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 Steve,  safe days are one of the most unreliable ways to prevent pregnancy, and we really don't recommend it at all.   When your safe days are really depends on the length of your cycle. Technically speaking, the first seven days before and after your period, as well as the time of your period, are relatively safe. But, if you have a shorter cycle (shorter than 28 days), or an irregular one, this will vary. Also keep in mind that sperm can survive for up to five days and longer inside the body- so even if you have sex on a 'safe' day, you can still get pregnant, because the sperm survived until your ovulation date. So you see, it's a very inaccurate. And lastly, of course this won't protect you from STDs. Only condoms will. So we really recommend a more reliable method.

Hi, I'm in marriage for 7 years now with one daughter, we've tried to get our second child but in vain, what might be the problem? I'm really stressed.

Hello Frank, thanks for reaching out to us. I understand that the situation is stressful and quite emotional. It may seem like getting pregnant is straight forward but it may take a lot of work and dedication. However, there could also be a medical issue and it would be best to see a medical professional to get a comprehensive diagnosis and advice on the way forward.

This article could also prove to be of help.

https://lovemattersafrica.com/pregnancy/before-pregnancy/getting-pregnant-dos-and-donts

After one week of intimacy during my ovulation, my stomach keeps hurting me, although I haven't checked if pregnant but the pain keeps persisting

Hello Casp , thank you for reaching out to us. Since this is a medical issue we strongly advise you see a medical professional for a comprehensive diagnosis.
Here is a list of health institutions that should be of help
https://lovemattersafrica.com/get-help/clinics 

Sekeenat
Mon, 04/20/2020 - 01:37 pm
Wooooow!I really appreciate this info, it's very educating. My question is how can one avoid or stop vomiting during pregnancy most especially after meal.
Love Matters
Mon, 04/20/2020 - 02:56 pm

Hi Sekeenat, vomiting during the first trimester of the pregnancy is quite normal. However, for some people, it could be quite overwhelming. If you feel that it is too much see a medical practitioner for advice on the way forward.

Ogonna
Thu, 04/23/2020 - 05:20 am
I found this very useful. Pls I'm in my week 19 and haven't started ante natal care because of restriction of movement for covid-19. How can it affect my pregnancy? Thanks
Love Matters
Thu, 04/23/2020 - 03:37 pm

Hello Ogonna, thank you for reaching out and we are sorry you are going through a hard time during this pandemic but it is of the utmost importance that you make an appointment with your doctor, even with the restrictions. By not medical supervision during your pregnancy, you may place your health and the health of your unborn baby at risk if you fail to receive prenatal care during this special time. It's certainly possible to have a baby without it, but regular prenatal care is the best thing you can do for the two of you. Here are some of the affects:

Real risks- Babies are five times more likely to die and three times more likely to have low birth weight when moms don't get prenatal care. Those grim numbers are from a 2012 report from the United States Department of Health and Human Services. Prenatal visits permit a doctor to treat an expectant mother's existing problems and prevent new problems.

Pre-existing problems- Some women have pre-existing health conditions, such as diabetes, asthma, and heart problems, that can affect their pregnancy. A doctor can design a treatment plan that decreases health risks. For example, a doctor may modify or stop medications that can harm the developing baby, particularly during the first trimester.

High-risk pregnancies-  carry a greater risk for problems. For moms who skip prenatal care, the risk for a negative outcome increases when the problem remains untreated. Any woman who gets pregnant after 35 has a high-risk pregnancy, as does any woman with a chronic health condition, is pregnant with more than one foetus, or is at risk for preterm labor. Prenatal care means a doctor has time to recommend a specialist.

Managing mental health disorders- For women who struggle with mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression, pregnancy may present a new dilemma. Some women find those symptoms appear and even worsen during pregnancy. Without prenatal care, moms-to-be don’t get a treatment plan that manages their symptoms effectively and safely. If you currently take medication, your doctor can determine whether a modification in your treatment plan is needed.


Good antenatal care includes regular screening which can detect and prevent early complications such as hypertension and pregnancy diabetes; both of which can dramatically affect the foetus. Early detection means regular monitoring and treatment.

Love Matters Team.

Hello Anonymous, thank you for your positive feedback and we are glad that our content is able to provide a positive educational platform for you to benefit. Have a wonderful week ahead and stay safe! Forever grateful,

Love matters team!

Hello Lady T, thank you for your positive feedback and we are glad that our content is able to provide a positive educational platform for you to benefit. Have a wonderful week ahead and stay safe! Forever grateful,

Love matters team!

Hi Glozzy, to answer that question you first need to understand how long your cycle is. Your cycle lasts from the first day of your period to the first day of your next period. To understand how long your cycle is, you need to track it for a few months. You should note that your cycle may be irregular and that is normal.

Anonymous
Wed, 05/13/2020 - 06:58 am
My name are Abdullahi kabir,I am so happy for this lesson, but pls,my wife us 8 weeks pregnant.at this stage,is sex require? And what are the ruled? If any.to which extend can she get a chance to stop vomiting? Thanks.

Hi Anonymous, thank you for reaching out to us. Sex during pregnancy is normal and perfectly okay. On the other hand, vomiting and nausea should stop after the first three months. However, if she feels really terrible then maybe she should go to see a medical practitioner to see if she can get medication to help control it.

Hello Hillary Friday, thank you for getting in touch. People often find that their menstrual flow varies from month-to-month, and some months are naturally lighter than others. In certain cases, a light period could indicate pregnancy or a hormone-related condition. Since you did a pregnancy test and found out that it was negative, then this may indicate a hormone-related condition. Have you recently started using any form of birth control or contraception? 

Paragon
Thu, 05/21/2020 - 06:37 pm
Hi love matters I had sex with my fiance the last day of my period (5th)day I wasn't expecting till that day it was when we're making love that some blood came out, and I didn't take any contraceptive now I want to ask can I get pregnant after that causes I missed my period this month . Thanks
Love Matters
Fri, 05/22/2020 - 03:34 pm

Hi Paragon, thank you for your question. If your cycle is shorter than 21 days it is possible for your period and your fertile days to overlap. However, if it has been 2 weeks or more since you had sex then you can take a pregnancy urine test.

Help, in my wife's case- she discovers dizziness all of a sudden, then feels like she is about to menstruate and no blood flows out- though we are expecting parents and we had sexual contact a week ago which involves insemination.
Love Matters
Wed, 05/27/2020 - 10:33 pm

Hello Akin, thank you for getting in touch and we are sorry you are going through a stressful time. If you do not mind us asking, did you and your partner go through an In Vitro Fertilization procedure? If that is the case and you are both expecting parents, there is a chance she might be experiencing the side effects of becoming pregnant. It may also mean that she might need to go visit the doctor to provide a more conclusive diagnosis to her symptoms, in which case please visit your doctor. Have a wonderful weekend and stay safe!

There is something I don't get my gal frnd told me she stopped her periods on 18 February went in April for tests she was pregnant now later she sld bleed we want in scan it said she was not pregnant hw z dat possible.

Hi Chris, thank you for reaching out to us and we are sorry you are going through a confusing situation at the moment. It is common for women to experience irregular menstrual cycles and can sometimes miss their periods for a variety of reasons from stress, diet, if she is on specific medications or even a form of birth control. It also seems like the doctor who she visited might have given her a wrong diagnosis and that she is actually, in fact not pregnant. Is she still presenting with symptoms of pregnancy? The best thing to do is to get a second opinion from another doctor to properly diagnose her situation and help bring more clarity to your relationship and her overall health.

Sandra
Mon, 06/15/2020 - 03:29 pm
So educative, am one the mother who gave birth to a premature which of 25weeks but unfortunately the baby past away at the age of 10month was having hardship in breathing during flue and cough but question is:-will I be safe if I get another pregnancy and what brings the baby at early state was not my first born while others were nine months.

Hello Sandra, thank you so much for reaching out to us. Really sorry to hear that you lost your baby.  Premature birth may be caused by a whole lot of reasons and it is indeed true that a premature birth could cause you to have other premature births in the future. If the cause of the premature birth was determined by your doctor, then try and avoid the contributing factors in the future (if possible).

Hello Dama, thank you for getting in touch and congratulations on your pregnancy dear! Increased urinary frequency is an early symptom of pregnancy in women and is completely normal. It's caused by an increase in the hormones progesterone and human chorionic gonadotropin. The urges tend to reduce in the second trimester. The uterus is also higher in the second trimester. Pregnancy-related urinary frequency and urgency usually resolve after you give birth. These symptoms will often subside about six weeks after giving birth. Your doctor may recommend strengthening your bladder muscles through exercises known as Kegels. These exercises strengthen your pelvic floor. This helps you gain better control over your urine flow, especially after giving birth. You can perform Kegel exercises daily, ideally about three times a day. Follow these steps:

  1. Tighten the muscles of your pelvic floor by imagining you’re stopping the flow of urine.
  2. Hold the muscles for 10 seconds, or as long as you can.
  3. Release the contracted muscles.
  4. Repeat 15 times to complete a single set.

You will know you’re performing Kegel exercises correctly if no one can tell you’re doing them.

Hello, heip me to know why have i tested for HIV and resuit is positive, BT the second time is negative am actually confused heip me plz

Hello Anonymous, thank you so much for your question. It is possible that you got a false positive. Although it is quite rare it does happen. The HIV strip test is sensitive to antibodies and sometimes may react to antibodies that are not HIV specific. However, like we mentioned this is very rare.

A false negative mostly occur if you take the test too early in the infection for it to show up. Take a third test three months after the last test to get a conclusive answer.

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