Pregnancy calendar

A new life begins

A woman’s egg is fertilized by a man’s sperm in the fallopian tube. During the next few days, the fused egg and sperm move through the fallopian tube to the lining of the uterus. There it implants and starts to grow. The cluster of cells that reaches your uterus will become the foetus and the placenta. The placenta functions as a life-support system during pregnancy. It delivers oxygen, nutrients, and hormones from mother to foetus.

Pregnancy is a time of major change. From the very start, your growing baby alters your body and the way you live. For your entire pregnancy, the baby depends on you for all the things it needs to grow and thrive. Although each pregnancy is unique, the growth and development of a foetus take place in a fairly standard pattern.

0 – 4 weeks of pregnancy

Common signs of pregnancy

  • missed menstrual period
  • sore or tender breasts
  • tiredness
  • frequent urination
  • nausea
  • bloatedness

The most common sign of pregnancy is when you do not start menstruating at the normally expected time. There are a number of home pregnancy tests on the market or alternatively you can have a BHCG blood test done at the nearest laboratory. As most of these tests are quite accurate you do not need to visit a doctor or midwife until you are 8 weeks pregnant. Miscarriages occur in 1/5 of pregnancies (1 in 20).

Baby

Seven days after the egg is fertilised, about the time of implantation in the lining of your uterus, the egg begins to produce a hormone called HCG. It now develops into an embryo and begins to form a placenta – the vital link between mom and baby. The heart develops and begins to beat. At 4 weeks the embryo is about 4mm long and weighs less than 1g.

Boy or girl

The father’s sperm determines whether your baby will be a boy or girl. The egg carries 2 X chromosomes, but the sperm carries an X or Y chromosome. If a Y chromosome sperm fertilises the egg it will be a boy, if it is a X sperm it will be a girl. There is a 50% chance of either sex.

5 – 8 weeks of pregnancy

During these weeks, the placenta is starting to grow and secrete its own hormones. You may start to experience nausea especially in the mornings, breast tenderness and an urge to empty your bladder more frequently. Ensure that your diet contains adequate amounts of iron, folic acid and calcium. If you are not nauseous you can start taking vitamin supplements recommended for pregnant women.

Weight gain

During pregnancy an ideal weight gain is 12,5kg. In order to best prepare your body for this weight gain use an oil to rub in frequently to your skin in susceptible areas for stretch marks like the abdomen, breasts and thighs. Moisturised and well hydrated skin will be better able to accommodate the stretch it will have to endure.

  • Average baby – 3,4kg
  • Placenta – 0,6kg
  • Amniotic fluid – 0,8kg
  • Uterus increase – 0,9kg
  • Breast increase – 0,4kg
  • Blood volume – 1,5kg
  • Fat – 3,5kg
  • Extracellular fluid – 1,4kg

By 8 weeks of pregnancy you can now have a blood test to determine whether you are expecting a boy or girl! The advantage of this test is that it is available a lot sooner and generally a more accurate test than ultrasound which depends on the position of the baby. It detects the sex of the baby by characterising minute quantities of foetal cellular material which is released into the maternal bloodstream as part of normal foetal development.

Issues to decide

  • The birth place
  • Your caregiver – midwife, GP or obstetrician
  • Routine tests

Danger signs

Signs of premature labour

  • Low dull backache
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Lower abdominal cramps

Baby

Dramatic changes occur during this stage. The nervous system is starting to develop with the growing of the notochord and the neural folds. Formation of the heart and the gut is also in progress. An embryo during this period will normally have a crown to rump length of 2,5cm. The following are present – a primitive brain, a heart, arm and leg buds and beginnings of eyes and ears.

9 – 12 weeks of pregnancy

Your body is starting to change. Breasts may still be tender and you may need to empty your bladder frequently. You may still feel nauseous.

Baby

By twelve weeks the foetus’s limbs and internal organs are fully formed and is now about 8,5cm long. The heartbeat can be heard using a doptone. It beats much faster than yours – about 140 beats per minute. For the rest of the pregnancy the foetus only grows and matures – the organs are all now perfectly formed. The placenta is mature and provides all the nutritional needs of the foetus. The external sex organs are sufficiently developed to enable the sex determination on a scan. Skin becomes downy as hair starts to grow.

13 – 16 weeks of pregnancy

Your uterus is now easily palpable above the pubic bone. Your breasts are enlarging and the areola (the dark area around the nipple) may become darker. You may notice a line on your abdomen – the linea nigra – which will disappear after pregnancy. Some women may experience some pigmentation on their face as well. Pressure on your bladder may now be less as the uterus has moved higher up into the abdomen, out of the pelvis.

Baby

At 12 weeks the placenta is fully formed – it is the baby’s main link with its mother during pregnancy. It controls body functions and provides vital food and oxygen.

At 16 weeks the foetus is about 14cm long. The legs are starting to grow longer than the arms. Fine hair (lanugo), and vernix caseosa (white greasy substance) is starting to cover your baby’s skin. Some of it is still present at birth, and it protects the baby’s skin, which is very thin.

17 – 20 weeks of pregnancy 

At 20 weeks your uterus is just below the umbilicus. Sometimes it may be noticed that the umbilicus gradually flattens as your uterus grows. You may start to feel movement (quickening). First time mothers usually become aware of the movement at a later stage. It sometimes feels like “fluttering butterflies in your stomach”

Relationships

It is important to talk things over together with your partner about your feelings and not to get trapped in your separate worlds. You are both becoming parents, and the transition is easier if there is understanding between you.

Baby

At 20 weeks your baby’s head is about 1/3 of the size of the body. The baby weighs about 225-500g and is about 20-30cm long. Eyebrows and eyelashes are starting to grow. Breathing movements can be seen on ultrasound. As the baby matures, breathing becomes more regular, although he can’t breathe in air. This is like a rehearsal for the moments after birth. The foetus is also swallowing amniotic fluid and passing urine. The skin is starting to form fingerprints.

Baby’s movements

Each baby tends to have its own characteristic rhythm of activity and moves most energetically at a particular time of the day. You won’t feel all the movements your baby makes – sucking, the fluttering of hands and breathing movements are all too slight to notice. A baby might be inactive for several hours at a time when he is probably sleeping.

21 – 24 weeks of pregnancy

By 24 weeks the top of your uterus has grown to just above your belly button. You are probably gaining between 240g and 480g a week. Now that your physical and emotional adjustments of early pregnancy are over, you may be feeling good about yourself and starting to really enjoy your pregnancy.

Lovemaking can take on a new aspect of enhanced enjoyment – you no longer have to be anxious about falling pregnant. When you make love, it is more comfortable to experiment with different positions where your partner’s weight is not bearing down on your growing abdomen.

Baby

The baby now has sleeping and waking cycles. The bones are starting to harden. By 24 weeks the baby is about 36cm long and weighs 680g. By 24 weeks the baby’s organs of balance inside the ear have developed. The baby has delicate eyebrows and eyelashes now. The baby can suck and sometimes sucks its thumb.

25 – 28 weeks of pregnancy

You may start to experience some backache because of the softening influence of pregnancy hormones on your ligaments – exercise will help to strengthen these muscles. Braxton-Hicks contractions may be noticed – these are irregular hardenings of your uterus. They are usually not painful, and become more frequent closer to the end of the pregnancy. These Braxton Hicks are the practice contractions preparing for labour. Heartburn may become a real problem now – so eat smaller meals more often and try to avoid fluid with your meals.

Common fears for mom

  • Will I be a good mother?
  • Will my baby be normal?
  • Will I survive the pain of labour?
  • Will I love my new baby as much as my toddler?

Baby

After 28 weeks your baby is able to survive should it be born prematurely. Fat is being deposited under your baby’s skin. The eyelids can open and your baby can distinguish your voice from others. The uterus is a noisy environment – mom’s heartbeat, blood flowing through the placenta, mom’s tummy rumbling.

Decisions to make

  • Choose your childbirth educator
  • Draw up a birth plan

29 – 32 weeks of pregnancy

This is the beginning of the third trimester. Your belly is now growing and you may become breathless even with little exertion. It is important to be aware of your baby’s movements – this is your only way of knowing that your baby is fit and healthy. Each baby has its own movement pattern – if this decreases drastically – consult your caregiver or hospital immediately.

Try to sleep on your side. If you lie on your back, ensure that you sleep on at least 2-3 pillows otherwise the weight of your pregnant uterus and your baby presses down on your main blood vessels which slows down the blood flow to your baby.

Danger signs

  • Severe headaches
  • Abdominal pain
  • Draining of fluid from the vagina
  • Blurred vision
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Baby not moving nicely

Baby

Baby measures about 28cm from crown to rump. He weighs about 2kg

33 – 36 weeks of pregnancy

The uterus now pushes right under the lungs causing you to experience shortness of breath and to become easily tired. Your baby’s movements can become fewer but bigger movements. If you are having a home birth, the necessary steps for preparation of equipment should now be taken.

Baby

The head and body are now in the same proportions as at birth. Lanugo, the very fine downy hair covering your baby may start to disappear. The baby is moving, blinking, passing urine, swallowing the amniotic fluid and hiccuping. Her muscles are strong as you can feel from the vigorous kicking and thrusting of her arms and legs.

Issues to see to

  • Pack your bags for hospital
  • Book your bed at the hospital
  • Ensure your medical aid knows about your pending baby
  • Decide on a birth partner

37 – 42 weeks of pregnancy

These last few weeks usually feel the longest. The baby’s room is ready and you are getting anxious. It is important to keep your mind occupied during this period. Plan a couple of interesting things to do. If you are expecting your first child, go out and enjoy a candle light dinner – remember this is the last few weeks of not having extra responsibilities

Signs of labour

  • a gush of water from the vagina as your membranes rupture
  • continuous slow leaking of fluid from the vagina
  • regular tight contractions of your abdomen – these contractions need to become regular, stronger and last a longer time span.

When to go the hospital

  • when your contractions are about
    • 5 minutes apart
    • lasting 45 seconds long
    • good strong regular contractions
  • when your waters have ruptured

Baby

At 39 weeks your baby is now a term baby and ready to be born at any stage. The baby may still be covered with vernix and is putting on weight every day. The intestines contain the first bowel movement called merconium a black greenish stool.

Your baby should be lying in a normal position – head down. If baby is lying breech – bottom first, you may consider having your baby turned. This is known as ECV (external cephalic version). Not all practitioners are skilled to do this procedure and you may ask your caregiver to refer you for this procedure to someone else if he is not willing to offer you the service.

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