Written by Caroline Meyer
Pregnancy is a time of big changes to your body and you can experience a wide variety of symptoms during the approximately 40 weeks that you are pregnant. We take a look at some of the symptoms you are likely to experience during each week. The list is not exhaustive, and you may or may not experience some or all of the listed symptoms.
Week 1: You probably don’t know that you are pregnant as yet. You might notice that your period has not arrived on time, but you are still experiencing many of the symptoms you experience during the lead up to your menstrual cycle.
Week 2: You may experience a heightened sex drive and you may not notice it, but there is usually an increase in the amount of cervical mucus produced. Your cervix is also usually a little softer at this point.
Week 3: This is when you are more likely to have an inkling of being pregnant. Your uterus is secreting hCG which is known as the pregnancy hormone.
Week 4: You may start experiencing some morning sickness. Breasts may feel tender and sore. You may also feel fatigued and more drained than usual. There may be a little spotting, but any heavy bleeding should be reported to your medical caregiver.
Week 5: Nausea and vomiting may become more frequent. Although it is called morning sickness, it can occur at any time of day and sometimes all through the day. You may be put off by some smells and food or drink choices. You may also start experiencing cravings for certain foods at this point. You may have some cramping and will probably feel the need to urinate more often than usual. You may notice an increase in the sense of smell. It may be many times stronger than usual.
Week 6: You may start experiencing headaches, constipation and backaches. You may also notice that you are a lot more tired than usual and may actually want to take a nap before dinner. Your hormones are increasing during this period and you may also find yourself becoming more emotional than usual. You may have unexplained mood swings which can seem quite dramatic but are not unusual in the early weeks of pregnancy. Hang in there, it will level off.
Week 7: You may start feeling pregnant at this point. You might start wanting to eat a bit more unless you are suffering from a lot of morning sickness. You will be tired more often and nausea is likely to be a daily thing at this point. You may find that you are retaining water and your clothes may be fitting a little more tightly.
Week 8: Cravings may be ramped up around this time and you may find yourself wanting strange things. Nausea is still ongoing as is frequent urination. You may have some insomnia as well as waking at night to use the bathroom. Fatigue is ongoing and not helped by the broken sleep.
Week 9: Nausea, urination and fatigue are still on the cards around now. Add in a little dizziness especially if you stand up too quickly as your blood volume increases. You may have some new cravings and find that many foods and drinks you previously enjoyed will have you running to the bathroom due to extreme nausea or you may simply not like them anymore.
Week 10: You may start showing at this point but not hugely. Your clothing may fit tighter and you may be retaining fluids. You may feel some cramps in the uterine area as things start to stretch down there.
Week 11: As you head into the last week of the first trimester, the mood swings and extreme nausea start settling down a bit. This is usually the week that parents-to-be start deciding on who to reveal the pregnancy to. Some people may have guessed by this point especially if you were hard hit by some of the symptoms in the previous weeks.
Week 12: This marks the start of the second trimester. Some of the symptoms from the previous weeks may have dissipated by now, but there is more to come. You may start experiencing headaches more frequently as well as reflux and heartburn symptoms. You would also usually have your first ultrasound around this time.
Week 13: Your sex drive may have picked back up as nausea and vomiting becomes a thing of the past for most expectant mums. Your moods and emotions may seem a bit more normal at this point and you are likely to have an upswing in mood at this point. You may have the healthy glow going on and people may be starting to notice a slight swelling.
Week 14: Your energy is higher than in the previous months and you may feel a bit nesty at this point. You will feel the need to start getting things ready and might even spring clean a bit while you have the extra energy in preparation for the little one’s arrival. You may start experiencing cramping more often now, especially in the legs. This is often at night so you might want to relax a bit in the bath before bedtime to try and reduce the potential for night cramps.
Week 15: You might have a higher libido around this time as the blood flow has increased quite a lot in your body at this point. The extra energy you have around now might have you wanting more intimacy from your partner, especially if the nausea is over and done with. Not all women want more affection while pregnant and how much or how little you want is completely up to you. Make sure you are making good nutritional choices and getting some exercise as well.
Week 16: You may be noticing a bit more cramping or tugging pains in the uterus as it swells to make room for the baby to grow. While you might not have felt your baby move yet, it can hear at this point, so go ahead and sing or talk to your little one so he or she gets used to your voice. Let your partner do the same if they want to.
Week 17: By this point most mums-to-be will have a little pregnancy bump. You may have some added backache now. Remember to be more careful with movement as your centre of gravity is different now. Try and maintain a good posture to cut down on backache and strain. Try and keep up with a bit of daily exercise and good nutrition.
Week 18: You might find it more comfortable to sleep on your side as sleeping on your stomach or back starts to become very uncomfortable around now. Your bump is getting bigger and you are likely to notice some swollen veins or more prominent veins in areas such as your breasts and legs. You may also notice your hands and feet feeling more swollen. At this point in the pregnancy, you may be able to find out the gender of your baby during an ultrasound if you want to.
Week 19: Cramps, aches, pains, swelling, headaches and backaches are all on the agenda but at least your energy levels should still be quite high around now. Use this time to prepare for baby coming home, sort out the car, the nursery and so forth while you are a little more energetic.
Week 20: This is officially the halfway mark, but the expected date of arrival is not always accurate. You are likely to start feeling some movement from your baby and your belly is quite obvious in most cases.
Week 21: Continue to do some light exercise and make sure you are eating well. Try and rest during the day for short periods and put your feet up to relieve pressure on your legs and feet. This will also help if you have started developing varicose veins. Make sure you stay cool and hydrated.
Week 22: You may have to be helped up from low seats and sitting and bending may become more difficult around now. You have to be more careful as the growing belly shifts your centre of gravity even more. You may find that you are not able to breathe as deeply as you are used to, and your exercise regime may change to compensate for this too. You may start experiencing “false labour” or Braxton Hicks contractions from around this point in the pregnancy. Your belly might go tight and then release. These contractions will not increase in frequency and will usually stop after a short period. If you are concerned at any point, speak to your doctor or midwife.
Week 23: Up your potassium levels by eating bananas to help with leg cramps around this point in the pregnancy. Make sure you are hydrated and taking supplements if needed. You might want to look into birth classes around this point too so you can start putting together your birth plan.
Week 24: You may have some pelvic discomfort as the ligaments start stretching. You may undergo a test at your doctor to check for gestational diabetes in this week as well. Water exercise can help relieve some of the pain and swelling while enabling you to do movement with less impact.
Week 25: Constipation is often a problem around this time, and you need to ensure you are hydrated and eating food rich in fibre. Many women also experience hair loss starting around this point in the pregnancy. It usually resolves on its own once hormones settle down after the birth of the baby.
Week 26: This is when “pregnancy brain” becomes a thing. You may find that your short-term memory is not as sharp as it usually is, and insomnia can often make it a lot worse. There is swelling in your hands, feet as well as a burgeoning belly. You may have headaches, backaches and all the other aches that come along with carrying a baby. Make sure to report anything out of the ordinary, especially raised blood pressure.
Week 27: Frequent urination and even feeling the need to expel excess air from the body is common at this point in the pregnancy. Frequent leg cramps, restless leg syndrome, insomnia and broken sleep due to the need to urinate is part and parcel of this point in the pregnancy.
Week 28: You may be experiencing Braxton Hicks more often but you are likely to know they aren’t labour symptoms at this point. They may feel stronger and may be experienced for longer periods of time but will not increase in frequency. Start getting your bags ready for your specific birth plan so you have everything ready to go when you are.
Week 29: Finally, into the last trimester. Start looking at attending birthing classes and discuss your birthing plan with your midwife or doctor (or doula if you decide to have one). Try rest up as much as you can, especially if you have swollen veins. Start relaxing a little more and start preparing for the imminent arrival of your baby.
Week 30: You may start experiencing significant mood swings again around now. Your belly will be very hard to hide, and you may start feeling some pain around the ribcage and chest area as your uterus is pushed upward. Frequent urination is constant, and a sudden kick is likely to result in needing a quick bathroom break.
Week 31: Your baby is taking up a lot of space and may impact on your ability to take deep breaths. You may get out of breath quicker and you need to constantly be aware of your posture and centre of gravity from this point on. Make sure you are staying hydrated and breathing in as deeply as possible. Some mums-to-be enjoy some meditation from this point to relax and concentrate on deep breathing. If there is any severe swelling, frequent headaches or high blood pressure, make sure that you inform your doctor or midwife immediately.
Week 32: You should have started attending your birth classes at this point. You may start feeling fatigued a lot more often and find that you have shortness of breath. While this is common, it could also point to an iron deficiency. If so, your caregiver may suggest supplements. Iron supplements can increase constipation, so ensure your liquid and fibre intake is adequate to prevent this.
Week 33: Time to start getting your birth plan in place. You should be attending birthing classes around this time to help you prepare for your new arrival. You will be experiencing many of the same symptoms as per the last 2 or 3 weeks but still be carrying a little heavier as your little one puts on weight.
Week 34: You may find it difficult to bend and breathing may even seem a hard task as your baby grows and pushes up against the lungs. Your stomach and intestines are also feeling the crunch so you may have more heartburn, reflux and indigestion. You might have to eat more frequent, smaller meals as big meals will make you feel uncomfortable. Movement may be harder, and you are likely to feel a foot in all sorts of uncomfortable places from inside the womb. Gentle massage, relaxed stretching and nice warm baths can help a bit with the aches and cramps.
Week 35: More of the same, just a little bigger. Baby’s movement may be seen as well as felt and you may be yearning for this all to be done with around now.
Week 36: Your baby is probably in position and the head may engage. This can cause you to waddle when you walk. There is a lot of pressure on the ligaments as well as the bladder. Gentle movement is okay but try and rest and put your feet up often. Don’t plan for anything too strenuous.
Week 37: You may start feeling very fatigued. There may also be an increase in varicose veins, and you might find it difficult to stand for long periods. Plan to rest often during this time. The backaches, pains and cramps are very common, and you may start feeling quite restless. Labour can happen anytime from now quite naturally. If you are having Braxton Hicks, make sure to time the contractions, as you never know when it may be the real thing.
Week 38: Swollen feet and hands is very common. You may find that aches and pains get worse if you move suddenly. Take it slow and easy as you prepare for the big day. Having diarrhoea is quite common in the lead up to labour as there are a variety of changes happening in the hormones in your body.
Week 39: You may start anxiously anticipating labour at this point. Anticipation of water breaking, labour pains and a bloody show (the mucus plug) are on the cards as you move into the final week.
Week 40: If your baby arrives on the due date, congratulations, you are one of only 3% of mums that have their babies on the expected date. Your baby may come this week but may not. You might be ready, but your little one might not be as yet. If your baby hasn’t arrived in 2 weeks past due date, your caregiver might suggest an induction. Make sure to be informed of the risks and benefits of an induction when your baby is past due date.
Week 41: It’s a waiting game and your emotions may be all over the place at this point. Maybe you are lucky, and baby decides to enter the world around now. If not, next week you may have to make some decisions into hastening the arrival of your little treasure. Rest as much as you can. Where possible, spend some time in warm water to take the pressure off your legs and joints.
Week 42: Most pregnancies do not go beyond this point. Discuss options with your doctor. They may suggest that you and baby are monitored via machines to make sure all is well. Once baby arrives, all the stress and strain and aches and pains seem to disappear when you first take a look at that sweet little angel you have waited to meet for so long.