How your body changes week by week

A human being is growing. This also causes many changes in the mother’s body. But what exactly do these changes mean? Find out step by step what pregnancy entails, with details of what you should look out for, and when.

Pregnant woman holding an ultrasound image in her hand

Each pregnancy is unique and, as a result, is always slightly different. The various effects of pregnancy may invariably appear a bit earlier or later. This is what a possible pregnancy could look like:

Pregnancy weeks 1 to 4 (first month)

It is usually difficult to pinpoint the exact moment of fertilisation. The fertilised egg implants itself into the womb, or uterus, four to five days after fertilisation. At this point your child’s gender, eye colour and a few other characteristics have already been determined. In week four, the first signs of pregnancy may occur:

  • Missed period
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Tenderness in the breasts
  • Cramping in the lower abdomen
  • Frequent urination, constipation

These symptoms let you know that you need to take it easy and bring more calm into your life.

Pregnancy weeks 5 to 8 (second month)

A visit to the doctor confirms your condition. You can already identify a tiny bubble on the ultrasound image: your embryo. The next few weeks of early pregnancy are crucial to your baby's development. This is when it is at its most sensitive to harmful influences.

Look for a midwife. Now is the right time to do it, for she is much more than someone to help you through the birth. She is some you can trust, and the first person to turn to with questions about your pregnancy.

Your hormone levels are rising and your body is gradually changing. Your uterus is expanding. Your breasts start to feel tight. The abdominal wall thickens and your heart rate and breathing accelerate. You may also experience mood swings and disturbed sleep. The ligaments that stretch from the side of the uterus to the pubic bone begin to lengthen. This can cause a dragging pain in the lower abdomen.

At the end of the second month, the embryo’s heartbeat can be seen on an ultrasound. Schedule further check-ups every four weeks so that a doctor can track your baby's development.

Pregnancy weeks 9 to 12 (third month)

Your child’s gender was determined right after fertilisation, but it cannot yet be seen on an ultrasound. You can, however, see your baby’s movements.

The embryonic phase ends in the tenth week of pregnancy. From now on, doctors will refer to your child as a foetus. Your body is still constantly changing as well: you are gaining weight and there may be changes in the appearance of your skin. In addition, your blood volume is increasing and you have a frequent urge to urinate. 

By the end of the third month, the risk of losing the baby due to miscarriage has dropped. Nausea begins to subside, but is replaced with mood swings caused by increased hormone levels.

In the first trimester, you can undergo prenatal diagnostic testing. This provides an indication of potential chromosomal defects or individual genetic disorders.

More about prenatal diagnostics

Pregnancy weeks 13 to 16 (fourth month)

The first trimester ends at the end of the 13th week of pregnancy. Your uterus can now be easily felt through your belly. It is moving from your pelvic floor towards your abdomen.

In the 14th week of pregnancy, it may be possible to determine your child’s gender. Typical symptoms during this time include sleeplessness and fatigue. You may also experience constipation and haemorrhoids.

At the end of the fourth month, the uterus continues to move closer to your navel. The placenta is growing and provides your baby with all the nutrients it needs. By now, you have probably gained between 2.5 and 4.5 kg in weight. 

Pregnancy weeks 17 to 20 (fifth month)

Your baby’s growth rate will now slow down a bit. The baby’s gender can by now usually be easily identified in an ultrasound examination. Your uterus is now directly below your navel. You may experience the following complaints: back pain, dizziness, disturbed sleep, headaches and pregnancy-related forgetfulness. Even at the end of the fifth month, your breasts are still steadily growing. A pregnancy bra will help support the connective tissue and relieve your back.

Pregnancy weeks 21 to 24 (sixth month)

Your baby’s skeleton is hardening and more and more organs are beginning to work. Your breasts are producing foremilk, or colostrum. Oedema (water retention) may cause swelling in your legs and feet – especially at the end of the day. Varicose veins are also a common complaint.

In the coming weeks, you may also experience bleeding gums, a rising heart rate and more frequent urination. Your blood volume is steadily increasing and your uterus is expanding to up to 4 cm above your navel. Weight gain of up to 7 kg is not unusual.

Towards the end of the sixth month, you may suffer from heartburn (pyrosis), a stuffy nose and nosebleeds. Your uterus is pushing against your rib cage, affecting your breathing. This will be particularly noticeable with physical exertion.

From the 24th week, you will be able to feel your baby's movements for the first time.

Pregnancy weeks 25 to 28 (seventh month)

In the seventh month of pregnancy, your baby’s chances of survival if born prematurely increase dramatically.

Between the 24th and 28th week of pregnancy, you can take a special glucose test to detect hidden gestational diabetes.

Possible complaints in the seventh month include:

  • Headaches
  • Tension in your throat and neck
  • Feeling of tension
  • Back pain
  • Leg cramps
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Increased urination
  • Water retention
  • Heartburn
  • Incontinence when laughing, coughing and sneezing

Towards the end of the seventh month, the uterus is far above your navel. This makes it increasingly difficult to breathe. Your belly is growing very quickly now. You may have gained up to 11 kg in weight. 

Pregnancy weeks 29 to 32 (eighth month)

Braxton Hicks contractions (practice contractions) begin from the eighth month of pregnancy. They usually last for 30 seconds before stopping abruptly. In addition to the familiar complaints, you may now also experience problems with your balance.

By the end of the eighth month, most pregnant women have gained between 9 and 13 kg. Your breasts are producing more foremilk and continue to grow.

Pregnancy weeks 33 to 36 (ninth month)

It is quite possible that you could have circulatory problems from the ninth month. Anxiety over giving birth is also completely normal.

Braxton Hicks contractions will continue throughout the coming weeks. You may experience increased tightness and itching of the skin on your belly and breasts. Your stomach is very constricted, causing loss of appetite and heartburn.

Pregnancy weeks 37 to 40 (tenth month)

The final month of your pregnancy begins with your belly dropping lower. Your cervix becomes softer and thinner. Braxton Hicks contractions become more frequent in the prelabour stage. Downward pressure steadily increases.

The loss of the mucous plug, your waters breaking and the first real labour contractions are the first signs that you are in labour.

But first you should back your hospital bag. 

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