During pregnancy, there are three major pregnancy stages – the first trimester, the second trimester and the third trimester. Each of these stages are completely different and present a unique set of challenges, but also magical moments too! Here’s a summary of each of these pregnancy stages, broken down into trimester. If you’d like to see the stages of pregnancy week by week, you can start at week 1, here.
Pregnancy Stage 1: The First Trimester
Week 1 – week 12. This is where it all begins. In fact, for the first two weeks of pregnancy, you're not even pregnant. The pregnancy begins on the first day of your last menstrual period, although you won't conceive until ovulation occurs around week 3. Most women discover they are pregnant sometime around week 4, when they miss a period. Although a test has confirmed the pregnancy, you may not really ‘feel pregnant' until around week 6, when your hormone production accelerates further, causing changes to occur. You may notice your breasts feels tender and swollen, and you need more sleep than usual.
You may also begin to experience the dreaded nausea associated with the first trimester. As your hormones fluctuate during the first trimester, you may experience mood swings and headaches. Your uterus has already increased in size, and you may be visiting the bathroom more often as a result. The first trimester is a period of rapid development for your foetus, and you may feel exhausted as a result. Make sure you are taking 400mcg of folic acid each day, this can help to prevent your baby developing neural tube defects.
By the end of the first trimester, you are likely to be feeling very pregnant (that's a nice way of saying completely exhausted, hormonal, emotional and fed up having your head in the toilet), although to your dismay, you might not look much different to the outside world. You probably won't have a bump yet, but your clothes may be starting to look a little tight.
Pregnancy Stage 2: The Second Trimester
Week 13 – week 28. The second trimester is often seen as the kinder trimester. You may have felt like you'd been through the wars when you made it to the end of the first trimester, but now you are likely to start feeling much better. For most women, the nausea disappears around week 16, leaving you free to enjoy foods again. Most women have their first ultrasound scan towards the end of the first trimester, and by week 13 the risk of miscarriage reduces, meaning you may feel more relaxed sharing your goods news.
At around weeks 14-16, your bump may be making its grand debut – it will soon be time to invest in some maternity clothes. Make the most of your renewed energy, and engage in some light exercise at least three times a week. Swimming, yoga and walking are all great exercises during pregnancy, and will help you to stay hit for the birth. If you can manage half an hour walk each day, this will be extremely beneficial for you, both emotionally and physically.
By week 19, you may have felt your baby's first movements in the womb. These delicate flutters will only be noticeable to you at first, but within a few weeks, your partner will be able to feel them too. Over the course of the trimester, the delicate flutterings will become definite kicks as your baby grows bigger and stronger. Encourage your partner to start bonding with your bump by feeling the kicks, and talking to your bump each day. Your baby is already able to recognise your voice.
By the end of the second trimester, you may find the odd stretch mark beginning to stretch across your bump. Stretchmarks are hereditary, and there's not much you can do to avoid them, but moisturising can reduce any discomfort. Using natural moisturisers, such as organic extra virgin coconut oil, has the added benefit of being free from chemicals and irritants.
Pregnancy Stage 3: The Third Trimester
Week 29 – week 40 (and beyond). This is the home stretch, and for many, the hardest part of pregnancy. While the nausea and fatigue of the first trimester far behind you, you may now be experiencing the aches and pains of late pregnancy. During this final trimester, your baby is piling on the pounds ready for the birth. You may find sleep elusive now, as you battle with your bump, and frequently wake for bathroom breaks. Use extra pillows to support your bump in bed, and try to limit your fluid intake in the hours leading up to bedtime.
Light exercise, such as swimming, yoga and walking, can do wonders for pregnancy aches and pains, so try to stay active. Haemorrhoids are a common complaint by this stage, simply increasing your daily fibre intake can make a huge difference.
During the third trimester, you will probably be tying up loose ends. Painting the nursery, buying last minute baby items and making sure you've finished all your big projects at work, will be amongst the tasks taking priority. As the big day draws near, you should think about the type of birth you want. Of course, there are no guarantees, but it's also worth writing a birth plan to share with your healthcare provider. Having your hospital bag packed and keep it with you in the weeks leading up to your due date.
Heartburn and indigestion are common complaints of this trimester. Try to avoid eating spicy foods, and be sure to stay upright immediately after eating to reduce symptoms. Your growing uterus will reach up to your ribcage this trimester, and you may notice little feet sticking into your ribs throughout the day. Your enlarged uterus may be putting pressure on your already-squeezed-in-bladder, and you may spend half of your day walking to and from the toilet. Your weight gain may slow during the last month of pregnancy, as your baby's weight gain reduces slightly. Sometime around week 36, your baby will ‘drop' in preparation for the birth, this is known as ‘lightening', and you should find yourself better able to breathe from now on. You may also notice a reduction in the symptoms of heartburn and indigestion too, although to counter this, you may find yourself making extra trips to the bathroom.
As you crawl towards the finish line, it may feel that the pregnancy will never end. But, eventually, it will, and then all of your pregnancy complaints will be a distant memory as you gaze at the newborn baby in your arms.