The period of pregnancy is divided into three trimesters. During each trimester, the pregnant woman will exhibit unique physical and mental characteristics. In addition to changes in weight and body shape, alterations in body chemistry and functions will also be evident. The heart will pump harder, body temperature will rise slightly, body secretions will occur regularly, joints and ligaments will become more limber, and hormone production will change. Mood swings will happen more frequently due to a combination of hormone level differences, feelings of fatigue, adjustments regarding self-esteem and body image, money issues, new roles within the spousal relationship, and anxiety caused by the impending birth.
Each trimester is marked by certain fetal milestones until the baby is delivered after 40 weeks inside the mother's womb. Babies that are delivered before 37 weeks are deemed premature. Depending on when the mother gives birth, stunted growth, delayed development, and respiratory and digestive problems can potentially occur in premature babies.
First Trimester (0-13 weeks)
In terms of the fetus' development, this stage is the most important. The body structure begins to take shape, and organs are molded. If a miscarriage or birth defect takes place, it is likely to occur during these initial three months.
Due to the changes a woman's body goes through during this trimester, she may experience bouts of nausea, excessive tiredness, breast sensitivity, and a constant need to urinate. Although these are some of the common symptoms pregnant women face, each woman is unique. For instance, one may have a surge of energy, while another may feel fatigued and emotionally distressed.
Second Trimester (13-26 weeks)
This is sometimes referred to as the "golden period" since some of the side effects associated with the first trimester have subsided. Feelings of nausea should be less intense, sleeping becomes easier, and a boost in energy will be noticeable. However, the second trimester may bring about another group of symptoms like back and abdominal discomfort, leg cramps, constipation, and heartburn.
The mother will be able to sense her child's heartbeat about three months into her term. At 19 weeks, she will usually undergo an ultrasound. Then, between the fourth and fifth months, the mother may feel the baby's first "kicks."
Third Trimester (26-40 weeks)
This is the home stretch and often a very joyous, yet nerve-racking, time for the woman, especially if it is her first child. Some symptoms that may appear during the third trimester include shortness of breath, hemorrhoids, bladder control problems, varicose veins, and sleep troubles. These are often triggered from the enlargement of the uterus, which grows from an imperceptible two ounces to as much as three pounds at birth.
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