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Phases of Pregnancy: Bonding Between Mothers and Babies

During the journey of pregnancy, a woman's body undergoes various physical changes as it adapts to support the growing fetus. Besides, women also experience a range of emotional changes alongside the physical changes. These emotional changes can be attributed to hormonal fluctuations, anticipation, and the significant life changes associated with pregnancy.


Below are some common physical and emotional changes experienced during the journey.


FIRST TRIMESTER (conception to 12 weeks)


Physical Changes

Breast Changes: Breasts may become tender, swollen, or feel fuller due to hormonal changes in preparation for breastfeeding.


Fatigue: Many women experiences fatigue, often due to hormonal changes and increased metabolism.


Nausea and Vomiting: Morning sickness, characterized by nausea and sometimes vomiting, is common during the first trimester, although it can occur at any time of day.


Frequent Urination: The growing uterus puts pressure on the bladder, causing increased urination frequency.


Food Cravings and Aversions: Hormonal changes can lead to changes in taste and smell preferences, resulting in food cravings or aversions.


  • Emotional Changes

Hormonal fluctuations can lead to rapid and sometimes unpredictable changes in mood, ranging from euphoria to irritability. It is also common for pregnant women to experience anxiety and worry about the health of the baby, the pregnancy itself, and the impending changes in their lives. Nevertheless, many women still feel excited and joyful about the prospect of becoming a mother and starting a family. These feelings may alternate with feelings of anxiety or uncertainty.


  • ·      Baby’s Growth in the First Trimester

The moment of conception is when the woman’s ovum (egg) is fertilised by the man’s sperm. The gender and inherited characteristics are decided in that instant.


Throughout the first trimester, the baby's growth is rapid and transformative, setting the stage for further development in the second and third trimesters. It is important for expectant mothers to receive adequate prenatal care to ensure the health and well-being of both mother and baby during this crucial period of development.


Week 1 – 6:

Technically, the first two weeks of pregnancy are counted from the first day of the last menstrual period (LMP). During this time, the woman's body prepares for ovulation and fertilization. On the 3rd week, fertilization typically occurs. The fertilized egg, known as a zygote, begins to divide rapidly as it travels down the fallopian tube toward the uterus.


By the end of the fourth week, the zygote has developed into a blastocyst and has implanted itself into the uterine lining. The inner cell mass of the blastocyst will eventually become the embryo, while the outer layer will develop into the placenta. The evolving neural tube will eventually become the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). On the 6th week, the baby is now known as an embryo. It is around 3 mm in length. By this stage, it is secreting special hormones that prevent the mother from having a menstrual period.


Week 7 – 12:

The embryo undergoes rapid growth, and the development of facial features becomes more pronounced. Arm and leg buds become more defined, and the beginnings of fingers and toes can be seen. On the following week, the embryo is now referred to as a fetus. Major organs and systems continue to develop, including the digestive system, kidneys, liver, and lungs. The fetus begins to move, although these movements are too small to be felt by the mother.


On week 9, genitalia begin to form, although it is usually too early to determine the baby's sex via ultrasound. The fetus's facial features become more distinct, and the limbs continue to lengthen. The fetus is now about the size of a kumquat which is about 2.5 cm in length. All of the bodily organs are formed. The hands and feet, which previously looked like nubs or paddles, are now evolving fingers and toes. The brain is active and has brain waves.


By the end of the first trimester, the fetus has grown to about the size of a plum. All major organs and systems have formed, although they will continue to mature throughout the remainder of the pregnancy. The baby's fingers and toes are fully formed, and its facial features are more human-like.


SECOND TRIMESTER (13 – 27 weeks)


  • Physical Changes

During the second trimester of pregnancy, which typically spans from weeks 13 to 27, many physical changes continue to occur as the baby grows and the body adapts to support the pregnancy. Here are some common physical changes experienced during the second trimester:


Visible Baby Bump: One of the most noticeable changes during the second trimester is the emergence of a visible baby bump as the uterus expands to accommodate the growing fetus.


Decrease in Nausea: For many women, nausea and vomiting (morning sickness) start to subside during the second trimester as hormone levels stabilize.


Increased Energy Levels: Many women experience a boost in energy during the second trimester, often referred to as the "honeymoon phase" of pregnancy.


Back Pain: As the baby grows and the uterus expands, the center of gravity shifts, leading to increased strain on the back muscles and ligaments.


  • Emotional Changes

During the second trimester of pregnancy, emotional changes can continue to evolve as the pregnancy progresses. As the pregnancy progresses and the baby's movements become more pronounced, many women feel a stronger emotional connection to their growing baby. This can lead to feelings of love, excitement, and anticipation about meeting the baby.


For some women, the second trimester brings a sense of relief as the risk of miscarriage decreases, and the pregnancy becomes more established. This reduction in anxiety can lead to a greater sense of calm and confidence about the pregnancy.


  • Baby’s Growth in the Second Trimester

During this second trimester, the baby undergoes significant growth and development. This trimester is often considered a period of rapid growth and maturation.


Week 13 – 16

By this point, the baby is approximately the size of a lemon. Many of the major organ systems have formed, and the baby's features become more defined. The baby's sex can sometimes be determined via ultrasound.

The baby's movements become more coordinated, and the mother may start to feel flutters or "quickening" as the baby kicks and moves. The fetus will be around 14 cm in length in week 16. Eyelashes and eyebrows have appeared, and the tongue has taste buds.


Week 17 – 27

Around week 18 – 20, an ultrasound will be offered. This fetal morphology scan is to check for structural abnormalities, position of placenta and multiple pregnancies. Interestingly, hiccoughs in the fetus can often be observed. The fetus is around 21 cm in length. Its ears are fully functioning and it can hear muffled sounds from the outside world. The fingertips have prints. The genitals can now be distinguished with an ultrasound scan.


Arriving at the end of the second trimester, the fetus is around 33 cm in length. The fused eyelids now separate into upper and lower lids, enabling the baby to open and shut its eyes. The skin is covered in fine hair (lanugo) and protected by a layer of waxy secretion (vernix). The baby makes breathing movements with its lungs.


THIRD TRIMESTER (28 – 40 weeks)


  • Physical Changes

During the third trimester of pregnancy, which typically spans from week 28 until childbirth, the body undergoes significant changes as it prepares for labor and delivery.


Increased Baby Movement: As the baby grows larger and has less room to move around in the uterus, their movements may become more pronounced and even uncomfortable at times. This is a sign of the baby's healthy development and activity.


Braxton Hicks Contractions: Braxton Hicks contractions, also known as "practice contractions," may become more frequent and intense during the third trimester. These contractions help prepare the uterus for labor but are usually irregular and do not cause cervical dilation.


Pelvic Pressure and Discomfort: As the baby's head engages in the pelvis in preparation for birth, the mother may experience increased pressure and discomfort in the pelvic area, including the lower abdomen, pelvis, and groin.


It's important for pregnant women to prioritize self-care, stay hydrated, maintain a healthy diet, and get plenty of rest during the third trimester. Regular prenatal check-ups with healthcare providers are essential for monitoring both the mother's and baby's health as the due date approaches.


  • Emotional Changes

The third trimester is the moment when many women experience a mix of emotions as they approach the end of their pregnancy journey and prepare for the arrival of their baby. The impending labor and delivery can evoke feelings of anxiety and fear, especially for first-time mothers.


For some women, the third trimester is a time of deepening connection and bonding with the baby. Feeling the baby's movements and imagining their personality can strengthen the emotional attachment between mother and child.


  • Baby’s Growth in the Third Trimester

During the third trimester your baby is growing rapidly and you may feel more tired. It is also common for you to notice changes to your body as your baby develops.


During the beginning of the third trimester, the baby now weighs about 1 kg (1,000 g) or 2 lb 2oz (2 pounds, 2 ounces) and measures about 25 cm (10 inches) from crown to rump. The crown-to-toe length is around 37 cm. The growing body has caught up with the large head and the baby now seems more in proportion.


The baby spends most of its time asleep. Its movements are strong and coordinated. It has probably assumed the ‘head down’ position by now, in preparation for birth. Reaching at the end of the third trimester, the baby will be around 51 cm in length and ready to be born. It is unknown exactly what causes the onset of labor. It is most likely a combination of physical, hormonal and emotional factors between the mother and baby.


Although the growth and changes above are usually experienced by women, each pregnancy is unique. Pregnancy can differ significantly between women due to a variety of factors, including genetics, age, lifestyle, health status, and medical history. Thus, not all women will experience the same symptoms or to the same extent. If you have concerns about any physical changes during pregnancy, it is always best to consult with a healthcare provider for personalized advice and guidance.



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