Pregnancy basics: Quick guide to what's ahead

Pregnancy often brings excitement — and lots of questions about what's ahead for you and your baby. Get a basic overview of what happens during each trimester.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

When you find out that you're pregnant, you might wonder what to expect during each week of your pregnancy. And every day you might have more questions about how to have a healthy pregnancy.

Knowing what to expect can help you make good decisions throughout your pregnancy.

The 1st trimester

The first few months of pregnancy are marked by rapid changes for both you and your baby.

For you, first trimester physical changes might include breast tenderness, fatigue and nausea. Your emotions might range from excitement to anxiety.

For your baby, the first trimester is a time of rapid growth and development. Your baby's brain, spinal cord and other organs begin to form, and your baby's heart begins to beat. Your baby's fingers and toes even begin to take shape.

If you're in your first trimester, make an appointment with your health care provider to begin prenatal care. You'll find out what to expect during the first trimester and beyond, including the importance of prenatal vitamins, possible prenatal screenings and tests, as well as foods and medications to avoid. You might also ask for guidance on exercising during pregnancy.

The 2nd trimester

During the second trimester of pregnancy — from months four to six — you might feel better than you did at first. Now's the time to enjoy your pregnancy!

At this point your baby might begin to seem more real. Second trimester signs and symptoms might include larger breasts, a growing belly and skin changes.

For your baby, the second trimester marks the ability to move, hear and swallow. You might feel slight fluttering. Also, your baby's sex will become apparent.

By week 20, you'll be halfway into your pregnancy. Regular visits to your health care provider remain important. Tell your health care provider what's on your mind, even if it seems silly or unimportant.

The 3rd trimester

The last few months of pregnancy — the third trimester — can be physically and emotionally challenging.

Third trimester signs and symptoms might include backaches, heartburn and mounting anxiety.

Meanwhile, your baby will likely open his or her eyes and pack on the pounds. This rapid growth might lead to more noticeable fetal movements.

During the third trimester, you'll continue to meet with your health care provider regularly. He or she might check the baby's position. As your due date approaches, continue to ask questions about what to expect in the lead-up to labor. Consider childbirth classes.

Pregnancy problems

During pregnancy, your baby's health is your top priority. That's why pregnancy problems can be so worrisome.

If you have a chronic condition — such as diabetes, epilepsy or depression — make sure you understand how it could affect your pregnancy and what complications you might face. You might need close monitoring or a change in your treatment plan to help prevent pregnancy problems. In other cases, pregnancy problems such as gestational diabetes can complicate a healthy pregnancy.

Although possible pregnancy problems might weigh heavily on your mind, remember that there's much you can do to promote a healthy pregnancy. Take care of yourself and talk to your health care provider. He or she can help you make the best decisions for you and your baby.

Nov. 18, 2020 See more In-depth