Many expectant mothers enjoy creating an ongoing record of the changes that are taking place in their bodies during pregnancy. Whether using a week-by-week chart or mapping developments on a calendar, there are specific milestones that a woman can look for as her pregnancy progresses. Understanding what to expect during this significant time of life can help put the expectant mother’s mind at ease or alert her to symptoms that she may need to share with her physician.
During the first few weeks of pregnancy, a woman will begin experiencing many of the classic signs of pregnancy. The most obvious sign that will take place as a pregnancy begins is the cessation of the monthly period. Emotional mood swings and irritability may also be noticed. The breasts will also begin to feel very tender. Frequent urination is another early sign, as are headaches and fatigue. All of these changes are due to the dramatic shifts in hormone levels that the expectant mother is experiencing.
A pregnant woman will begin to notice weight gain during her first 13 weeks. Slow and steady weight gain over the course of the pregnancy is the healthiest approach. A doctor will be able to advise the mother-to-be as to how much weight gain is appropriate in her individual case. As a general rule, the pregnant woman will gain about 5 to 7 pounds in her first trimester, and a pound per week during weeks 14 through 40, resulting in a total gain of about 30 to 40 pounds.
Nausea is a common manifestation for many women. It may begin as early as two weeks into the pregnancy. Some women never experience this symptom. Although commonly known as “morning sickness,” nausea can in fact occur during any time of the day and is rarely limited to just the morning hours. The intensity of this symptom will vary from woman to woman, with some women feeling only mildly nauseated and others experiencing bouts of vomiting. Nausea will usually cease at around the twelfth week of pregnancy.
The baby will begin to move at around 7 weeks, but an expectant mother will most likely not feel any movement until around 16 weeks or later. The earliest kicks will feel like tiny flutters, while movement toward the final weeks of pregnancy can be quite strong. Obstetricians may ask the pregnant woman to keep track of this movement, since it can be an important indicator of the baby’s development. A lack of movement may indicate a problem.
Many women begin to notice gentle contractions near the middle of the pregnancy. These are called Braxton Hicks contractions, and they are completely normal. They are not related to premature labor but are simply natural contractions of the uterus. Toward the end of the pregnancy, these contractions may even come at a regular rhythm and are known as false labor. It’s important, however, not to disregard any contractions that occur near the end of the pregnancy. When in doubt, call a physician.
For many pregnant women, keeping a record of specific bodily changes pertaining to size is important. Taking measurements of the belly as it grows as well as creating a photographic log can document progress in a tangible way. Other physical changes to look for include enlarging breasts and feet.
Many products are available to help the expectant mother record all of these important changes. These products include calendars and log books featuring stickers, pregnancy time lines, helpful hints and places to list important telephone numbers and personal information, as well as doctor’s appointment reminders. There are also a number of books available that provide useful information about each week or even each day of the pregnancy. These books include facts on the baby’s growth and development as well as changes in the mother’s body.