Pregnant? Here’s What To Expect Week By Week
You’re pregnant (or planning to be), so what should you expect each week?
Welcome to our week-by-week pregnancy guide of what to expect. First, congratulations! Pregnancy is an exciting time. It can also be overwhelming with so many changes. And, it’s totally normal to feel a range of emotions, so give yourself a break if it’s not all happy tears.
Really, half the battle of pregnancy is knowing what to expect. Instead of trying to figure out every detail in one sitting, it helps to look at an overview of your pregnancy week by week. Pregnancy is an amazing transformation over the course of 40 weeks, so do your best to sit back and enjoy the ride.
We know there are a lot of weekly pregnancy resources out there, but it’s nice to start with weekly pregnancy information you can digest because sometimes you just want an overview to get you started. And, even if you’ve already been pregnant before, it’s easy to forget what happens each week. Consider this week-by-week pregnancy guide a refresher in all the important basics.
We’ve been there (pregnant!) before and pulled out the details of what really matters week by week. Think of our guide as the CliffsNotes of what to expect during your 40 weeks of pregnancy. We’ve kept it real and simple so you don’t have to spend so much time digging for the good stuff.
And, our first bit of advice? Try not to get so caught up in the details that you miss the experience. Take weekly photos, enjoy a babymoon with your partner, and document your pregnancy. After all, it will be over in the blink of an eye, whether it feels like it or not.
Be Sure To Document Your Pregnancy Week By Week
Week 1 and Week 2
Technically, you’re not pregnant yet, but week 1 and week 2 still count towards your 40 week goal. Think of these two weeks as your bonus weeks, where you’ll have no symptoms and your only job is to have sex! During these two weeks, you'll have your menstrual cycle and then likely ovulate between the 11th and 21st day, (counting from the first day of your cycle).
The egg then lives for 12 to 24 hours, and fertilization from the male sperm must occur during this time. Because sperm can live in a woman’s body for up to five days, the fertile window is longer than the life of the egg, (sperm can wait for the egg’s release). So, if you're hoping to get pregnant, have lots of sex, calculate your fertile window, and read up on natural fertility methods and ways to boost your fertility.
Week 3 and Week 4
If fertilization occurs, week 3 and week 4 are a period of rapid cell division as your fertilized egg gears up to become an embryo. Around week 3, you may experience some implantation bleeding. This spotting is generally light and occurs about six to twelve days after conception, when the egg attaches to the interior lining of your uterus.
Because you haven’t missed your period yet and you’re unlikely to have any other symptoms, you probably won’t know you’re pregnant. Nonetheless, some women may begin to experience nausea, darkening of the nipples, and tender breasts. Since home pregnancy tests generally can’t detect a pregnancy until your period is missed, this is a time of anxious waiting (and guessing!) for many women. If possible, be sure to take a prenatal vitamin with folic acid even before you know you’re pregnant.
Week 5, Week 6, Week 7
Sometime in week 5, week 6, or week 7, you will likely get your first positive home pregnancy test as the level of hCG, your body’s pregnancy hormone, begins to rise in your body. Most tests will tell you with 99% accuracy if you’re pregnant AFTER you’ve missed your period. For women with irregular cycles, this can be somewhat challenging to pinpoint when your period would’ve arrived for accurate testing.
If you test negative but still don’t get your period, try again in a day or two. The amount of hCG in your urine doubles every 48 hours. As hCG rises, you’ll also likely notice an increase in pregnancy symptoms. Early symptoms you may experience include: tender breasts, exhaustion, nausea, moodiness, bloating, and even mild cramping and light spotting.
When you’ve tested positive, it’s important to call your healthcare practitioner and schedule your first appointment. While many practitioners won’t have you come in until week eight, it’s good to connect with your doctor’s office as they’ll likely have a set of questions for you to answer over the phone. And, now's also the time to learn the do's and don'ts of pregnancy and decide when you're ready to share the news with friends and family.
Week 8, Week 9, Week 10
By week 8, you’ll likely have your first appointment to check on your pregnancy. Many doctors will perform an ultrasound at this appointment to measure for your due date and check for your baby’s heartbeat. If one isn’t found, don’t necessarily lose hope. You may measure smaller than you thought as sometimes women think they’re farther along than they actually are, especially if you have an irregular cycle.
At eight weeks, baby will be about the size of a raspberry, which should make you smile, (get used to the food comparisons, everyone will soon be asking what size fruit your baby is each week!). And, by ten weeks, baby will have grown to the size of a strawberry, and will already have fully developed vital organs, finger nails, and even hair.
Around this time, you’ll likely begin to feel like your regular clothes are getting too tight and those early pregnancy symptoms, (including that annoying nausea), will likely be in full force. You may also start to experience round ligament pain in your abdomen as everything begins to stretch. Do yourself a favor and check out maternity items that will make your life easier through the end of your pregnancy.
Week 11 and Week 12
As you near the end of the first trimester, you’ll be anxious for all those promises of lessening nausea and more energy. For most women, this is a reality after about 13 weeks. And, you’re also nearing the time you can more safely share the news if you’re concerned about miscarriage. Just hang tight for a couple more weeks if you have decided to wait out the first trimester.
By week 11, baby will have grown to the size of a lime and is moving all the time inside of you. Baby is developing tooth buds (to drive you crazy with teething months from now) and her skin is becoming more opaque. And, you’re likely still suffering from all those unpleasant early pregnancy symptoms, including vaginal discharge, headaches, and even dizziness. You can thank your hormones.
Week 13, Week 14, Week 15
Congratulations! Week 13 means you’ve reached the end of your first trimester and many of the unpleasant symptoms of early pregnancy should begin to wane soon, although they may take a couple weeks to really disappear. In most cases, you can expect nausea to lessen now and your energy levels to be better than they were. As your appetite returns, be sure to check out pregnancy superfoods to boost your nutrition.
And, if you’ve waited to share your news, week 13 might be the perfect time as your chances of having a miscarriage have decreased dramatically. By week 15, baby is the size of a navel orange and even starting to hiccup inside of you. While you’re likely feeling a lot better (and may even experience an increase in libido!), you’ll also be experiencing new growing pains, like swollen gums, heartburn, and in some cases, nosebleeds and shortness of breath.
Week 16, Week 17, Week 18
You’ve reached a sweet spot in your pregnancy as you’re fully into the second trimester and not so big yet, (although, of course, you may start feeling like you are!). During weeks 16, 17, and 18, you’ll likely notice your breasts are continuing to grow, your weight gain may be picking up, and your skin might feel itchy as it begins to stretch more rapidly, (check out the best pregnancy skincare brands for help!).
And, in many cases, women start to complain about difficulty sleeping. However, this is also around the time you’ll begin to feel baby move, especially by week 18, which can be a very exciting realization. Don’t worry, though, some women feel baby later than others, depending on the placement of the placenta. By week 18, baby is the size of an artichoke and yawning, sucking, and swallowing inside of you!
Week 19, Week 20, Week 21
Around this time, you’ll have your mid-pregnancy ultrasound, and if you haven’t already, you’ll have the opportunity to find out the sex of your baby, (yay for fun gender reveals!). During this ultrasound, you’ll likely receive a full anatomy scan to check on your baby’s development, all the way down to their organs.
Leg pains and hip cramps pick up around this time as you begin to carry more weight as you and baby grow together. And, by 21 weeks, you may begin to have Braxton Hicks contractions and leaky boobs, so things are definitely changing! Baby at week 21 is about the size of a head of endive lettuce and developing their digestive and reproductive systems. By this time, girl babies have already grown a lifetime supply of eggs.
Week 22, Week 23, Week 24
Even though baby only weighs around a pound (and is about the size of a spaghetti squash) at 22 weeks, their features are becoming more like those of a newborn, with formed lips, eyelids, and eyebrows. And, as crazy as it is to imagine, 22 weeks is the earliest pre-term babies have been known to survive outside the womb.
By 24 weeks, baby will be about a foot long and developing taste buds. As your second trimester approaches an end, you’ll likely be feeling like your belly is growing more rapidly. Your uterus will have risen above your belly button and be about the size of a soccer ball.
Swollen ankles and feet, as well as leg cramps, may be becoming more of a problem, as well as back aches. Now may be the perfect time to start seeing a chiropractor trained in the Webster technique, as they can perform wonders for the pregnant spine. You’ll also likely have your glucose tolerance test sometime soon, so be sure to prepare yourself on what to expect.
Week 25 And Week 26
The end of your second trimester may feel a little bittersweet. On the one hand, you’ve had extra energy and been feeling a little better, on the other your sweet baby is only a trimester away. And, baby’s chances of survival outside the womb are increasing every day. While 80% of babies born at 26 weeks will live to at least one year, this number jumps to 90% at 27 weeks.
Around week 25 and 26, you may be noticing increased trouble sleeping as your belly continues to grow and your hormones fluctuate. For ongoing lower back pain caused by increased pressure on the spine from your expanding uterus, try a relaxing warm bath. It may also help you sleep better at night, which is an added bonus. Also, keep an eye out for swelling that is sudden or severe and be sure to call a doctor if you notice these symptoms. Preeclampsia usually doesn’t occur until after 37 weeks, but can happen earlier, so it’s important to know the signs.
Week 27, Week 28, Week 29
Woohoo! Two trimesters down and only one to go. If this doesn’t make everything much more real, just wait. You’ll be holding your new bundle of joy before you know it. At week 27, baby weighs almost two pounds and is about the size of a head of cauliflower.
Baby is doing all kinds of things now, including sleeping during predictable stretches, breathing amniotic fluid, and even sucking their thumb. Brain activity is also on the rise, which is pretty incredible. And, they’re moving all over the place, which may be part of what’s keeping you up in the middle of the night. Be sure to count your kicks regularly and call your doctor if you notice a slowdown in activity.
You may notice a surge in restless leg syndrome, or the urge to move your legs when you lie down to sleep. And, as unpleasant as it is to admit, hemorrhoids and constipation may increase at this point, as more pressure is put on your digestive system and your hormones relax your intestinal walls.
Week 30, Week 31, Week 32
With baby weighing nearly three pounds at week 30, you’re definitely feeling a lot more pressure on your bladder and likely needing to urinate now more than ever. You’ll also probably begin to feel the urge to slow down as the third trimester moves into full swing and your belly continues to grow by the day.
During the next few weeks, you’ll likely notice those Braxton Hicks contractions ramping up. As long as they’re sporadic and don’t stop you in your tracks, they’re likely just your body preparing for the big day. It is important to know the signs of early labor, however, as you never know when baby will decide to make an appearance.
By 32 weeks, baby is gaining about a half a pound a week and you’re probably gaining a pound a week yourself. You also may be noticing more shortness of breath as things really start to get more crowded down there.
Week 33, Week 34, Week 35
You’re practically in the home stretch now. During week 33, week 34, and week 35, you’ll likely notice the same symptoms you’ve been experiencing for weeks: sleeplessness, frequent urination, physical discomfort in your back and abdomen, and Braxton Hicks contractions, just to name a few.
The good news is that every additional day and week baby stays inside, the more of a chance they'll have to develop, and thrive after birth. And, if you haven’t already packed your hospital bag, now is definitely the time. At week 35, baby is the size of a pineapple and in most cases weighs a little over five pounds. Be on the lookout for painful, regular contractions and water breaking.
Week 36, Week 37, Week 38
You’re almost there, really. Many women will start their maternity leave around week 36 and it’s truly never too soon when you don’t know when baby will arrive. Make the most of your pre-baby maternity leave. After all, things are about to change in a big way. Don’t be surprised if you notice an increase in vaginal discharge as your body prepares for birth. Just keep an eye out for blood or mucus, as losing your mucus plug can be a sign of early labor.
If you haven’t already finalized your plans for what will happen when you’re at the hospital, do so now. Pre-register at your birth center if you can. Arrange for someone to care for your pets and/or older children. Try to put your feet up and relax if possible.
You’re likely becoming more uncomfortable by the day and sleep may be hard to catch at night. Take naps to keep your energy up and get out and walk whenever you can. While baby’s lungs may still be a little premature at week 36 and 37, all other vital organs are likely in working order and baby is about ready to make a debut. Be prepared for a Group B strep test at your week 36 appointment.
Week 39, Week 40+
You’ve made it full-term! Babies born during or after week 39 are most likely to avoid complications. Even the difference of a week or two can mean baby is better able to suck, swallow, and breathe. Weeks 39 and 40 of pregnancy are often anxious times for women as they await their due dates. However, it’s important to remember few babies arrive “on-time.” Start some projects and enjoy the quiet if you can.
Many first-time moms make it to 41 weeks and 80% of women will deliver between 37 and 42 weeks, which is a five-week window. Don’t be surprised if your urge to nest skyrockets during this time. And, the sensation of “lightning crotch” caused by sharp pressure on your nerves from the weight of baby on your pelvis may become worse as the days wear on.
While you’re waiting for baby, this is a good time to download an app for timing contractions on your phone and do you best to relax. Relaxing activities, such as getting a massage, help to release oxytocin, which in turn will help get your labor started. For other ideas on how to get things going, check out methods to induce labor, (and be sure to consult your healthcare practitioner). Just remember, take a deep breath, and brush up on what you need to know about labor and delivery. You’ll be holding that baby in no time!