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Congratulations! Whether you have confirmed your pregnancy using a home pregnancy test or done a pregnancy test at a lab, the good news is both joyous and challenging at the same time for a woman. The baby, or fetus as doctors will refer to your bachchu, goes through many developments rapidly. In fact, every week your baby reaches a new milestone while your body undergoes some essential changes. Here is what happens during the 40 weeks of your pregnancy:
Did you know that your countdown to pregnancy starts before you conceive? This is because the calculation of your expected due date needs to take into account the first day of the last menstrual cycle before conception. Ovulation happens 14 days after your cycle starts. Once ovulation happens and you try to get pregnant, your partner's sperm would fertilise the mature egg released from the ovary. This fertilized egg then moves towards the fallopian tube and then to the uterus where it gets implanted. Once the embryo has implanted itself inside the uterus and started to grow at full pace this marks the start of your motherhood. So if you don't know the exact date of conception, then your expected due date is a shifting mark. This is also a good time to clarify some basic doubts like whether to exercise in the first month of pregnancy or not, what precautions you should take and the exercise guidelines to follow.
Apart from the rising levels of estrogen and progesterone, your body is now secreting more hCG or human chorionic gonadotropin hormone. These hormones would now be responsible for most of your pregnancy niggles like morning sickness, aversion to certain smells, etc. This is a good time to keep in mind a list of all the essential things a pregnant woman should carry in her handbag like the anti-vomiting pills, antacids, prenatal vitamins, etc. This week is also an important week for your baby as all the major organ developments take place along with the placenta.
There would be a gush of blood flow in your system to meet the demands of your body and that of the developing fetus. You might also have the urge for frequent urination as the uterus presses against the bladder. Your baby's heart would start to beat by this week and can be picked up during an ultrasound. It is better to clear all your misconceptions about an ultrasound during pregnancy at this time. Also, facial features of the baby start to develop this week onwards.
Your breasts would be swollen and full by now, in preparation for the breastfeeding phase. Now that a lot of hCG or human Chorionic Gonadotropin hormone is secreted in the body more food aversions, sensitivity to smell, fatigue and constipation can be expected. This week, the facial features of your baby become more distinct. Also, the hands and legs start to protrude out and the vital organs like the kidneys, liver, heart, intestine, pancreas and the appendix develop at an exponential pace.
You could feel the discomforts of pregnancy, even more, this week while fetal development takes on at a faster pace. This week marks the stage when the embryo turns to become a fetus with distinct facial features, limbs protruding out from the body, with the development of sexual organs and hardening of the skeletal system.
This week onwards you would notice that you are gaining weight and for all good reasons. Your baby's heart gets divided into four chambers and is pumping blood rapidly. Also, because of placental development, your metabolism and hormonal levels might also increase.
Your belly might be slightly bulging out though negligible at the moment and you might become slower with your pace of work, however, be calm. As for your baby, all the crucial organs of your baby have now been formed. The kidneys, lungs, heart, intestines and the brain are working in tandem and also developing and growing at a greater pace. Bones and cartilages are also forming, strengthening the skeletal system of the baby.
You would have gained a few kilos at least, despite the regular bouts of vomiting and nausea, and your belly will be protruding out a bit more than the previous week. Placental development happens rapidly with new blood cells being added to it. As for the baby, ovaries are formed in the female fetus and the testicles in the male. It is the stage at which the sex of the child can be determined. However, if you are in India, remember that it is illegal.
Some of your pregnancy symptoms like fatigue, morning sickness, nausea will now take a backseat. But there can still be a possibility of suffering from heartburn and bouts of constipation. The baby's own hormone production has kick-started which would eventually influence its growth and development. White blood cells are being produced in abundance in the fetus that would provide protection from infection once your baby is out in the world. Another important development of the week is the formation of the vocal cords in the neck area.
Congratulations, you have completed your first trimester. Frequent urination will now be in check, but a new annoying symptom to the surface would be vaginal discharge. This is the outcome of increased estrogen and blood flow in the pelvic area. The discharge keeps the balance of healthy bacteria in the vaginal area intact. Your baby's intestine now is fully functional from this week onwards and the pancreas has also started to produce insulin. As the abdominal cavity grows the intestine also shifts its position in the abdomen.
The worst of your pregnancy symptoms are definitely behind you, though acne and dark spots can make its presence felt on the face now. Your uterus has started to bulge pushing your tummy out. The facial features of your baby would be more developed this week allowing her to squint, grimace, frown and also suck her thumb! This week your baby gets a thin film of hair coating on her entire body and not just the head. This hair is called the lanugo and keeps your baby warm inside the womb.
Though there isn't any significant change in terms of your physical appearance from what you looked the week before, but you might have gained a few kilos by now and probably started to feel a little heavier than usual. Your baby's senses are also developing this week onwards. You can now gently pat your belly and talk to your baby. Your baby would also be sensitive to light now.
Weight gain is in full swing this week onwards and you might have gained anywhere between two to five kilos. Your baby is also developing a thin layer of fat underneath the skin which will act like an insulator to keep your baby warm and would also be playing with her first toy ever the umbilical cord.
Now that your baby-bump is showing and you are probably basking in the new found joys of motherhood, you must know that medical checkups and sonographies are going to be a regular part of your life from now on. The most crucial development of the week is development of the fingerprints in your baby. This week fetal brain will take over control of heart functions which will make her heartbeats and the pumping action more synchronized.
With your belly protruding out, your centre of gravity now shifts slightly; this makes postural correction crucial at this point in time. Bad posture now can aggravate backache. Your baby's nervous system grows rapidly from 18th weeks onwards. The nerves in the brain are now making more complex connections and new ones are also being added in the process.
As your uterus grows and bulges out, it continues to put a pressure on the ligaments that surround and support it leading to lower abdominal pains. The most recent development that happens this week for your baby is that her little scalp starts to produce her own hair.
Now that you have left your morning sickness behind you, hunger pangs can get the better of you. But don't indulge in the habit of eating for two. Whatever you eat make sure it is healthy and not junk food. This week onwards your baby's ears are fully developed and functional. Talking to your baby now is a good idea to initiate the mother and baby bonding process.
Sometime this week your might notice your ankles and feet swell due to water retention leading to edema. It could be evident on your palms and fingers too. This isn't a matter of concern and this harmless condition usually resolves soon after delivery. This week onwards, chances are your baby will also be able to taste the food that you are eating through amniotic fluid.
Due to hormonal changes pigmentation and dark patches could show up on your face this week. On the other hand, Your baby's liver secretes enzymes, from this week onwards. These enzymes help break down fetal red blood cells into bilirubin. This bilirubin then enters the mother's blood stream through the placenta and is removed from the system through urine.
With your belly extruding out and the baby growing within your womb, your uterus pushes on your stomach which gives rise to some ugly stretch marks all over the abdomen. While you deal with the stretch marks on the outside, all the distinguishable facial features of your baby develops while the fetal-body is grows in proportion to her head. There are more fat cells being added beneath the skin to keep her warm.
Yes you can experience Braxton Hicks contractions as early as week 24. This happens due to the tightening of the uterus muscles and subsides within no time. At this point of time, your baby's lungs are forming small respiratory structures inside and also a surfactant that will help her breathe once outside the womb.
The hormonal changes those are responsible for almost all the functions of the body during pregnancy, arrest hair fall during this stage. This is the reason why many pregnant women feel that their hair becomes lustrous and gains volume during pregnancy. Blood vessels start to develop in the lungs of your fetus bringing them a litter closer to maturity. Apart from this, your baby's nostrils open to help breathe in air. Since there is no air inside the womb, your baby will be breathing in amniotic fluid, which turns to be a good practice for breathing after birth.
Remember it is common to experience headaches, hand and feet pain, chest pain, lower back, pelvic and back aches during pregnancy. You might experience some of these symptoms during this week. Your baby's eyelids that had been closed for the past few months, so the retina can develop fully to help focus, now starts to open, however the irises are still in the stage of development.
As you approach your due date, you may experience excessive hunger. This is quite obvious as your body is craving for more energy and needs the right nutrients for proper growth and development of your baby. But be sure that you don't overeat. This week your baby's brain development takes an upward step as new brain tissues would be added. Many experts believe that babies might also begin to dream from this week.
You might experience a surge in fetal movements during this week. This is the normal progression of your pregnancy. If fetal movements are at its peak during the nights it could again disrupt your sleep. This week onwards your baby is going to gain weight consistently till labour. Most babies will take a head-down position by this week to prepare for labour. However, if your sonography shows that your baby is still in the transverse or breech position there is no need to worry as there is still time for your baby to turn in to the right position.
The infamous hormonal surges can now result in mood swings that can be very disturbing for both, you and your loved ones. You might feel fatigued too often as you have gained enough weight (around 10 kg or more) which can further dampen your spirits. This week your baby will be moving more, nudging you with its elbows and palms, apart from stretching its limbs inside the womb. However, as you near labour, these movements will become less due to lack of space in the womb.
Your breasts can leak more often and frequently at this point in time. Your baby's bone marrows have started to produce red blood cells now. This is a milestone that your baby will attain this week. This also indicates that if you go into labour anytime soon, your baby will be able to thrive on its own.
As the bulging uterus exerts pressure on the bladder, not only will you feel a frequent urge for urination but might also leak while you cough, sneeze or laugh out loud. An essential development that happens in your baby this week is the development of finger and toenails.
You would be gaining up to 500 g each week from now onward till the time you hit labour. In a healthy pregnancy, you can gain anywhere between 1 to 2 kg every month during your third trimester. At 32 weeks most babies will turn to the heads-down position, which means that the head of the baby is resting on the bottom of the uterus.
It is common to experience sleepless nights during the third trimester. The bulging belly, excess weight, increased fetal movements, fatigue, among others, makes it difficult to sleep for hours at a stretch in a comfortable position. At this point in time your baby's immune system is developing and receiving antibodies from you which will help ward-off infections once your baby is out of the womb.
Many women complain of blurry vision during this time due to the hormonal changes happening inside the body. However, this vision problem is temporary and will settle post delivery without much trouble. All your baby's crucial organs are developed and are functioning on their own now, except the lungs. The lungs become fully functional when your baby is delivered and breathes in a gush of fresh air.
Your belly is still extending and stretching itself outward, as your baby keeps on putting on more weight and increases in length. Now your uterus is about six inches above your belly button, which would be very sensitive to touch. Your baby's liver and kidneys are fully mature and functioning on their own excreting waste. You might feel more fetal kicks now as there is less space for your baby to move around.
Now that you are approaching full-term pregnancy, your uterus would be stretched and you might have gained anywhere between 10 to 12 kg throughout these months. All the other bones and cartilage gets stronger in your baby with each passing day, but the skull remains soft to initiate a smooth vaginal birth during labour. However, this doesn't mean that the other bones become hard and rigid. They are still flexible to help your baby squeeze itself out through the vaginal opening.
Now that your baby is in the labour-ready position with its head resting on the pelvic floor, you might feel more pressure and pain in that area. As you approach the due date, your baby keeps practising breathing techniques by inhaling and exhaling amniotic fluid through the nostrils.
An increased vaginal discharge during this time is normal which indicates that your cervix is dilating and preparing for the labour. Hair covering your baby's overall body sheds now and your baby keeps on piling some weight. This makes your baby plumper and the skin smooth. You may not be able to sit or sleep comfortably, but don't worry that is normal!
If you haven't experienced false contractions or Braxton Hicks yet, you might feel them this time around. However, you should be able to differentiate false contractions from signs of preterm labour. These last few days, your baby gets enough fat deposited beneath the skin, which adds to the weight gain process and also helps to keep the temperature in control.
Around this time your prenatal expert and your gynaecologist will tell you start counting the baby's movements because you are ready to deliver any time! This will be the highlight of your 40th week (in case it happens on time). However, be watchful of your labour symptoms. In some cases, the labour starts with a dull back ache. If labour sets in on time this week you will be able to hold your bundle of joy in your arms. This is a good time to learn these things about labour and delivery that you should know! At birth your baby might weigh anywhere between 2.5 to 3.5 kg or even more. Congratulations you are blessed with your baby.
Image source: Getty Images
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