Trimester Development


First Trimester

This is a very delicate time for the fetus.  During this trimester too much of the wrong thing or not enough of the right thing can cause brain damage, spina bifida and other defects.

Expectant mothers must get 0.4 mg of folic acid a day and check out nutrition labels because some cereals offer 100% of the daily recommendation in just one serving.  Other foods with folic acid include orange juice, rice, pasta, breads and leafy greens.

It is important to quit smoking, drinking, and taking drugs when pregnant.

Do not change cat litter boxes or eat undercooked meat during pregnancy because these can contain harmful toxoplasmosis that can damage a developing baby.

Paint fumes, poisons and other chemical fumes can also have harmful effects on a developing baby.

It is important to see a physician regularly.  Your physician can help expectant mothers learn how their personal health affects their baby’s health, monitor the baby’s development and health, and assist expectant mothers with any questions that they may have.

Things to expect during the first trimester:

Some women spot during the first weeks of pregnancy.

Milk glands begin to form that this can make breast tender.

Breasts begin to enlarge, the areola darkens and nipples become more erect.

More frequent urination usually occurs due to the pressure of the uterus on the bladder and the increased levels of progesterone in the body.

The need for additional sleep is manifested in more sleepiness and expectant mothers may require ten hours of sleep each night to feel rested.

Pregnant women who work outside of their homes should rest after returning home from work and arrange to have some additional help with the household chores.

Large amounts of blood begins to flow to the uterus and progesterone causes the smooth muscles of the blood vessels to dilate resulting in low blood pressure that can cause fainting during the first trimester.

Increasing fiber and fluid intake can help avoid constipation that can lead to hemorrhoids.

Lower back can also be a nuisance during this time but can be alleviated by gentle massage and doing stretching exercises.

Morning sickness is a trademark of pregnancy and is experienced by 60-80% of pregnant women in the first trimester.  In some cases, the nausea and vomiting can last all day for weeks at a time.  Some women may need to seek medical attention if they cannot keep any food in their stomach.  It is a good idea to begin the day with crackers or dry toast and to snack throughout the day on stomach-friendly foods.  Sleeping and exercise sometimes helps alleviate the symptoms as well.

Some pregnant women become keenly sensitive to smells that never bothered them before.

It is not unusual for expectant mothers to crave one or two types of foods; however, it is imperative to eat a variety of foods during the first trimester and maintain a healthy diet.

All nausea is not necessarily morning sickness so if the stomach upset is extremely uncomfortable contact your OB/GYN.  During the first trimester, it is a good idea to be overly cautious.

Although weight gain is natural and necessary during pregnancy, many women have their physician recommend a nutritionist to help them gain the appropriate amount of weight and select foods that are most beneficial to their developing baby.

Pregnant women should up their ideal caloric intake by 200 calories per day.  The increased caloric intake should focus on healthy foods.  Caffeine and junk foods should be avoided.

Regular moderate exercise is important during pregnancy.  Daily walking, aerobics and yoga designed for pregnancy, and stretching exercises will slow weight gain and build muscle strength that will be particularly helpful during labor.


Most miscarriages occur during the first trimester.  In fact, one in six pregnancies ends in miscarriage which can be devastating to a family.  Miscarriages can stem from many factors.  Research data indicate that up to 60% of miscarriages are the body’s way of naturally expelling a fetus that is not developing the way it should.  Cramps and heavy bleeding can be an indicator that the baby will miscarry.  Data also indicate that most women who miscarry in their first pregnancy will not miscarry in future pregnancies.

Check out the “Useful Links” section of the WHOM website for “Baby Center” website that will provide you with free subscription to newsletter that tracks your baby’s development week by week through pregnancy.

Second Trimester

During the second trimester, expectant mothers will begin to “show” their pregnancy with the extension of their abdomen due to the growing uterus and developing baby.  By week 14, the fetus has formed and is about 4 ½ inches long.  At 20 weeks, the uterus extends past the mother’s umbilicus (belly button).  The mother’s bone marrow will produce more blood and size of your heart will slightly increase.  It is imperative for expectant mothers to get enough iron during this time to avoid anemia.  Your physician probably prescribed a pregnancy vitamin at your prenatal visit that will provide the required iron supplement.  The uterus can grow up to twenty times and stretch m arks along the stomach are common.

Morning sickness tends to subside although sensitivity to smells may continue throughout pregnancy.

The chance of miscarriage lowers considerably.

Your energy level will return as the vast amount of energy that was needed during the first trimester to create the fetus is lessened to maintain fetal development.

Salivating is common in the second trimester.

Breasts are fully functional and may secrete a yellowish discharge from time to time.

Increased blood flow that is necessary for the developing baby may cause varicose veins.  To prevent or lessen signs of varicose veins, prop your legs up with pillows while lying down.  You should maintain a healthy pregnancy weight, wear support pantyhose to keep blood circulating, and wear loose fitting clothes.  Taking daily walks help to strengthen muscles and promote healthy circulatory system.

Indigestion may occur during the second trimester because the growing uterus is applying pressure on the stomach.  Be sure to avoid fatty, greasy foods since they are hard to digest.  You will want to eat slowly and chew your food well.  You should not eat late in the evening and do not drink coffee, tea or smoke.  Your physician can recommend treatment for this symptom if it becomes bothersome.

During the second trimester, your baby’s tiny ears can hear your conversations.  You are encouraged to read and sing to your baby.  This can be comforting to him or her and to you as well.  Some parents set aside a special time in the evening and take turns reading to their developing baby.  In doing this, you are developing early bonding techniques that will become habits to continue during those early days home from the hospital.  Your baby’s eyelashes and eyebrows begin to grow; and by week 24, babies start to experience rapid eye movement.

Third Trimester

During the third trimester, your baby is rapidly growing.  This is a crucial time for the baby’s brain, lungs and other organs development; however, babies who are born early during this trimester can still be mature enough to survive.  By the end of the third trimester, the baby usually weighs over seven pounds and will position itself in place for birth.

The weight of the uterus can cause lower back and abdominal pain.

Expectant mothers will find it beneficial to enroll in child birthing classes to help prepare for labor.

Daily walks, stretching or low-impact exercise can help maintain fitness levels that will prepare you for the process of childbirth and maintain the health of the child by staying at a healthy weight.


Your physician will discuss the types of delivery that can be expected.

Vaginal:  The most common type of delivery where the baby is delivered through the birth canal from the uterus through the cervix and the vagina.

  • Natural deliveries are vaginal deliveries without the aid of pain-killing drugs.
  • Some women, especially in the case of complicated labors, choose to have an epidural with their vaginal delivery.  The epidural a form of regional anesthesia involving injection of drugs through a catheter placed into the epidural space. The injection can cause both a loss of sensation (anaesthesia) and a loss of pain (analgesia), by blocking the transmission of pain signals through nerves in or near the spinal cord.

Cesarean:  This procedure requires the surgeon to deliver the baby by making an incision in the abdomen.  A decision to perform a cesarean is usually done when the baby or the mother has a health risk that would make natural delivery dangerous.  You are encourage to seek further education about childbirth by talking to your physician, visiting informative Web sites such as those suggested on the WHOM Web site under “Useful Links” and by reading books on the subject as those suggested on the WHOM Web site.

Postpartum Depression

After nine months of vast changes in one’s body and life style, the new mother is blessed with one of God’s greatest gifts; however, the adjustments have not ended.  The process of childbirth is exhausting and it is followed by sleepless nights as the infant cries adjusting to life outside the womb.  In addition, the mother’s body begins to heal and readjust her hormonal levels back to normal.  The genuine stresses of becoming a new mother can cause new mothers to lose their enthusiasm.  This depression usually only lasted for a few weeks; but if the problem persists, you should speak to your physician.  The physician can help you make a healthy decision to seek counseling or, in some cases, to prescribe medication to aid in recovery.