additionally, alcohol consumption increases the risk for fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. These disorders can cause malformed facial features, underdeveloped head, intellectual disability, poor brain functions like coordination and memory, and complications with the bones, kidneys, and heart. (6)
Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders and other long-term fetal problems can occur even with low alcohol consumption during pregnancy. (6)
The Importance Of Taking Prenatal Vitamins
Taking 400 micrograms of folic acid daily can reduce the risk of neural tube abnormalities by 70%. A neural tube forms the brain and the spine. (6)
Medications & Ingredients To Avoid During Pregnancy
- Acne Treatments
Isotretinoin, tazarotene, and spironolactone acne medications have been found to cause serious congenital disabilities when used by pregnant women. (7)
- Excessive Or Unsafe Dietary Supplements
Higher-than-normal doses of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K can be toxic for pregnant women. Expecting mamas should follow the medical advice of their health care provider and only take the prescribed prenatal vitamins. Clear any additional supplements with your doctor. (8)
- Herbal Supplements
Herbal supplements are unregulated by the government. The ingredients, dosage, production, packaging, effectiveness, and side effects of these supplements are unknown, which can be dangerous to a pregnant woman and her developing baby. (8)
Minimize your caffeine consumption during pregnancy because it can increase the risk of miscarriage or low birthweight. (9)
Daily caffeine intake shouldn’t be more than 200 mg for pregnant women, which is equivalent to 2 mugs of instant coffee. (10)
If you decide to take postpartum supplements, choose products that state their adherence to CGMP (Current Good Manufacturing Practices) regulated by the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration.)
CGMP assures the quality of drug products to help prevent risk factors like contamination and ingredient mix-ups. (11)
What To Expect: A Month-By-Month Guide
The placenta and your baby’s early facial features develop during this time.
After the fourth week, the “heart” beats 65 times per minute. (12)
Measures: 1/4 inch long, smaller than a grain of rice.
Morning sickness, tender breasts, food aversions, frequent urination, and fatigue are common in the first month.
You will undergo a pregnancy test, an internal pelvic exam, a pap smear, and blood and urine tests at your prenatal checkup. Your height, weight, and blood pressure will be checked, and prenatal vitamins will be prescribed. You will also be asked to complete a comprehensive family medical history. (13)
Your baby’s facial features, ears, arms, legs, fingers, and toes are developing at this time.
The brain and nervous system are well developed while the digestive tract, sensory organs, and bones begin to develop.
Heartbeats are usually detected around six weeks. (12)
Measures: About one inch long or the size of a cherry.
Morning sickness, food aversions, fatigue, and mood swings are common.
Your weight gain and blood pressure will be monitored, and your urine will be tested for infection and blood for anemia and HIV. You will undergo an internal pelvic exam and a pap smear if you hadn’t last month, and you may also have genetic testing. (14)
All organs and extremities of your baby are now formed. The fetus can also open and close their fists and mouth, and the teeth are starting to form under the gums. The urinary and circulatory systems and liver are functioning.
Although the reproductive organ is developing, the gender can’t be seen on an ultrasound yet. (12)
What’s more, since you and your baby got past the critical development stage, the possibility of miscarriage drops to 2-4% at the end of the third month. (15)
Measures: Four inches long, the size of a plum.
As your body adjusts to hormone changes, you may feel less nauseous and moody, and your appetite may return, resulting in food cravings. You may also notice your lower abdomen expanding.
You may hear your baby’s heartbeat for the first time this month. On top of the routine weight gain and blood pressure monitoring, you can have (CVS) chorionic villus sampling done to detect genetic disorders. (16)
You’re now entering the second trimester. Your baby’s fingers, toes, nails, hair, eyelids, eyelashes, and eyebrows are well-formed, and the bones and teeth are denser. The fetus can now make faces, stretch, suck their thumb, and even yawn.
After the fourth month, the nervous system begins to function. The gender can also be seen on an ultrasound. (12)
Measures: Six inches long, the size of an avocado.
Weighs: Four ounces
Your symptoms usually subside as your hormones stabilize. You may feel less nauseous, energetic even! You may also feel less moody, although heartburn may develop with your uterus rising in your abdomen.
After four months, you may start to feel your baby’s movements like butterflies in your stomach.
All routine monitoring will continue in addition to fetal heartbeat and size. An ultrasound to check fetal age and the (AFP) alpha-fetoprotein test may be given to check for neural defects. Your doctor may also offer an amniocentesis test to check for abnormal chromosomes. (17)
Your baby continues to build muscle as lanugo, or soft fine hair, covers the shoulders, back, and temples to protect the fetus. Vernix caseosa or a whitish coating now covers your baby’s skin which is thought to protect it from long exposure to the amniotic fluid. (12)
Measures: Ten inches long, the size of a banana.
Weighs: About a pound
With your uterus expanding and your appetite back on track, you may have gained 5-15 pounds by this month. Carrying the extra weight may also cause fatigue. Some pregnant mamas also experience constipation, bloating, and forgetfulness, aka “mom brain.” Your belly button may begin to pop out, too.
Routine monitoring continues this month. An ultrasound may reveal your baby’s designated gender and any anomaly in fetal development. (18)
Your baby’s finger and toe prints are now visible, and the eyes start to open. The skin still looks translucent, but the fetus can already respond to sounds and can even hiccup.
Premature babies born in this month can survive with intensive care. (12)
Measures: 12 inches long, as long as an ear of corn.
Weighs: Around two pounds
Your belly will start to feel itchy as the skin stretches. Some also experience hypertension, headache, constipation, heartburn, bleeding gums, nosebleeds, leg cramps, swollen ankles and feet, varicose veins, hemorrhoids, and fatigue from carrying those extra weights.
Routine monitoring will continue at your prenatal checkup, and you may also be tested for gestational diabetes. (19)
Your baby’s hearing is now well-developed and may respond to sound, light, and pain by frequently moving and changing positions. The fetus also continues to develop body fat reserves. (12)
Measures: About 14 inches long, the size of kabocha squash.
Weighs: Around 2-4 pounds
Your hip joints are softening in preparation for birth, and your growing belly is putting pressure on your pelvis, causing it to get wider. A wider pelvis causes you to waddle while walking. (20)
You may also experience cramping on your hands and feet and may start having Braxton Hicks contractions when the abdomen tightens and contracts to help the cervix prepare for birth. (21)
From monthly, your prenatal checkups are now set for every two weeks. In addition to monitoring your blood pressure, weight, and urine, your baby’s development, and position will be checked as well. If your blood type is Rh-negative, you may be given a Rhogam shot to prevent complications. (21)
Almost there, mama! As you enter the third trimester, your baby may be kicking more often. The brain is also fast developing, with most internal organs and systems already functioning. The lungs may need more time to develop, but your baby continues to grow and reserve body fat. (12)
Measures: Around 18 inches long or the size of a napa cabbage.
Weighs: About 5 pounds
Most pregnant women gain a pound a week. Now at eight months into your pregnancy, you may experience more intense heartburn, indigestion, and pressure on your lungs, organs, or pelvis. Stretch marks may also appear, and Braxton Hicks contractions may come more often.
The routine monitoring will continue, and your baby’s heartbeat, development, and size will be checked. Another ultrasound test may be requested to confirm your baby’s position, which should be head down by the end of the eighth month. (22)
Your baby is almost ready to meet you, mama! The lungs are almost fully developed, and your baby can now blink, grasp, move the head, and respond to light, sounds, and touch. (12)
Measures: 17-19 inches long, as big as a head of romaine lettuce.
Weighs: 5.5-6.5 pounds
As your baby descends into your pelvis and away from your lungs, you may breathe a little easier. However, sleeping may become a little more difficult because of the size of your tummy.
Anxiety about your baby’s birth is also common. Some pregnant mamas also develop a nesting instinct to prepare the home for the baby’s arrival.
You are now scheduled for weekly prenatal checkups where all routine monitoring will continue. On average, expecting mamas gain 35 pounds from the start of their pregnancy up to the final weeks and may lose a pound or two once labor approaches.
Your doctor may check if your cervix is ripe and dilating by doing an internal examination. Also, your vagina and rectum may be tested for (GBS) group b streptococcus disease, which can be fatal and causes severe infection in newborns. (23)(24)
Contrary to popular belief, full-term pregnancy is 39-40 weeks, which takes a pregnant woman into the tenth month. Some women even go past their due date, which is considered late-term (41 weeks) and post-term (42 weeks onwards.) (12)
Congratulations, you made it, mama! Your baby is now ready for the outside world.
In these final weeks, you’re expected to go into labor at any time. Your baby may be moving less since there’s not much room inside your womb and may already be in the head-first position to prepare for birth. (12)
Your baby may have dropped further into your pelvis, making it very uncomfortable for you. If you’re past your due date and didn’t go into spontaneous labor, your healthcare provider may induce you with medications to help make you go into labor. (12)
15 Warning Signs Of Pregnancy: What To Look Out For & When To Call Your Doctor
- Excessive vomiting
- Painful urination
- Blurred vision
- Persistent dizziness
- Severe stomach pain
- Severe backaches
- Muscle spasms
- Frequent severe headaches
- Swelling of the face, hands, and feet
- Vaginal bleeding or fluid leaking
- Reduced fetal movements after 28 weeks
- Premature contractions before 37 weeks of pregnancy that occur every 10 minutes or more often
- Thinking about harming yourself or your baby (25)
Dos And Don’ts While Pregnant
- Work on your birth plan.
- Take folic acid and vitamin D to support your baby’s brain, bones, and muscle development.
- Eat plenty of eggs to keep up your choline levels.
- Make sure your iron levels are optimal.
- Don’t forget about the importance of fish oil and omega-3’s.
- Practice prenatal exercises.
- Mind what and how much you eat. Keeping your body healthy keeps your baby healthy.
- Stay hydrated.
- Track your baby’s movements, especially from week 24. If your baby is moving less, call your doctor immediately.
- Sleep on your side to reduce the risk of stillbirth, especially in the third trimester. (26)
- Take care of your mental health.
- Manage your stress by meditating.
- Practice self-compassion as your body grows and changes.
- Gather health information about pregnancy-safe vaccinations to boost your antibodies that can be passed on to your baby, including cough, flu, and COVID-19 vaccines.
- Always carry your pregnancy documents to guide health professionals in an emergency.
- Remember the warning signs of pregnancy listed above.
- Smoke tobacco, drink alcohol, or take recreational drugs.
- Consume more than 200 mg or two cups of coffee a day. (10)
- Engage in contact sports or scuba diving. (26)
Common Pregnancy Risks
Refers to pregnancy with increased health risks for the mother, her child, or both.
Or a tubal pregnancy that often occurs in a fallopian tube rather than in the uterus.
A weak cervix that causes premature birth or miscarriage.
Happens when regular contractions open your cervix between weeks 21-36, which may cause premature birth.
Preeclampsia is defined as a sudden increase in blood pressure. If not controlled, eclampsia can develop, which includes seizures. These can be fatal or pose serious complications for the mother and her baby.
Twins, triplets, or more which requires extra prenatal care.
Factors That Affect You And Your Baby’s Health
Maternal age of 35 years and above alone poses a risk for preterm delivery, congenital disabilities, or miscarriage. (27)
Maternal Weight Gain/Obesity
Increases the risk for preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, and C-section delivery. (28)
May cause low birth weight, preterm birth, and a slower postpartum recovery rate. (29)
Folic Acid Deficiency
May cause serious congenital disabilities on the spine, spinal cord, or brain and may even cause death. (30)
Can lead to preeclampsia. (31)
May put fetal development at risk. (32)
May compromise fetal brain development. (33)
5 Birth Control Methods
1. Ligation Or Vasectomy
Permanent birth control methods that require medical procedures.
2. LARCs (Long-Acting Reversible Contraceptives)
Once inserted by a doctor, IUDs or intrauterine devices and hormonal implants can prevent pregnancy for ten years and three years, respectively.
3. Short-Acting Contraceptions
Require a medical prescription and should be taken daily (pills, mini-pills), attached weekly (patch), inserted weekly (vaginal ring), and administered by a doctor every three months (shot.)
4. Barrier Contraceptions
Condoms, sponge, cervical cap, diaphragms which you use before having sexual intercourse.
5. Calendar Methods
Using apps or home kits to monitor your ovulation and fertility, then avoiding sexual intercourse or only using birth control on the days when you’re most likely to get pregnant. (34)
(24) CDC Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Group B Strep. https://www.cdc.gov/groupbstrep/index.html