It’s completely normal for a lot of questions to whirl around your mind as you come to grips with the life-changing news! Smart Cells have created this pregnancy advice guide to prepare you for the next 9 months!
Pregnancy is divided into trimesters, the first trimester is from week 1 to week 12, the second is week 13 to 27 and the third trimester is from 28 weeks until birth.
This is where it can get a bit confusing, weeks 1-2 of your pregnancy you aren’t actually pregnant…this is the time when your body is preparing for pregnancy, but because pregnancy dates are calculated from the first day of your last period, this preparation time is considered to be your first 2 weeks of pregnancy! It’s important to contact your healthcare provider as soon as you find out you’re pregnant to start your antenatal care as soon as possible.
The First Trimester
The first trimester is considered to be the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. This is when the majority of women discover that they are pregnant; your midwife will calculate your exact due date during your first appointment. Your GP or midwife will provide you with more information and help you decide on the right supplements for you but the general rule is that you will need to take a folic acid and vitamin D supplement throughout your pregnancy. A lot of brands have supplements specifically made for pregnant women which contain all of the vitamins needed. It’s also important to be aware that pregnant women are not advised to take any supplements containing vitamin A, this is because high amounts can harm an unborn baby.
In the very early stages of pregnancy you may not notice any physical changes or have any symptoms, however, a lot of women report similar symptoms associated with PMS such as: breast tenderness, mood swings and fatigue. A lot of women feel nauseous during the first trimester, the exact cause of this is not actually known but it’s thought to be due to the hormone HCG. Most of the time nausea and sickness is nothing to worry about but excessive vomiting can cause dehydration so it’s important to get medical advice if this happens to you. Sometimes things like strong smells, hunger and even low blood sugar can make sickness feel worse so it’s best to avoid these triggers if you can. A lot of women like to sip on peppermint tea to help ease their morning sickness or have a ginger biscuit (or five) to nibble on throughout the day!
Here are some of the most common early pregnancy symptoms:
- Tender breasts
- Food cravings and aversions
- Increased urination
It’s worthwhile to start considering birth options during your first trimester, we know it feels like a long time away right now but this is an important decision to make and you will need some time to think about your options and discuss them with your partner, family and midwife.
You will also be offered screening tests during your first trimester, these are routine and screen for conditions including: Down’s syndrome, Patau’s syndrome and Edwards’ syndrome. These tests will tell you the chances your baby has of having any of these conditions. You do not have to accept these screening invitations but it’s important to make an informed decision whether you accept or decline screening appointments. We recommend speaking to your midwife or healthcare provider further on this topic.
At just 12 weeks pregnant, your baby is fully formed and considered to be a foetus! They still have a lot of growing and developing to do though! Your baby will likely be doing somersaults and a regular acrobatics performance inside your growing womb but it’s still too early to feel any movements just yet.
The Second Trimester
Between weeks 13 – 27 you are in your second trimester, a lot of women say this is the time when the morning sickness (or all day sickness in some cases!) finally starts to ease, energy levels return to somewhat normal and generally start to feel great! At around 18 weeks you will start to notice your baby’s tiny kicks and rolls! You will also be able to find out the gender of your baby if you choose to do so! Overall the second trimester has lots of milestones to look forward to!
Around 15 weeks pregnant, lots of exciting things start to happen, your baby starts to notice sounds, albeit a bit muffled! They will hear sounds from inside your body including your heartbeat and noises from your digestive system, they will also begin to notice your voice! They will also start to swallow very tiny amounts of amniotic fluid, this is eventually filtered through their kidneys and passed out as urine back into the amniotic fluid.
At around 20 weeks you will be offered a scan with the NHS, this is sometimes referred to as the ‘anatomy scan’. This scan is really important and will check anatomic structures of your baby to ensure they are developing well. You may ask the sonographer to check the gender of your baby at this scan if you wish to know. You can find out the gender sooner than this by booking a private scan, these typically cost around £50.
You may have a birth plan firmly in place at this point in pregnancy so it may be the time to consider other factors too, like stem cell storage. Stem cells are the building blocks of the body and the treatment options they provide are unmatched, these incredible cells have the ability to repair, regenerate and even replace almost any other cell in the body. If your child were to become unwell later on in life with a life changing or limiting condition then stem cell therapy may be possible to treat or even cure them. With 80 diseases already known stem cells can effectively treat, research is still ongoing to discover the further potential of these amazing cells.
Collecting stem cells is a once in a lifetime opportunity, these are found in the umbilical cord so have to be collected at the time of birth. What’s even more amazing is that these cells could even potentially save the life of a sibling or the parents if they are a match. You can learn more about stem cell storage here.
The Third Trimester
From week 28 until birth you are now considered to be in your third and final trimester! By now you’re probably feeling a bit uncomfortable because of your growing bump and you may be feeling that fatigue you experienced in your first trimester again. If you’re struggling to get comfortable in bed then you may find a good quality pregnancy pillow helps, or sleeping on your side with a pillow between your legs.
At around 30 weeks pregnant your baby is practising how to suck and you may be lucky enough to catch them sucking their tiny thumb on an ultrasound! If you’re not already on maternity leave then now is the time to consider it, it’s important to rest as much as you can before the baby arrives. A lot of women decide to start their maternity leave when they are around 34/35 weeks pregnant but the choice is entirely up to the individual.
Things are starting to get a little cramped in your womb as the baby gets bigger and starts piling on the pounds! However it’s important to remember that you should still feel your baby’s regular movements and if these stop or change or something just doesn’t feel right then you must contact your GP, midwife or hospital immediately.
If you haven’t got your hospital bag ready yet then this needs to be on the top of your to-do list! Here is a handy list of what you should pack:
- 2 x comfortable pyjamas/loungewear – dark colours are always a good idea
- 6 x large dark comfortable pairs of pants
- 2 x nighties – ones with a button front are perfect for breastfeeding
- 1 x dressing gown – material depending on season
- 2 x nursing bras
- Bikini top if you are planning for a water birth
- Breast pads
- A pack of maternity pads – it’s important to get the pads specifically for after birth, normal sanitary towels just won’t cut it and tampons are an absolute no no!
- Birth plan & maternity notes
- Usual medications
- Toiletry bag – deodorant, face wipes, toothbrush, moisturiser, lip balm, shower gel, hair bobbles/clips, shampoo and conditioner
- A pair of flip flops and slippers
- A handheld fan
- Phone charger
- Going home outfit
It’s easy to overpack with clothes but remember your partner or a family member can always drop more off if needed. If you are planning on a home birth then it’s still a good idea to have a bag packed just so everything can be at hand and in one place when it’s needed.
Here’s a list of what you will need to take for your baby:
- 4 x short sleeve vests – it’s hard to know what size your baby will need so we recommend taking a mix of a few sizes, a few newborn and a few 0-3. If you know your baby will be big or small then pack accordingly
- 3 x sleepsuits
- 1 x hat
- 1 x scratch mittens
- 1 x pair of socks
- MAM newborn dummy (if you choose to use one)
- A pack of newborn nappies
- A blanket
- 2 x muslin squares
- 1 x coat
- Cotton wool
- Nappy bags
- Going home outfit
At 37 weeks pregnant your baby is considered to be ‘full-term’ and is ready to be born anytime from now! You may notice Braxton Hicks contractions around this time, and even before, this is your body’s way of preparing for birth by having a bit of a practice. These aren’t painful, you will just notice a tightening across your bump. If you think you may be in labour then it’s important to call your midwife, doctor or hospital for assessment.
Here are the tell-tale signs that suggest your baby is on the way!
- You lose your mucus plug – this is what sits within the cervical canal during pregnancy to protect your baby from infection. It may be a yellow colour or blood stained. Some people refer to this as a ‘show’ and it can be considered a very early sign of labour. It’s important to note though that some women can lose this plug weeks before they actually go into labour so it’s not the most reliable sign!
- Your waters break – this may be a big ‘gush’ of fluid or it may be a constant trickle, this depends on if your fore or hind waters break. If you experience any fluid leaking from your vagina then you must call your midwife, GP or hospital for assessment.
- You suddenly need to go to the toilet….immediately! This is because your baby’s head is pushing on your bladder and bowels.
- Back pain – again this is because of your baby’s head position, as it rests on your spine it can cause an uncomfortable feeling.
- Contractions – not Braxton Hicks, we’re talking about the real thing! Painful, regular tightenings across your tummy and then the pain passes as the tightening goes. Also you may feel like you have period pain. It’s time to call your midwife or the hospital when your contractions are 5 minutes apart and last around 60 seconds.
If your baby’s movements change or stop, you start to lose blood, you’re in a lot of pain or your waters were a strange colour or had a foul smell then you should contact your hospital immediately.
If you are having a planned caesarean section then these are usually carried out around 39 weeks pregnant, this is so your baby is fully developed and prepared to meet the outside world.
If your due date comes and goes don’t panic, it’s perfectly normal for some mothers to go past their due date. Your midwife will be in regular contact with you and it’s likely you will be offered to have a membrane sweep to try and start labour, sometimes referred to as a ‘stretch and sweep’. In most cases, this does the trick and labour starts soon after.
NHS. Pregnancy Week by Week: https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/week-by-week/