A pregnant woman goes through a number of physical changes, all of which are geared towards delivering a healthy child without harming the mother. Starting from the day of conception to the day of delivery, pregnancy lasts for 266 days or 38 weeks. This duration can be divided into three periods, each lasting three months and are known as the first, second and third trimesters respectively. Each trimester is accompanied by its own unique set of changes to the body. The earliest symptoms can be very subtle and may not be easily noticeable until weeks. However, some women have also talked about sensing pregnancy within hours of conception.
The first trimester
The earliest symptom of pregnancy is breast tenderness accompanied by swelling. This is caused due to increased secretion of the two hormones estrogen and progesterone. Within 10 days of conception, the body also starts producing the human chorionic gonadotropin, which assists in the development of the fetus. It is the increase in the level of HCG that causes nausea, vomiting and morning sickness in pregnant women. Other symptoms include irritability, fatigue, bloating, reflux, constipation, indigestion, headache, and dizziness. The body may also develop a craving for certain food items while averting others like alcohol and smoking. This is done so that the body gets a maximum supply of nutrients that are required for a healthy development of the child.
Regular visits to the doctor along with a healthy exercise and diet is important during the first trimester. The doctor may also recommend the pregnant women with certain prenatal vitamins, especially to provide a healthy dose of folic acid and iron.
The second trimester is the best out of the three trimesters. By this time, the body will already have stopped feeling bursts of fatigue and nausea. The womb will also not have grown too much so as to cause discomfort in moving around. This is the period when the fetus actually grows and starts taking shape. At the beginning of the second trimester, the baby bump will not be very significant to the observer, but the uterus will immediately start growing beyond the pelvis. This will not be noticeable if you actually feel the lower abdomen. By the 16th week, the baby will start moving around and by the 20th week, the uterus will already have extended above the belly button. This is when the baby’s heartbeat can be felt and the gender be determined through an ultrasound scan. By the 24th to 28th week, the baby is in the most active phase and will start causing a lot of movements.
This period is accompanied by an increased blood flow. It increases by almost 50 per cent, which will also increase the activity of the kidneys. The increased blood flow may impart a healthy glow to the mother.
This is the last phase when the body finally starts bracing up for the delivery. The belly will grow into a huge size and there will also be an alarming rate of weight gain. The uterus keeps on expanding and the mother may feel shortness of breath due to the stress on the diaphragm. This period is also marked by a considerable hormonal change which can make the mother emotional and prone to irritability and excessive perspiration.
During the delivery, the body goes through a number of physical and chemical changes. After the delivery, most things will immediately revert back to normal. However, certain things like skin pigmentation, stretch marks, weight gain and loss of muscle tone can last for some months or even years.