Pregnancy Trimesters: Everything You Need To Know
Whether you’ve just found out the exciting news that you’re pregnant or in the planning stages of having a baby, you’ll probably want to know about the different trimesters and what happens during each.
While pregnancy usually lasts around 40 weeks in total, it’s also completely normal to welcome bub into the world two or so weeks early or late. The 40-week full term is divided into three trimesters, each made up of between 12 and 14 weeks.
Early signs you’re pregnant
When you are pregnant, there are several hormonal changes which can lead to several different symptoms. Because every woman is different, some will go through most (if not all) of them, while others might just experience one or two.
The biggest and most common things to look out for are:
- A missed period: The first thing you should be on the lookout for is being one or two weeks late for your regular menstrual cycle. However, even when pregnant, you might still experience light bleeding.
- Nausea: This symptom may or may not include vomiting. While it’s often referred to as ‘morning sickness’, it can last all day or present itself later in the day instead.
- Changes in breasts: Your breasts can become quite tender and sensitive, and during pregnancy, they will become much more full and swollen.
- Dietary changes: It’s common to crave certain foods when pregnant such as milk and dairy, for their calcium and energy characteristics. Conversely, you might suddenly hate the taste of the food you liked before.
- Fatigue: It’s suggested that the quick rise of the hormone progesterone in the early stage of pregnancy is a major contributor to the extreme tiredness pregnant women often experience.
- Frequent urination: During pregnancy, the amount of fluids in your body increases which causes your kidneys to go into overtime. This leads to a higher frequency of urination.
- Spotting: Also known as implantation bleeding, you might experience a light amount of blood around two weeks post-conception when the fertilised egg attaches itself to the uterus lining.
There are also several other less common symptoms that still may be signs of pregnancy. These include mood changes, constipation, heartburn, leg cramps, vaginitis, headaches, backaches, itchy skin, nasal congestion, breathlessness, and bloating.
Please note that these can all be signs of other conditions as well, so if you’re experiencing any of the above, we recommend you visit your doctor to explore further whether you’re pregnant or not.
The first trimester (week 1-12)
What happens to your body?
To understand how your pregnancy dates are counted, starting from the first day of your most recent regular menstruation cycle.
During this period, your body prepares for pregnancy by ovulating. Conception is then placed in week two. So, your first trimester begins at the very first week of pregnancy, running up to the end of the 12th week.
In this trimester, you might not actually look pregnant on the outside, but there is a lot going on under the surface! Your body needs to go through significant changes to properly accommodate bub throughout the pregnancy.
When your body experiences changes, it’s normal to feel the effects. These include:
- Sore and sensitive breasts
- Increased urination
- Mood swings
- Gain or loss of weight
While some women experience most or all of these symptoms, others may not experience any. Some might even have an increased amount of energy!
How has your baby developed?
By the end of four weeks, your baby’s organs and body systems will start to form. This includes the neural tube, which develops into the brain and spinal cord, as well as the digestive, heart and circulatory systems. The heart, therefore, begins to beat too. Apart from these, the eyes and ears may appear alongside tiny limb buds. After 12 weeks, your baby will have developed all of its organs and is referred to as the foetus, a transition from the embryo. Your baby is most vulnerable during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy since all the major organs, and body systems develop and are not able to survive independently. This means there’s a higher chance of a miscarriage if precautions are not taken.
First trimester checklist
Schedule a prenatal appointment
Once you learn that you’re pregnant, you'd be advised to book an appointment with a gynaecologist so they can get you up to speed on all that you need to know and do.
Eat & drink right
While we’re not going to spend time with harmful substances such as alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs (what we mean is – avoid going anywhere near any of them), here are the different types of foods you should leave out from your diet for the time being:
- Hummus & other dips containing tahini
- Soft-serve ice cream
- Fried ice cream
- Unpasteurised (raw) milk
- Raw eggs (incl. homemade mayonnaise, aioli, mousse)
- Pre-packaged salads (incl. fruit salads)
- Soft/semi-soft cheeses (brie, fetta, camembert, ricotta, etc.)
- Store-bought sushi
- Raw seafood
- Ready-to-eat chilled prawns
- Raw meat
- Processed deli meat (salami, ham, chicken, etc.)
- Pate and other meat spreads
Steering clear of the above while taking prenatal vitamins and eating a healthy diet may help to lower your risk of miscarriage. We also advise that you speak with your gynaecologist for more in-depth, expert guidance.
Discuss parenting responsibilities with your partner
Being a parent is a lifetime commitment for both you and your partner. As such, talking to your partner about responsibilities during the first trimester can help lay the groundwork. It is for what’s coming during the later stages of your pregnancy and when your baby is born. For example, both of you may discuss the appropriate measures to take when doing household chores or cooking and the exercises you can do to keep healthy. Mapping out your finances with your partner is also another important aspect to consider to ensure your baby’s future is secure. Planning maternity and paternity leaves, as well as childcare arrangements post-birth, can give both of you some direction ahead of time.
The second trimester (week 13-27)
What happens to your body?
‘Graduating’ to the second trimester – from week 13 to 27 – often means most or all of the symptoms that you went through, such as nausea and tiredness, will either reduce or disappear completely. You might even feel refreshed and energetic throughout the day and sleep wonderfully throughout the night again. We know this is an amazing chance for the ladies who have struggled especially hard with first-trimester symptoms. Revel in it sister, and let your pregnancy glow shine through!
At this point, your belly will start to grow out quite rapidly, and you can gain up to 2kg each week as your little one develops. Further, your breasts will grow in preparation for milk production. As such, many women find using pregnancy pillows, support belts, maternity bras, and the like very helpful to minimise discomfort from this trimester onwards.
Aside from weight gain and breast growth, you may also experience these symptoms:
- Increased appetite
- Bladder/kidney infections
- Headaches and dizziness
- Leg cramping
Let us assure you that these are normal.
Braxton Hicks contractions can also occur – this happens when your uterus contracts to prepare for childbirth. In the second trimester, though, they should only be mild and not very painful (if at all). If you begin to experience more severe contractions, it’s best to speak with your doctor. These could be signs of early labour, so it’s advisable to have your gynaecologist do a check-up.
How has your baby developed?
The second trimester is also when you’ll begin to feel your baby moving for the first time, and we understand this is the most exciting for you and your partner! They’ll also be able to hear you too, which means this is the best time to talk to them, sing your favourite tunes and let them recognise your voice. Their eyelids can open and shut too, and they’ll sleep and wake up in a normal cycle. Your baby’s lungs will be fully formed, though they are not yet ready to breathe. During your next ultrasound, you may also spot their tiny fingers and toes – this is the time they develop their distinct fingerprints and footprints.
What’s also significant about the second trimester is that your gynaecologist will be able to determine your baby’s gender. Whether it’s a boy or girl, this news will offer enough excitement and thrills to begin shopping for baby essentials and plan bub’s nursery. What’s even better? Plan a gender reveal party and surprise your loved ones with the sweetest news ever!
Second trimester checklist
Tell your employer and plan your maternity leave
Now that you’re moving onto your second trimester, it’s a good time to share with your employer the news and plan your maternity leave. That way, your boss will have enough time to find employees to cover for you while you’re away. At the same time, you can start organising your handover in a more organised manner instead of leaving it to the last minute.
Plan your post-baby budget
With your little one entering your life, you’d want to make sure you have enough finances to purchase all the essentials for bub. While at it, begin looking for insurance plans to cover your baby once it’s born, so you can have peace of mind knowing that bub will be well-protected.
Get up and moving
You’d also want to set aside some time for exercise so you and bub stay healthy. Go for walks after dinner, get up from the office chair, and do some light stretches. The more active you are during your pregnancy, the easier it will be to adapt to your changing weight and shape. Plus, you’ll have greater strength and stamina to manage labour and get back in shape after you give birth.
Start shopping for maternity clothes
While you may not be showing as much, you will soon, which means it’s time to shop for maternity clothes and accessories. These include dresses, pillows, support belts, and maternity care essentials such as sanitary pads.
Create a baby registry
A baby registry is a list of items you would like to receive as gifts from your loved ones at a baby shower or before bub is born. It covers all the must-haves, from apparel to feeding bottles to toys. Essentially, it serves as an organising tool that lists what you need, so you can easily keep track of them. And it’s more convenient for your loved ones to find what you exactly need, so the gifts they purchase for you are both practical and meaningful.
Plan your nursery
Since you’re better able to move about during this trimester with a lighter baby bum weighing you down, it’s a good idea to begin planning and shopping for your baby’s nursery. This includes selecting everything your baby needs, from cribs and mattresses to clothing essentials such as swaddles and sleepsuits.
Do Kegel exercises
Most pregnant women may experience urine leakages which may impact vaginal delivery. Kegel exercises can help reduce and prevent frequent occurrences. At the same time, these exercises can strengthen your pelvic organ support to prevent prolapses. Your pelvic floor muscles also get stronger; Kegel exercises help you relax and control them more effectively during labour.
Research and plan prenatal classes
It’s also a good idea to plan your prenatal classes so you can be well-prepared when you’re due. You’ll get hands-on experience with the delivery process, such as when to make your way to the hospital and understanding emotional changes. You’ll also learn how to care for your baby, which includes breastfeeding, swaddling and baby hygiene.
Moisturise your belly in the morning and night
Your growing belly can cause itch, so moisturise twice a day – morning and night – to help nourish and hydrate your skin. You’ll also be able to enhance your skin’s elasticity and prevent stretch marks and sagging. Why not start with moisturisers by Mustela? The Mustela Stretch Mark Cream provides a three-in-one formula designed to reduce and prevent the appearance of stretch marks during pregnancy – all while offering the much needed soothing sensation your belly needs to ward off that itch.
The third trimester (week 28-40)
What happens to your body?
Once you reach the 28th week, you’re officially in your third – and final – trimester of pregnancy. Congratulations! You’re so close to inviting your bundle of joy into this world.
The third trimester will last until your baby is delivered, and over these weeks, you’ll start to see your doctor more for check-ups so you can ensure both you and bub are well. Your doctor will check your blood pressure, listen to bub’s heart, check for swelling in your legs and hands, measure the length of your uterus and review your baby’s position in your womb, so they can work out any complexities before you give birth.
Other symptoms you may experience include:
- Braxton Hicks contractions
- Feet swelling
- Sleeping issues
- Increased urination
While there are some straightforward fixes for some of these symptoms (e.g. pregnancy support belt and maternity bra that permits additional support; versatile pregnancy pillow for sleeping comfort), others may necessitate a call to your doctor – even if just for peace of mind. If you are bleeding or are having Braxton Hicks contractions, for example, it’s a good idea to visit your gynae.
How has your baby developed?
Your baby continues to grow during the third trimester and begins to turn its head down into the pelvic area in preparation for delivery. Aside from that, your baby will have its eyes open, hearing its surroundings – internally and externally – with greater clarity, cry and smile.
Third trimester checklist
Prepare your hospital bag
During this trimester, it’s also time to prepare your ‘hospital bag’. That is, the bag you’re taking with you to the hospital when it’s time to deliver bub. What you’ll need to include:
- Non-skid socks
- Your favourite nipple cream brand
- Breast pads
- Maternity pads
- Undergarments / disposable panties
- Loose-fitting clothing/ comfortable going-home clothes in six-month maternity sizes and a flat pair of shoes
- Sweater or a light jacket
- Toiletries and personal items
- Newborn clothes
- Baby hat
- Mitten and socks
- Newborn diapers
Sign up for breastfeeding classes
If you intend to breastfeed your child, you can learn how to effectively do so from your gynaecologist or attend classes. You can also prepare the equipment you need for breastfeeding, including breast pumps, milk bottles, and bags for milk storage such as Tommee Tippee and Loveamme Breast Milk Storage Bag.
Practise breathing and relaxing
Childbirth can be challenging, but with the right breathing and relaxation techniques, you will better manage the pain and duration during labour. One of these includes belly breathing, where you expand your belly outwards as you inhale and inward as you exhale. The pant-pant-blow breathing technique – six cycles per minute – helps you navigate through contractions: take a deep breath, exhale in two short pants, and end with a long blow.
Shop for all the maternity and baby essentials products you need at Mothercare
We know how overwhelming life gets when you’re pregnant. There are so many things you need to do before your due date that everything can feel a little too much. But with Mothercare, you can rest assured that you will find all you need to prepare for delivery and the arrival of your newborn.
Maternity support belts, nursing pillows, pregnancy support belts, breastfeeding bras, the best nipple cream brands, nappies, and wipes – whichever baby essentials you need, we have them all. It couldn’t be easier to order through our online shop.
Not sure which product will work best for you? Get in touch with your local store’s Digital Nursery Advisor. They’ll help you find the right items to suit your needs, provide information about different products, and even work with you to put your order through right then and there.
You may also visit your nearest Mothercare store and check out our incredible range of breastfeeding bras, pregnancy pillows, and more yourself.
Till then, here’s us wishing you a safe pregnancy and childbirth!