The Journey to Parenthood

Whether you are pregnant or just beginning to plan for a baby, MedStar Health would like to be your resource for information. Since it's our business to know firsthand the many decisions you face, we want to help you with planning stages of your pregnancy and to help you understand body changes during the each of the pregnancy trimesters.


If you are planning to become pregnant:

  • Make an appointment to see your physician.
  • Review your personal medical history and note any missed vaccinations or childhood diseases.
  • Check your diet - eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.
  • Abstain from any alcohol, drugs or smoking for the duration of your pregnancy.

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Related Information

Understanding Trimesters

Now that you're pregnant, it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with the changes your body will go through and how your baby will develop. A full-term pregnancy is considered 40 weeks long. Your doctor calculates your due date from your last menstrual period, which means the first two weeks of your pregnancy include the time of your period, ovulation and fertilization.

  1. Weeks 1 to 13: The First Trimester. During this time, your body undergoes many changes, most of which will be temporary. As your body adjusts to the growing baby, you may experience nausea, fatigue, backaches, mood swings and stress.
  2. Weeks 14 to 26: The Second Trimester. The aches and pains experienced during the first trimester may continue, but most women find the second trimester a bit easier. Your abdomen will expand as you gain weight and the baby grows. You may experience pain in your abdomen, groin and thighs. You may get stretch marks or acne.
  3. Weeks 27 to 40: The Third Trimester. You are almost there! During this last trimester, your ankles, fingers and face may swell. You may also experience difficulty breathing. This is normal as the baby is getting bigger and putting more pressure on your organs.

The First Trimester

  • Make your first prenatal appointment as soon as you think you are pregnant.
  • Check with your health plan and doctor for information on parent education classes.
  • Your health care provider may recommend a vitamin supplement.
  • Morning sickness may set in with your first missed period and last through the first trimester -- bland carbohydrates like bread and crackers may help nausea.
  • Expect the onset of cravings and mood swings: your body is readjusting its hormone levels.
  • Expect sensitivity to strong odors and gases. Your baby experiences everything you do. Strong chemicals, cleaning solutions and even natural gas can be hazardous to your baby's development.
  • You will notice your clothes are getting tighter.

Mile Markers

  • 4th week: Your baby is approximately one-quarter inch long. The cells that make up the heart begin to beat. Eyes and ears are visible.
  • 8th week: Your baby is now one inch long, with noticeable head growth (signifying brain development), facial features and more defined appendages.
  • 12th week: Your baby is approximately three inches long and weighs 1 ounce. Vital systems are forming, and it may be possible to determine the baby's gender.

The Second Trimester

  • If morning sickness has not ended, it will soon. In no time, you will feel the best you have in months.
  • Investigate classes to help you reduce stress, increase comfort and prepare yourself and family members for birth.
  • Just as important as eating well throughout your pregnancy, drink plenty of water. Water relieves constipation, and a healthy diet helps your baby increase its body fat during this stage.

Mile Markers

  • 16th week: Your baby is four to six inches long and weighs up to 4 ounces. You will feel the baby move more, and a heartbeat can be detected with special equipment.
  • 20th week: Your baby is approximately 10 inches long and weighs up to 1 pound. The baby may feel more active, and a clear heartbeat can be heard.
  • 24th week: Your baby is 12 to 14 inches long and weighs up to 24 ounces.

The Third Trimester

  • Prepared childbirth classes are a must by the seventh month. Your due date is only an approximation, and you want to be prepared.
  • Make decisions on circumcision, in case you have a boy.
  • Make birthing plans. The delivery day can come at any time, and you should have a game plan for the big event.
  • Look for infant care and support. If you will be returning to work, you will want to supervise any caretaker or facility for the first couple of days to ensure everything goes well.
  • If you plan to breastfeed, check with your employer's Human Resources department for a place to pump.
  • By the eighth month, install a car seat. Follow the manufacturer's instructions closely and be sure to keep the car seat out of the front seat and away from all airbags.
  • As you approach delivery, your baby will position him/herself in preparation for birth. "Lightening," when the baby's head descends into the pelvis, can happen at any time and is not necessarily an indication that labor is about to begin.

Mile Markers

  • 28th week: During the seventh month, the infant is approximately 15 inches long and up to 2 ½ pounds. Your baby's eyelids may be open, and the baby can distinguish light and sound outside the uterus.
  • 32nd week: The infant is nearly 16 inches long and weighs about 4 pounds. The baby will begin sleeping and waking.
  • 36th week: During the ninth and final month, the infant is approximately 19 inches long and weighs 7 to 8 pounds. The baby will continue to gain approximately half a pound a week.

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