Most pregnant women will agree that the moment their bump is noticeable, everyone they meet has an opinion about the size of the baby.
There you are, feeling immensely proud of your baby bump until someone comments on how big or how small it is – and then the worry creeps in.
Is the baby going to get bigger?
Have I been eating too many chocolate biscuits?
And the most important question – will the baby ‘fit’ when it’s born?
But there’s really no need to worry.
Pregnancy bellies come in many different shapes and sizes.
There are plenty of reasons why you appear to carry a small or large baby – here are 7 of them:
#1: Your height
If you’re tall and have a long abdomen, your baby has a lot of growing space. Your uterus will tend to grow upwards rather than push outwards.
Result: your belly will look smaller.
If you’re a shorter woman, there’s a smaller space between your hip and your lowest rib. That means less room for the baby to grow upwards, so your uterus will push outwards instead.
Result: your bump will show earlier and look bigger.
#2: If you’re a first-time mother-to-be
A woman having her first baby tends to have a more compact bump because the large abdominal muscles haven’t been stretched before. They are usually toned and tight, holding the baby snug and high. This can make you look smaller than you might expect at a given point in your pregnancy.
#3: Baby’s position
Babies are pretty active in the uterus. They move around and change position frequently, especially up to the end of the second trimester.
During the last trimester, babies usually favour a head-down position, but can move their backs from one side to another, or even move into a posterior position (baby’s back against mother’s back).
Your belly will change shape and size depending on the position your baby is in.
#4: You’re running out of room
When you’re housing a baby, placenta, cord and fluid, your internal organs have to fit somewhere.
As the uterus grows, the intestines can be pushed behind it, making your belly look very round and ‘all baby’. Or your intestines might move to the sides of your uterus, making your belly appear big and ‘to the sides’.
#5: Previous pregnancies alter your shape
Pregnancy stretches the abdominal muscles so that the growing baby can be accommodated. These muscles stay flexible after the birth and don’t regain their previous tone. During your next pregnancy, you might notice your bump showing much earlier and looking bigger. This doesn’t mean your baby is larger – your body has been altered by your previous pregnancy.
A woman who is very athletic and fit, and regains muscle tone between pregnancies, can appear to be ‘carrying small’ for subsequent babies. The muscles are able to hold baby quite snug and tight and her belly might appear more compact.
#6: The amount of amniotic fluid
The amount of fluid surrounding your baby can fluctuate. While too much or not enough amniotic fluid can point to problems, it’s common for the levels to change every hour or so.
In the first 20 weeks, most of the amniotic fluid is produced from your own body fluids. In later pregnancy, your baby is producing a larger amount of amniotic fluid, mainly from lung secretions and urine output.
So, depending on how pregnant you are, if you or your baby are producing plenty of fluid, your belly might alter in shape or size.
#7: Baby’s size
Okay, so it’s a bit obvious but you might actually be having a big or small baby. Genetics play an important part in the baby’s size. If both parents are tall, then the baby will probably have the same traits. If both are average size, the baby is more likely to be petite and not very long.
Babies tend to be in the same weight range as their parents, too. So if you and your partner were about 9 lbs. at birth, you’re not likely to give birth to a tiny 6 lb. bundle.
Birth order can also make a difference in how big your baby is likely to be. Subsequent babies tend to be larger at birth than their older siblings were. Boys are generally bigger at birth than girls as well … but guessing the gender of your baby from the size and shape of your belly is a whole other discussion!
The truth is, no-one can judge the size of your baby simply by looking at your belly – not even your doctor or midwife.
As your body changes at each different stage of pregnancy, you can’t compare yourself with other women. Remember, every pregnancy is unique.
Unless you have a medical condition, such as diabetes, or you’ve been suffering from severe and prolonged morning sickness (hyperemesis gravidarum), the size of your belly shouldn’t be a concern.