Changes to Expect for Each Trimester of Pregnancy

Changes to Expect for Each Trimester of Pregnancy

There’s no need to stress or become anxious at the changes you experience — they’re all apart of the process of carrying a child, so try to go with the flow and focus on your health

During pregnancy, your body will undergo some amazing changes. Increased hormones will cause your breasts to swell, your uterus to expand even your skin to break out. You’ll deal with crazy cravings at 5 a.m. (think ice cream and pickles) and feel “too big” even though it’s just your body’s way of adapting.

In the end, it’s all worth it. In the meantime, we want to help you prepare by outlining changes to expect during each trimester of your pregnancy.

Changes in Your Body During Pregnancy – An Overview

Pregnancy is a moment of enormous changes for women. Most of it is brought about by the rise in hormone levels, and also the “weight,” physical and mental, of carrying another life in your body.

According to Healthline, a pregnant woman’s body undergoes normal physical changes. They can be obvious (like a bigger belly, dark skin) or subtle (frequent urination, fatigue). Below is a list of the changes mums-to-be can anticipate for the next nine months:

Respiratory System

  • Increased respiratory rate
  • Increase minute ventilation
  • Respiratory alkalosis
  • Decreased functional capacity
  • Increased tidal volume
  • Feeling out of breath

Cardiovascular System

  • Increased cardiac output
  • Increased blood volume
  • Elevated resting heart rate
  • Decreased peripheral resistance
  • Decreased blood pressure (in the second trimester)

Gastrointestinal System

  • Decreased gastric motility (constipation)
  • Increased reflux
  • Heartburn

Endocrine System

  • Hot flashes due to increased hormonal level and basal metabolic rate
  • Slight increase in size of parathyroid gland
  • Posterior pituitary secreting oxytocin (near the end of term)
  • Anterior pituitary will secrete prolactin (at birth)

Urinary System

  • The expanding uterus will put pressure on the organs leading to bladder control problems such as frequent urination and incontinence.
  • Kidney working extra hard

Musculoskeletal System

  • Realignment of the spinal curvature to maintain balance
  • Shift in the posture with exaggerated lumbar lordosis, leading to typical gait of late pregnancy
  • Increased ligamental laxity
  • Loosening of pelvic bone ligaments (to prepare for labour and birth)

Breasts and Abdomen

  • Breasts become larger and more tender
  • Nipples may stick out
  • Leaking of colostrum, a yellow watery pre-milk, from the nipples (during the third trimester)
  • Abdomen begins to expand (during the second trimester)
  • Stretching of the abdominal wall and ligaments that support the uterus (leading to aching of the abdomen)

Skin, Hair and Nails

  • Appearance of stretch marks
  • Hyperpigmmentation of the umbilicus, nipples, and face
  • Darkening of the abdominal midline (linea nigra)
  • Appearance of spider veins near breasts and reddening of the palms
  • Changes in hair and nail texture and growth
pregnant mum third trimester

Image source: iStock

The average pregnancy lasts for 283 days. That time is divided into three periods called trimesters during which different things happen to your body.

Below is a list of some of the normal things you may experience during each trimester. The changes described here may happen earlier or later than they appear on this list, and some may continue throughout your pregnancy journey.

First Trimester (Week 0-12)

The first trimester is very important for both you and the baby growing inside you. It will require many adjustments to your lifestyle. During this phase, your body is preparing itself for the next nine months, and you can expect a wide variety of symptoms and emotions due to the hormonal changes in your body.

You may feel extremely tired during the first two months of pregnancy because your body is working extremely hard trying to create an environment for your new baby, and your hormones will be raging. Feeling fatigued is perfectly the norm, and you should take every opportunity to rest up.

You may also suffer from morning sickness (the worst period is usually between 8 to 12 weeks), excessive saliva production, frequent urination, mood swings, irritability, acne, bloating and food cravings. Your breasts may be more sensitive and tender or they might feel fuller and heavier. Your nipples start to enlarge and your areolas become larger and darker.

Many women also experience headaches in the first trimester, which can be blamed on low blood sugar or reduced blood flow to the brain when you stand or sit up quickly. You can also expect to put on a little weight. During the first trimester, a total gain of 1 to 3 kg is expected. If you have not been putting on weight, that’s normal too – due to the morning sickness.

If you are an older mom (35 years or older), your risk of a miscarriage is higher due to the higher risk of chromosomal abnormalities. You may want to consider having a nuchal translucency ultrasound. This looks at the back of the baby’s neck and determines the chance of Down Syndrome.

Here are ten things you will need to do in your first trimester:

1. Improve your nutrition.

Eat more vegetables, drink more milk and increase your intake of vitamins and folic acid. Folic acid greatly reduces your baby’s risk of developing neural tube birth defects such as spina bifida.

2. Stop the vices.

Quit smoking. Cut off alcohol and reduce caffeine. Studies have linked consumption of these three to miscarriage and other pregnancy problems.

3. Find an OB-GYN.

Ask family, friends, and co-workers to recommend a favourite doctor if you don’t yet have one. You can read this article for tips on finding the right OB-GYN for you.

4. Prenatal check-up.

Book an appointment for your first prenatal check-up. Read this article to find out what happens in the first prenatal appointment.

5. Get in the know.

Familiarise yourself with all the dos and don’ts of pregnancy.

6. Call up your health insurance provider.

Make sure you know what your health insurance plan covers as far as your prenatal care and delivery costs, as well as care for your new baby.

7. Sort out your confinement nanny.

Confinement nannies get snapped up 7-8 months in advance. You will want to find your confinement nanny or arrange for someone to help out after the delivery.

8. Go to bed early.

You might feel like a grandma by clocking in at 9 pm, but your body needs all the rest it can get to have enough energy to create the new life you are forming.

9. Discuss when to announce the pregnancy.

Some parents-to-be spill the beans right away. Others wait until they have passed the first trimester and the risk of miscarriage has declined significantly. It’s definitely your call when you want to share the news to others.

10. Buy some new bras.

Your breasts might go up one or two more sizes, so it’s a good idea for you to stock up on some new cotton bras.

Second Trimester (Week 13-25)

pregnant woman in couch

Image source: iStock

This is usually the best stage during which you feel overall healthier, experience a heightened sex drive and look good, with a definite change in body shape.

By this time, you should no longer suffer from morning sickness and overwhelming fatigue brought on by the hormonal changes. If you are still feeling queasy, talk to your doctor about increasing your intake of vitamin B6.

Around this time you will start to experience other discomforts, namely dry skin around your stomach, abdominal aches, increase in gas, shortness of breath, heartburn, stretch marks and swelling of the hands, feet, ankles and face.

Cramps in your feet and calves are also normal in the second trimesters and may be caused by either fatigue or the uterus exerting pressure on the nerves in your legs. Your palms and the soles of your feet are also likely to become red and itchy because of an increase in estrogen.

And while your hormones are still in overdrive, your body has had three months to adjust to them, so you might actually make it through one of those tear-jerker movies without bawling.

Here are ten things you will need to do in your second trimester:

1. Find a prenatal exercise class.

Not only does exercise make you feel better by releasing endorphins, but it can also relieve backaches and improve your posture by strengthening and toning muscles in your back, butt, and even thighs.

2. Start your second-trimester prenatal visits and tests.

Regular checkups can help you track your baby’s growth and assess the foetal position. Also, it’s the time you’ll most likely get to see your baby in an ultrasound.

3. Keep your belly moisturised.

Your growing baby will cause your body to lose much of its natural moisture. You can use some skin moisturizers to help relieve this problem.

4. Choose a prenatal class.

It’ll be very helpful for you and your partner to participate in a prenatal class as these classes teach you about the process of labour, inform you about your options during the labour process and can also provide many helpful tips about labour techniques and caring for your infant.

5. Do some financial planning.

It is never too early to start planning financially for your baby’s future — even as early as when they are in the womb. After all, welcoming a new member to your family is a milestone, and you want to ensure both you and your baby are well-protected.

6. Start sleeping on your side.

It turns out that it’s not just about comfort though — new studies have found that a pregnant woman’s sleeping position can have a real effect on the health of the baby.

7. Think about your maternity leave.

Like any new mum, you want to spend as much time as possible bonding with your newborn. Fortunately, Singapore provides mums with the legal right to take maternity leave.

8. Avoid unsafe activities.

Some women push their limits even during pregnancy, you’ll need to avoid sports or activities that carry a high risk of falling or that may cause trauma to your abdomen.

9. Take all the necessary supplements.

Pregnancy supplements are intended to provide the body with nutrients that may be lacking when you are carrying another life inside you.

10. Eat healthily.

Well, simply put, yes. Eating right during pregnancy is very important as your immune system is suppressed and your body is more susceptible to parasites and other food-borne bacteria.


4 Ways to enjoy a mindful pregnancy from the first trimester.

Baby on the Way? Here’s Your Ultimate Second Trimester Checklist!

10 Strange Pregnancy Changes You Might Not Have Known About

Third Trimester (Week 26-40)

During this period, you will continue to put on one to two pounds per week until the 36th or 37th week. Your baby will put on three-quarters of its weight during this period. Your overall weight gain should be between 10-12 kg.

Your belly may affect your balance and cause backaches. Swelling, varicose veins, groin pains, shortness of breath and fatigue are the common complaints as the pregnancy progresses full-term. Adequate rest, comfortable clothes and shoes and simple exercises should be an important part of your pregnancy.

As your overall level of discomfort peaks, you may not have the good night’s sleep that you so deserve. Try to make up for it by squeezing in some catnaps during the day. Try to also avoid drinking water at night, so as to minimise getting out of bed to use the bathroom in the middle of the night.

By week 36, start getting organized and prepared for labour. You will being to notice an increase in the number of contractions, and your breasts will also make their final preparations for breastfeeding and may start to leak. 

Be sure to have all your essential items for your baby’s needs ready as well as your birth plan. Also, clean all bottles and sterilise them during this final stretch, and get ready to bring your new bundle of joy home at last!

Here are ten things you will need to do in your third trimester:

1. Learn how to cope with labour pain.

When the time comes to give birth to your baby, you know that it will be hard but oh so worth it in the end. Source out the best options for dealing with labour pains that suit you.

2. Know the stages of labour.

While some women may have had a traumatic delivery, there are many others who have had wonderful, holistic births. With a little help and preparation about what stage of labour you’re at, you’re more likely to feel confident about giving birth to your baby.

3. Make a plan for when labour starts.

When a woman becomes pregnant, she will often find herself planning everything for the arrival of her new baby: the nursery, a car seat and stroller, toys and so much more. While all of this is fun and necessary for the most part, there are other things that should be just as thoroughly planned — like the birth plan.

4. Do a soothing late-pregnancy stretch.

Lying around too much can make you stiff but strenuous activities are definitely out of the question. Do some stretches to help you get through the daily pains in your third trimester.

  • Lie on your side with your back straight and support your head and neck with a pillow.
  • Bend your legs slightly and keep your hips stacked one above the other. Place your top arm on the floor in front of you to avoid rolling over.
  • Close your eyes and breathe in and out slowly and naturally. With every exhale, relax one body part at a time – face, shoulders, ribs, belly, legs, fingers.

5. Look out for late-pregnancy complications.

Make sure you keep up with your regular doctors or midwife appointments as complications tend to pop up during the third trimester. Keep track of your blood pressure and any pain or discomfort that might occur.

6. Stock up on what the baby will need.

Shopping for your new arrival can be an exciting time, but it can be all too easy to get carried away. While there are some things that are a great idea to buy before your baby is born, there are other items that you may want to hold off on getting until after the birth — like a crib or all those adorable onesies you’ve been eyeing.

Before you start racking up the bills, consider some important factors that will help you decide what to buy before your baby is born.

7. Make sure you have everything you need before you go to the hospital.

Your bag should contain the necessities you’ll need before and after birth, as well as any items that will make your stay more comfortable.

8. And also, make you sure have everything to bring the baby home.

You’ve got your hospital bag essentials sorted but there’s one more person you’ll need to pack for when heading off to the hospital. Your newborn baby, of course! You’ll go to the hospital just two and come back three, so don’t forget to pack for your newborn.

9. Slow down.

Take each day on slowly, and save up your energy for the big day (and beyond). You’ll be more susceptible to dizzy spells as blood can pool in your feet and legs, causing a temporary drop in your blood pressure.

10. Don’t panic if you go past your due date.

Don’t worry when you’re due date rolls around and you’re still pregnant. You can try inducing labour and make sure to check in with your doctor or midwife.

It can be overwhelming to deal with these body changes during pregnancy, so take everything in stride. All these changes happen to prepare you for the next chapter in your life – motherhood. Do not hesitate to check in with your doctor if any symptoms get too severe. 

Updates by Camille Eusebio

Here at theAsianparent Singapore, it’s important for us to give information that is correct, significant, and timely. But this doesn’t serve as an alternative for medical advice or medical treatment. theAsianparent Singapore is not responsible for those that would choose to drink medicines based on information from our website. If you have any doubts, we recommend consulting your doctor for clearer information.

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