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You’re expecting — and you couldn’t be more excited. Your symptoms are impossible to ignore — especially the morning sickness — but you may have questions about when your pregnancy status will become obvious to everyone else.
The good news if you’re not quite ready to announce your pregnancy to the world is that it’ll be a while before you start showing — but you might not have as much time as you think. Every body is different, and so is every pregnancy.
Let’s take a closer look at the bump timeline and factors that can contribute to when you’ll notice a growing belly in pregnancy.
It might come as a surprise, but the number of pregnancies you’ve had can affect how early you start showing.
Typically, though, you won’t have a baby bump in your first trimester — especially if it’s your first pregnancy. You’ll likely notice the first signs of a bump early in the second trimester, between weeks 12 and 16.
You might start showing closer to 12 weeks if you are a person of lower weight with a smaller midsection, and closer to 16 weeks if you’re a person with more weight.
If you’ve been pregnant before, don’t be surprised if you start showing earlier. Actually, it’s not uncommon to develop a baby bump in the first trimester after your first pregnancy.
A previous pregnancy can stretch your stomach muscles, and sometimes, these muscles don’t return to their original size. Because of this change, a baby bump might appear earlier.
If you’re expecting twins or higher-order multiples, you could also possibly start to show before the end of your first trimester. Your uterus must grow larger to accommodate more than one baby. So whereas someone expecting a singleton may not show until after 3 or 4 months, you might show as early as 6 weeks.
Whether it’s your first pregnancy or your second pregnancy, you may feel that you’re showing much sooner than other people you know. Maybe you’re putting on weight around 6 to 8 weeks — which in your mind is quite early.
One plausible explanation for an early bump, though, could be abdominal bloating. An increase in hormones can cause your body to retain fluid. So what you believe to be all baby bump may actually be a bloated stomach. Drinking plenty of water, eating more fiber, and eating smaller meals might curb bloating.
Also, the shape of your uterus affects how soon you start showing. If your uterus tilts toward your back, it could take longer to show during those early months of pregnancy. And if your uterus tilts towards the front, you may show much earlier.
Diastasis recti is another possible explanation for showing early. This is when the mid-abdominal muscles separate and create a bulge. This bulge can give the appearance of an early baby bump.
Keep in mind that body weight also determines when a baby bump appears. Someone with a smaller waistline will likely show sooner.
And finally, you may appear to show early if you received an incorrect due date. If you’re concerned that you’re getting too much of a bump too fast, talk with your doctor. You might be further along in your pregnancy than you realize.
Baby bump progression also varies from person to person. As a general timeline, though, your baby will be about the size of a lemon at 12 weeks. Your uterus gets bigger to accommodate, so you’ll start to notice a small bump, although it may not be evident to others.
As you approach week 16, your baby might be as big as an avocado. And by weeks 20 (banana) and 24 (cantaloupe), you’ll likely notice real changes.
Once you enter your third trimester at 28 weeks, your baby will be the size of an eggplant, and the size of a pineapple at week 35. When your due date approaches, your baby can be as big as a watermelon! Keeping in mind that your body is also holding amniotic fluid and extra fat needed to nourish baby, by this point you’ll likely have a very full-looking belly.
Are you ready to show off your baby bump — or do you want to hide it a little longer? Either way, here are a few tips and tricks to adjust to your changing body.
Hiding the bump
You might start showing well before you’re ready to make an announcement. To keep your special news a secret longer, you best bet at this point is to wear loose-fitting clothes, especially dresses, blouses, and shirts that don’t hug your belly.
You can also wear jackets or sweaters when around people. The thickness of the material can help conceal a growing bump.
Dealing with the awkward in-between stage
As your baby bump grows, you may hit an awkward stage. And if you’re at that stage where you don’t fit maternity pants yet, but your regular pants don’t fit either, use a ponytail holder or rubber band at the button and loop closure to give yourself a little more room in your pants.
Here’s what to do: Leave the top button of your pants (or jeans) unhooked. Loop one end of the ponytail holder around the button, and then feed the other end through the hole on the other side of the pants.
After pulling the other end through the hole, loop it around the button too. This way, you can comfortably wear your regular pants for at least a few more weeks. Just wear a long shirt to conceal the fact that you didn’t button your pants.
Another option is to leave your pants unbuttoned and place a belly band around the waistband.
As you get bigger, sleeping and bending over can become uncomfortable, too. When bending over, grab hold of a chair or table to support yourself, and then squat with your knees. This makes it easier to pick up items, and you avoid falling backwards.
Feeling body positive about a growing bump
As excited as you are, a growing baby bump might also make you feel self-conscious. Here are a few tips to boost your confidence:
- Don’t weigh yourself. If you’re self-conscious about your weight, constantly weighing yourself can make you feel worse. Fight the urge to get on the scale. If you’re tempted, get rid of it. Regular weigh-ins at your OB-GYN’s office will inform your doctor all’s on track — and you don’t have to know the number, if you don’t want to!
- Don’t neglect maternity fashion. Let’s be honest: We often feel good when we look good. So rather than settle on a maternity style consisting of old baggy jeans and old, worn out T-shirts, treat yourself to some chic, yet affordable maternity clothes. Embrace your baby bump and your inner fashionista.
- Get your hair and makeup done. Along with embracing maternity fashion, you might feel better with a little pampering. Treat yourself and your beautiful pregnancy hair (which often becomes thicker during this time) to a professional styling and show off that pregnancy glow!
- Believe others when they say you’re beautiful. These aren’t pity compliments. So even if you don’t feel the prettiest, believe those who say otherwise.
- Exercise. Working out isn’t only an energy booster and a bloat blaster — it can also release endorphins, which are feel-good hormones. This can improve your mental outlook, increase your confidence, and help you feel better about your changing body. (Not to mention, appropriate exercise is healthy for you and baby during pregnancy.)
Be aware that at some point during your pregnancy, others might touch your belly without an invitation, including strangers.
You might not take issue with family touching your growing baby bump. But to discourage others, hold a large purse or a jacket directly in front of your stomach. With your stomach covered, they might be less inclined to reach for it.
Or if you suspect that someone is about to touch your belly, discreetly step back a few feet, or turn your body away from them. If this doesn’t work, there’s nothing wrong with being honest and saying you’re uncomfortable being touched.
Even though every woman is different, you might have concerns if you’re not showing yet. Understandably, you want to have a healthy baby and pregnancy. But showing a little later doesn’t typically indicate a problem.
Remember, uterus position and shape, frame size, and fitness level prior to pregnancy can all contribute to when you show. And some people just never appear “very” pregnant. If this is you, you may be hearing scary comments from others — comments you shouldn’t have to endure. Trust your OB’s guidance, and not what you see in the mirror, when it comes to the health of your pregnancy.
It’s also possible that you simply have a smaller baby, although still healthy. If you have any concerns, though, speak with your doctor.
Going from no baby bump to a large belly can be exciting, but a bit awkward at times. The important thing to remember is that everyone starts to show at different times. Bumps can develop later with a first pregnancy, and earlier with a second pregnancy or if you’re expecting twins.
If you have any concerns about bump progression, see your doctor. And enjoy your changing body — as many parents will tell you, this is a special time that in hindsight, goes by so fast.
For more pregnancy guidance and weekly tips tailored to your due date, sign up for our I’m Expecting newsletter.