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Illustration by Alyssa Kiefer

Pregnancy is an exciting time of big life changes, new experiences, and the glow of new life. It’s also a time when your body goes through lots of transformations.

Here is an outline of what changes you can expect to experience as your pregnancy progresses, as well as guidance on when to schedule doctor appointments and tests.

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Illustration by Alyssa Kiefer | Infographic by Maya Chastain

Your pregnancy due date (expected day of delivery) is calculated by adding 280 days (40 weeks) to the first day of your last menstrual period.

The fetus begins developing at the time of conception, and your body begins producing pregnancy hormones.

As soon as you find out you’re pregnant, it’s time to cut out any unhealthy habits and start taking prenatal vitamins. You may also want to take folic acid supplements, which are important for fetal brain development.

Before the end of your first trimester, select a doctor or midwife who you’ll see throughout your pregnancy.

Here’s a breakdown of what you can expect. Note that every pregnancy is different and your experience may vary.

What to expect in the first trimester

  • If you haven’t already, it’s time to start a healthy eating plan, taking prenatal vitamins, and stopping any unhealthy habits, such as smoking.
  • Early on, your egg is fertilized and implanting in your uterus. You may experience mild cramping and extra vaginal discharge.
  • You might begin experiencing symptoms like breast tenderness, tiredness, and nausea.
  • Eventually, morning sickness may be in full swing.
  • Schedule your first prenatal doctor visit — usually during weeks 8 to 12. Your doctor may do several tests. They’ll also talk to you about lifestyle habits and genetic testing.
  • Between weeks 8 and 10, your uterus will start growing, your breasts are tender, and your body is producing more blood.
  • You’ll eventually begin to gain a few pounds.
  • Dark patches on your face and neck, called chloasma or the mask of pregnancy, might also start to appear later in the trimester.
  • Your breasts will start getting larger later in the trimester as the first stages of breast milk, called colostrum, begin to fill them.
Healthline

Your body changes a lot throughout your second trimester. Going from feeling excited to overwhelmed is not unusual.

Your doctor or midwife will see you once every 4 weeks to measure the baby’s growth, check the heartbeat, and perform blood or urine tests to make sure that you and the baby are healthy.

By the end of your second trimester, your belly has grown significantly, and people have started to notice that you’re pregnant.

What to expect in the second trimester

  • It’s time to break out those maternity clothes (if you haven’t already).
  • Your doctor may suggest a blood test for genetic disorders, called a maternal serum screen or quad screen.
  • If you have a family history of genetic defects, like Down syndrome, cystic fibrosis, or spina bifida, your doctor may recommend additional testing.
  • By this time you’ve probably gone up a bra size or two.
  • You may start to feel like your allergies are acting up a bit midway through the trimester.
  • About halfway through, an ultrasound can tell you the baby’s sex.
  • For many people, these weeks are enjoyable, with only small discomforts. You may notice some acne.
  • You may want to look into birthing classes.
  • Some trouble sleeping at night may happen due to normal pregnancy discomforts like urinating often, heartburn, and leg cramps.
  • Your doctor will likely schedule a blood sugar test between weeks 24 and 28 to see if you have gestational diabetes.
  • By the later weeks in the trimester, your baby may be about 13 inches long and weigh 2 pounds.
  • In the final weeks of your second trimester, you may have gained about 16 to 22 pounds.
Healthline

You’re almost there! You’ll begin to gain significant weight during your third trimester as your baby continues to grow.

As you begin to approach labor, your doctor or midwife may also do a physical exam to see if your cervix is thinning or beginning to open.

Your healthcare provider may recommend a nonstress test to check on the baby if you don’t go into labor by your due date.

If you or the baby are at risk, labor may be induced using medication, or in an emergency situation doctors may perform a cesarean delivery.

What to expect in the third trimester

  • Welcome to your third trimester! You’re feeling the baby move a lot now and you might be asked by the doctor to keep track of your baby’s activity levels.
  • Doctor visits become more frequent now — about twice a month.
  • You may start to notice discomforts like constipation and hemorrhoids.
  • The hormones your body is making at this stage cause your joints to loosen. In some women, this means your feet can grow a whole shoe size larger!
  • Midway through the trimester, you might experience some leaking. As your body prepares for labor, you may start having Braxton-Hicks (false) contractions.
  • Near the end of the trimester, your body has about 40 to 50 percent more blood!
  • You may be feeling very tired at this point, from trouble sleeping and other normal pregnancy aches and pains.
  • Your belly button may eventually be tender or have turned into an “outie.” You might also feel short of breath as your uterus presses against your rib cage.
  • As you reach the home stretch, you’ll have weekly visits to your healthcare provider until you deliver.
  • Around week 37 or so, you may pass your mucus plug, which blocks your cervix to keep out unwanted bacteria. Losing the plug means you’re one step closer to labor.
  • Tell your doctor if you notice extreme swelling in your hands, feet, or ankles, because this could be a sign of pregnancy-caused high blood pressure.
  • By the end of the trimester, your cervix should be getting ready for birth by thinning and opening. Braxton-Hicks contractions may get more intense as labor gets closer.
  • As the trimester comes to an end, you’ll have made it! If you haven’t had your baby yet, they’ll likely arrive around week 40.
Healthline

  • Avoid smoking. Quitting smoking is the single most preventable cause of illness and death among mothers and infants.
  • Avoid alcohol consumption. When you drink alcohol, so does your developing baby. There is no known safe amount of alcohol to drink while pregnant.
  • Avoid marijuana. The chemicals in marijuana pass through your system to your baby and can harm their development.
  • Learn the ins and outs of a healthy pregnancy eating plan. Protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and more are essential.
  • Take 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day. Folic acid can help prevent some major birth abnormalities.
  • Seek help for depression. Depression is common and treatable. If you think you have depression, seek treatment from your health care provider as soon as possible.
  • Talk to your doctor about traveling. Traveling might cause problems during pregnancy, particularly air travel later in pregnancy, so discuss your options with your doctor.
  • See your doctor before starting or stopping any medication. If you are planning to become pregnant, discuss your current medicines with your doctor, midwife, or pharmacist.
  • Get up to date on all of your vaccines. This will help protect you and your developing baby against serious diseases.
  • Get a flu shot. The flu is more likely to cause severe illness in pregnant women than in women of reproductive age who are not pregnant.
  • Try to reach a weight that is healthy for you before getting pregnant. Having obesity increases the risk for serious birth abnormalities and other pregnancy complications.
  • Learn about the benefits of breastfeeding. Consider taking a class to help you prepare.