Between raging hormones, dramatic physical changes, and the anticipation—and anxiety—of pending birth, the nine months of pregnancy can be an overwhelming time, especially for first time moms. One of the best ways to keep informed about what is happening to your body, what to expect during pregnancy, the development of your baby, and how to best prepare for deliver is to keep a pregnancy calendar.
Pregnancy calendars come in many different styles and are available as desk and wall calendars or in online versions. Most online calendars email subscribers with weekly updates such as diagrams to show what stage of development your baby is at. The electronic pregnancy calendars also send reminders about things like registering for a childbirth classes and they can be shared with family and friends.
The advantage of a wall or desk calendar is that it acts as a kind of scrapbook keepsake on which you can track your pregnancy and note special dates, such as the first time you fell your baby kick. As with the online calendars, most printed pregnancy calendars include information about development and other information related to pregnancy. They also provide space for journal entries so you can write down your thoughts or experiences. Many women end up utilizing both an online service and a printed calendar so they get the best features of both.
In order for the pregnancy calendar to give you the timeliest information, you need to know your due date. The best way to determine due date is through an ultrasound, which are conducted throughout the pregnancy for different purposes. In the early stages, it’s used to determine if there is a single fetus or if there are twins—or more. Ultrasounds can also detect birth deformities and abnormalities.
In the last couple months of pregnancy, ultrasounds are used to see how well the baby is developing, to check the blood in the umbilical cord functioning properly, and to make sure the placenta is positioned correctly.
What to Expect in Each Trimester
Just as every baby is unique, no two pregnancies are the same so nobody can ever tell you exactly what you will experience. But generally speaking, there are some things you can anticipate. The most obvious is, you will gain weight. According to the Institute of Medicine:
? If your pre-pregnancy weight was in the healthy range for your height (a BMI of 18.5 to 24.9), you should gain between 25 and 35 pounds.
? If you were underweight (a BMI below 18.5), you should gain 28 to 40 pounds.
? If you were overweight (a BMI of 25 to 29.9), you should gain 15 to 25 pounds.
? If you were obese (a BMI of 30 or higher), you should gain between 11 and 20 pounds.
A woman’s body goes through a lot of other changes besides weight gain during the first trimester, which is the first three months of pregnancy. Hormonal changes affect almost every organ system, which can result in a host of symptoms, including tender, swollen breasts; nausea or vomiting; cravings or avoidance of certain foods; mood swings; constipation; headaches; and fatigue.
During the second trimester, weeks 13 to 28, many of the symptoms experienced in the first trimester, especially morning sickness and fatigue, will go away. The baby bump turns into full blown pregnant belly and it is during this trimester when the baby first begins to move.
As the baby grows some women will experience body aches, especially in the back, groin, or thigh. You may also see the beginning of stretch marks on the stomach, thighs and even breasts, which have ballooned in size. Occasionally, patches of darker skin will appear over the cheeks, forehead, nose, or upper lip, a condition called Chloasma, but commonly known as the mask of pregnancy. The discoloration, which fades after birth, may be diminished by eating foods high in folic acid.
The final trimester, weeks 29 to 40, can be the most physically difficult as the baby grows to full term. Because of the pressure the growing baby is putting on your internal organs, breathing can be more difficult and you’ll find yourself going to the bathroom constantly even though your bladder hardly had anything in it. Some women get swollen ankles or fingers and hemorrhoids can be a problem.
By the end of 37 weeks, a baby is considered full term because their organs are ready to function on their own. As the due date approaches, the baby may turn into a head-down position for birth. Most newborns weigh between six and nine pounds and are 19 to 21 inches long.
Preparing for Delivery
Many pregnant women worry about whether the physical or emotional symptoms they are experiencing are normal. Attending childbirth classes gives women a place to voice their concerns as well as preparing them for delivery through various tips and techniques. Another way to ease anxiety is to create a birth plan, which is a list of instructions you prepare in advance of labor to help you through the delivery process.
A typical birth plan, which is given to your practitioner, includes information such as who you would like in attendance (partner, friends, family, midwife, etc), atmosphere (music, dim lighting), labor props (birthing stool, squatting bar), pain management preferences (acupressure, breathing techniques, medication), whether you want cord blood banked, and any other items that are important to you. It is important to note that a birth plan is a wish list, not a contract. While most practitioners try their best to honor the mom-to-be’s requests, some may not be possible depending on the circumstances of the birth. So don’t fret over the small stuff and concentrate on the big picture—introducing your newborn baby to the world.