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What to Expect When You’re Expecting

06 October, 2014

A typical pregnancy is 40 weeks and divided into three sections called trimesters. A pregnancy has three trimesters, each of which is marked by specific foetal developments.

First Trimester (1-13 weeks)

The first trimester is the most crucial to your baby’s development, yet for almost half of this trimester you may not even realise you are pregnant. The gestational age (the most common form of measurement used) is measured from the first day of your last menstrual period. This could mean that by the time you realise you are late for your next period; you are nearly halfway through your first trimester. Your baby is already about 2mm long and has a beating heart.

The first trimester is when all the major internal and external body structures are formed, and exposure to factors such as medications, alcohol and drugs can lead to congenital anomalies. By 10 weeks your baby will look remarkably human, complete with arms, legs, fingers and toes.

Physical changes in mother

You may notice that your breasts are changing, becoming fuller, tender and sensitive. You may also notice a darkening of the areola (the skin surrounding your nipple).

As your body’s blood volume increases and the uterus puts pressure on your bladder, you may also notice that you are urinating much more regularly.

You may feel tired, dizzy or light-headed, and approximately one third of women experience vomiting in the first trimester.

By the end of the first trimester, you may have noticed a small bump in your lower tummy.

Physical changes in baby

What started out as a small, single-celled egg hiding in one of your ovaries in week one will be a fully-fledged little 7-8cm long baby by week 13.

During week 4, you may start to suspect that you are pregnant as by now the egg (which is now fertilised and known as an embryo) will have firmly attached to the inside wall of your uterus. It has a heart, a primitive circulatory system and its neural tube has begun to form. This will develop into the nervous system, consisting of the brain, spinal cord, hair and skin.

By week 5, your baby’s brain has begun to develop, and the placenta and umbilical cord is providing food, oxygen and essential nutrients. Your baby’s heart is also now beating!

By week 7, your baby is the size of a cherry and its arms and legs, nostrils, lips and a tongue have begun to form. There are also teeth under its gums.

In week 10, your baby will be making small movements, and fingers and toes are now available for wiggling. Your baby even has fingernails and hair! This is also the week that your baby’s eye colour is determined.

By week 12, your baby’s bones have begun to harden and your baby can now make facial expressions.

By week 13, all the major foundations have been laid for your baby and now it just needs maturing.

Emotional changes in mother

The first trimester can be overwhelmingly emotional. Feelings you might be experiencing include excitement, anxiety, and generally some pretty wild mood swings.

Much like you may have experienced when coming on your period, you could find yourself a bit more irritable and sensitive than usual. Your body is full of hormones and you may often feel nauseous and tired.

Appointments and tests

Once you discover you are pregnant, it is recommended you visit your GP, who will ask you questions about your physical and mental health and family history. They will also take a series of blood tests and talk you through all the tests that will be done throughout the pregnancy. This is also a good time to talk about taking supplements, such as folic acid, general care and where you would wish to give birth. If you want to have your baby in a birthing centre, the earlier you book in the better.

You will most likely have an ultrasound performed during this trimester, which will give an idea as to how the embryo is developing.

Second Trimester (14-27 weeks)

The hard work involved in forming your baby has now been done, and you may start to feel a bit better. During this trimester your baby will increase its size by three to four times, meaning your bump is about to grow!

Physical changes in mother

While the nausea and tiredness has started to lift, you may start to experience some ligament pain and shortness of breath.

Your breasts will continue to grow, and if you haven’t already done so, now is the time to get fitted for a maternity bra. You may experience some milk leakage from your breasts. Some women will notice a faint brown line up the middle of their abdomen (linea nigra) or some pigmentation on their face (chloasma).

You may also experience some Braxton Hicks contractions from 26 weeks. These painless contractions are designed to prepare your uterus for labour.

Physical changes in baby

By week 15, your baby should measure around 15cm and weigh about 120 grams. They may start to suck their thumb and explore the inside of your uterus. As the baby continues to explore movement, you may start to notice strange sensations. Try not to panic at the unfamiliar feeling; remember, two months ago your baby was simply a cluster of cells, whereas now he or she has functioning organs, nerves and muscles they are wanting to explore.

At 16 weeks; older mothers (>37) and mothers who have had prenatal screening that has shown an increased risk for a birth defect will be offered an amniocentesis to test for chromosomal abnormalities such as Down’s Syndrome.

By week 18, your baby may be able to hear as their ears begin to stand out. It won’t be until week 25, however, that your baby begins to respond to your voice.

At week 20, you’re halfway. Well done!

By the end of the second trimester, your baby is now about 38cm long and weighs approximately 1.2kg.

Emotional changes in mother

You may feel a sense of relief when you enter the second trimester, as some of the pressure is taken off now your baby has developed its structure. You may also begin to “show”, making the pregnancy feel more real, and as you share your news with others the pregnancy should really start to sink in.

You may also feel like you’re losing your marbles, with “pregnancy amnesia” beginning to kick in. Many women will have sleepless nights worrying about whether or not the baby is ok or how they will be as a mother, but this is perfectly normal.

Appointments and tests

It is common that during the second trimester women have their weight, tummy size, blood pressure and urine checked every four weeks. This is also the trimester when you will have an ultrasound to check the development of foetal structures such as spine, limbs, brain and internal organs. The baby’s sex can also be established should parents wish to know.

Third Trimester (28 to 40 weeks)

Congratulations, you’ve reached the third trimester and the countdown is on to when you’ll be holding your baby in your arms! This is the trimester when all of your baby’s organs and systems will mature, ready for birth. Your baby is by now getting big and, with less room to move in the tummy, you are likely to feel much more movement as he or she explores.

Physical changes in mother

The most obvious physical change during the third trimester is your tummy, which by now should look clearly pregnant. You may also experience some swelling and shortness of breath. It is recommended that you steer clear of wearing heels during this trimester, as the risk of complications peak and your blood pressure will rise, leaving you more prone to falls.

You may also experience some backache, heartburn or indigestion, and toileting will become more frequent.

Some women may also suffer from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome due to the hormonal changes they experience during the later stage of their pregnancy; this syndrome usually goes away following childbirth. The carpal tunnel is a small passage in the wrist where nerves and tendons pass from your arm into your hand and fingers. During pregnancy, hormones cause you to retain fluid and they also soften the ligament that forms the roof of the tunnel. When this happens, the nerve running through the tunnel may become squashed.

Physical changes in baby

Every day your baby is in your uterus it is maturing, and with each day its chance of survival increases.

By week 33, your baby should weigh around 2kg and measure about 45cm in length. This week they will start to taste the difference between sweet and sour.

Your baby will be considered “full term” once it reaches 38 weeks, and is likely to be born at any time. As he or she starts storing fat, your baby will put on approximately 200g a week during these final few months.

Emotional changes in mother

As you get larger, you will tire more easily and some days can leave you feeling uncomfortable and fed up. You may also notice your concerns growing, causing sleepless nights or anxiousness.

Now is the time to start thinking about what you would like from the birth and the first few weeks after.

You may enter the ‘nesting” period, giving in to a sense of adrenaline to clean the house and get ready for your baby, but remember to take it easy

Appointments and tests

Your pregnancy appointments will now be scheduled more frequently, depending on your individual needs. Generally, it is recommended that between 29 and 36 weeks you have antenatal visits fortnightly, increasing to weekly after 36 weeks.

The third trimester is also a time to start antenatal classes to prepare you for the birth and parenthood.

At 36 weeks, you may be required to do a blood test for anaemia or a possible vaginal swab for Group B Strep bacteria, which is a common and usually harmless bacterium that is found in the body. Up to 30% of pregnant women carry the bacterium in their vagina or rectum. Sometimes, a woman who has group B strep can infect her baby during delivery, which can cause a serious illness in newborns. The mother may also become ill from the infection after the delivery.

Helpful websites/apps

There are a number of helpful websites for expecting parents, including The Wonder Weeks and Baby Centre.

The Wonder Weeks app is available on iPhones, Androids and Window Phones, and is a portable, at-a-glance version of the leap chart in The Wonder Weeks book. The app gives a thorough and easy-to-understand guide to tracking your baby’s mental development during the first 20 months.

Baby Centre offers advice on just about everything, from conception through to getting ready for preschool. Advice is straightforward, practical and offered by medical professionals and parents.

CBHS pregnancy options and packages

CBHS can work with you to decide what’s best for your family and ensure you are covered throughout your pregnancy.

Packages can include coverage for hospital accommodation, intensive care, theatre, labour wards, obstetricians, anaesthetist, pathology and even antenatal or lactation classes.

Out-of-pocket expenses vary depending on the package you choose.

CBHS packages are designed for peace of mind and can suit a variety of different needs and budgets.

Pregnancy with CBHS

Having coverage with CBHS takes enormous pressure off what can be a stressful time. CBHS can ensure you are getting the right level of care to help your pregnancy go as smoothly as possible and allow you to concentrate on the preparation for parenthood, rather than budgeting for hospital fees. To find out more about this, call our Member Service Centre on 1300 654 123.

Having a baby is expensive, and CBHS can help you receive money back for most costs that are not 100% covered. Our policies will reassure you and your family that you will be getting the best treatment from the most qualified professionals - and for the biggest day of your life, you deserve the best.

A 12 month waiting period applies to pregnancy/obstetrics if you are new to private health insurance or if you are considering upgrading to a higher level of cover.



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