What are the Pregnancy stages
Pregnancy is a wonderful stage of a woman’s life, but, as the pregnancy progresses, many questions about what changes and symptoms “are normal”, and what are not, often arise, especially if it is the first pregnancy.
To study the changes that occur in both the mother and the baby during pregnancy, the doctors divide it into three stages or trimesters. In each of these stages, the baby experiences different changes, which are necessary for his/her development. His/her size progressively increases, and his/her position inside the uterus changes. To adapt to those changes and guarantee the baby’s wellness, the mother’s body undergoes certain changes, some symptoms appear and the requirements of nutrients change according to the physiological processes that are being carried out.
A typical pregnancy usually lasts between 38 and 40 weeks counting from the first day of the last menstrual period (LMP) to the day of the deliver. So, the first stage covers from the first month to the third month of pregnancy (weeks 1 to 12), the second stage covers from the fourth month to the sixth month of pregnancy (weeks 13 to 24) and the third stage covers from the seventh month to the delivery, which is usually during the ninth month of pregnancy (weeks 25 to 42).
It is also very important to say that, although there are some symptoms that usually affect the mothers during several weeks or months, they don’t affect all women in the same way, or they don’t even experience them at all. In this article, we will talk about the most common changes and symptoms that pregnant women experience in each pregnancy stage, but it is important to highlight that it is always necessary to follow up a proper control with an obstetrics specialist, who is able to determine the “normality” of the symptoms.
What are the Pregnancy Stages? What happens in each of them?
As we said before, pregnancy is divided into 3 stages of 3 months each, or what is the same, 12 weeks each. Although some symptoms remain throughout pregnancy, others are more “characteristic” of each stage.
The first trimester
This is a very emotional stage because in this stage the mother finds out she is pregnant. Most women resort to home pregnancy tests when they see that their menstruation has been delayed to know if they are pregnant, then they go to their doctor to confirm it through a blood pregnancy test and/or an echogram.
In this trimester, the symptoms vary greatly between women and pregnancies. While some women are overflowing with health and vitality, others experience many uncomfortable symptoms that make it difficult to do their daily activities.
During this stage, about 25% of women experience a slight bleeding. It might be a sign that the embryo has implanted in the uterus, but it can also be a sign that something is wrong or an early abortion has occurred. So, it is important to consult a doctor.
Women also experience breast tenderness, fatigue, food cravings and aversions, frequent urination, heartburn, mood swings, weight gain, morning sickness and vomiting. Some women also refer a thin, milky white discharge that can be confused with a sing of a vaginal infection.
All those symptoms can be considered “normal” during pregnancy, although it is always recommended to inform your doctor during the prenatal visit. However, there are some signs and symptoms that are considered of “alarm”, so the pregnant woman should seek help immediately, like severe abdominal pain, significant bleeding, severe dizziness, uncontrollable vomiting and rapid weight gain.
The second trimester
It is considered by many women as the easiest three months of pregnancy. This is because most of the symptoms mentioned above, especially morning sickness and fatigue, disappear, so the pregnant woman can perform her daily activities as usual. However, many women still experience frequent urination, discharge and heartburn.
The most common symptoms that appear during the second trimester are backache, bleeding gum, breast enlargement, congestion and nosebleeds, hair growth, headaches, constipation, hemorrhoids, and skin changes.
One of the most exciting things of this trimester is that, around the 20 weeks, the mom can feel the first movements of the baby, which many people call “quickening”. Some women aren’t able to feel those movements until the 24 weeks of pregnancy or more, so don’t perceiving this movements in a specific date is not a reason to be alarmed.
The third trimester
Although this stage represents the final stretch of pregnancy and there are only a few weeks left until the long-awaited moment of the baby’s birth, many women consider that this is the most challenging stage of all. Backache persists and can become more severe due to the extra weight the woman has gained and the increase of the baby’s size.
Other symptoms can return or get worse, such as fatigue, frequent urination, heartburn, discharge, due to the larger size of the uterus. Likewise, the woman can experience shortness of breath, especially when she is lying on her back, and mild to moderate swelling in her feet and ankles.
A new symptom appears, which is the Braxton Hicks contractions. This are just mild contractions or “warm-ups” of the uterus to be prepared for the moment of the real labor. Some of these contractions can feel as intense as real labor contractions and, eventually, progress to it.
As in the prior stages, bleeding, severe abdominal pain, cramps, pain or burning during urination, rapid weight gain, severe headache and seizures must be considered alarm signs.
How much weight should be gained during pregnancy?
Weight gain is a common concern among pregnant women, not only for its physical aspect but for their health and the baby welfare. Likewise, it is very common to listen that a pregnant woman must “eat for two”, but it is important to not exaggerate or take it literally because it could be harmful.
Although each case is individual and only a qualified doctor can determine if the weight gain is proper or not, in general terms it is recommended to gain 2 pounds (or 1 kilo) per month, or what is the same, every 4 weeks. This means that, ideally, the woman must have gained only 20 pounds (9 kilos) during pregnancy.
During the first trimester, most women must gain about 3 to 6 pounds. However, the doctor can recommend “to adjust” the weight at first, by gaining or losing some pounds, if the pregnant woman presents underweight or overweight in the first consultation.
In conclusion, pregnancy is a wonderful experience for most women. But, each pregnancy is totally different, and even, each stage of pregnancy is different to the next one. There are some symptoms that usually appear during the different stages of pregnancy and are considered “normal”. However, it is always important to tell them to the doctor during the pregnancy checkups to ensure everything is okay.
There are other symptoms considered “alarms” that we must know to look for medical help as soon as they appear to ensure the welfare of the mother and the baby. So, following a proper check up with an obstetric specialist is always necessary to guarantee the greatest possible well-being for both the mother and the baby.