Early Stages FAQs Answered By Nutricia Careline
Becoming a parent is one of life’s biggest joys and responsibilities.
Comprising of experienced midwives, dieticians and mums, our Careline team are here to assist you with all your parenting questions – especially in the initial stages of planning a family. From understanding how your body is changing throughout the journey, what to expect when it comes to morning sickness, and tips on nutrition for you and your newborn – we’re here for you.
- Preconception Health & Advice
- Pregnancy Information & Advice
- Nutritional Advice For You And Your baby
Preconception Health & Advice
Preconception is generally used to describe the time leading up to conception (typically 3-6 months prior to conception).
Frequently Asked Questions
What is preconception health?
Preconception health is a woman’s health before she becomes pregnant.
Preconception health is critically important for a child’s developmental process because poor maternal health and diet before and in the early stages of pregnancy can lead to impaired fetal and infant growth, poor birth outcomes and long-term effects on cardiovascular and metabolic disease.
What is ovulation?
Ovulation and its role in pregnancy is best understood within the context of your menstrual cycle.
The average menstrual cycle lasts for 28 days where the first day of your cycle is the first day of your period.
Halfway through your menstrual cycle (typically between day 13 and 15), your ovaries release an egg, which then travels along your fallopian tube to your uterus.
This is known as ovulation.
Your ovaries also release the hormone oestrogen, which causes the lining of your uterus to thicken in preparation to receive a fertilised egg.
An egg lives for about 12 to 24 hours after it’s released. A sperm must fertilise the egg within this time in order for you to get pregnant. Sperm can live for up to 7 days inside your body.
If an egg is fertilised as it makes its passage along the fallopian tube, it then embeds itself in the lining of your uterus. This is where your embryo will grow to become a baby.
If an egg is not fertilised it breaks down. Your oestrogen levels begin to drop, causing the lining of your uterus to break down too. These then leave your body as you menstruate.As ovulation approaches you may notice some physical changes. These include:
- An increase in vaginal mucus, along with a change in consistency which may make it look like egg white
- A slightly raised temperature
- Abdominal pain
- Tender breasts and/or breast enlargement
- Feeling bloated.
What is preconception care and why is it important?
Preconception care looks to improve the health of a woman and her partner before trying for a baby. This can be done with a Healthcare Professional to help understand current health status and consider strategies for improving overall health, fitness and lifestyle.
Preconception care is important because being as healthy as possible in the months before trying to have a baby has been shown to help the chances of falling pregnant. Plus, being healthy before falling pregnant gives your baby a better chance of good health throughout their life.
Does alcohol affect preconception?
Currently there is no known safe level of alcohol, therefore, the safest option for women planning a pregnancy is to avoid alcohol.
This is because alcohol can affect fertility in both women and men. Heavy drinking can affect a woman’s menstrual cycle and ovulation and in men it can reduce the amount of testosterone in the blood.
What is preconception planning?
A preconception plan allows you and your partner to plan ways to improve your health before conceiving. According to the Royal Australian College of GPs, a preconception care plan can involve a range of strategies including:
- Reproductive planning and the use of effective contraception before conception is desired
- Counselling regarding substance use in pregnancy, including avoidance of smoking and alcohol consumption
- Folic acid and iodine supplementation
- Weight reduction in those overweight or obese
- Medication adjustments.
A preconception visit with a Healthcare Professional is recommended 3 to 6 months before you are hoping to become pregnant so that they can help you come up with strategies to help improve your chances of conceiving, plus improving the health outcomes of you and your baby.
Should my partner go to a preconception planning appointment?
It is a good idea for partners to attend a preconception appointment with a Healthcare Professional. This will enable them to talk through any family history of medical conditions at the appointment. Ways to support your fertility through diet and lifestyle changes (if any are needed) can also be discussed and requires the input and commitment of both parents-to-be.
Pregnancy Information & Advice
Your body will go through some big changes over the next few months.
A normal full-term pregnancy is 40 weeks and divided into three trimesters:
- First trimester: from week 1 to the end of week 12 (months 1-3)
- Second trimester: from week 13 to the end of week 26 (months 4-6)
- Third trimester: from week 27 to the end of the pregnancy (months 7-9).
Here’s everything you’ll want to know to help prepare you for the physical and emotional changes ahead.
Frequently Asked Questions
What can I expect in week 1-3?
The early days of pregnancy can be a very exciting time, but most of the time during Weeks 1-3 you do not even know you are pregnant yet! This doesn’t mean that there isn’t a lot happening inside your body.
Your pregnancy technically starts on the first day of your last period. If you have a typical 28-day menstrual cycle, your ovary will release an egg around Day 14. This egg will travel down the fallopian tube and come together with a sperm within 24-48 hours after ovulation. If the eggs fertilizes, things are about to get busy!
By three weeks, there is a lot going on in the uterus – even if you are not able to tell yet. The fertilized egg will continue to travel down the fallopian tube towards the uterus and will eventually embed itself in the lining of the uterus. Here it will continue to divide and grow.
During this time, it is common that you will not feel any symptoms at all – it is still very early. You will be able to confirm that you are pregnant on the first day after your missed period with a home pregnancy test or a blood test from your doctor.
What can I expect in week 4?
At this stage your baby is now called an embryo and is already growing rapidly. The placenta is formed and will nourish your baby for the remainder of your pregnancy by passing nutrients to them through the umbilical cord.
Your baby’s development
- During this period, your baby’s major organs begin to form. Their brain, liver, kidneys, pancreas, thymus and spleen are all taking shape and will eventually take on the role of sustaining them for life.
- Your baby grows through a process called imprinting, which involves cells dividing and then subdividing, millions and billions of times. Every cell contains a genetic marker, or epigenetic switch. These switches are highly adaptable to their environment, switching on or off to make the cell more or less active. For example, all tissues contain the insulin gene; however the only place it ‘turns on’ is the pancreas.
- Your body is already changing. Your progesterone and human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) levels increase significantly this week. Your hCG may now be high enough to produce a positive result on a home pregnancy test. However, not all pregnancies can be detected this early.
- Your changing hormones cause the lining of your uterus to build up. This, together with the fact that your uterus is already changing in size, can lead to light cramping. The sensation can feel like mild premenstrual cramps.
What can I expect in week 5?
By the fifth week of pregnancy, your baby is now an embryo. Your baby is as big as an apple seed, approximately 4mm in length and weighing less than 1g.
Their head is growing in size due to the rapid development of their brain and the neural tube closes around week four of their development. Meanwhile, the brain and other major organs continue to grow.
Your baby’s heart is already beating and pumping blood around their tiny body. Their arm and leg buds are starting to develop.
As your uterus adapts to your growing baby you may experience light cramping. Other symptoms are likely to be very subtle at this early stage, but may include tiredness, tender breasts, nausea and headaches.
What can I expect in week 6?
Your baby has doubled in size over the last week and is now about 8mm long.
Their heart has formed distinct right and left chambers and beats somewhere between 150-160 times each minute, circulating blood around their developing body.
Your baby’s cells are highly responsive to the nutrition they receive at this important time of development. Recent science shows that their lifelong health is only partly determined by genetics and that external factors have a huge part to play.
Your progesterone levels are rising and you may start to experience morning sickness.
What can I expect in week 7?
You may be feeling tired at the moment and it is no wonder with all that’s going on inside you. Your baby is growing rapidly. Baby’s lungs, liver and pancreas are all being formed and the eyes, inner ears, arm and leg buds are growing this week.
Your baby’s development
- Your baby is now approximately 12mm long.
- Their digestive tract is developing and their brain has formed into two distinct hemispheres. Tiny breathing passages are beginning to appear where their lungs will form.
- Their arms and legs are taking a more recognisable shape and even at this early stage, they are looking more like a baby. Eyelids, toes and fingers are forming, and thick webbing links the individual digits.
- The tip of your baby’s nose is starting to emerge from the face and the nostrils are becoming more defined. Muscle fibres are forming now, although it will be some weeks before you can feel the first flutters of movement.
- Your immune system is adapting to accept and protect your baby, as well as yourself. Now’s the time to give your natural defences as much support as possible by eating a healthy balanced diet and taking added care when preparing food.
- Avoid eating food that is not prepared fresh. And think about avoiding foods which could pose a risk, such as unpasteurised brie and other unpasteurised soft cheeses, raw seafood or meat, deli meats or pre-prepared salads. Make sure that all red meat, poultry and seafood is cooked thoroughly and consumed while hot. Be sure to wash all food thoroughly and wash your hands regularly.
What can I expect in week 8?
This week, your baby is starting to look more like a baby! Their face is beginning to take shape and their mouth and nostrils are starting to develop. The heart has divided into chambers and is beating about 150 beats per minute – about twice the rate of an adult’s!
Your baby’s development
- In medical terms, your baby is now called a foetus, which is Latin for ‘young one’ or ‘offspring’.
- They measure around 15mm long from the crown of their head to their bottom. They are as big as a raspberry.
- Your baby’s eyes, mouth and nose are becoming more defined. Eyelids are beginning to develop but they are still fused shut.
- The buds of your baby’s milk teeth are starting to form around now. Meanwhile bone cells are beginning to form and their tiny joints are developing. Until now your baby’s fingers and toes have had a webbed appearance. This webbing is now thinning out.
- Every organ is now in place in your baby’s body and unique fingerprints are beginning to form.
- If morning sickness is preventing you from eating your normal healthy balanced diet, don’t worry. Your body will provide for your baby first, so even if you only manage to eat small amounts, your baby should receive the nutrition they need.
- Make the food that you can eat count. Choose nutrient rich fresh foods when possible and try to include protein, such as lean meat and legumes, especially if you can’t tolerate dairy foods at the moment.
What can I expect in week 9?
Your baby is now moving freely in the amniotic sac. Their arms and legs have lengthened, fingers and toes are forming and brain waves can now be measured! Their head appears much larger than the rest of their body as the brain is growing very rapidly.
Your baby’s development
- Your baby is now around 2cm long and as big as a grape.
- Their eyelids are forming and their ears are developing. Tooth buds are continuing to take shape within their gums. Your baby’s fingers have lost their webbed appearance and have now separated into ten individual tiny digits.
- Even though you may not feel any movements yet, your baby is becoming more active. They can move their arms and legs, turn their head, curl their toes and open and close their mouth.
- With your body working hard to support your developing baby, you may be feeling more tired than usual. Take any opportunities for extra rest, and adjust your bedtime to get a longer night’s sleep.
- During pregnancy, your baby’s development is highly responsive to the nutrition they receive and your own general health. Take extra care with food preparation and be aware of which foods to avoid. Food handling and safety are also very important, so always be extra careful – like making sure that you and your family purchase, prepare, cook and store all your food correctly to ensure it’s safe to eat.
What can I expect in week 10?
Your baby now has their own unique fingerprints! Their neck is beginning to take shape, their body muscles are almost developed, the jaws are in place and nipples and hair follicles begin to grow. While it is still too small for you to feel, baby is moving, wriggling and shifting.
Your baby’s development
- In week 10 your baby measures around 3cm from the top of their head to their bottom and is as big as a fig.
- At this stage, their brain is developing faster than any other part of the body and their head looks disproportionately large.
- Your baby can now bend their arms at the elbow, making it easier to exercise their developing muscles. They can curl their toes, which have now separated from their webbed beginnings into ten tiny separate digits. If you could peer inside, you’d be able to see their spine clearly visible through their skin.
- At this stage they are becoming more active by the day, which is divided into distinct periods of sleep and wakefulness.
- Your uterus is now double the size it was before pregnancy and is similar in size to a grapefruit.
- If this is your first baby, you probably haven’t developed a bump yet. At this stage one of the tell-tale signs to friends and colleagues may be the fact that you’re more tired than usual.
What can I expect in week 11?
Your baby can now swallow and stick out their tongue! Their taste buds are starting to develop and they may soon be able to taste different flavours from the amniotic fluid. Twenty little tooth buds are now forming – the beginning of your baby’s complete set of milk teeth.
Your baby’s development
- Your baby now measures 4cm long and is as big as a lime. However, their growth is set to accelerate and they will double in length within the coming week.
- Your baby’s brain, lungs, liver and kidneys have all formed. These organs are functioning but will keep developing and maturing in preparation for birth.
- Other functions are up and running, enabling your baby to suck, swallow and yawn. They can breathe amniotic fluid and have begun to urinate.
- Now that their fingers have separated, they will soon be able to open and close their fists and grasp their own toes and the umbilical cord. Your baby is enjoying kicking and stretching, and their movements are becoming less jerky and more fluid.
- During week 11, your baby is preparing for a growth spurt. A healthy diet supplemented with prenatal vitamins supports this growth and lays the foundations for a healthy future.
- As well as supporting your own health, your diet is the main source of nutrition for your growing baby.
- Multivitamin supplements make up for any shortfall of nutrients in your diet. If you’re taking a prenatal multivitamin, ask your healthcare professional to check that it contains the right balance for your needs.
What can I expect in week 12?
- This week your baby’s fingernails and toenails are appearing. They can now suck their thumb and get hiccups! They now have a chin and a nose and their vocal cords are complete. Their pancreas is functioning and producing insulin and their brain is now fully formed.
Your baby’s development
- Your baby is now around 6cm long from the top of their head to their bottom and is as big as a plum.
- Their face is beginning to look more human as their eyes are drawn into their forward facing position. Ears are now formed and have taken their place on the sides of the head.
- Your baby’s hair is beginning to grow and their fingers and toes have small soft nails.
- Vocal cords are now complete, though will only get their first use once your baby emerges at birth. Meanwhile, some of their bones have begun to harden.
- Although this may still be too early to feel any movements, when your baby is awake they are moving around, kicking their legs and can now suck their thumb.
- Around this time your uterus grows out of your pelvis and rises above the pubic bone. A bump may soon start to show.
- This is one reason why many mums choose to share the news about their pregnancy at this time. It is also the stage at which the risk of miscarriage has decreased considerably.
- For many, this is the point when pregnancy starts to feel more real.
What can I expect in week 13?
Your baby’s kidneys are now producing urine and they are practicing making breathing movements even though they are getting the oxygen they need from the placenta. Their head is about a third the size of their body. Their first hair is now appearing on their head and eyebrow hair is developing.
Your baby’s development
- Your baby measures around 8cm from the top of their head to their bottom and is as big as a peach.
- In the following weeks your baby’s proportions will start to resemble a newborn. At the moment their head is quite large and makes up a third of their body size.
- When awake, they are very active; stretching, kicking, turning, reaching and grasping with their tiny fingers. Internally, their kidneys are starting to work by sending urine to the bladder.
- Fine downy hair begins to develop on your baby’s skin. Their sucking and swallowing reflexes are becoming stronger and your baby’s skeleton and skeletal muscles now hold them more erect.
- Although your baby’s arrival is months away, your breasts and milk ducts are already preparing for breast feeding. They’ll soon start producing thin yellow liquid called colostrum. This is packed with nutrients and will be the first milk that nourishes your baby before your regular milk starts to flow.
- Your breasts may feel lumpy as they change and grow in size however, the tenderness of the first trimester is likely to diminish.
What can I expect in week 14?
Congratulations, you have reached your 2nd trimester! This trimester is often the stage of pregnancy that mums-to-be enjoy the most. The first three months were a period of rapid development but the next three will be a period of rapid growth! Your baby will quadruple in weight during the 4th month.
Your baby’s development
- Your baby is now around 9cm long and is as big as a lemon.
- Their lungs are developed enough to practice breathing movements, even though their oxygen supply comes from you through the placenta and umbilical cord.
- At this stage, your baby’s heart is pumping several litres of blood through their body every day. Their other organs have all formed, along with their limbs, muscles, genitalia and bones.
- As you enter the second trimester, your hormones stabilise and you may notice an increase in energy. Those hormones can have some welcome effects that are becoming more noticeable now. Your hair may look thicker and shinier, and your nails are likely to grow faster and stronger.
- Morning sickness usually fades around this time, making it easier to eat a wider range of nutritious foods and enjoy exercise again. Remember to exercise within your limits, and always talk to your healthcare professional to get their OK first.
What can I expect in week 15?
Your baby is now able to move its arms and even make a fist! Their legs have grown longer than their arms and their body is now longer than their head. Ears are nearly in place and the three small bones in the middle ear have begun to harden.
Your baby’s development
- By week 15, your baby measures approximately 10cm long from the top of their head to their bottom and is as big as an orange.
- Bones continue to harden, and their legs are now longer than their arms. All their joints are now mobile.
- At this stage, fine downy hair called lanugo is starting to appear on the skin, which is still thin and transparent enough to see the blood vessels through it.
- Your baby’s ears are almost in their final position, although they are still set slightly low on the head. Taste buds are developing and as facial muscles take shape, they are able to show different facial expressions.
- To help their lungs develop, your baby continually inhales and exhales amniotic fluid. They will continue to get all the oxygen they need from you through your own blood supply.
- At this point, your pregnancy hormones can start to create changes in your body, especially your teeth and gums. You may experience inflammation and an increase in plaque and bacteria.
- Further, you may find you’re getting a runny nose, have more saliva or are feeling more sweaty than usual. This is a result of the increased fluid volume in your body. Nosebleeds are common, as the capillaries in your nose expand.
- During pregnancy your immune system is naturally suppressed, leaving you vulnerable to picking up colds and infections. Many medications can be unsafe for pregnancy, so it’s always best to check with your healthcare provider before taking anything.
- Mentally, you may feel your memory isn’t as sharp as usual. Your concentration span might be shorter, too. Some research suggests that the brain changes size while you’re expecting, affecting your normal brain functions.
What can I expect in week 16?
By now your baby has learned to breathe and is inhaling and exhaling small amounts of amniotic fluid. This will help their lungs develop and grow. Facial muscles are more developed so they may have different expressions like squinting or frowning. They are becoming more active and can kick or even somersault!
Your baby’s development
- Your baby is now around 11cm long and is as big as an avocado.
- Although you may not have felt any movement yet, they can turn their head, wriggle, and exercise all 40 sets of muscles.
- Your baby can hold their head erect, and the development of facial muscles allows for a variety of expressions, such as squinting and frowning. Their eyes are still closed but they can sense light from the outside world.
- Many women experience food cravings during pregnancy. Cravings may be specific, for peaches of a certain ripeness, for example. Or more general, such as an appetite for hot, spicy foods.
- As long as your cravings are for relatively healthy foods, you can satisfy them without any concern. Be sure to include plenty of variety in your diet as well as the foods you crave. Providing a steady supply of nutrients now affects your baby’s ongoing development as well as their long-term health.
- Some women experience a craving known as pica. This is a hunger for non-food substances, including plaster and paint chips from walls, clay, coal, washing powder and chalk. It’s thought that pica may be triggered by a mineral deficiency, but the substance craved doesn’t always correlate to the mother’s mineral levels. If you have unusual non-food cravings, discuss them with your doctor.
What can I expect in week 17?
This week your baby’s fat stores are beginning to develop under their skin. The fat will provide energy and help to keep your baby warm after birth. Their retina has become more sensitive to light and their eyes are looking forward now but they are still firmly closed.
Your baby’s development
- Your baby is now approximately 12cm long and is as big as an onion.
- Your placenta, which provides nutrients and oxygen to your baby, is growing to keep up with their increasing needs.
- Their kidneys are now working well so, like you, they are urinating several times per day.
- It’s around now that you may be starting to ‘show’. You may even be putting on a little weight. While this may be a little alarming to you at first, you should simply focus on your nutrition. If your BMI is over 30 prior to pregnancy, or you are concerned about your weight gain during pregnancy, consult your midwife or healthcare professional.
- Your skin will also begin to show signs of change. To prepare your body, your skin starts to stretch, especially around your breasts and abdomen. This may cause itchiness, however the use of moisturisers can help to minimise the issue and the eventual stretch marks.
What can I expect in week 18?
Your baby will begin to hear this week! They may be able to hear your heart beating, tummy rumbling or blood moving through the umbilical cord. They are now going through the motions of crying as their lungs are forming and vocal chords are formed, but without any air they are not making any sound… yet!
Your baby’s development
- Your baby is now around 14cm long and growing and developing at a rapid rate. They now have a daily routine and sleeping habit.
- If your baby is a boy, his genitals are becoming much more distinct and easier to see on an ultrasound. A unique set of fingerprints is starting to form on their fingers and toes, and their grip is becoming firmer.
- Light-headedness is common at this stage. Your blood volume has increased considerably and your heart is working 40-50% harder to circulate the extra blood required to nourish you both. Meanwhile, your growing uterus is putting pressure on blood vessels, which can leave you feeling faint.
- Dizzy spells are a signal to slow down and ensure you are getting the correct nutrition. If you experience persistent dizziness or light-headedness – or if you even actually faint – it’s important to seek assistance from your healthcare professional or midwife straight away.
- Frequent rest, a healthy diet and eating regular small amounts during the day will help keep your blood sugar levels stable.
- Take extra care with your body: when rising from chairs and moving around, be gentle and steady. For extra energy, stick with the slow-release nutrients found in oats, fruit and vegetables as opposed to foods that give a quick sugar hit.
What can I expect in week 19?
Your baby’s leg muscles are strengthening so soon you may be able to feel slight kicks. If you are having a boy, the genitals are now distinct and may be able to be seen on an ultrasound. If your baby is a girl, their uterus has started to develop.
Your baby’s development
- Your baby now measures approximately 15cm – a full centimetre longer than last week. They are as big as a pomegranate.
- Their taste buds are now well developed and the sweetness of your amniotic fluid is instilling a preference for sweet tastes.
- Your baby’s hearing is now sensitive enough to pick up sounds that are too high or too low for adults to hear.
- As your bump gets bigger, you may feel you have an excuse to eat for two. Surprisingly, you don’t need to increase your calorie intake until your third trimester. What’s more important now is to make your calories count. A healthy diet will ensure your baby gets the essential nutrients they need during this time of rapid development, and helps lay the foundations for a healthier future.
- Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables, wholegrain cereals and breads. Including dairy foods such as low-fat yogurt and cheese in your diet will provide the daily calcium required by your own body and your baby’s developing bones and teeth.
What can I expect in week 20?
You are now officially half-way through your pregnancy, congratulations! Your baby can now hear voices, music and sound from the outside world. Your voice will become familiar to them and soothe them after birth so make sure to have a little chat with your bump each day!
Your baby’s development
- Your baby measures approximately 16cm from head to bottom and is as long as a banana.
- The part of your baby’s brain that controls their senses is developing fast and their heartbeat is becoming stronger.
- A white, waxy substance known as vernix caseosa, covers your baby’s delicate skin. This prevents it becoming chapped or scratched and protects it from the amniotic fluid.
- Many mums experience leg cramps during their second and third trimesters. This is often due to extra weight putting pressure on leg muscles and nerves.
- However, leg cramps can also occur if you have low levels of certain minerals. If you’re experiencing cramps, increase your intake of calcium by eating more dairy foods such as low-fat yogurt and cheese. Salt your food to your taste, but be careful not to eat too much salt: it can contribute to high blood pressure.
- Leg cramps can also be a result of dehydration or sitting for long periods. Drink plenty of water throughout your day and if you have a desk job, take regular breaks to move around and keep your blood circulating well.
- Speak to your healthcare professional if you are experiencing frequent or severe leg cramps.
What can I expect in week 21?
Up until now your baby’s liver and spleen have been producing blood cells but this job will now be taken over by the bone marrow. Your baby’s small intestine will now start to absorb small amounts of sugar from swallowed amniotic fluid.
Your baby’s development
- Your baby now measures approximately 26cm long and is as long as a sweet potato.
- Their well-developed hearing means they can now hear you when you talk, sing and laugh.
- Internally, your baby’s intestines are now able to absorb small amounts of sugars from the fluid they swallow. This is passed through the digestive system to their large bowel. At the same time, their kidneys are starting to process waste more efficiently.
- The weight of your uterus is now putting more pressure on your legs. Aches and pains are common, and many mums experience swollen calves and ankles as pregnancy progresses.
- Here are some things you can try to help with these symptoms:
- Swollen feet – Try putting your feet up whenever you can.
- Back aches – Going for a light walk can often help.
- Leg cramps – Usually a result of dehydration, so ensure you’re getting enough liquids.
What can I expect in week 22?
Your baby now has their own regular sleeping and waking routine. Your movements may wake baby when they are sleeping, in the same way that their movements or kicks may keep you up at night! Their eyebrows and eyelids are fully developed and fingernails cover the fingertips.
Your baby’s development
- Your baby measures around 27-28cm long, and now weighs approximately 450g.
- Their proportions and features are now similar to those of a newborn, although their skin is still transparent and they haven’t yet developed any fat.
- Your baby’s senses are developing daily. As hearing and recognition improves, they are becoming more responsive to your voice. Brain and nerve endings are working together to develop their sense of touch.
- Taste buds have started to form on the tongue. Eating a variety of tastes as part of your own healthy diet will influence their own taste preferences later on.
- You may find that your skin is affected by pregnancy hormones. For some women, pregnancy hormones can cause skin to produce more sebum, resulting in blocked pores and spots. Touching or squeezing any affected skin can make things worse. Stick to regular cleansing with a gentle cleanser to keep your skin clean. An oil-free moisturiser may help.
- If you are suffering from pregnancy-related acne, you should only use treatment or creams that have been approved or prescribed by a healthcare professional. Your skin should return to its pre-pregnancy condition a few weeks after birth.
What can I expect in week 23?
Your baby is now turning from side to side or head over heels! Their inner ear is now fully developed which gives them a sense of balance so they may be able to tell if they are upside down or the right way up.
Your baby’s development
- Your baby is now around 28cm long and is as big as a grapefruit.
- They continue to exercise their developing lungs by breathing amniotic fluid. Meanwhile, well-developed hand muscles are able to grasp the umbilical cord.
- Their skin is becoming thicker and your baby’s oil and sweat glands start to work. Even though fat is beginning to accumulate on your baby’s body, their skin still hangs loosely, giving a wrinkled appearance.
- As your baby grows stronger, you’ll start to notice more defined kicks and rolls. Hiccups can occur frequently: you may feel them as tiny rhythmic pulses within your belly.
- As your belly grows, you may start to experience twinges or pain in your back. Support your joints and spine by wearing flat, comfortable shoes instead of heels. Elevating your feet on a stool or chair when you rest can provide some relief from back ache.
What can I expect in week 24?
The lungs are developing further and baby practices breathing by inhaling amniotic fluid into their lungs. Baby is still covered in fine downy hair and a waxy substance to protect the skin. Taste buds have formed and if you drink or eat something strange or bitter baby may taste it!
Your baby’s development
- Your baby is in a period of rapid growth and now measures around 30cm and weighs about 600g.
- Your placenta currently supplies all their oxygen.
- The inner ear, which controls balance in the body, is now completely developed. As a result, your baby can sense whether they are upside down or not as they float and move in the amniotic fluid.
- You may find that fluctuating hormones can cause fluctuations in your emotions now. It’s normal to go through phases of excitement, nervousness, anxiety and irritability throughout your pregnancy, or sometimes from one moment to another. The increasing sensations of your baby moving can make your pregnancy feel more real, and many women feel daunted by the changes ahead.
- If you feel worried or overwhelmed, find a friend or family member you can confide in. Women who are already mothers are usually happy to offer advice and support, and talking to other expectant mums who are going through the same experiences can be very reassuring.
What can I expect in week 25?
Baby is getting more and more curious and explores their surroundings by touching the cord and feeling their face and hands. Their hands are now much more developed and they can make a fist or clasp as well as getting more familiar with their surroundings.
Your baby’s development
- Your baby is now approximately 34cm long and is as big as a turnip.
- Their brain is becoming wired to create conscious thought. Connections are forming that will soon enable them to store memories of their time inside the womb.
- You may notice your baby’s resting and alert periods more obviously now. They can recognise your voice, hear music and may respond to your partner’s voice with movements or kicks.
- Weight gain is inevitable during pregnancy: your baby’s growth and development depend on it.
- Your recommended weight gain depends on your pre-pregnancy weight. As a general rule, if you were a healthy weight before you conceived, you may put on around 9-13kg during pregnancy. Most of this should be gained during the second half of your pregnancy.
- If you were overweight before pregnancy, you may be advised to gain less. Your doctor or midwife will monitor your weight at every appointment to help you stay within a healthy range.
- Dieting is never recommended during pregnancy. A well-balanced, nutritious diet is necessary to provide the wide range of nutrients your baby needs for healthy development.
What can I expect in week 26?
Your baby’s brain is now growing rapidly. The part of their brain which registers conscious thought is gearing up – soon they’ll be able to store memories from their time spent inside the womb, ready to be recalled after they’re born.
Your baby’s development
- Your baby measures around 36cm long and weighs almost 670g.
- Over the next few weeks, they will go through a significant growth spurt and you should be feeling frequent strong movements and kicks.
- This is the week that your baby opens their eyes for the first time. At this stage their vision is very blurred and they can only see different shades of brightness. You may feel them respond if you shine a bright light on your belly.
- As their heart becomes stronger and is able to circulate blood more efficiently, their heart rate falls to an average of around 150bpm.
- Staying active during pregnancy will help you adapt to your changing shape. It will also give you the strength and stamina needed for labour and may make it easier to get back into shape after your baby is born.
- It’s important to exercise safely and within your body’s limits. These guidelines are especially relevant during pregnancy:
- Listen to your body and don’t exhaust yourself
- Adjust your expectations as you get bigger – you may not be able to maintain your pre-pregnancy routine
- A daily amount of low-impact exercise can help you stay active – walking is a safe, simple option
- Swimming or water-based classes can feel good for your body – the water supports you and there is no stress on your joints
- Avoid strenuous exercise
- Drink plenty of fluids
- If you are participating in group classes – make sure any instructors know that you’re pregnant
- If you’re in any doubt about whether a form of exercise is safe, talk to your doctor or midwife.
What can I expect in week 27?
Your baby is now around 37cm long and weighs almost 900g.
Facial features are fully formed and they look similar to how they will look at birth. Your baby’s lungs, liver, and immune system can function but are still developing.
During the third trimester of pregnancy, your placenta will start to boost your baby’s immune system by providing antibodies, which will eventually be needed to fight infection.
As you approach your final trimester, aches and pains are common as your body adjusts to accommodate your growing baby.
What can I expect in week 33?
By 33 weeks, your baby will weigh around 1.85kg and measure about 44cm in length.
Your baby can listen, feel and even see. Your baby’s eyes can detect light, while their pupils constrict and dilate in response.
As you and your baby grow in size, you’ll need more energy. However many pregnant women experience acidity, heartburn and indigestion. This happens because of hormonal and physical changes. In fact, by now your stomach has got smaller, because your baby is taking up more room.
What can I expect in week 39?
Your baby could be due any time now. By now, your baby is around 3.4kg in weight and measures around 51cm from head to toe.
During this time, varicose veins, if you have them, might get more pronounced. This is because the hormone progesterone relaxes the blood vessels. There’s also more weight on your legs and more blood circulating in your body.
When do pregnancy symptoms appear?
The early signs of pregnancy include a missed period (although this symptom can be misleading if you have an irregular menstrual cycle). Changes in hormones can create a variety of symptoms. Which symptoms and when these occur can vary and may include tender and swollen breasts, nausea with or without vomiting (often referred to as morning sickness, which can strike at any time of the day or night!), increased urination, and fatigue.
Missing a period is generally the first sign of pregnancy.
If you think you’re pregnant, see a GP straight away to start your pregnancy care. This step is critical to ensure that you:
- May confirm that you’re pregnant
- Schedule routine tests
- Check your health
- May understand your pregnancy care options
- Be referred to other Healthcare Professionals to care for you.
Can a pregnancy test be wrong?
Pregnancy tests check urine or blood for the hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG). At around 4-5 weeks hCG are high enough for home pregnancy tests to detect a change.
Home pregnancy tests are fairly accurate; however, they do require the instructions to be followed correctly. Most home pregnancy tests can be taken 2-3 days after your period was due.
For a more accurate result, consult with a Healthcare Professional.
When is my due date?
A Healthcare Professional is the best person to calculate your pregnancy date.
To estimate your due date yourself, most pregnancies last around 40 weeks (or 38 weeks from conception), so typically your due date is to count 40 weeks, or 280 days from the first day of your last menstrual period.
What are Braxton Hicks contractions and how long do they last?
Braxton Hicks contractions are quick, usually painless contractions – a tightening of your uterus – that usually occur in the late second and third trimester. They help to prepare the uterus for labour, like practice contractions.
Braxton Hicks contractions usually last for anywhere between 30 seconds to 2 minutes.
When does nausea start in pregnancy?
For most women, morning sickness begins around the fourth week of pregnancy and disappears by the 12th to 14th week. However, one in five women endure morning sickness into their second trimester, and an unfortunate few experience nausea and vomiting for their whole pregnancy.
How much weight gain during pregnancy is normal?
How much weight you should gain while pregnant will depend on your pre-pregnancy weight.
The following table should be used as a guide: as always, consult with a physician, dietitian or midwife to get specific health advice.
|Pre-pregnancy BMI||Recommended weight gain over the whole pregnancy||Recommended weight gain per month in the 2nd and 3rd trimester|
|< 18.5||12.5kg to 18kg||2kg to 2.6kg|
|18-5 to 24.918.5 to 22.9 if Asian||11.5kg to 16kg||1.5kg to 2.3kg|
|25 to 29.923 to 27.5 if Asian||7kg to 11.5kg||1kg to 1.5kg|
|> 30Or over 27.5 if Asian||5kg to 9kg||0.8kg to 1.2kg|
When do pregnancy cravings start?
Pregnancy cravings can strike at any time from the moment your body begins to release pregnancy hormones. In fact, new cravings or food aversions are often amongst the first, most noticeable signs of pregnancy.
The strength of your cravings may fluctuate throughout your pregnancy and can change from one month to the next.
When to get help during pregnancy
Pregnancy hormones can cause emotional changes and some ups and downs are normal as you adjust to pregnancy.
However, some emotional changes can be more serious. These changes include feeling sad and not enjoying life the way you used to. If these changes last longer than two weeks and get in the way of daily life, it could be anxiety or antenatal depression.
There might be times when you need extra help and support to cope with some of the changes happening during your pregnancy.You may find it helpful to speak to a midwife, physician or psychologist if you’re:
- Having trouble coping with your emotions
- Having thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
- Worried about how you’ll cope after the baby is born
- Having serious problems in your relationship.
If you’re experiencing family violence, speak to your GP or midwife, or call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 (or click here to open a live chat).
Nutritional Advice For You And Your baby
When it comes to nutrition, parents want to make sure their children are getting all the vitamins and minerals they need to support growing brains and bodies. Both you and your growing baby need extra nutrients.
According to the World Health Organisation, proper infant nutrition is fundamental to a child’s continued health. Breastfeeding has been shown to be of critical importance to a child’s development, including increased IQ, school performance and higher income in adult life.
As per the Australian Infant Feeding Guidelines:
- Breastfeeding is the healthiest start for infants and contributes to improved cognitive development.
- In Australia, it is recommended that infants be exclusively breastfed until around 6 months of age when solid foods are introduced.
- It is further recommended that breastfeeding be continued until 12 months of age and beyond, for as long as the mother and child desire.
- If an infant is not breastfed or is partially breastfed, commercial infant formulas should be used as an alternative to breast milk until 12 months of age.
- Cow’s milk should not be given as the main drink to infants under 12 months, however small amounts may be used in the preparation of solid foods from 10 months.
- Exclusively breastfed infants do not require additional fluids up to 6 months of age.
- For infants over the age of 6 months or for those who are not exclusively breastfed, tap water is preferred but this should be boiled and cooled for infants until 12 months of age.
- Fruit juice is not necessary or recommended for infants. Consumption may interfere with their intake of breast milk or infant formula.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the essential nutrients for my baby?
A nutrient-rich diet is important for healthy development in infants.
Breastmilk or formula has all the nutrients that babies need until they are around 6 months old. In Australia, it is recommended that you exclusively feed your baby, with no other milks, food or drinks, until about 6 months. In fact, your breast milk is perfect for your baby, even if born prematurely because your breast milk will adapt to meet your baby’s needs and protect against a range of illnesses.
From 6 months and onwards, infants require additional nutrients sourced from vegetables, dairy products, meat (or meat alternatives), grains, and fruit. These nutrients include fibre, vitamins and minerals.
The essential nutrients during breastfeeding are:
- Protein is vital for the growth, maintenance and repair of cells.
- A breastfeeding mother requires additional dietary protein to ensure there is an adequate amount of protein in her breast milk. While the mean protein intakes in both Australia and New Zealand demonstrate that protein intake in childbearing women appears sufficient to meet the additional requirements of pregnancy and breastfeeding, evaluation of protein requirements should be made on an individual basis.
- The Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) for protein for breastfeeding mothers is 57g-67g/day (1.1g/kg of body weight).
- Protein is found in a wide range of foods such as meat (including fish and poultry), eggs, dairy, legumes (such as beans, pulses and soy products) and nuts. Smaller amounts of protein are found in grain-based foods such as bread and pasta.
- Folate is a B vitamin needed for healthy growth and development.
- The RDI for folate for breastfeeding mothers is 450μg-500μg/day.
- Folate can be found in leafy vegetables, wholegrains, peas, nuts, avocado and yeast extract spreads.
- Iodine is an essential mineral needed for the production of the thyroid hormone which helps in brain and nervous system development.
- The RDI for iodine for breastfeeding mothers is 270μg/day.
- The NHMRC Australia and the New Zealand MOH both recommend all healthy pregnant and breastfeeding mothers take an iodine supplement of 150μg each day.Iodine can be found in seafood, milk, iodised salt and vegetables.
- Supplements containing seaweed or kelp are not recommended for breastfeeding women due to the variability in iodine content and quality.
- Zinc is a component of various enzymes that help maintain structural integrity of proteins and help regulate gene expression.
- The RDI for zinc for breastfeeding mothers is 12mg/day. Zinc can be found in lean meat, wholegrain cereals, milk, seafood, legumes and nuts.
- Vitamin A is vital for normal growth and helps provide resistance to infections.
- The RDI for Vitamin A for breastfeeding mothers is 1,100μg/day.
- Vitamin A can be found in milk, cheese, eggs, fatty fish, and organ meats.
- Beta-carotene, which enables the body to manufacture vitamin A, can be found in yellow-orange vegetables such as carrots and pumpkin, fruits such as mangoes and apricots and in other vegetables such as spinach and broccoli.
- Vitamin B6 is important for the metabolism of protein and the formation of red blood cells.
- The RDI for breastfeeding mothers is 2mg/day.
- Vitamin B6 can be found in meat, poultry, fish, whole grains, brussel sprouts, green peas and beans.
Are fatty acid (Omega-3, Omega-6) supplements safe to take during pregnancy?
Fats – or fatty acids – come in many forms: saturated, monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, trans fats.
Omega-3 and omega-6 are both polyunsaturated fats that we need in our diet as our bodies do not produce them. Omega-9 fats are nonessential fats that our bodies can produce.
Omega-3 fatty acids can help reduce the risk factors of developing heart disease. This type of fatty acid also plays an important role in the development of your baby’s brain, nervous system and eyes, and contributes to normal cognitive development, which enables your baby to think and learn.
As per the RACGP guidelines, if you are pregnant with one baby, you may take omega-3 supplements each day starting from around 12 weeks of pregnancy. You will need to take at least 500mg of DHA per day (not exceeding 100mg of DHA plus EPA per day). However, not all omega-3 supplements are the same so you should look for omega-3s called DHA and EPA.
If you are vegetarian, you may take omega-3s extracted from algal oil rather than fish oil.
Vitamin D during pregnancy and breastfeeding
Vitamin D is a hormone that controls calcium levels in the blood. It is needed for strong bones, muscles and overall health. 90% of vitamin D is obtained through sunlight on the skin with 10% attributed to dietary nutrients.
In Australia, it has been found that many pregnant women are deficient in vitamin D. Generally levels lower than 50nmol/L is considered as suboptimal.
- You are at risk of vitamin D deficiency if:
- You have low sun exposure due to spending little time outdoors
- Live in a climate where there is less sunlight
- Have dark skin or because you wear clothes with little skin exposure.
In pregnancy, if you have a low level of vitamin D your baby will also have a low level when born. In babies, vitamin D deficiency can be associated with problems such as low birth weight, rickets, delayed motor development, muscle weakness, and fractures.
Because breast milk does not contain much vitamin D, guidance in Australia suggests consideration of a daily dose of 400 IU for pregnant women at higher risk.
Are iron supplements needed when pregnant and breastfeeding?
Iron is needed to produce red blood cells. Your body makes more blood when you are pregnant because both you and your baby are growing. This means you need more iron when you are pregnant.
Pregnant women need 27mg iron each day but should not eat more than 45mg iron each day.Iron supplements should only be taken when a blood test has confirmed that your levels are low. It is best that you discuss what type of iron tablet is best for you with your doctor, midwife, or dietitian.
How much fluids should I consume when pregnant?
Water keeps our complex bodies working properly, helping to absorb nutrients and flush out toxins. During pregnancy, the increased demands on your body mean you need more water than normal.
Aim for 9 glasses of fluid per day. Water or reduced fat milk are the best choices. If the weather is hot, you have vomited or if you are constipated you may need more than this.
Suitable drinks for pregnancy include water, whether straight from the tap (if safe in your area), or bottled (either carbonated or still), milk and fruit juices. Juice can be high in sugar, but providing it is pure fruit, one 125mL glass can also count as part of your daily fruit and vegetable intake. Soup also counts and can provide a good serving of beneficial nutrients too.
Try to avoid drinks that are fizzy or high in sugar content. With little nutritional value, it’s best to avoid them or try a healthier alternative. You should also limit your intake of caffeinated varieties of tea and coffee. Caffeine can act as a diuretic, increasing your need to urinate. For pregnant women it is safe to consume up to 200mg per day of caffeine without effect on your unborn baby.
If you’re having trouble keeping fluids down due to morning sickness or a stomach upset, try to take small sips regularly rather than large gulps. Even small amounts add up and can lower your risk of becoming dehydrated; start by taking small sips and gradually increase the amount if you can.
It’s important if you are drinking herbal teas, to check for a warning label saying “not recommended for pregnant women” or discuss this with your Healthcare Professional.
While breastfeeding, your fluid intake increases even more to keep your own body hydrated and to provide the water required to produce a good supply of milk.
Are carbohydrates important during pregnancy?
Carbohydrate foods provide essential fuel for both you and your baby during pregnancy. They are broken down into simple sugars like glucose. The brain requires glucose as the main source of energy. Glucose easily moves through the placenta and is required for the development, growth and metabolism of maternal and foetal tissues.
As such, carbohydrates should not be avoided during pregnancy. However, low-quality carbohydrates found in processed foods such as cakes, chocolate, biscuits should be minimised. Instead, high-quality carbohydrates found in wholegrain bread, rolled oats, yoghurt, starchy vegetables, beans and legumes should be consumed.
Is fibre important during pregnancy?
For pregnant women, dietary fibre is an essential part of a balanced diet.
- Having a healthy intake of dietary fibre can help to:
- Keep your bowel movements regular
- Prevent constipation
- Lower blood pressure
- Reduce pregnancy risks such as preeclampsia.
The recommended daily intake of dietary fibre for women of childbearing age is 28g daily. Foods such as oat bran, whole wheat bread, whole grain cereals, legumes, nuts seeds, bananas, carrots and celery contain fibre.
Are nuts safe to eat when pregnant?
After a review of scientific studies, there is no clear evidence to suggest a link between a mother eating peanuts and her child developing a peanut allergy. Unless you have a peanut allergy or a Healthcare Professional specifically advises you against them, peanuts and foods containing them are now considered safe to eat in pregnancy and while breastfeeding.
How much fish can I eat while pregnant?
It is suggested that pregnant women eat 2–3 serves of fish every week for the good health of themselves and their developing baby. This is because fish is an important part of a healthy diet.
Some of the health benefits of fish include:
- High in protein
- Low in saturated fat
- High in unsaturated fat
- High in omega-3 oils.
When fish is consumed as part of a normal diet, mercury from most fish sold in Australia is not a health risk.
However, pregnant women or women intending to become pregnant within the next six months should be careful about which fish they eat.
In excessive amounts, mercury can build up in the blood of the mother and be harmful to an unborn baby. The unborn baby is most sensitive to the effects of mercury, particularly during the third and fourth months of gestation.
In particular, unborn babies are at increased risk from mercury. The mercury in fish can lead to raised mercury levels in the mother. This mercury can be passed on through the placenta to her developing baby.
The Australian guidelines for safe levels of mercury in the diet recommend that pregnant women should:
- Limit to one serve (150g) of billfish and shark per fortnight, with no other fish consumed during the same time period.
- Limit to one serve (150g) of orange roughy or catfish per week, with no other fish consumed during the same time period.
- Eat 2–3 serves per week – of any other fish or seafood (e.g., salmon or tuna).
Women should not be worried if they’ve had the odd meal of fish with high levels of mercury. It is only a potential problem when that type of fish is eaten regularly, which causes a build-up of mercury in the mother’s blood.
Can I eat fish when breastfeeding?
Methylmercury from fish consumed during pregnancy seems to only pose a health threat to the baby while it is in the womb. Upon birth, the levels of mercury in the mother’s milk are not high enough to pose a risk to the infant.
How many serves of vegetables should I have each day when pregnant?
Pregnant women should aim to consume 5 serves of vegetables and legumes per day (source: eatforhealth.gov.au).
- A standard serve of vegetables is about 75 or:
- 1 cup green leafy or raw salad vegetables
- ½ cup cooked green orange vegetables
- ½ cup sweet corn
- ½ medium potato or other starchy vegetable (e.g., sweet potato).
For women who are breastfeeding, the Australian Dietary Guidelines recommends women 18 years or under to eat 5½ serves of vegetables and for women 19-50 years, 7½ serves of vegetables per day.
How many serves of fruit should I have when pregnant?
Pregnant women should aim to consume 2 serves of fruit per day (source: eatforhealth.gov.au).While breastfeeding, the advice is to have 2 serves of fruit per day where a standard serve of fruit is about 150g or:
- 1 medium apple, orange, pear or banana
- 1 cup diced or canned fruit (with no added sugar)
- 2 small plums, kiwi fruit or apricots.
Why are certain foods off the menu during pregnancy?
During pregnancy you’re advised to avoid certain foods which could be associated with an increased risk of food poisoning. As well as being unpleasant for you, food poisoning can also make your baby very unwell and may increase the risk of premature delivery, stillbirth, miscarriages and infections.
What is folic acid and what is its role when I am pregnant?
Folic acid (also known as folate) is a B-group vitamin and is an essential pregnancy vitamin. It plays a significant role in the formation of your baby’s neural tube. This is formed in the first month of pregnancy and eventually becomes your baby’s spinal cord and brain. Together, these will form your baby’s central nervous system and the control centre for your baby’s future growth, development, and normal functioning later in life.
An adequate intake of folic acid has been shown to reduce the risk of neural tube defects (NTDs) including spina bifida.
Although folate is present in many foods, it is difficult to get sufficient levels from your diet.
If you’re planning to have a baby, experts recommended that you take a supplement containing 400 mcg folic acid per day for 12 weeks before you conceive. This allows it to build up in your body to a level against help reduce the risk of neural tube defects, such as spina bifida. This requirement increases during pregnancy to 600 mcg per day until the end of the first trimester.
You should ask your Healthcare Professional for advice about your individual needs.
Is calcium important during pregnancy?
Calcium is essential whether you’re pregnant or not, but if you’re pregnant it’s particularly vital because it helps your baby build strong bones and teeth and plays an important role in the healthy functioning of the circulatory, muscular and nervous systems.
If you don’t get enough calcium during pregnancy, especially in the third trimester, your baby will draw it from your bones, which may impair your health and increase your risk for osteoporosis later in life.
During your pregnancy, the recommended daily intake (RDI) is the same as it is prior to pregnancy: 1000mg a day for women aged 19 to 50 years and 1300mg a day for adolescents or those aged over 51.
Most women in Australia do not get nearly enough of this important mineral. You should aim for 2-3 servings of dairy products or calcium-rich foods a day.
Pregnant adolescents (under the age of 18) should aim for 3-4 servings of dairy products a day.
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