Besides an ever-expanding waistline and – hopefully – glossy hair and glowing skin, during the nine months of your pregnancy, most of the really awesome action will be going on ‘behind the scenes’. But if you could take a peek inside your tummy, these are just some of the amazing miracles you’d see…
Week 5 – First heartbeats
At just five weeks, your baby’s tiny heart will begin to beat at about 150 beats per minute (twice the rate of your own). “Did you know that foetal heart rate increases in response to a mother’s stress levels? That’s why it’s important to stay as calm as possible during pregnancy,” says Emma-Lees Laing, a midwife with baby charity, Tommy’s.
Week 6 – Feeling queasy? Blame your placenta
Once your fertilised egg begins to divide, the tiny cluster of cells starts to produce two hormones called human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) and oestrogen. These are the culprits responsible for causing morning sickness. But take heart: “Nausea is actually a good sign, as it means the pregnancy hormones are doing their job,” explains Emma-Lees.
Week 12 – Making room
Your jeans may be feeling a little bit more snug by around 12 weeks when your waistline starts to expand. To begin with, most of this is caused by water retention – and maybe even wind. Who said being pregnant wasn’t glamorous?!
It’s all go! The first 12 weeks is a super-busy time for your baby. This is when all the major organs – the heart, brain and nervous system, lungs and liver – develop. “Eating a healthy, balanced diet and taking a prenatal supplement will ensure your growing baby has all the nutrients needed during this key time,” advises Emma-Lees.
Week 13 – Growth spurts
By the end of the first trimester your baby will be the size of a lemon, weighing around 1 oz. By 24 weeks, baby will have reached the size of a mango, weighing about two pounds. After this time, your little bun gains on average half a pound a week until they’re the size of a watermelon.
Week 17 – Hic!
At the end of the fourth month your baby will have developed reflexes such as sucking, swallowing and hiccups – possibly even thumb-sucking. Some people even believe you can tell if a baby will be right- or left-handed from which thumb they suck in the womb!
Week 20 – Bubbles and butterflies
Your baby begins moving around at eight weeks, but you’re unlikely to be aware of these movements until about 20 weeks when most mums-to-be notice a bubbling or butterfly feeling in their belly. “These movements get more noticeable as your pregnancy progresses,” says Emma-Lees, “until you can see them from the outside.”
Pink or blue? Your baby’s ‘bits’ aren’t clearly defined until 20 weeks, when an ultrasound could reveal their sex. Will you want to know what you’re having? Now’s the time to ask, or ask the nurse to ‘keep mum’!
Strrretchy skin A rapidly expanding bump can take its toll on your skin. Stretch marks can appear as the elastic fibres under the surface break, and your skin may also feel itchy. Rubbing an oil into your skin after a bath will help to soothe the itch.
Peek-a-boo Your baby’s eyebrows, eyelids and eyelashes appear at around 20 weeks, although they won’t actually open their eyes until about six months. Although it’s dark in the womb, some light does penetrate, allowing your baby to see shades of red and orange.
Week 22 – Hair today…
By around five months your baby’s head hair will start to grow. Your own hair will also appear thicker by now, thanks to pregnancy hormones prolonging the growth phase and preventing shedding. But you may also find it growing in less desirable places like your tummy and nipples!
Handy facts By week 22, your baby will not only have fully developed hands and fingers, but also nails and even fingerprints.
Week 25 – Ear, ear
Now your baby’s ears are formed, they might be able to hear noises outside the womb such as your voice or even the radio and passing traffic. It’s been discovered that sounds heard in the womb, such as a TV theme tune, can be comforting to some babies – even after they’re born. Your baby can also get to know other sounds like your partner’s voice or even your dog’s bark!
Plumping up At around 25 weeks, your baby will start to build up stores of fat, so by the time they’re born, they’ll have that gorgeous chubby look we all love.
Week 30 – Yum yum
By seven months, your baby will have fully developed taste buds. And it’s been found that babies who are exposed to certain tastes in the womb via the amniotic fluid are more eager to eat similarly tasting foods after birth. In other words, start munching the broccoli now!
Week 32 – Take a deep breath
Your baby might not be out in the open air yet, but that won’t stop them practising their breathing by inhaling amniotic fluid. It all helps the lungs form in time for the real thing.
Week 37 – Almost ready!
Although you may have another three weeks to go – or more – your baby is now considered full term. The remaining time in the womb will be spent getting chubbier and practising breathing, sucking, blinking and wriggling in anticipation of life in the outside world. You’ll both be counting the days until you finally meet.
7 to 9lb is your baby
6 to 10lb is normal fat gain
6 to 10lb is your placenta, extra breast tissue and amniotic fluid
2lb is your expanded uterus
4lb is additional blood volume
Bumps come in all different shapes and sizes. As a rule of thumb, though, your fundal height – the distance in centimetres from your pubic bone to the top of your uterus – roughly equals the number of weeks you’re pregnant. For example, at 20 weeks, your fundal height should be about 18 to 22cm.