Close-up of a pregnant woman's stomach
© Love Matters | Rita Lino

Pregnancy week-by-week

A sperm fertilises an egg and about 40 weeks later, it's developed into a fully-grown baby, ready to be born. But in the meantime, what exactly is going on inside the womb?
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Fertilisation

You can get pregnant if you have intercourse with a man around the time you ovulate – from about five days before until one day after. When the man ejaculates inside your vagina, the sperm swims up the vagina through the cervix – the neck of the womb – through the womb, or uterus, to the fallopian tubes.

It takes the sperm about 10 hours to make this journey. If there’s an egg waiting in one of the fallopian tubes, the tiny sperm tries to burrow their way inside it. If one sperm gets inside the egg, it’s fertilised. The fertilised egg then sets off down the fallopian tube to the womb.

Week 1 of pregnancy

The fertilised egg cell starts dividing – at this stage, it’s called a zygote. After a few days of division, it becomes a ball of cells called a morula. You’d need very good eyes or a microscope to see it.

The blob of cells develops a hole in the middle full of fluid, at which point it gets another new name: blastocyst. First, it floats around the walls of the womb for a while. At this stage, it could still just get flushed out of your womb with your period, and you’d never know anything had happened. But then comes a crucial moment: if the womb accepts the blastocyst, and it nestles into the lining, you’re pregnant.

Even then, all sorts of things can go wrong in the early stages of pregnancy. You might notice nothing more than your period coming a couple of days late, when in fact you were nearly going to have a baby. It’s only called a miscarriage if it happens later on after you know you’re pregnant.

Week 2 of pregnancy

The pregnancy is now properly established. Inside the blastocyst, different groups of cells develop, which will eventually form the different parts of the baby. The inner cells will grow to become lungs, stomach and intestines, a middle layer will be muscles and bones, and an outer layer will form the nerves and skin.

It's time for the blastocyst to have another new name. It’s now an embryo. The end of the second week is about day 28 of your menstrual cycle – that means your period is due. And at this stage, depending on whether or not you wanted to get pregnant, you’re likely to start getting nervous and worried, or hopeful and excited. Because your period is late.

From a couple of days before your period was due, pregnancy hormone starts getting into your urine. So as soon as your period is late, you can do a pregnancy test.

Week 3 of pregnancy

The bundle of cells starts developing the first signs of the different parts of the body – the brain and heart start to grow.

Weeks 4 to 8 of pregnancy

The heart starts beating, and arms, legs, eyes and ears start to form. Nipples appear, and the kidneys start producing urine. The embryo starts moving. By the end of week eight, the embryo is about the size of a small grape – about 13mm. And once again it’s time for a name change: the embryo is now called a foetus.

Weeks 9 to 12 of pregnancy

The foetus now develops a recognisable human face. Its arms and legs are properly formed and it can make its hands into a fist. What’s more, the foetus can even make sounds – even though it’s still no longer than your thumb.

Twelve weeks marks the end of what’s known as the first trimester, the first third of the pregnancy. Miscarriages are much more likely to happen in the first twelve weeks, so women sometimes prefer to wait to this point before telling everyone they know that they’re pregnant. In some countries where abortion is allowed, you can’t have the pregnancy terminated after this point, or only in special circumstances.

Weeks 13 to 19 of pregnancy

The foetus starts moving around and making sucking movements with its mouth. By week 19 the baby is waking and sleeping and can hear. It’s about 12 to 15cm long, so would still fit in the palm of your hand.

Weeks 20 to 24 of pregnancy

Butterflies fluttering inside you, or bubbles – that’s how many women describe feeling the foetus moving inside them for the first time. It usually happens around this time of the pregnancy. However, with a first baby, you may not feel it until 25 weeks – and with a second baby, it can be as early as 16 weeks.

Apart from swimming around, the foetus is now growing eyebrows and eyelashes, and nails on its fingers and toes. The senses of taste and touch are developing, and the eyes are properly developed too. With a lot of medical care, foetuses born at 24 weeks can sometimes survive.

Weeks 25 to 28 of pregnancy

The brain is growing fast and by week 28 the lungs are properly developed, so if the baby is born at this stage it has a good chance of survival. Week 28 is the end of the second trimester, the middle third of the pregnancy.

Weeks 29 to 40 of pregnancy

In this last stretch of the pregnancy, the third trimester, the foetus grows fast and puts on weight, getting ready for life outside the womb. It starts ‘breathing’ the amniotic fluid inside the womb.

The foetus hasn’t got much room to move around anymore, but it can give some impressive kicks and you can see it moving from the outside. Around week 36, all being well, it swivels around so its head is pointing downwards ready for the birth.

The due date

People usually say a pregnancy lasts nine months. And based on the first day of your last period, you’re usually given a ‘due date’ when your baby is supposed to be born. But in fact, most births happen anywhere between about 37 and 42 weeks. So within this period, you can’t really say the birth is ‘early’ or ‘late’.

Anyway, at some point around 40 weeks, the big moment arrives. Having been a zygote, a morula, a blastocyst, and an embryo, the foetus now has its last official name change of the pregnancy: it’s a baby. After that, the name is up to you!

Riddle ID

Did you learn something new?

Comments

Hi Queeneth, frequently urinating is normal and is expected. Some people may also feel the need to eat more and this is why one is encouraged to eat frequent smaller meals as opposed to the three large meals. Have a look at the following article for more information on what to expect;- https://lovemattersafrica.com/pregnancy/being-pregnant/your-body-and-pregnancy

Hey Beryl, have you had a pregnancy test done to find out if you are pregnant? Everybody responds differently to being pregnancy, it is important you embrace your own journey as opposed to comparing yourself to someone else experience. It is also important that you begin you prenatal clinics for purposes of monitoring the development of the baby and the mother. Have a look at the following article;- https://lovemattersafrica.com/pregnancy/being-pregnant/your-body-and-pregnancy

Hey Tim, there is no time that one should stop having sex when pregnant other than with the advice of your health provide. As long as you are both comfortable you can have sex even during the third trimester of pregnancy. It is important that the position during sex is comfortable and that there is no pressure as the tummy grows. Have a look at the following article;- https://lovemattersafrica.com/pregnancy/sex-during-pregnancy-top-five-facts

Hello Maisha, during the first weeks, for some women the appetite is low but it later picks up. However this is also the crucial period for baby’s growth it is therefore important you identify which foods works for you. Fruits and nuts can also be a good source of nutrients. You can further discuss this with your doctor in your next visit. 

Daniel
Thu, 05/23/2019 - 03:02 pm
My wife likes alot a sex when she is pregnant like right now. Is this normal and when should we stop having sex not to harm the baby?

Hi Daniel, it is normal to have changes in sex drive where in some cases the drive is increased in other cases the drive maybe reduced. It is important that partners do talk about these changes to find a balance that works for both. Secondly, partners can have sex all through their pregnancy period if they are both comfortable. Have a look at the following article for additional information;- 

https://lovemattersafrica.com/pregnancy/sex-during-pregnancy-top-five-facts

I am due to give birth to my first child later this year. Is it true that the vagina becomes loose after normal child birth? What can I do to to make it tihlght again?
Dis is really a good information, especially for us having d 1st child.... bt what do we need to know abt *Twin Gestation*?

Hey Bayo, congratulations. All pregnancies are different whether one is having twins or not. It is for this reason to start attending antenatal clinics early enough for purposes of monitoring the health of the mother and the development of the baby or babies. This then informs any actions to be taken. All the best in the rest of your journey. Have a look at the following article for more information;- https://lovemattersafrica.com/pregnancy/being-pregnant/your-body-and-pregnancy

Hi Omolola, this might just be caused by the pressure being applied by the pregnancy as well as early signs of labor. I suggest you talk to your health provider, midwife or doctor for further advice. We wish you all the best and congratulations. 

Hello Akinola, are you already pregnant? If you are already, I suggest you visit a health centre for antenatal services. This is important for purposes of monitoring the growth of the baby as well as getting advice and information during these period. Have a look at the following articles for more information;- 

https://lovemattersafrica.com/pregnancy/being-pregnant/how-the-baby-develops

https://lovemattersafrica.com/pregnancy/being-pregnant/your-body-and-pregnancy

Hello Ola, other than pregnancy there a number of other reasons that can cause a delayed or missed period including stress, significant weight gain or weight loss, hormonal imbalance, change in environment, extreme exercising, use of birth control methods among other reasons. It is important to seek medical advice if this happens multiple times. 

Adenike
Fri, 08/02/2019 - 05:26 pm
I am in my 6weeks and am having pains in the upper part of my stomach, I have seen my doctor, I was asked to do a scan which result DAT nothing is wrong, so he prescribed mismag, folic acid, and two type of drug for me, can't remember d name, and jee said all is well

Hi Adenike, congratulation. It is a good thing that you have started to see a doctor early in your pregnancy. If a scan was done and the doctor said all is well, I suggest you take his work. Mild stomach pain in early pregnancy (during the first 12 weeks) is usually caused by your womb expanding as the baby grows. This is normal and expected. However, if the pain is too much to bare, talk to your doctor for further advice. Check out the following article;- https://lovemattersafrica.com/pregnancy/being-pregnant/your-body-and-pregnancy

Lady D
Mon, 08/12/2019 - 04:31 pm
Please I have been spitting spitting and having severe waist pain. Is a sign of pregnancy or menstruation cuz my the menstruation is supposed to come our in 4days time. Please reply

Lady D, you can consider waiting until you next period (4 days) to see if your period will come. Alternatively, if it has been longer than 14 days since you had unprotected sex, have a pregnancy test done. This is a better way to determine if you are pregnant or not. Have a look at the following article;- https://lovemattersafrica.com/pregnancy/unsure-about-being-pregnant/am-i-pregnant

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