Pregnancy week by week


Most women are pregnant for an average of 280 days. Calculating from the first day of the last menstrual period also gives a standard of measurement for health care providers to follow, since it is extremely difficult to know exactly when conception occurred.  Only 25% of women gave birth from the 38th to the 42nd week (which is considered normal).



Week 1


The development of pregnancy is counted from the first day of the woman’s last normal menstrual period, even though the development of the foetus does not begin until conception, which is about two weeks later depending on your cycle’s length.  Pregnancy is calculated from this day because each time a woman has a period, her body is preparing for pregnancy.


Health: There may need to be some lifestyle changes made at this time to increase your chances of conceiving and having a healthy baby.  Adequate exercise and a balanced diet are important factors to evaluate.  Many times the male partner does not feel he has a role in a potential pregnancy at this time.  However, his health and lifestyle can also affect your future baby.  He may need to consider what he eats and drinks, his intake of medication, and habits such as smoking, and using drugs or alcohol.  Men can also benefit from taking vitamin supplements prior to conception.


Tip: Keep a record of your daily temperature if you are trying to get pregnant.  Track your ovulation by taking your temperature first thing each morning (before you even get out of bed) using an oral thermometer available in chemists’ shops everywhere.  Record your temperature each day. When you see it spike, you'll know that ovulation has occurred and you are ready to make a baby.


Week 2


You: Last week an increase in the amount of oestrogen and progesterone flowing through your bloodstream stimulated your uterus to form a potential fertilised egg.  At the same time, in your ovaries, eggs were ripening in fluid-filled sacs called follicles.  At the beginning of this week (often around day 14 of a 28-day cycle) you ovulate.


Health: Make sure your body is in the best possible shape for baby-making.  Don't forget to take a daily multivitamin that contains at least 400 micrograms of folic acid (starting no later than three months before you want to conceive) to reduce your baby's risk of birth defects.



Week 3


Baby: This is the week of ovulation when the egg and sperm meet.  Your baby's nine-month journey begins as a fertilised egg whose cells multiply at a dizzying rate of as many as 100,000 per minute.  Filled with fluid, the blastocyst, no larger than a pinhead, divides into two. One half will become the foetus, the other attaches to the uterine wall and becomes the placenta. Within hours of fertilisation, sex, eye colour, and even the texture of your baby's hair have been decided.


You: Though you will likely feel nothing, as this is about the midpoint of your cycle, your released egg will be swept into the fallopian tube and, if in the next 24 hours one of the 350 million sperm in the average ejaculate makes the successful swim up through the uterus and into the fallopian tube to penetrate the egg, fertilisation will occur. The fertilised egg, or zygote, immediately forms a barrier to prevent other sperm from penetrating.  Soon it begins dividing into a cluster of identical cells as it floats down the fallopian tube to the uterus.  This takes around 6 days, and after 7 days, it implants into the wall of the uterus. The foetus comes into contact with the mother’s bloodstream by the end of the third week of the cycle.  Every woman is different, and so are her experiences of pregnancy, and not every woman has the same symptoms.  Feeling very tired early on is normal in pregnancy.


Health: Do be sure you get enough folic acid to prevent neural tube defects in the embryo. Folic acid needs to be present at the moment when an embryo's cells curve over one another to create the neural tube, between the 25th and 28th day after conception, often before a woman knows she's expecting.  While it's possible to get enough folic acid from diet alone, experts advise that every woman of childbearing age take a daily supplement of 400 micrograms.


Be careful: Haircuts and highlights are generally thought to be safe during pregnancy, but dyeing your hair isn't recommended during the first trimester. Ask your hair stylist about touching up your roots in a way that will see you through the next three months, or consider adding highlights instead.


Tip: A blood pregnancy test can be positive within two or three days after implantation.



Week 4


Baby: By the end of the first month the embryo is 1/10 inch (2.54mm) long. The heart, no larger than a poppy seed, has started to beat. The uterus has formed a bed of tissue, and the production of oestrogen and progesterone increases as the uterus decides to hold onto its precious cargo - the cluster of cells that nests inside. Some of these cells become attached to the uterine wall and form the placenta, while others become the embryo. Implantation triggers the production of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), the hormone that turns your pregnancy test positive.


You: This is very likely the week you experience your first missed period or see only some slight spotting, called implantation bleeding. You won't experience any visible signs of pregnancy, but your body is changing in amazing ways and you will feel exhausted. Your breasts become harder and more tender.  If you don't know you are pregnant, you may unwittingly attribute this to PMT.  In fact, you may attribute all of your pregnancy symptoms, bloating, cramping, backache, mood swings, to the period that will not arrive.  A woman can start feeling unusually fatigued as soon as one week after conceiving.  There aren’t any immediate, obvious pregnancy symptoms, but there are signs such as tiredness, loss of interest, mood swings and the constant need to urinate.


Health: When you phone your doctor to make your first appointment, ask about taking a folate supplement if you haven't already started.  Don't wait until you get an appointment.  Weeks 5 through 10 are critical to neural development, and so is the B vitamin folate, otherwise known as folic acid.


Exercise during pregnancy is considered both safe and smart.  Studies indicate that women in good physical shape have easier labours, a reduced risk of caesarean section, and a faster recovery.


Be careful: Do stop smoking as soon as you suspect you are pregnant. When a pregnant woman smokes, it reduces the flow of oxygen to her baby, which can cause it to grow more slowly and gain less weight in the womb.  Smoking during pregnancy has also been linked to miscarriage and pre-term labour.


Tip: Most urine tests that are available in chemists’ shops can determine pregnancy about two weeks after ovulation, but some more sensitive tests can tell if you are pregnant as early as six days after you conceive, or one day after you miss a period.



Week 5


Baby:  It's only been a week since your embryo, about the size of an apple seed, attached to the wall of your uterus, but already it has made many developmental leaps.  The placenta and the umbilical cord are functioning, passing oxygen and nutrients between you and your baby.  The cluster of cells that will become your baby's heart has already formed, and the brain and spinal cord are beginning to take shape.  There’s plenty going on as the embryo splits into three different sections.  In one section, the brain and central nervous system are already beginning to take shape as their neural tubes develop.  In the other two sections, the heart and circulatory system are already beginning to form, and the lungs and intestines are in the very early stages of development.


You: Other than that, things are pretty much the same on the outside, and you don't look any different than you did a few weeks ago.  Growing a baby is exhausting work, however, and you may feel a little more tired than usual.


Health: If you aren't already taking them, now's the time to start on prenatal vitamins.  Even if you regularly eat a diet rich in vitamins and minerals, you could be missing some of the more important ones, including folic acid, calcium, and iron.  Folic acid, a B vitamin, helps prevent neural tube defects and reduces the chances of a pre-term delivery, iron plays a key role in the production of red blood cells that carry oxygen in the blood, and calcium builds your baby's bones and teeth.


If you weren't in shape before you conceived but want to start exercising, first speak to your doctor or midwife.  Exercise boosts your flagging energy levels, a benefit during the first trimester when, like many women, you may tire easily.  It also strengthens your body to meet the physical demands of pregnancy.  Begin slowly with short walks or sign up for a prenatal exercise class


Tip: Most initial prenatal check-ups take place between six and ten weeks, so make an appointment if you haven't already done so.



Week 6


Baby:  The embryo measures a little less than 1/5 of an inch (5mm) long and looks more like a tadpole than a human.  The forebrain forms a hollow stalk on either side and develops small cups, the base of each will become an eyeball.  Inside the cup, skin cells will turn into a lens and cornea.  The heart, no bigger than a poppy seed, is beating now 160 beats per minute, and red blood cells circulate through the foetus and chorionic villi.  The neural tube, which connects the brain and spinal cord, closes at this time.  One end of the tube forms the brain, the other the spinal cord.  The kidneys, lungs and liver, are now in place too, but they still have a lot of developing left to do.  The little buds which will become their arms and legs are also starting to grow.


You: No one would know you're pregnant just by looking at you, but you're definitely aware of it, thanks to early symptoms, such as tender breasts and nipples, constant fatigue, and frequent bathroom trips, tiredness and general feelings of exhaustion might have really kicked in.  You may even find that you leak a little urine when you cough.  This is due to the growing uterus pressing on the bladder.  It might be a good idea to wear lightweight sanitary pads.


Health: Apart from giving up bad habits, you'll also need to guard against infection. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, try to steer clear of people who aren't feeling well, and let your partner clean out the cat litter, bird cage, or fish tank.  Cook meat, fish, poultry, and eggs until they are well done, and don’t eat or drink unpasteurised dairy products or juice. If your health care provider has given you the green light to exercise, take advantage of it.  Staying active will help you weather the physical changes pregnancy brings, fight fatigue more effectively, and motivate you to eat more nutritiously.  It'll also help regulate your roller-coaster emotions, thanks to the feel-good proteins called endorphins produced by the pituitary gland.  Improve muscle control by doing Kegel exercises (squeezing and releasing the vaginal muscles 10 to 20 times in a row) several times a day.


Be careful: Check in with your obstetrician or doctor early and regularly to learn how best to take care of yourself during pregnancy.


Tip: Ask your doctor every question you can think of.  The doctor will take time to answer your questions.  If he/she doesn’t, then don’t leave until you’re certain that your concerns have been addressed.



Week 7


Baby: By the end of this week, the embryo will more than double its length, growing from approximately 4 to 5 millimetres (0.16inches to 0.2 inches) to 11 to 13 millimetres (0.43 inches to 0.52 inches).  It is now about the size of a raspberry.  The head is disproportionately larger than the rest of the body, and dark spots mark where the eyes and nostrils will be.  The forebrain has divided into the two parts that make up the cerebral hemispheres of the brain, where as many as 100 nerve cells are created each minute.


You: This week, you'll probably go in for your first prenatal check-up with an obstetrician or midwife who will discuss your medical history, including any previous pregnancies and diseases or genetic disorders that might run in either family, determine your due date, and begin to chart your weight gain.  She will also take some blood for routine lab tests - blood type, STDs, rubella immunity, and complete blood count to check for anaemia.  You may also be given a pelvic examinationand perhaps a transvaginal ultrasound, which is safe and painless, to check on the embryo.  This is your chance to ask any questions you have about the pregnancy.  Start your list now and take it with you, in case you get distracted once you are there.


Health: Make salads a mainstay of your diet.  Your baby will thank you for all the vitamins and minerals you're sending its way, and your body will be grateful since your diet will help ward off constipation, a common pregnancy complaint.  Leafy greens, which are full of fibre, help keep you regular, but if you just don't have a taste for them right now, eat other fibre-rich foods such as apricots, raisins, and bran.  Work out with light weights to tone your hamstrings, buttocks, lower back, and shoulders.  It'll strengthen you for the demands of childbirth and give you the muscles.


Tip: Try to meet the midwife at your clinic sometime in the next six months so that if you go into labour and your regular health care practitioner isn't on call, your baby won't be delivered by a complete stranger.  If your doctor has a solo practice, ask what happens if they are out of town or unavailable, and make a plan to meet the backup.


Week 8


Baby: If you could see your baby now, you'd be able to make out its eyelids, the tip of its nose, and its upper lip.  It’s approximately three-quarters of an inch long from top to bottom, and its brain, spinal cord, heart, kidneys, liver, and stomach have begun to take shape.  The aortic and pulmonary valves are distinctly present in the heart, which has now divided into right and left chambers and gallops at twice your rate (about 150 times a minute).  The baby has distinct, slightly webbed fingers and toes and see-through skin.


You: Through the placental wall, the embryo is able to absorb oxygen, proteins, sugar, and fat for the crucial task of building cells.  Talk about growing pains.  Now that your uterus has expanded from a pre-pregnancy size of a fist to its present grapefruit like proportions, you may feel occasional cramping in your lower abdomen and sides.  These cramps are normal and shouldn't pose any risk to the baby.


Health: To keep nausea at bay, nibble on dry biscuits before you get out of bed and eat smaller meals throughout the day rather than three large ones.  Its name notwithstanding, morning sickness can engulf you at any time of the day.  Fortunately, the queasy feeling usually goes away by the time you reach the second trimester.  If you're a regular gym goer, you can ease up a little. Your heart rate is higher now, which means you won't need to exert as hard to get the same aerobic result.  Plus, the pregnancy hormone hCG makes it much easier to get overheated, so take well-timed water breaks. Bottom line: Don't exercise to the point where you get short of breath.


Be careful: Avoid cats!  Cat faeces may contain parasites that cause toxoplasmosis, an infection that is fairly harmless in grown-ups but can cause developmental problems in babies, especially if you were to contract it in the first trimester.


You can also get possible infections from eating raw or undercooked meat.  Cook meat to at least 160 degrees before eating, and wash hands with soap and water after handling raw meat.



Week 9


Baby: The embryo may now officially be called a foetus, which literally means "little one", and is about the size of a strawberry.  An inch long (2.54cm), it has hands that can flex at the wrist, and it is able to fold them over its heart.  Eyelids cover the eyes, and the ears are beginning to take shape on the sides of the head.  The genitals are forming, but your doctor won't yet be able to discern what sex it is by ultrasound.


You: You may no longer feel as nauseated and fatigued as you've been the past two months, and your sex drive may even be increasing.  Thanks to a surge in oestrogen and progesterone, there's more blood flow to the breasts, vagina, labia, and clitoris, making them more sensitive.  Your breasts continue to get fuller, too, which means it's a good time to purchase a real maternity bra with good support.


Health: Cheese is a great source for calcium, but avoid soft or mould-ripened varieties like Brie, Camembert, and Stilton.  They may contain listeria, a bacterium that can cause a rare but serious infection in pregnant women called listeriosis.  Cream and cottage cheeses are fine, as are hard and American cheeses.  Listeria can also live in hot dogs and deli meats, so avoid them completely or heat them until they're steaming hot before you take a bite.

Eat carb-filled foods like whole grain breads and cereal an hour or two before you hit the gym so you're not hungry, and include water before, during, and after so you're properly hydrated.


Be careful: It's time to delegate any paint jobs to your partner or hire a professional.  Smelling a small amount of polyurethane won't hurt the foetus, but staying in a room filled with paint fumes is not recommended.  Removing old paint applied before 1978 can harm neurological development.



Week 10


Baby: This week, your baby measures about 1½ inches (3.8cm) from head to toe, about as big as a small shrimp and similar in shape.  Tooth buds are forming, bones are growing, and hair is starting to sprout.  The eyelids are fused shut and will remain closed until week 27, but the baby can hear you now since the inner workings of the ear are complete.  Neurons appear at one end of the spinal cord, and the basic divisions of the brain are present.  Baby can also bend its arms at the elbows and has distinct fingers.  Genitals continue to form, but your doctor still is not able to determine the sex yet, even by ultrasound.


You: Your emotions may be in a state of rapid change, sending you on a wild emotional ride punctuated by gleeful highs and frustrating lows.  Pregnancy hormones are driving the mood roller coaster.  It doesn't help that you may have spent much of the past weeks feeling queasy, exhausted, or anxious (possibly all of the above).  But the second trimester is just around the corner, and with it may come welcome emotional relief as hormonal fluctuations even out.


Health: Do eat for two - just don't eat twice as much!  Add an extra 300 calories to your diet.  It may sound like a lot, but it's actually the equivalent of only about two and a half cups of low-fat milk.  Make those calories count by choosing healthy snacks like yogurt and fruit that will boost your calcium intake and help you get your daily dose of vitamins and minerals.  But there's no more health risk to the occasional slice of cake than there was before you were pregnant.  Try prenatal yoga, it tones your upper body and thigh muscles, making it easier to carry the extra weight.  It also strengthens your pelvic floor muscles, which will make a difference when it comes time to push, and eases lower back pain.


Tip: Talk to your doctor or midwife about whether you should get a chorionic villus sampling (CVS) test. CVS, usually performed between weeks 10 and 12, checks for genetic abnormalities and is comparable to amniocentesis.  Women who choose CVS usually have a family history of genetic disease and are 35 years old or older.



Week 11


Baby: Your little one is roughly the size of a thumb this week, but can swallow and kick, and the fingernails have started to grow.  The head is so big it takes up almost half the length of the body, and a clear outline of the spine is visible.  If you have an appointment with your doctor or midwife this week, she'll be able to pick up the speedy swoosh of a heartbeat with the help of a special stethoscope called a Doppler.  Experts say hearing a heartbeat at this point is a major sign that the pregnancy is progressing as it should.


You: Your uterus, now the size of a grapefruit, has expanded to fill your pelvis.  The umbilical cord spirals as two arteries and a vein twist to fit into the protective sheath holding them.  The umbilical cord feeds your baby all that it needs and works with the amniotic fluid to keep it safe.


Health: Do sleep on your side as often as possible, as experts say this position increases blood flow to the baby.  A body pillow, which you can order at maternity stores, can help make side-sleeping more comfortable.  It also provides such snug support that some who've tried it can't live without it.


Kegel exercises strengthen your pelvic muscles and help ward off incontinence, both during pregnancy and after delivery.  Supplement quick squeezes of the muscles around the vagina and anus with longer squeezes of 10 seconds, 10 to 20 times in a row, three times each day.


Be careful: If you have the flu? Before you reach for that bottle of over-the-counter medicine, ask your doctor.  Acetaminophen (the ingredient found in Tylenol) and many antacids are generally OK, but cough syrups, cold remedies, and other products may have ingredients that can harm a developing baby.  Never use Ibuprofen during your pregnancy.



Week 12


Baby: You're reaching an important milestone, the end of the first trimester. Your baby now weighs about half an ounce and is about 2½ inches (6.35cm) long from top to bottom.  It can open its mouth and wiggle its fingers and toes, upon which tiny nails have begun to grow.  Brain development is in high gear, as foetal nerve cells multiply rapidly and synapses start firing.


You: Your uterus has moved from the pelvic floor to the front of your abdomen, which, fingers crossed, may ease the pressure on your bladder, cutting down on bathroom breaks.  A dark vertical line of pigmentation, called linea nigra, may appear on your belly.  If so, don't worry!  It will disappear soon after birth.


Health: So much for that fabled glow: Dermatologists say the same hormones that may keep one expectant mother’s complexion blemish-free can cause a bout of acne in another.  If you do suffer from this, use oil-free, non-comedogenic makeup to cover spots.


If you lift weights, decrease the number of pounds you're using, and watch your pulse when doing cardio exercises (a heart-rate monitor, which most gyms supply for their members, can do this for you).  You don't want your heartbeats to reach more than 140 beats per minute, at which point your body may get overheated and blood flow may be diverted away from the uterus.


Be careful: Try avoiding fatty, acidic, or spicy foods, and eat small, frequent meals.  Wait a few hours after eating before lying down.  You can also take antacids with calcium carbonate.


Tip: "If you need help or advice, ask for it, but don't worry too much about hurting other people's feelings by not doing what they say.  If your gut says no, trust it. Do what seems right." Ariel Gore



Week 13


Baby: As the second trimester begins, your baby is growing quickly.  It weighs about ¾ of an ounce (21.6g) and measures between 2½ to 3 inches (6.35cm to 7.6cm) from the top of the head to its bottom.  It is in the foetal period, when the organs and tissues that took shape in the first trimester start to develop.  The intestines, originally part of the umbilical cord, have found a new home in the abdominal cavity.  The tongue and vocal chords are also getting ready for their debut at birth, and the eyes are moving closer together.  Baby’s ears are in place, and the head is roughly half the size of the whole body.  (By birth, the head will be one quarter the size of the body.)


You: If you have a check-up this week, your doctor or midwife may be able to feel the top of your uterus in the lower half of your abdomen.  As it grows, your uterus will fill your pelvis, expanding up and out, and soon you'll definitely look the part of a pregnant woman.


Health: Studies show that moderate caffeine intake is fine for expectant mothers, but too much can dehydrate you and reduce your body's calcium, which your baby needs to grow strong teeth and bones.  But coffee isn't the only caffeine-laden beverage out there.  The ingredient is also found in soda, tea, and cocoa, so be careful how much you indulge in these drinks, too, or choose decaffeinated alternatives.


Your fitness regime is getting a makeover now that you're expecting.  Avoid anything that requires the Valsalva manoeuvre, which happens when you exhale with great force (during weight lifting, for example); it can raise your blood pressure to dangerous  levels.


Be careful: Avoid anything that requires the Valsalva manoeuvre.


Tip: Sign up now for childbirth classes, even though you won't be attending them for weeks (they usually begin in the seventh month).  They're so popular that sessions fill up quickly.  It's best to plan ahead to get the time slot that works best for you.  Ask your doctor or midwife for a recommendation, or call your hospital or birthing centre.



Week 14


Baby: Make a fist - that's how big your baby is now.  At week 14, it weighs close to an ounce (29 g) and measures between three and four inches (7.6cm to 10.16cm) from top to toe.  Like you, it can make a fist, too, with fingers that have a unique set of prints; an epidermal layer in his skin shows genetically determined ridges on the tips and palms.  In the next eight weeks the bones throughout its body will harden as calcium gets deposited.  Your baby's neck is now getting longer too, which means the chin doesn't have to rest on the chest anymore.


You: The nausea may finally be getting less, only to be replaced by yet another complaint, abdominal aches.  That's because your uterus is growing, and the surrounding ligaments are stretching right along with it.


Health: Kegel exercises strengthen the vaginal and perineal muscles, which will help prevent incontinence, prime you for pushing, and lessen tearing during birth.  To keep them in shape: Lie down on the floor and contract, as if you're stopping your urine midstream, and release your muscles for a few minutes at a time, once or twice a day.


Be careful: Do try to be extra vigilant about dental hygiene, because pregnancy makes your gums swell, leaving them vulnerable to germs and open to infection.  Brush your teeth and tongue after every meal, and finish with an antibacterial mouthwash once a day.  Ask your dentist about scheduling more cleanings throughout your pregnancy (they're worth the extra out-of-pocket costs).  Save the X-rays until you're postpartum.


Tip: If you wear contact lenses, don't be surprised if they feel like they no longer fit.  The shape of your eyes has changed, and you don't produce tears as much as you used to.  Ask your doctor if you need a new prescription, or don’t use contact lenses and rely on your glasses for the rest of the pregnancy.



Week 15


Baby: Your baby weighs about 1¾ ounces (50 grams)and measures about 4½ inches (11.5cm) from head to toe.  Fine, downy hair called lanugo, which it will shed before birth, grows on its body.  Hair is sprouting on top of the head, too, although whatever colour it is may change.  The eyebrows have begun to fill in.  Your baby hiccups, but it can't yet make a sound because the trachea is still filled with fluid, not air.  The intestinal tract continues to develop.


You: These days, pregnancy is leaving you slightly breathless, literally.  It's slightly annoying, but unfortunately you can expect the problem to worsen as your uterus pushes up against your diaphragm, leaving little room for the lungs to expand.  It's nothing to worry about.


Health: Discuss with your doctor or midwife the pros and cons of taking the triple screen, a blood test given in the next few weeks that measures your baby's risk for birth defects such as Down’s Syndrome and Spina Bifida.  It gives you valuable information about the health of your baby, but false positives are common; out of 1,000 women, 50 will be told that their foetus is at risk, but only one or two babies will actually be born with Down’s Syndrome.  This is the same as the amniocentesis test, see above.


It's not too late to sign up for prenatal yoga, a gentle regime that combines exercise tailored especially for your changing body with breathing techniques.


Be careful: You should call your doctor immediately if you're unable to catch your breath, your fingertips turn blue, or your heart feels like it's trying to jump out of your chest.


Tip: Your off-and-on libido may now be returning from its nausea and fatigue-induced first-trimester sabbatical, so take advantage of it while it's here.  It just may pull another disappearing act sometime during the third trimester.  But avoid one position: the missionary position.  Lying flat on your back is not a good idea because it may put too much pressure on the veins that deliver oxygen to the baby.



Week 16


Baby: It's the end of your fourth month, and your baby now weighs 2½ ounces (71 grams).  It is able to kick its legs, which are measurably longer than the arms that it often swings about as it floats in an amniotic fluid.  You may be able to discern some of the movements now; some women say they're like butterfly wings flapping gently.  Some first-time mothers don't feel anything, though, until the 24th week.  The baby may be seen sucking its thumb during ultrasound this month.


You: Your increasing blood and amniotic fluid volume, growing breasts, expanding uterus, and placenta have caused you to gain weight, but you may not be showing just yet.  Give it a few weeks, and then the world will know that your baby's on the way.


Health: Pamper yourself by taking a steamy shower every morning.  Indulging in 20-minute steam showers or using a humidifier can help clear the stuffy head that often plagues pregnant women.  If you feel like you've got a permanent head cold, it's because more blood than usual is flowing to your mucous membranes, causing them to swell.  Saline drops can help unblock your nose.


Stand up straight to compensate for your growing uterus, increasingly heavy breasts, and shifting centre of gravity, all of which can exaggerate the curve in your spine and put unnecessary strain on your back.  Good posture is important, especially when you're working out, so imagine that the top of your head is being pulled toward the ceiling.  You'll automatically straighten your neck, lift your shoulders, and tuck in your stomach and buttocks.


Be careful: Suffering from a headache?  Forget the aspirin and Ibuprofen, which aren't safe for pregnant women since they could hurt your baby's development.


Tip: Worried about weight gain?  For many expectant women it is a concern. "Focus on the fact that you are giving yourself and your baby quality nutrition, and let the weight do what it will." - Kathy Kaehler, fitness expert and Los Angeles mother of three.



Week 17


Baby: From head to toe your baby measures about 7¾ inches (19.68cm).  It weighs about 5 ounces (142 g), but not for long, as fat is starting to fill out its body and keeps it warm.  By the time baby is born, fat will account for two-thirds of the body weight.  It has eyelashes now, although it is months away from being able to blink.


You: Your uterus is about 2 inches (5.08cm) below your belly button.  As baby fills the pelvis, it pushes up against your intestines, shifting them aside.  Your lower abdomen swells with child, literally inside, the placenta is working hard to support and nourish your baby, its network of blood vessels delivering nutrients and removing waste.


Health: Some women suffer migraine headaches for the first time during pregnancy, which doctors think is caused by fluctuating oestrogen levels.  Unfortunately, you can't rely on medications to make them go away.  Instead, you can lessen the onset of migraines by avoiding triggers such as chocolate, MSG and caffeine.  Minimise stress and try to get enough sleep (admittedly, that's easier said than done).


Don’t do exercises that call for you to lie flat on your back.  After the fourth or fifth month, the position puts you at risk for compressing a major blood vessel, called the vena cava, and decreasing blood flow to the baby.


Tip: Experts recommend eating six small meals throughout the day instead of three large ones to ease indigestion (caused by pregnancy hormones that slow down the digestion process).  This way, you'll also avoid the nausea that kicks in when you go for hours without eating.



Week 18


Baby: Your baby's about 8 inches (20.32cm) long and weighs a little more than 5 ounces (142 g).  Although it is enveloped by the familiar sound of your beating heart and rushing blood, it is conscious of noises from the outside world, too.  They filter through the bones forming in the ears and to the developing brain.  The sense of sight is evolving as well; the retinas are more sensitive to light, and if you relax under a hot sun, it will perceive a red glow.  Other skills the baby demonstrates: yawning, swallowing, sucking, hiccupping and making faces.


You: Now comparable in size to a cantaloupe melon, your uterus lies just south of your navel.  As it grows and shifts your centre of gravity, you may feel slightly off balance.  The hormone Relaxin also loosens your joints, which can affect your posture and take a toll on your lower back.


Health: Don't be alarmed if you feel sharp pains running from the top of your uterus down to your pubic bone.  Ligaments are stretching to support the growing weight of your womb.  The feeling will pass if you lie on your side with a pillow supporting your belly.


If you aren't already exercising, it isn't too late to start.  Exercise will pep you up, curb stress, and tone your abdominal muscles.  Check first with your doctor or midwife before you start going to the gym, though.  Low-impact activities that are easy on the joints, such as walking, swimming, and prenatal yoga, may be your best bet.


Be careful: Cook seafood thoroughly to eliminate parasites or bacteria that could compromise your growing baby's health, and stay away from raw fish like sushi or oysters.  Shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish are off-limits for now, since they've been found to have high levels of methyl mercury that could hamper brain development.  Experts also suggest you limit canned tuna to six ounces per week.



Week 19


Baby: Your baby weighs approximately 7 ounces (200 g) and measures approximately 9 inches (22.86cm) long.  The arms and legs are now properly proportioned.  The motor neurons between the muscles and the brain are connecting, giving the baby control over his movements, so it kicks, rolls, and stretches whenever it feels like it.  The gums have tooth buds, and throughout the body, rubbery cartilage is turning into bone.  Myelin, a protective substance, envelops the spinal cord.


You: Ideally, you will have gained between 8 pounds (3.5 kgs) and 14 pounds (6.5kgs) by this stage, 6 ounces (0.17g) of which account for the placenta, 11 ounces (0.32g) the amniotic fluid, and 12 ounces (0.34 g) total for both breasts.  Thanks to gravity and a rapid drop in blood pressure, you may feel dizzy when you get up too quickly from a sitting, squatting, or kneeling position.  You may also get sleepy when you lie down, as your expanding uterus exerts pressure on your aorta and vena cava.


Health: Eat up. While it's a good idea to keep weight gain to no more than 35 pounds during pregnancy, dieting can hurt the baby.  You may miss out on nutrients that are vital for foetal development, and if you're underweight you're at risk of having a low birth weight or preterm baby.  Vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products are healthy choices.


If your back is starting to complain, try this easy stretch: Sit in a chair or on the floor with your legs stretched out in front of you.  Slowly drop your head toward your knees, and reach for your toes with your fingertips as far as they will comfortably go.  Straighten up slowly. Someday soon, you'll repeat this process, not for the stretch but to reach for pieces of far-flung macaroni.


Be careful: Don't indulge in very hot baths right now.  Hot tubs aren't so hot for pregnant women; the intense heat can hurt your developing baby.  If you long for a warm bath to ease your aches and pains, a ten-minute dip in warm water (36 degrees C or lower) won't harm you.


Tip: While you may save a lot on used baby equipment like high chairs and bouncy seats, purchase a brand-new car seat that meets all the latest safety requirements.  Newer versions are updated with useful items you can't find in older models, like restraints that work with the universal anchoring system.  Most car models from 2000 on come equipped with anchors that the restraints hook onto, which makes fastening a car seat much easier than struggling with the seatbelt.



Week 20


Baby: Your baby weighs between ½ to 1 pound this week (0.23 to 0.45 kgs) and is 10 inches (25.4cm) long from top to toe.  A creamy, protective coating called vernix caseosa, which is secreted by the glands, coats the skin, protecting it from the amniotic fluid.  The baby is practising for its first breath outside the womb, moving its chest up and down as if it was breathing through the nose.  The genitals are fully formed.


You: Congratulations - you're halfway there!  At this stage, your oval-shaped uterus is nearly level with your belly button and grows a centimetre (almost ½ inch) each week.  If you're scheduled for a check-up, your doctor or midwife may no longer need to use a Doppler to hear your baby's heartbeat; the sound is loud enough that a regular stethoscope can easily do the job.


Health: Lactose intolerant?  Instead of giving up milk altogether, try calcium- and vitamin D-enriched rice or soy milk.  Cheese is also a good source of calcium, which your baby needs to form strong teeth and bones; it doesn't have as much lactose as regular milk and may be easier to digest.  Yogurt is another good choice.  Power up for a workout by eating a light snack - a piece of fruit or a handful of crackers will do - an hour beforehand.  If you don't consume enough calories, you'll feel lethargic, light-headed, and weak, and you may end up skipping your workout altogether.


Tip: Pregnancy can cause your nails to grow faster, making it a hassle to keep up with constant retouching.  Choose lighter, more natural hues that won't show chipping or opt for low-maintenance nails, shaping them with a file and polishing them with a buffer.



Week 21


Baby: Your baby now measures about seven inches (178mm) from head to toe and weighs about 10½ ounces (298 grams).  Now that the digestive system is fairly sophisticated, your little one can swallow amniotic fluid, which makes for a surprisingly nutritious drink that helps fatten them up.  The act of swallowing also prepares the digestive system for the hard work it will do once it’s born.  Your baby can taste what it ingests, thanks to taste buds that have developed on the tongue.  Nerve cells are working overtime to make connections, and development continues its brisk pace for the five senses.


You: Your uterus continues to rise, taking its place about ½ inch (1.27cm) above the belly button this week.  You're probably feeling pretty good, at least compared to the turbulent first trimester.  The nausea has gone away, the bathroom breaks are less frequent, and you're probably feeling more energetic than you have in a long while.


Health: Talk to your health practitioner about increasing your intake of vitamin B6 to help ease nausea, or ask about a new prenatal vitamin called PremesisRx that has a greater amount of vitamin B6 combined with folic acid and calcium carbonate. (It doesn't include iron, which can upset the stomach, but your doctor can advise you on food sources that will supply iron.)  Sip water every 15 to 20 minutes during your workouts to replace liquids you lose through sweating.


Be careful: The colour of your urine is a fairly accurate indicator of how hydrated you are:  If it's clear or pale yellow, you're fine; if it's darker, drink up.


Tip: You're halfway through the pregnancy and your libido is in overdrive, but sex isn't comfortable because of your growing belly.  Try staying on top, which prevents your tummy from getting jostled and takes the pressure off your abdomen.  Another position to try is spooning: both of you on your side with him cradling you from behind.



Week 22


Baby: Slowly and steadily, your baby is getting bigger, topping 12 ounces (340 g) this week and growing to 11 inches (28 cm) from head to toe.  It won't be able to smile until months after birth, but growth is underway now to prepare for that camera-worthy day.  The first canines and molars are developing from hard tissue below the gum line.  It has eyes now, although the irises have no pigment.  Of the five senses, touch is the first one to develop in the womb; your baby makes sense of its world by feeling its way around and registering the sensations as it rolls, kicks, and stretches.  And now that it has a full set of neurons, it can process everything it is discovering around it.


You: Sugary treats and chocolate rank high on a list of things expectant women crave, as well as citrus fruits and juices.  But dislikes are just as common during pregnancy; those spicy spring rolls you once loved to eat or the pungent perfume you used to wear may turn your stomach now.


Health: Time to slow down and opt for some low-impact exercise.  Water aerobics and swimming make you feel virtually weightless and free your legs and feet from their constant weight-bearing role.


Be careful: Call your doctor or midwife if you notice any bleeding, severe headaches, sudden swelling in your hands and face, or constant abdominal pain, or if you're persistently vomiting, have diarrhoea, or a high fever for more than 24 hours.  Any one of these symptoms could signal a potentially serious problem.  If you're not sure what's happening, check in just to be safe.


Tip: If sleep eludes you due to restlessness or discomfort, toss aside the covers and find something boring to do.  Experts say it's better to put yourself in a dimly-lit room and watch TV or find a boring job to do.  You'll soon be nodding off.



Week 23


Baby: Your baby continues to put on weight, bringing it up to about a pound this week (0.45kg), although with its red, wrinkly, and loose skin it’s far from the bonny baby it will become.  From top to toe your baby is between 11 and 12 inches long, (28 cm to 30.5cm) and makes the most of the space inside the womb, kicking back, stretching its arms, and trailing its hands along the umbilical cord.  It can hear now and is especially sensitive to loud noises, which can startle it, making the heart thump and the arms flail.  Your baby much prefers soothing music or the faint sound of your voice.


You: Your uterus inches up above your belly button, and your shape gets more rounded.  As a result, if you had an "innie" belly button, it's likely now an "outie."  You may have felt your appetite increase, and for good reason: Your body needs a generous supply of nutrients, especially protein and fat, for your baby's organ development and overall health and strength.


Health: Tempted to visit a centre that specialises in three-dimensional ultrasound?  If the procedure hasn't been ordered by your doctor, think again.  You likely had your first ultrasound between week 15 and week 20.  Before signing up for a second procedure, check with your health practitioner to find out how prolonged or repeated exposure to ultrasound waves could affect the foetus.


Most experts agree that exercise helps you weather the aches and pains of pregnancy and may even prevent serious illnesses such as gestational diabetes.


Be careful: Still, long and hard workouts can be too much of a good thing.  Limit your regime to no more than 30 minutes a day, which is what the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists recommends for most women.  (The guidelines are a little different if you're an athlete.)


Tip: If you're short on space and want to get the best value for money, look for nursery furniture that does double duty.  Some choices: a crib that converts to a toddler bed, or a changing table that can later be used as a dresser.



Week 24


Baby: Your baby is about 12 inches (30.5cm) long and weighs a little over a pound (nearly half a kilo).  It has developed the sweet face you'll soon see, with eyes and ears placed just where they should be.  It will be big enough that it can no longer do cartwheels and tumbles, but it is just as touchy-feely with the surroundings as it has been.  It is also even more attuned into sounds outside the womb.  If a loud noise disturbs your baby, it may be restless for hours.


You: Faint red marks may begin to stretch across your abdomen now that your uterus has risen to 2 inches (5.1cm) above your belly button.  They may also show up on your hips and breasts.  While there's not much you can do to stop stretch marks from appearing, know that soon after delivery they'll likely fade to nearly invisible silvery or white streaks.


Health: Even if you're pressed for time, try not to skip warm-ups and cool-downs at your exercise class.  Easing into and out of a workout prevents injuries and slowly increases or decreases your breathing and heart rates.  Some quick and easy moves - rotate your arms in large circles and walk in place.


Be careful: Wear sunglasses when you go out in warmer months.  It's a good habit to develop even if you aren't pregnant, but it's especially helpful now that your eyes have grown more sensitive to the light.


Tip: Breaking up is hard to do, but if you're unhappy with the care you're receiving from your doctor or midwife and have tried to address it without success, make a change.  Staying with a health-care provider with whom you are uncomfortable short-changes both you and your baby.  When you go into labour, you'll want someone whom you trust completely by your side.



Week 25


Baby: This week, your baby weighs approximately 1½ pounds (0.68kg).  The heart is beating so loudly that anyone who presses an ear to your belly can hear it.  Its lungs are getting ready to take their first breath, and, though the sex of your baby was determined long ago, genital differentiation is now becoming complete.  It can make a fist and reach its feet, and it may already exhibit a preference for the left or right hand.


You: Baby is now about the size of a football.  During the day, you're juggling the many tasks related to the baby's arrival, including touring hospitals, ordering equipment, and going for check-ups, but you're just as busy at night, when vivid and lengthy dreams take centre stage.


Health: Do keep a water bottle handy and drink from it frequently.  Staying hydrated prevents swelling in your hands and feet, which is common at this stage, especially when it's hot and humid.  If your hands and face seem unusually puffy or if swelling comes on suddenly, check in with your health care provider.  You'll want to rule out Pre-eclampsia, a potentially dangerous health condition that can occur during pregnancy.


Be extra careful as your pregnancy progresses. Your balance is increasingly precarious, so take extra care during exercises that require hopping or quick changes of direction, such as jogging and step aerobics.


Be careful: Be sure to schedule any flights for before your 36th week, which is the cut-off for most airlines.  (If you're at risk for pre-term labour your doctor or midwife may stop you flying even earlier.)  Experts have linked sitting still during long flights to the formation of potentially harmful blood clots, so be sure to stand up and stretch your legs often.



Week 26


Baby: For months your baby's eyes have been shut, but now they're almost fully developed and will soon be ready to open.  Interestingly, whatever the ethnicity, the eyes are blue at this time: The irises don't display their final colour until a few months after birth.  Your baby's brain is maturing rapidly, and it is growing quickly.  Your baby is more than a foot long (30.5cm) and two pounds (almost 1kg) this week.


You: You have a little more than a third of your pregnancy to go and, unfortunately, you're starting to feel it - your back hurts, your legs are cramping up, and your pelvic area feels heavy from the load you're carrying.  But there's good news: If you're like most pregnant women, your hair is probably at its most luxurious, with extra body enhanced by higher levels of oestrogen and progesterone.  For a select few, though, your hair just lies flat; but within six months after birth, it will return to normal.


Health: Your baby is relying on your body's iron stores, so do fill up on iron-rich foods, such as lentils and spinach, especially if you're a vegetarian.  Your doctor may suggest supplementing your diet with iron pills to go along with your prenatal vitamins.  Keep bottles of vitamins and pills out in the open where you can see them - it may help you to remember to take them.  Your thighs help carry the weight of your uterus and baby, so consider giving them a break.  Stretch your thighs by sitting on the floor and crossing your right ankle over your left knee.  Keeping your right hand on the floor, pull the right thigh toward the left, and gaze outward over your right shoulder.  Hold the position and then stretch in the other direction.


Be careful: If you're decorating a nursery from top to bottom, plan on finishing it weeks before the baby arrives.  Because newly applied wallpaper, paint, and glaze release potentially harmful fumes, allow for as much as eight weeks' aeration with the windows open.



Week 27


Baby: At 13 weeks from birth, your baby is now almost 14 inches  (36cm)from head to toe and weighs a little more than two pounds (0.91kg).  It is bulking up with fat to keep warm after it's born, and the lungs continue to develop.  The immune system is also gearing up for life outside the womb.  Your baby has discovered thumb sucking, which isn't such a bad thing in the womb--it helps strengthen the cheek and jaw.


You: Lately, you may be feeling your uterus tighten and clench for as long as two minutes.  The sensations shouldn't be painful, but they can cause discomfort.  They're called Braxton-Hicks contractions, which many women mistake for labour.  They serve to prepare the uterus for delivery.


Health: Keep a diary if mood swings leave you feeling exhausted and confused.  Writing can help you get understand your emotions, which, due to fluctuating hormone levels might switch from joy to anxiety to excitement at any given time.


Vigorous exercise keeps you strong during pregnancy, but it can be dangerous for women with certain pregnancy complications.  Ask your doctor's advice about exercise if you develop Pre-eclampsia (pregnancy-induced high blood pressure), are expecting more than one baby, are at risk for pre-term labour (or have previously given birth prematurely), have an incompetent cervix, or have had some vaginal bleeding.


Tip: Want to be more comfortable at your desk?  Buy a footstool (most maternity and baby stores carry them), and use it to relieve pressure on your hip joints and lower back.



Week 28


Baby: At the beginning of the third trimester, your baby measures 14 inches (35.5cm) and weighs about 2½ pounds (1.13kg), having doubled its weight in a month.  The brain tissue continues to develop folds and grooves on what was once a smooth surface.  Even though it is bigger, your baby still has plenty of room to turn around, so whatever position it is in right now will likely change over the next three months.


You: At this point, you've probably gained between 17 and 24 pounds (7.71 and 10.89kgs).  Your uterus has moved to 3 inches (7.6cm) above your navel and is pressing against the tubes between the kidneys and bladder, slowing the flow of urine.  Also, the hormone progesterone makes it difficult for your urinary system to flush bacteria such as E. coli out of the bladder, leaving you more susceptible to urinary tract infections.  Left untreated, UTIs can develop into more serious kidney infections or cause pre-term labour.  If you feel any pain or burning when you urinate, call your health care provider immediately.


Health: Just to be prepared, ask your doctor under which conditions labour may have to be induced and what procedures might be involved.  Although most babies born post-term have no problems, the risk of complications rises the longer you go past your due date.  Even if you end up delivering right on time, preparing for other scenarios will give you peace of mind.  For an easy arm stretch, stand or sit and clasp your hands behind your back. Pull them back and down, then release.  Repeat ten times.


Be careful: Do beware of joint pain.  If you're at a computer for long stretches, take frequent breaks to give your fingers, wrists, and arms a rest.  Your body's retaining fluid, causing nerves to swell and pinch, which could result in carpal tunnel syndrome.  Also, check that your setup is ergonomically sound: Your forearms and wrists should be straight and run parallel to the floor as you type, neither reaching too far up nor down.


Tip: If parents and in-laws aren't on board with your birth plans (you want a natural birth, for example, and they point out that anaesthesia didn't hurt their babies), thank them for their opinions but avoid getting into arguments.  Focus instead on how wonderful it is that they're so concerned.  Learning how to be diplomatic now will help you navigate future parental land mines.



Week 29


Baby: Every day, your little one is looking more like a full-grown baby than a foetus.  By the end of this week, it will weigh about 2¾ pounds (1.5kg).  For the rest of the trimester, your baby will be putting on weight and gaining approximately ½ pound a week (0.23kg); between now and its birthday, it will double or even triple in weight.  The kicks and jabs are more vigorous now, and you feel like it’s moving all the time.


You: The top of your uterus is 4 inches (10.2cm)above your belly button, crowding your ribs and diaphragm and leaving you breathless.  It's also pressing against your bladder, which is why you're making so many trips to the bathroom once again.  The placenta, which is flat and round like a cake and delivers oxygen and nutrients to the baby, is also getting bigger; next week, it will weigh 15 ounces (0.43kg).  Your baby may be in a head-down position already, prepared for birth. Even if it is in a bottom-down position (called breech), there's still time for baby to turn.  When it does, it will drop lower in your abdomen, the head engaging within the pelvic bones at the birth canal.


Health: Although you're months away from giving birth, read as much as you can about labour and delivery.  Studies show that if you understand how labour works, you may feel you have more control over the process.  In turn, you'll be less fearful and may not feel the pain as strongly as you would if you were feeling vulnerable and uninformed.  Knowledge truly is power.


Ask your doctor how to check your rectus abdominus, the central muscle that runs down the front of the abdomen and supports the back.  During pregnancy it may separate by more than the width of two finger lengths, but don't worry, the gap usually disappears after birth.  Note that you should not be doing exercises that work the abdomen at this stage.


Tip: feast on fatty foods, just not the ice-cream-and-greasy-bacon type.  A "good" type of fat, called docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), helps brain and nerve cells develop.  DHA can be found in canola, flaxseed, and walnut oils, and in fatty fish like salmon.  Try using walnut oil in your salad dressing.



Week 30


Baby: Rock-a-bye baby, indeed!!  Your baby goes to sleep now.  When it is not asleep, baby will be busy making faces, dancing around, hiccupping, and nudging you.  Baby weighs almost 3 pounds (1.37kg) and is about 14½ inches (36.8cm) long.  It is close to having a fully functioning nervous system that regulates the body, and the nerve fibres are now encased in myelin, which allows impulses to travel faster.


You: The not-so-pretty side of pregnancy reappears in the third trimester.  Constant urination, swollen feet, painful haemorrhoids, searing back pain, and burning acid reflux.  It's no surprise you aren't getting much sleep, giving rise to yet another complaint: insomnia.  In fact, some experts say prenatal insomnia prepares you for life with a new-born.  But in about ten weeks, your aches and pains will fade away, to be replaced with a cooing baby in your arms.


Health: Research shows that pregnant women suffer from sleep problems mostly during the third trimester, usually because they have to get up at night to urinate.  To get more night-time rest, drink most of the fluids you need before 6pm; just make sure to drink plenty of water during the day.  Hormones continue to soften the tissues around your joints, making it easy to overextend them.  If you lift weights, lighten your load by 5 to 15 percent.


Be careful: Avoid harsh soaps that rob your skin of its natural oils.  If your skin is itchy, take a soothing, warm oatmeal bath; you can buy pre-packaged sachets at most pharmacies.  After your bath, generously apply cocoa butter or vitamin E-based moisturiser all over your body.


Tip: When the baby's here, you'll need to give your arms a break from carrying them, so invest in a soft carrier.  Your new-born can face you and snuggle to the soothing sound of your beating heart; when it is older, baby can look out and watch the world come and go.  Before you give birth, practise putting the carrier on and taking it off so that you're a pro when the time comes.



Week 31


Baby: Your baby is growing at such a rate that the weight gain outpaces the speed at which the limbs are growing.  It is now almost 15 inches (38cm) from head to toe.  It is shedding the lanugo, and the eyebrows and eyelashes are filling in.


You: Your prepregnancy shoes may no longer fit you well.  Pressure from your increasingly heavy uterus is funnelling blood and other fluids to your legs, resulting in swollen feet.  It's also squeezing your stomach, which makes it difficult to eat without quickly feeling too full.  Raise your feet at every opportunity and, if weather permits, wear sandals.


Health: When you're pregnant, your eyes can become easily irritated and sensitive to light, so ask your ophthalmologist to recommend eye drops.  Take frequent breaks from the computer screen, and if you use contacts, wear them for fewer hours each day than you ordinarily do.


Multitask by doing your Kegels while watching TV or reading the paper.  Kegel exercises help to strengthen vaginal muscles and to prevent incontinence during pregnancy and postpartum.  Contract and release the muscles between your vagina and anus, as if you're trying to suppress and release your urine midstream.  Do this for a few minutes at a time, once or twice a day.


Tip: Do write a birth plan if you haven't already.  It will make you think ahead to choices you will need to make about labour and delivery.  Think about whether or not you want an epidural, which birthing positions you'd like to try.  While childbirth may not turn out exactly as you imagine it, the document will be a useful reminder of your goals once you're in labour.  If you want to do a little research on the pros and cons of your choices, now's the time.



Week 32


Baby: Your normally energetic baby has started to chill out a bit.  Its movements feel more like squirms and rolls rather than hyperactive kickboxing sessions.  That's because this week, when baby is 3 pounds (1.37kg) and 15 inches (38cm) long, it has begun to run out of room (or should we say womb?).  Beneath the skin is a nice layer of fat, and although it still relies on the umbilical cord for nourishment, the digestive tract is almost fully developed.  Foetal brain scans show that babies this age actually have rapid eye movements, which means they're dreaming.  Who knows what dreams now fill your baby's slumber.


You: Your uterus rises 5 inches (12.7cm) higher than your belly button.  The mid-pregnancy honeymoon period, when discomforts subsided, is over, and you may be bothered by a list of old and new complaints: shortness of breath, heartburn, fatigue, varicose veins, and constipation.


Health: During pregnancy, you need 60 grams of protein each day to help your baby grow (the amino acids found in protein are integral to foetal development).  That's the equivalent of a two to three-ounce serving (57g to 85 g) - about the size of a deck of cards -of cooked, lean poultry, beef, pork, or fish.  If you'd rather not eat meat, there are plenty of other sources, including skimmed milk, cheese, yogurt, eggs, and peanut butter.


If you ever feel faint during a workout, sit or lie down and breathe deeply.  Exercise strengthens your heart and lungs and prepares them for the hard work of labour, but it's beneficial only if done in moderation.  Check your heart rate when you exercise to make sure it doesn't exceed the safe level of approximately 140 beats per minute.


Be careful: Oral sex is safe during pregnancy, but be sure your partner doesn't blow air into your vagina; that could push an air bubble into your bloodstream, putting you and the baby in danger.


Tip: Don't just put up with the pain of haemorrhoids, which are common for women in the third trimester.  Apply cold compresses or cotton balls soaked in witch hazel to the area for quick relief.



Week 33


Baby: Your baby is now about 3½ pounds (1.59 kg) and is gaining as much as eight ounces (227 g) a week.  It continues to gain weight, the arms and legs perfectly proportioned to the rest of its body.  It measures between 15 and 16 inches (38cm – 40.6mm) and has little room to wiggle, but is still quite active.


You: You're putting on a pound a week now, (nearly ½ kilo) but eating isn't as enjoyable as it once was.  After all, your growing baby is pressing up against your stomach, hampering digestion and exacerbating heartburn.


Health: Heartburn can become a problem in the third trimester, as the baby takes up more room.  Avoid spicy, greasy, and acidic foods.  Eating frequent small meals may also help.


This pelvic tilt exercise can ease back pain and sciatica (tingling sensations or sharp pains that run from the buttocks down the thighs).  While kneeling on all fours with your back straight, gently rock your pelvis back and forth.  Curve the centre of your back upward like a cat while contracting your abdominals.  Then lower until your back is straight again. Repeat ten times.


Be careful: Increase your servings of fibre-filled fruits and vegetables.  Fibre-rich foods, such as prunes, apricots, plums, beans, and peas, will help you avoid constipation.  If it becomes a problem, try adding psyllium, a natural, bran like stool-softener available at health food stores, to your meals.  A fibre-rich diet only works if you drink more liquids, so aim for at least eight glasses of fluids, preferably water, each day.



Week 34


Baby: By the end of this week, your baby may weigh as much as 4 pounds (1.82 kg) and measure 16 inches (406mm). As the uterine and abdominal walls stretch and thin, more light reaches the womb, causing baby to open and close its eyes in response. It also helps baby know day from night so it can cycle between activity and rest.


You: In two weeks you will be asked to start coming in each week until you deliver.  Your doctor will keep an eye on your blood pressure to make sure it's not abnormally high, which may affect the placenta's ability to deliver blood and nutrients to the foetus.  Also, your pelvic area may feel numb with tingling brought on by pressure from the growing baby.


Health: In the coming weeks, you will be screened for the Group B streptococcus (GBS) virus.  If passed on to the baby, GBS can cause meningitis, pneumonia, or worse.  Experts say one in four pregnant women is a carrier, but there's good news: GBS is easily treatable, requiring only that you be given antibiotics during delivery.


Try this simple exercise to prepare for labour: Sit cross-legged on the floor or in a chair.  Line your shoulders up with your hips and place one hand on your belly and the other hand on your back, just above your waist.  Take a deep breath, expanding the belly as you inhale (a "belly breath").  Exhale while contracting your abs to pull your belly button in.  Squeeze and hold, then release (but don't go all the way back to the expanded position).  Repeat. Each squeeze-and-release counts as one contraction, so aim to do 25, five times a day.


Tip: Pack your hospital bag with some reminders of home.  Consider taking along a T-shirt to wear during labour (instead of the standard-issue hospital gown), a headband or ponytail holder to keep your hair off your face, and some extra things to make you more comfortable after delivery.



Week 35


Baby: There's an excellent chance that your baby will have no complications if born at 35 weeks or later. It is 5 pounds (just over 2.5 kg) now and is nearly 18 inches (45.7cm) long.  The skull is still fairly soft and isn't yet completely fused so baby can squeeze through the birth canal.


You: Ever noticed a few drops of clear or yellowish fluid on your nipples?  Your breasts have been preparing to make milk since the fifth or sixth month of pregnancy.  This "early milk," called colostrum, is loaded with your system's antibodies and is the perfect food for your baby during its first few days.  Next comes first milk, which is creamy and white in colour.  This arrives two or three days after delivery, when stimulation from your baby nursing sends a signal to your brain to produce prolactin, which affects the mammary glands.


Health: Approximately 10 percent of pregnant women suffer from the blues, which increases your risk of developing postpartum depression.  The good news: Relief may be a prescription away; some antidepressants are safe to use during pregnancy.  Yoga, meditation, and other relaxation techniques may also help you shake off the blues.


If fatigue is setting in, cut back on weekly exercise.  Three times a week should be sufficient, or reduce the amount of time you work out (from ½ hour to 15 minutes, for example).  Most of all, be sure to take more frequent breaks now and stay hydrated.


Tip: If you want to stick to the basics for baby outfits, here's all you'll need: four to six undershirts or bodysuits that fasten between the legs, four to six nightgowns or stretch suits, four to six all in ones or pairs of pants and tops, one to two blanket sleep suits, a few sweaters, a couple of hats, a pair of booties, three pairs of socks, and a snowsuit if you're delivering in winter.



Week 36


Baby: Your baby weighs approximately 5 pounds (2.27 kg) and its full length is about 18 inches (45.7cm).  Baby continues to put on fat, which will keep it warm and help regulate body temperature when it is born.


You: This last month of pregnancy is a dress rehearsal for the big event. You'll lose your mucous plug, a protective barrier that's been present in your cervix throughout the pregnancy, and your cervix will soften and maybe even dilate.  Although both are signs that early labour is under way, don't rush off to the hospital or birthing centre just yet, you may be weeks away from the actual birth.


Health: If varicose veins are running up and down your legs, seek some support - support hose that is.  It also helps to avoid crossing your legs and standing up for too long.


If it's becoming more difficult for you to go to the gym, stay home and stretch.  Sit on the floor with your left leg out to the side, your right leg bent.  Raise your right arm over your head as if reaching to the sky, and make a big arc as you lean over your left leg and try to touch your left foot. Bring your arm back to the original position and repeat on the other side.


Be careful: Before you dive into a pre-baby cleaning frenzy, read the labels on all chemicals and cleansers to make sure they're safe.  Wear rubber gloves when handling liquid cleansers, and work in a well-ventilated room to reduce exposure to fumes.


Tip: Consider buying or renting a breast pump before you give birth so you have it handy in case you need it after the delivery.  Ask a lactation consultant for a good recommendation.



Week 37


Baby: At over 18 inches (45.7cm) long, your baby is doing well.  It is learning what it's like to breathe, inhaling and exhaling amniotic fluid to perfect its skills.  Baby can also suck its thumb, turn its head, swallow, blink, and grasp.


You: Sleep is elusive, the extra weight is slowing you down, and when you walk it feels as if the baby is about to drop out (don't worry - it won't).  As the due date approaches, your doctor or midwife will check to see if your cervix has begun to thin out and dilate.  She'll also want to know how far the baby has descended.


Health: MRI scans of pregnant women show that brain size actually shrinks in the third trimester which may explain why you're sometimes so forgetful.  Thankfully, it returns to normal a few months after birth.  No one knows just what turns your mind to mush, but sleep deprivation may have something to do with it.  To compensate, jot everything down (including your daily tasks) and leave written reminders everywhere.


You deserve a reward for sticking to a fitness regime throughout your pregnancy, especially well into the third trimester.  After putting in your time at the gym this week, reward yourself with a movie or a good book.  Or skip it altogether and pamper yourself with a manicure or a massage.


Tip: Ask your health care provider how you can tell labour has truly begun and when you should call her.  If you have any unanswered questions, such as when she'll get there and what will happen if she's not on call, now's the time to clarify those details.



Week 38


Baby: Your pregnancy has reached full-term, which basically falls anywhere between weeks 38 and 42; your due date is simply the midpoint of this time period.  Baby is between 5 and 9 pounds (2.27 and 4.08 kg) now, and all the organ systems are in place. It has shed most of its lanugo and greasy vernix coating, both of which baby will actually ingest, along with some amniotic fluid; its body will turn this strange concoction into a dark, tarry stool called meconium.  The lungs and vocal chords are ready to start crying.  As he/she becomes more crowded, you may feel less movement.  It’s time to meet face-to-face.


You: You may literally breathe easier these days if the baby's head has gradually dropped into position and shifted into the birth canal, giving your organs some room.  This is called lightening, and it may happen a few weeks before labour begins, right before, or even during labour.  Now that the baby's shifted downward, you may feel greater pressure on your groin, thighs, and bladder.


Health: Learn to spot false labour by knowing its signs: Your contractions follow no discernible pattern and don't become longer, stronger, or closer together. (Changing positions, say, getting up if you've been lying down, should make the pain go away.)  Also, in a false alarm, you'll feel the contractions in the front of your body; in true labour, they begin in the back and migrate toward the front.


Rest up. During these last few weeks, when just getting out of bed feels like a chore, it's understandable if you want to forget the workouts altogether.  Instead of worrying about going to the gym, take this time to relax and recharge.  You need to save your energy for childbirth.


Tip: Make a list of all the important phone numbers you'll need once you bring the baby home.  Place the list right next to your phone, and be sure to include anyone you think would be a great resource for you during those early weeks (the paediatrician, birthing partner, and lactation consultant).  Collect menus from restaurants that deliver; this way, if you and your partner are too busy to cook, a nutritious meal is just a call away.



Week 39


Baby: Your baby is in the homestretch: As it gains weight and grows to approximately 20 inches (50.8cm), it has little room to manoeuvre.  It may already be in position for delivery, the head cradled in the pelvic cavity.  The brain is one of the last organs to fully develop, and it's almost there, its neurons firing away.


You: Right now, hovering near the top of your list of worries may be what labour’s really like.  Here's what to expect: The early phase of labour can take days or even weeks, during which the cervix softens and dilates to three centimetres.  The contractions are fleeting, lasting 30 to 45 seconds. When active labour kicks in, your contractions will become more powerful and more frequent and will persist for 60 seconds.  Your cervix will dilate to just approximately 7cms (2.75 ins), and you'll have a harder time catching your breath between contractions.  The transitional phase is next, with contractions arriving one on top of another and going for as long as 90 seconds.  In a little over an hour, your cervix will dilate to 10cms (nearly 4 ins), at which point you'll be ready to push.


Health: To make sure your nipples protrude enough for a baby to latch on during breastfeeding, take your finger and thumb and place them above and below the areola; gently press down toward the wall of the chest.  (Don't squeeze your thumb and finger together - it may cause the nipple to invert.) The nipple should pop out.  If it turns inward, ask your doctor or midwife for recommendations on how to prepare your nipples for nursing.


Now that you're not working out as hard or as often, use the time to do a few relaxation exercises.  Studies show that they lower your heart rate and blood pressure and put you in a great mood.  Don't know how to get started? Try this simple exercise: Lie down on your side and breathe deeply.  Isolate individual muscle groups, tense them, and release as you exhale.


Tip: Your to-do list runs long, but be sure to enjoy your last few weeks of pregnancy.  Caring for a new-born is exciting and deeply rewarding, but it doesn't leave you much time to yourself.  Make the most of your solitude now to indulge in such pleasures as reading for hours and watching films.



Week 40


Baby: When your baby finally arrives, it will weigh between 6 and 9 pounds (2.72  and 4.08 kg)and measure about 20 inches (50.8cm).  If you deliver vaginally, the head may be shaped like a cone after travelling through the narrow birth canal, and baby will emerge covered in blood and amniotic fluid.  The eyes will be puffy, and it will only be able to see a blurred version of you, as it can only focus about an inch away.  But the sound of your voice, which baby has become used to while inside the womb, will be music to its ears.


You: Expect to push even after your baby's out; you'll have to deliver the placenta, a comparatively easy feat compared to hard labour.  You may be overwhelmed by contradictory feelings, too, but after such adventure, laughter and tears are both appropriate.


Health: Expect your baby to be whisked away soon after birth, but not for any worrying reason.  Baby is just taking the first test: the Apgar.  Administered at one minute after birth and again at 5 minutes, it rates your new-born’s heart rate, respiration, muscle tone, reflexes, and colour.  Plus, nurses will apply antibiotics to the eyes to protect them from germs in the birth canal.  They'll also administer the first shots: a vitamin K injection to encourage normal blood clotting and the hepatitis B vaccine to prevent liver infection.


If you're feeling restless and cooped-up at home, take a slow stroll around your neighbourhood to clear your head and keep your body moving.  Some women claim walking brings on contractions; no one knows for certain if it works, but it can't hurt to go outdoors.


Tip: If you're tiring of the wait, try road-testing a few folk remedies, with the midwife's approval, of course.  Many women claim that taking brisk walks, having lots of sex (the prostaglandin in semen apparently softens the cervix), and drinking raspberry leaf tea will help bring on contractions.



NB  Please remember that the midwifery system for delivering babies varies from place to place, and country to country, so you may or may not experience all the services that are listed above.