Pregnancy and Its Stages

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Pregnancy is the period during which a woman carries a growing fetus inside her uterus. It is calculated from the first day of last menstrual period up to 40 weeks. The entire pregnancy is classified into three stages which are known as first, second and third trimesters and each one is different in its own way. A full term pregnancy is when a newborn is delivered between 37 weeks to 40 weeks and an infant born before this is a preterm baby.

First Trimester: This is the initial 13 week period and is also known as first stage of pregnancy. Sudden hormonal changes in the body during this time period may cause nausea, vomiting, headache, tender breasts, weight changes, heartburn, fatigue and altered smell sensation. Every woman experiences different symptoms during pregnancy; some might feel tired while others might be full of energy. This is the crucial time period for baby growth and development and mother needs to be extra cautious as complications like miscarriage are also common during this period. Healthy nutritious diet along with increased fluid intake should be started, while caffeine and alcohol should be restricted.

There are few symptoms which should not be ignored during this important phase and require immediate evaluation by obstetrician. These are vaginal bleeding, high fever, excessive vomiting as it can lead to dehydration, excessive vaginal discharge along with itching, persistent leg pain with swelling, and burning during urination. Any previous health issue can also flare up during this phase.

Second Trimester: It starts from 14 weeks and lasts up to 26 weeks. This is often referred to as the “golden phase” of pregnancy because most of the unpleasant symptoms of first trimester as nausea, vomiting and fatigue gradually disappear. Some of the new symptoms which arise during this stage of pregnancy are back pain, abdominal pain, increase in breast size, swelling in legs (extreme persistent leg pain requires evaluation), heartburn, weight gain and the abdomen rounding. One cardinal symptom of this trimester is baby movement which is felt as a fluttering movement anytime between 16 to 20 weeks.

This trimester is an ideal time to start Yoga classes and Exercise programs. The diet and fluid intake should be continued during this stage along with proper rest and care.

Third Trimester: This is the final stage of pregnancy from 27 weeks to 40 weeks. As the delivery time approaches, it is natural to have anxiety and nervousness regarding labor and baby care. The symptoms, which appear during second phase, continue in this phase and along with that back pain may be a prominent symptom due to weight gain. Some other probable symptoms are heaviness in the pelvic region, pre-milk leakage, prominence in the belly button, difficulty in sleeping, false contractions, increase in urination and involuntary passage of urine during sneezing, coughing and laughing.

The three stages of pregnancy are unique in every ways and affect mother and baby development in different manner. It is natural to have excitement and joy along with apprehensions, but being prepared emotionally and mentally helps in enjoying this period. During all these stages, it is important to have a general awareness regarding bodily changes and baby growth is essential. Prenatal counseling session can help in overcoming fear associated with child delivery and newborn care.

By Mitaly P. Agarwal

Pregnancy Calendar
UCSF Health


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