Pregnancy Sneak Peek--An Overview of the Nest 9 Months

Congratulations on your pregnancy! There's no doubt about it: You've just walked through a doorway into another world. Now that you're pregnant, you have a load of new things to learn and many changes to prepare for.

Here's an overview of what's to come.

Your timeline during pregnancy

You'll want to figure out your due date, though it's not a perfect prediction. Only about 1 in 20 women deliver on their due date; most deliver within a week or two before or after. Almost 1 in 8 women end up delivering the baby prematurely (three or more weeks before their due date).

Pregnancies are usually counted by weeks (for example, "12 weeks pregnant" or "38 weeks pregnant"). A typical pregnancy is about 40 weeks long (from the first day of your last menstrual period to delivery) and divided into three sections called trimesters. Our chart can help you figure out how pregnant you are.

You'll need to decide when to share the news. Many women choose to wait until after the first trimester, when the risk of miscarriage drops significantly. You may want to tell loved ones, your other children, and your employer at different times.

You'll probably start to show – that is, be visibly pregnant – by late in your first trimester or the first part of your second.

You're likely to hear your baby's heartbeat at your first or second visit to your healthcare provider, usually 10 weeks into pregnancy or later. You'll see your baby on an ultrasound during your mid-pregnancy visit (around 16 to 20 weeks), if not sooner. Mid-pregnancy is when your caregiver may be able to identify your baby's sex. Of course, you don't have to find out if you don't want to.

Your body during pregnancy

Your body will change in many ways during pregnancy. Naturally, your belly will grow and you'll gain weight. In addition, you can expect your breasts to grow a cup size or more (and possibly become painful or sensitive). Your skin may look brighter, get darker, or break out; your hair may become fuller; and your nails may grow faster. On your belly, you may see stretch marks, notice a dark line (called the linea nigra) appear from your belly button to your pubic bone, and watch your innie belly button "pop" and become an outie. Most of these changes will fade after pregnancy.

The amount of blood in your body will rise dramatically during pregnancy. By the time you give birth, you'll have about 50 percent more blood circulating than usual.

You'll end up peeing more frequently, thanks to increased blood flow in your body and pressure on your bladder from your growing uterus.

You might feel really tired during pregnancy, especially at the very beginning and again at the end.

You might experience a variety of aches and pains and other symptoms throughout pregnancy, from headaches to heartburn, low back pain, leg cramps, nausea, swollen hands and feet, bleeding gums, dizziness, and more. Many women feel their best during the second trimester. And some lucky moms-to-be feel pretty good all the way through – that's normal, too.

About 3 in 4 pregnant women have morning sickness during their first trimester. Despite being called "morning" sickness, the nausea or vomiting can happen at any time of day.

You might develop food cravings or food aversions during pregnancy, coupled with changes to your appetite.

You'll start to feel your baby kick sometime in your second trimester, probably between 16 and 22 weeks.

In late pregnancy, your big belly will get in your way. You probably won't be able to bend over to tie your shoes or shave your legs, the steering wheel will hit your belly, children won't fit on your lap, and your belly may bump into things because you're not used to your new dimensions. Getting out of bed or off a sofa becomes a challenge, too.

Your health during pregnancy

It's important to get specialized pregnancy care (prenatal care) from a doctor or midwife. Soon after you discover you're pregnant, find a caregiver and make an appointment for your first prenatal visit.

Right away, it's a good idea to start avoiding things that are unsafe for your developing baby. These include alcohol, certain medications, certain foods, and more. Read up on what's safe and what's not, and get advice from your healthcare provider about which changes to make.

On the flip side, adopting healthy habits will help you and your baby thrive. For example: Make sure you're taking a prenatal vitamin and getting enough folic acid. Eat a nutritious diet, find pregnancy-friendly ways to exercise, and get good sleep. Again, talk to your healthcare provider about what's right for you.

Make sure you're eating right for pregnancy. You may need to adjust what you eat, how much you eat, and when you eat. Find out what's safe – and unsafe – to eat and drink.

You may find that sleeping is difficult or uncomfortable, especially during the first and third trimesters. Several common pregnancy sleep problems are to blame. (Your dreams can get a little wacky, too.) If you're not already a side sleeper, you may need to get used to a new position, since experts say that sleeping on your left side is best for you and your baby in the last half of pregnancy.

Pregnancy can affect your emotional health, in part because hormonal changes during pregnancy alter your brain chemistry. You may experience heightened emotions, both good and bad, or you might feel moody or anxious. At least 1 in 10 pregnant women suffer from bouts of depression.

Most women have ten to 15 prenatal visits. Going to all of them is important, even if you're feeling fine. Your healthcare provider will check your weight, belly size, blood pressure, and urine; do other exams or tests as needed; and check on your baby.

Your doctor or midwife will order a variety of prenatal tests to check on the health and progress of your pregnancy. In some cases you'll need to decide what tests to have – for instance, whether you'll have screening or diagnostic tests that shed light on your baby's risk of having genetic or chromosomal disorders.

Some women have a pregnancy complication and need special care to ensure the best possible outcome for their baby. About 1 in 5 pregnant women are put on bedrest to help the pregnancy continue safely, but experts disagree about how useful the treatment really is.

You'll need to start thinking about where and how you want to give birth. You can watch our videos showing different types of birth experiences and read up on how to prepare for labor.

Know the signs of preterm labor (labor that happens before 37 weeks) and postpartum depression, a form of depression that follows childbirth and affects up to 1 in 5 women. The more easily you can recognize the signs, the more quickly and effectively you can respond.

Your baby during pregnancy

It's exciting to keep track of how your baby is growing and developing each week. Check out our fetal development timeline to see what amazing milestones to expect along the way. Then take a peek inside your womb with our weekly fetal development images and incredible animated video series, Inside Pregnancy.

If you have health insurance, find out when and how to add your baby to your plan. If you don't have health insurance, government and private programs can help.

Choose a doctor for your baby. It's important to do this during pregnancy so you're all set when your baby arrives.

You may want to start looking into childcare options. If you plan to use daycare and live in an area where daycare spots are scarce, you might need to get on a few waiting lists while you're pregnant.

It's not pleasant to think about these things, but with a baby on the way, now's a good time to buy or upgrade your life insurance. You'll also want to consider adding your child to your will (or making a will, if you don't have one) and specifying who will care for your child if something happens to you.

You'll need to pick a baby name during pregnancy (or soon afterward). Get guidance and inspiration, and then look up the popularity and meaning of your favorite names.

Set up a nursery or just a safe place for your baby to sleep. It's nice to have the nursery ready in advance, even if you choose to have your baby sleep in your room at first to make nighttime feedings easier.

Some decisions about your newborn's care are worth contemplating before your baby arrives. For example, will you breastfeed your baby? Will you bank your baby's cord blood? And, if you're having a boy, will you have him circumcised?

Your relationships during pregnancy

Your relationship with your partner, family, and friends can change during pregnancy (and will even more so after your baby is here). Pregnancy may shake up your relationship with your partner the most.

Your relationship with strangers will change, too. They may touch your belly, ask personal questions, give you advice, comment on your body, or guess whether you're having a boy or a girl. If you know you won't like this, you might want to come up with a plan for how to respond.

You might find that your pregnancy affects your sex life. In most cases, sex during pregnancy is perfectly safe, but pregnancy can boost or dampen your sex drive or force you to change the positions you use.

Your job during pregnancy

Your pregnancy could affect your work schedule. Depending on your health, how you're feeling, and the type of job you have, you may not be able to work full-time through the whole pregnancy or right up until your due date.

Look into your options for maternity leave (and possibly paternity leave) and how it will affect your income. You need to request maternity leave at least 30 days before taking it, but many women request it several months in advance.

Think about whether you'll return to work or stay home with your baby. If you'll be returning, you may want to find out if your employer offers any family-friendly work arrangements.

Your money during pregnancy

Your baby will change your budget, so it's smart to prepare yourself. Look ahead at what kinds of costs you'll face during the first year and beyond, and factor in any changes in income you might expect due to leave from your job or an altered work schedule. (Consider putting some extra padding in your budget, if possible, in case you can't work as much as you meant to during pregnancy.)

Ask your insurance company what your co-pay or deductible will be for your delivery costs, and plan ahead as needed.

You may need to buy various pregnancy products as your body changes – like a body pillow, maternity clothes, and bigger bras. Browse our pregnancy shopping checklists to learn more.

Sometime during pregnancy, you'll need to get at least a few pieces of baby gear. Some things you can get cheap or secondhand, but one thing worth buying new is a car seat. (When you don't know a car seat's history, you can't be sure it's safe. Accidents and extreme temperatures can weaken it.) Other purchases may include a crib, stroller, and baby carrier.

With a new family member on the way, you may decide you need a bigger car or home. If that's the case, dealing with it before the baby comes can make things less hectic later.

Your life during pregnancy

Someone you know may throw you a baby shower. A common time to have a shower is when you're 7 or 8 months pregnant, but there's no wrong time for one – even after your baby arrives is okay. Many women choose to register for baby shower gifts.

As you go through pregnancy, you'll learn all types of bizarre-sounding words. Your vocabulary will soon include the likes of  colostrum, meconium, vernix, lanugo, and Braxton-Hicks, to name a few.

Your personal habits and schedule may change during pregnancy. For example, you might be too tired to stay out late, have to drop certain hobbies, reach a point where you can't exercise like you used to, or want to avoid people who smoke. Your interests and priorities may change, too, which could affect the way you want to spend your time.

Consider taking a childbirth prep class and maybe newborn care, infant CPR, and breastfeeding classes, too.

If you're planning to travel during pregnancy, make sure you're traveling safely. Be aware of airline policies that prohibit pregnant women from flying in late pregnancy. 

You may want to prepare your pet for life with a baby.

Some people decide to move during pregnancy, since having a new baby can mean it's time for a bigger home or relocating closer to loved ones.