The average length of pregnancy is 280 days, or 40 weeks, from the first day of the last menstrual period. However, a normal full-term pregnancy can last anywhere from 37 to 42 weeks. Only about 5 percent of babies arrive on their exact due date. Most women deliver during a window that stretches two weeks before and two weeks after the due date.
The method most often used to calculate your due date is based on the assumption that conception occurs 14 days after the start of the last menstrual period. However, if the date of ovulation is known, it is the most reliable method of determining the age of the fetus.
Checking the size of the uterus using ultrasound can help confirm the accuracy of the due date.
Each trimester generally is assumed to be about three months long, although there’s no exact measure. The first trimester is a time of rapid development for the fetus, and can be a time when many moms experience morning sickness or changes in their appetite.
Many pregnant women say the second trimester is the easiest—the discomfort associated with a large pregnant belly has not yet hit, but the unpleasantness of morning sickness usually has let up (although for some women, it continues into the second trimester).
During the third trimester, in addition to the telltale sign of a baby bump, many women experience other symptoms such as heartburn, back ache and difficulty sleeping. Toward the end of this trimester, the baby should position him/herself with the head down in preparation for birth.
For first-time moms, you’ll usually begin to notice a little bump between weeks 12 and 16. If you’ve had a baby before, the muscles in your uterus and belly have experience with stretching out to fit a growing fetus, so you may begin to show sooner.
As far as how big that bump will get, every pregnancy and every woman is different. You might find that you grow a basketball that sticks straight out in front of you, or you might end up putting on pounds all over the place as baby grows.
The decision on when to tell friends and family you’re expecting is completely up to you. Some women want to let everyone know right away. Some wait until more than halfway through the pregnancy. The right decision is the one that fits your needs.
It’s common to wait until after about Week 12 to announce a pregnancy because it’s around that time that the risk of miscarriage drops dramatically. Most women feel it would be easier to deal with the grief if a miscarriage does occur without well-intentioned friends asking questions about the baby. Women who have experienced a miscarriage in the past may be inclined to wait even later.
Celebrating a new life is a hard secret to keep, though. You’ll probably want to tell family and some close friends at an earlier point than when you choose to let the world at large know the news. An advantage to sharing the news early is that you won’t have to “fake it” around friends and family or make excuses for feeling sick or passing up a glass of wine.
Here are some things it would be a good idea to start thinking about and/or doing during your first trimester:
- If you work, contact your human resources department to find out how much maternity leave you’ll have and whether it will be paid, unpaid or a combination
- Make a budget and start saving for your delivery costs
- Start buying (or borrowing) maternity clothes
- If you smoke, quit
- Begin taking prenatal vitamins (if you’re not already taking them)
- Study up on which medicines, foods and environmental factors are safe and unsafe during pregnancy
- Decide when to tell friends and family you’re pregnant
- Start thinking about baby names
If you’re spending time each day with your head over the porcelain throne, take comfort in the fact that you’re not alone! While morning sickness affects women differently, it’s extremely common to experience nausea, vomiting or loss of appetite during the first trimester of pregnancy. And despite its name, morning sickness strikes at various times throughout the day.
There are a few things you can do to help yourself feel a little better, though. For starters, try eating small meals or snacks throughout the day. Having an empty stomach often makes morning sickness worse. If you work, bring a bag with an assortment of snacks so that you have several to choose from at different times during the day.
Eating something small before you even get out of bed can help get your morning off to a good start, as getting out of bed with an empty stomach may make you need to rush to the bathroom.
Keep track of foods or smells that cause you to feel nauseated and avoid those things. For one woman it might be garlic, for another it may be salads—and it’s often not something you would guess. When nausea does strike, ginger tea, ginger ale or even gingersnap cookies may help.
The good news is that for most women morning sickness symptoms begin to taper off around 12 to 14 weeks of pregnancy. If your morning sickness is severe—at any point in your pregnancy—don’t hesitate to ask your doctor about it.
About 90 percent of pregnant women choose an obstetrician-gynecologist (OB/GYN) as the primary provider on their pregnancy team. An OB/GYN is a medical doctor who has received specialized training after medical school in women’s reproductive and general health. OB/GYNs will be the most qualified to deal with complications, should they arise. If you end up needing a C-section, an OB/GYN will be the one to perform that procedure.
Another option is a family medicine doctor. These medical doctors are trained in a broad spectrum of care that includes pediatrics (care of children), maternal care and primary care for adults. This means that you could have the same doctor work with you before you’re pregnant, while you’re pregnant and then after you’re pregnant (and care for your child, too). However, these doctors don’t have as much focused experience on women’s reproductive health as an OB/GYN doctor would.
Finally, many women now are interested in the services offered by midwives. A certified nurse midwife (CNM) is a medical professional who has completed a graduate-level program in midwifery and is certified by the American College of Nurse-Midwives. CNMs focus on providing individualized care to each woman and often encourage natural approaches to pain management during labor. They may work in a hospital setting or in a birthing center.
With the advent of social media, the potential for making a big splash with your pregnancy announcement is ripe. Even if it’s a less “social” affair, many women get really creative in sharing their big news. Here are some of our favorite ideas:
- Invite family over for dinner. Before they arrive, put a bun of some type in the oven. At some point after they’ve arrived, ask someone to check on what’s in the oven. Be sure to have your camera ready!
- Buy a jar of Prego tomato sauce from the grocery store. On a small piece of paper, write “We Are,” and then take a photo with your spouse with each of you holding one of the items.
- Buy a pair of baby shoes. In chalk on the driveway or sidewalk, write the year you were born. Next to that, write the year your spouse was born, then the year your baby will be born. Stand behind your respective years and put the baby shoes behind your baby’s birth year. Have a friend snap a picture.
- To share the news with co-workers, buy a dozen doughnuts. On the inside of the box, tape or glue one of the ultrasound images and write, “Eat up, everyone! My mom can’t be the only one with a belly!”
- If you have a dog, buy a book about babies and set it on the floor, open, in front of your dog. Lean the strip of ultrasound photos against the book and take a photo of your dog “reading” the book.
Tip #1: Nursery Gotta-haves:
- A crib or portable crib.
- A comfortable place to nurse like a chair, rocking chair, glider or couch. Emphasis on the word “comfort.”
- A changing area. If you want to save money or space, consider using a changing pad on top of a dresser instead of buying a changing table.
- A diaper pail. Your nose (and everyone else’s) will NOT be happy if you skip this purchase. You can save money by choosing one that uses regular garbage bags.
- A laundry hamper. You likely will be going through a LOT of clothes, especially in the early months.
Tip #2: You might want to consider choosing your bedding first, since you’re likely to find something you fall in love with, before painting your walls and choosing accessories.
Tip #3: Save your money on bumpers. They may be cute, but they’re a hazard to your baby AND a nuisance when changing sheets.
Tip #4: Give your baby something interesting to look at while he or she is lying in the crib. In the early weeks, babies’ eyesight is still developing, so giving them the opportunity to gaze upon things with highly contrasting colors helps that development.
Tip #5: Develop a system for organizing baby clothes—because you’re probably going to end up with a lot of them, in lots of different sizes!
Tip #6: Consider skipping the wipes warmer. Most babies don’t seem to care if wipes are chilly. Plus, the warmth can cause the wipes to dry out more quickly.
Tip #7: Consider using a portable crib or Moses basket in your room for the first couple of months. With baby waking so frequently at night for feedings, you won’t have to stumble as far to get to him or her. If you use a Moses basket, stop using it once your baby can roll over.
#1 I’ll have a miscarriage.
While this does occasionally happen, it’s unlikely, particularly if you already know you’re pregnant. Most miscarriages actually happen in the first few weeks of pregnancy, before the woman has even realized she’s pregnant. Once the doctor can see a heartbeat, the risk of miscarriage is only about 5 percent.
#2 My baby isn’t getting enough to eat because of my morning sickness.
While morning sickness may begin to resolve around 12 weeks, if you’re still battling it, don’t worry. Your baby can glean the nutrition it needs from the food you are able to stomach, even if it’s not as much as you would normally eat. The only case in which this would not be true is if you are severely dehydrated.
#3 I’ll go into labor too early
While you might have heard lots in the news about premature births, more than 85 percent of babies are not born premature. And the vast majority of the babies that are born premature are born between 34 and 36 weeks, which is far enough along in the pregnancy that there is not much chance of serious complications. If you want to lower your risk of going into early labor, make sure you’re not smoking or drinking alcohol, and that you are taking your prenatal vitamins every day.
#4 I’ll never lose all my baby weight.
True, your baby may not take all your extra pounds with him when he leaves your body, but many women are, in fact, able to return to their pre-pregnancy weight. The best thing you can do to boost your chances is to breastfeed your baby. This gives your metabolism a serious boost—by hundreds of calories a day! And while gaining weight during pregnancy is normal, keep an eye on what’s expected, and if you’re gaining more weight that is advised, ask your doctor about how you can slow down. Once baby is born, sneak in exercise when you can—maybe stroller walks through the neighborhood or exercising while baby is napping.
#5 I’ll do something embarrassing in the delivery room
You may have heard stories of laboring moms throwing up all over the floor or pooping while pushing baby out, and it’s true—that might happen. It’s also true that childbirth is one of the times in life where all modesty goes out the window, and the doctors and nurses in the room with you do this many times a day. Whatever you end up doing that’s embarrassing, it’s doubtful you’re the first person who’s ever done it. Plus, by the time a few minutes have gone by, you will have forgotten all about it as you adore your new baby!
Planning a babymoon is a fantastic way to connect with your partner before baby arrives and gives you a chance to rest and relax — after all, you’ve been growing another human for months!
Some couples choose adventurous babymoons, while others simply want to relax on the beach for a few days. Whatever you choose, do something you enjoy and that will leave your recharged and ready to take on motherhood.
Here are some tips for safe, enjoyable babymoon:
- Have a chat with your doctor. Your OB/GYN can tell you if it’s safe for you to travel. If you have a high-risk pregnancy, your travel options may be limited to locations close to home.
- Aim for the second trimester. Morning sickness should have subsided by now and you aren’t as uncomfortable as you may be in the third trimester. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology says it’s safest to travel between weeks 18 and 24.
- Be prepared. Make sure there are medical facilities where you are going, just in case you need medical care. And don’t forget to bring along your physician’s phone number.
- Fly safe. Most physicians say it’s safe for pregnant women to fly up to the 36-week mark. However, it’s important to check each airline’s restrictions to make sure they will let you on the plane.
- Get vaccinated. Check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website to see if there are any health travel notices for your destination. Also, talk to your OB/GYN to see if you need vaccinations or if you need to take any special precautions.
- Keep it simple. You will likely find your trip more enjoyable if you avoid extended airport layovers or long car rides.
- Move it! If you’re traveling by car, plane or train, be sure to get up and move at least once an hour to increase blood flow and reduce your risk of blood clots.
- Wear a seatbelt. It’s always important to wear a seatbelt, but it’s especially crucial to wear it properly when you have a baby on board. Keep the lap portion of the seatbelt low across your hips, below your belly. The shoulder portion should rest across your collarbone. While you’re at it, move your seat as far back as you can and tilt it back slightly.
Enjoy your time away!
It seems a wonder to look at your belly now and think that it may swell to almost twice that size! With all that stretching of your skin, it would seem like stretch marks are a given—but there are things you can do to reduce the chance of developing them.
Start by drinking lots of water to keep your skin well hydrated. This helps your skin to maintain maximum elasticity, which comes in handy with all that stretching. Massaging your skin daily with a moisturizer or oil that’s high in vitamin A or vitamin E (such as cocoa butter) also can keep stretch marks at bay and increase blood circulation and tissue repair.
Lastly, get additional doses of these skin-friendly vitamins along with vitamin C and zinc through your diet. Vitamin C helps protect tissue from damage and, along with zinc, helps form collagen in your skin, which keeps your skin taut.