April 24, 2024

Learn how each stage of pregnancy can affect you physically — and how your medical team will be working to care for you and your growing baby.

While everyone’s experience will be different, there are some common changes you can expect throughout the stages of pregnancy.

Pregnancies last around 40 weeks, counting from the first day of your last menstrual period. Here’s what you can expect during each of your three trimesters.

First Trimester (Weeks 0-13)

The earliest symptoms of pregnancy include breast tenderness, mood changes and a missed period. By the second month, you may feel sick to your stomach and fatigued. During this stage of the pregnancy, your belly and breasts will grow and your clothes may start to feel tight. You may also experience headaches, dizziness, heartburn or constipation.

“The most common reasons people seek care during the first trimester are nausea, vomiting, spotting and bleeding,” said Dr. Jody L. Stonehocker, an obstetrician with Vanderbilt Women’s Health.

“I tell patients that if they’re experiencing bleeding, they should come in to get checked out,” said Stonehocker. “It doesn’t necessarily mean anything is wrong, but, especially if they haven’t had an ultrasound yet, we want to rule out ectopic pregnancy.”

First trimester tests include:

  • A blood draw to scan for anemia, blood type, HIV and other conditions
  • Urine samples
  • Pelvic exam
  • An ultrasound to confirm pregnancy, verify gestational age and determine if you’re carrying multiples
  • The option to receive non-invasive prenatal testing, a blood test that screens for Down syndrome and other chromosomal conditions — and also allows you to find out the baby’s sex

Though you’ll see a provider regularly throughout pregnancy — appointments start out every 6 weeks and gradually become more frequent — don’t neglect the other aspects of your health.

Though you’ll see a provider regularly throughout pregnancy — appointments start out every 6 weeks and gradually become more frequent — don’t neglect the other aspects of your health. You can (and should!) go to your regular dental cleanings, and low-impact exercise like walking or yoga can improve your overall health.

Second Trimester (Weeks 14-27)

In the second trimester, you’ll start to feel your baby move. You’ll also feel more pressure on your bladder, stomach and other organs and may see a dark line emerge on your belly, called the linea nigra. You will also start gaining weight at a more regular pace — around 1 pound a week until you give birth. If you prefer not to track your weight, you can discuss modifications with your provider, like standing away from the scale’s display during appointments.

Second trimester tests include:

  • Urine tests
  • 20-week ultrasound  to see the size, position and number of babies, check for physical issues and see the sex of the baby
  • Blood sugar test to check for gestational diabetes

Third Trimester (Week 28-Birth)

As your baby grows, you may feel short of breath as your organs become more cramped. Your breasts will continue to grow, and milk may leak from your nipples. You will also start to feel minor contractions called Braxton-Hicks contractions. Also known as “false labor,” Braxton-Hicks contractions tend to be irregular and do not get stronger over time. 

Third trimester tests include:

  • Urine tests
  • Repeat testing for anemia, HIV and other conditions
  • A swab for Group B streptococcus, a type of bacteria. If you’re positive, your obstetric care team will give you medicine during labor to lower the chance that your baby gets the bacteria.

In this stage of pregnancy, you should think through your birth plan so you can express your labor and postpartum preferences to your birthing partner and care team. This is also a great time to take any childbirth or breastfeeding classes, such as those offered by Vanderbilt Health.

Mother with baby

Expert care for you and your baby

Each pregnancy and delivery is unique and yours should be too. Learn more about how Vanderbilt Health’s obstetrics and maternal fetal medicine teams bring together nationally ranked expertise and personalized care from your first prenatal visit to delivery and beyond.

To learn more, call 615-343-5700 or schedule an appointment online.

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