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Your Guide to Prenatal Milestones

Your baby’s growth and development begin during your pregnancy. Caring for yourself while pregnant—commonly referred to as prenatal care—is the first step to helping your child thrive.

Blonde pregnant women shopping for medicine
First trimester (week 1–week 12)

In the first part of your pregnancy, known as the first trimester, you might notice physical and emotional changes. This is the result of your changing hormones, the natural chemicals that power your body’s functions. You might notice changes, such as:

  • Your monthly period stops

  • Feeling very tired

  • Sensitive, swollen breasts. Your nipples might also stick out more.

  • Upset stomach, with or without throwing up (often called morning sickness)

  • Wanting or not wanting certain foods

  • Mood swings

  • Trouble having bowel movements (constipation)

  • Needing to pass urine more often

  • Headaches

  • Heartburn

  • Gaining or losing weight

Prenatal care for your first trimester

Taking care of your physical, mental, and emotional well-being during the first trimester of pregnancy is crucial for both you and your baby. Here are important steps and information to help you navigate this period:

  • Schedule a doctor's appointment: As soon as you find out you're pregnant, it's important to make an appointment with your doctor or a healthcare professional. They will help guide you through the process and give personalized advice for a healthy pregnancy. Usually, the first appointment is scheduled around 6–8 weeks from your last menstrual period.

  • Go to regular checkups: Expect to visit your doctor every 4–6 weeks. These regular visits ensure that your pregnancy progresses smoothly and issues can be addressed early on. Your healthcare provider will track your baby's development, address any concerns, and answer your questions.

  • Take prenatal vitamins, if doctor-approved: These vitamins contain nutrients vital for your baby's development, such as folic acid, calcium, iron, and vitamin D. Folic acid is particularly important during the first trimester to prevent birth defects. Work with your healthcare professional to choose the best prenatal vitamins for your needs.

  • Do your best to maintain a well-balanced and nutritious diet: Focus on consuming whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and low-fat dairy products. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day, and avoid high-risk foods like raw seafood, undercooked meats, and unpasteurized dairy products.

  • Stay active if possible: Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each day, such as walking, yoga, or swimming. Before starting any exercise routine, talk with your doctor to ensure it's safe for your pregnancy.

  • Avoid harmful substances: It's essential to stay away from toxins that may harm your baby. Refrain from smoking, drinking alcohol, and consuming drugs during pregnancy. Certain medications can also be harmful, so it’s important to talk with your doctor before taking any over-the-counter or prescribed medications.

  • Check out these resources: We’ve compiled some helpful organizations and resources for your prenatal care.

Always consult your healthcare provider for guidance and support, and embrace this special stage of your life.

Second trimester (week 13–week 28)

You might notice that certain things, like feeling sick or tired, are going away. But other new changes to your body that are easy to see are happening. Your belly will grow bigger as the baby keeps growing. And before this trimester is over, you will feel your baby start to move!

As your body changes to make room for your growing baby, you may experience:

  • Body aches, like in your back, belly, groin, or thighs

  • Stretch marks on your belly, breasts, thighs, or buttocks

  • Darker skin around your nipples

  • A line on the skin going from your belly button to where your pubic hair grows

  • Patches of darker skin, usually on the cheeks, forehead, nose, or upper lip. Patches often look the same on both sides of the face. This is sometimes called the mask of pregnancy.

  • Hands feeling numb or tingling, known as carpal tunnel syndrome.

  • Itching on the belly, palms, and soles of the feet. If you have other symptoms along with the itching, such as nausea, loss of appetite, vomiting, yellow skin color, or tiredness, call your doctor. These can be signs of a serious liver problem.

  • Swelling of the ankles, fingers, and face. If you notice sudden or really big swelling, or if you gain a lot of weight very quickly, call your doctor right away. This could be a sign of a pregnancy problem called preeclampsia.

Prenatal care for your second trimester

Taking care of your health during the second trimester is essential as your baby continues to grow. During this time, continue to visit your doctor every 4–6 weeks for prenatal checkups, eat a balanced, whole-food diet, take prenatal vitamins, and stay active with low-impact activities that feel good in your body.

Here are other recommendations for the second trimester:

  • Keep track of your weight: Weight gain during pregnancy is normal and expected, but it's important to ensure your weight stays within a healthy range. Your healthcare provider will guide you on the recommended amount of weight gain based on your prepregnancy weight and overall health.

  • Attend birth preparation classes, if possible: These classes can help you learn about childbirth, newborn care, and breastfeeding. They can also provide support and resources for navigating pregnancy and parenthood.

Third trimester (week 29–week 40)

You're almost there! During this trimester, some of the same discomforts from your second trimester will continue. Some new body changes you might notice in the third trimester include:

  • Feeling short of breath

  • Heartburn

  • Swelling of the ankles, fingers, and face. If you notice any sudden or really big swelling, or if you gain a lot of weight very quickly, call your doctor right away. This could be a sign of a pregnancy problem called preeclampsia.

  • Hemorrhoids

  • Tender breasts, which may leak a watery pre-milk called colostrum 

  • Your belly button may stick out.

  • Trouble sleeping

  • The baby "dropping," or moving lower in your belly

  • Contractions, which can be a sign of real or false labor

  • As your due date gets closer, your cervix becomes thinner and softer (called effacing). This is a normal, natural thing that helps the birth canal (vagina) open during the birthing process. Your doctor will check your progress with a special exam as you get closer to your due date. 

Prenatal care for your third trimester

Congratulations on reaching the third trimester! It's vital to continue taking care of your health as you prepare for the baby's arrival. Here are steps you should take during this stage for a smooth and healthy pregnancy: 

  • Visit your doctor more often: Doctors often require people who are pregnant to come in every 2 weeks during the third trimester. These visits allow your doctor to monitor your baby's growth, discuss your birth plan, and address any concerns or questions you may have.

  • Prepare for labor and delivery: Make sure you research and finalize your birth plan and discuss it with your healthcare provider. Make decisions about pain relief, birth positions, and postpartum care. Also, learn about labor signs and when to head to the hospital or birthing center.

  • Get plenty of rest: Sleeping can become more difficult as your baby grows, but rest is essential for both you and your baby. Establish a bedtime routine, find comfortable positions with pillows, and try relaxation techniques to improve sleep quality.

  • Prepare your home for your baby's arrival: When you can, set up space for the baby, put together essential baby gear, and stock up on baby supplies. Make plans for family or friends to help you during the first few weeks after giving birth.

QUICK TIP: Whenever you have questions or concerns about you or your baby while pregnant, contact your OB/GYN or primary care doctor. Trust your instincts and turn to the experts for answers.

First 5 California
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First 5 California
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