A missed period is usually the first sign of pregnancy. You may feel tired or sick more than usual and you may notice changes in your breasts. During pregnancy your body is constantly adapting to the situation and preparing for childbirth.
The first trimester
At the onset of pregnancy you may experience some mild cramping and a little bleeding when the fertilised egg implants itself in your uterus. If you have missed your period and think you may be pregnant, you can try a home pregnancy test. These tests are very accurate if you take them a few days after you expected to get your period. Your doctor can confirm your pregnancy and talk to you about prenatal care.
Feeling very tired is one of the most common symptoms of early pregnancy. Your body is working hard to adjust to being pregnant. This can cause extreme fatigue. You may need to sleep longer than usual at night and take short naps during the day.
Morning sickness is a feeling of nausea during the first few months of pregnancy. Some but not all pregnant women experience this. It is caused by pregnancy hormones and can occur at any time, not just in the morning. Certain foods, odours or even an empty stomach can cause you to feel sick and sometimes vomit. Morning sickness usually starts a few days after you miss your period or have a positive pregnancy test. It usually goes away by the second trimester.
What are the changes to the body in the first trimester (weeks 1 – 12)?
- Breast changes: Many women notice changes in their breasts early in pregnancy. The hormones in your body are changing to prepare for breastfeeding. Your breasts may feel tender and swollen. Small bumps may form in the area around your nipples, the so-called Montgomery Glands. The glands’ secretions lubricate your nipples and areolae and protect your breasts from infection. Your breasts will continue to change throughout your pregnancy.
- A growing belly: Your waistline will begin to expand as your baby and your uterus grow larger. Depending on your size before pregnancy, you may not notice this change until the second trimester.
- Skin changes: Pregnancy hormones can cause some extra oil on your skin, which might spark a temporary flare-up of acne.
- Frequent urination: Towards the end of the first trimester, you will feel like urinating more frequently as your growing uterus pushes on your bladder. Because of this extra pressure, you may leak a little urine when you cough or sneeze.
- Emotional symptoms: You might feel moody, forgetful or unable to concentrate. These symptoms can be caused by fatigue, pregnancy hormones and the emotions that can come with being pregnant.
The second trimester
Most women who did not feel so great in the first trimester usually start to feel much better in the second. The morning sickness should taper off, mood swings may lessen and you will probably have more energy. You will gain weight more rapidly, adding as much as two kilograms a month for the rest of your pregnancy. So, you may need to start wearing maternity clothes.
Changes to the body in the second trimester (weeks 13 – 26)
- Breast changes: Your breasts may not be as tender as they were in the first trimester, but they will continue to grow and prepare for breastfeeding. Enlarging milk glands cause the growth. You may also notice that the skin on and around your nipples will darken. The bumps may still secrete an oily substance to keep the nipples from drying out. A yellowish fluid called colostrum might begin to leak from your nipples.
- Skin changes: As your body grows, some areas of skin may become stretched tight. Elastic fibres right below the skin may tear, creating streaks of indented skin called stretch marks. Not every pregnant woman gets stretch marks, but they are very common. Stretch marks should fade and become less noticeable after pregnancy.
- Aching back, pelvis and hips: The job of supporting your growing belly may strain your back. Your hips and pelvic area may begin to ache as pregnancy hormones relax the ligaments (tough, rope-like bands of tissue) that hold bones together. The bones will begin moving in preparation for childbirth.
- Teeth: Pregnancy hormones also affect the ligaments and bones in your mouth, so teeth may loosen. This symptom will go away after pregnancy. However, if you have periodontitis, inflammation or low-grade infection of the gums and tissue around the teeth, seek treatment.
The third trimester
As your baby grows, your body will feel even more awkward and heavy. Everyday things like getting out of bed or rising from a chair will require extra effort. The tiredness you felt early in pregnancy may return. You might also start to feel more emotional as you prepare for labour, delivery and parenthood.
Changes to the body during the third trimester (weeks 27 – end of pregnancy)
- More breast growth: Your nipples may leak colostrum. If you breastfeed, this fluid will be your baby’s first food.
- Sleeping: As you get bigger, you might struggle to find a comfortable sleeping position. Side sleeping will be best. Sleeping on your left side helps blood circulation.
- Tingling and numbness: The swelling in your body may press on nerves, resulting in tingling and numbness in the legs, arms and hands. The skin on your belly may feel numb, too, because it is so stretched out. Fortunately, the problem usually goes away after pregnancy.
- Abdominal pain: The muscles and ligaments that support the uterus will continue to stretch as your baby grows, and they may hurt.
- Shortness of breath: As your uterus grows upward, your lungs will have less room to expand. You may find yourself huffing and puffing more.
Every woman’s pregnancy is different. Check with your doctor or health professional if you have any questions or concerns.