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Your Guide to the First Trimester of Pregnancy

There’s a lot going on in there as your baby begins to develop. Here’s more about what to expect, including your first trimester to-do checklist.

 

You may not look pregnant yet — but chances are you’re feeling it. That’s because a flood of pregnancy hormones is prepping your body to play baby hostess for the next nine months — so you could be in line for quite a few aches and pains, from fatigue to flatulence. While you might be less than thrilled with some of these symptoms, try to remind yourself that these temporary discomforts are part of the incredible process that’s happening inside: You’re growing a child!

How long is the first trimester?

The first trimester lasts from week 1 through the end of week 13 of pregnancy.

Not sure what week you are in your pregnancy? The first step to nailing your current week down is to calculate your due date. Keep in mind that your date might change (especially if you have irregular periods), so try to go with the flow.

Baby’s growth during the first trimester

During the first trimester alone your baby changes from a single fertilized cell (a zygote), to the embryo that implants itself in your uterine wall, to a peach-sized bundle of growing limbs and body systems. Organs take shape, and baby starts to move.  Here are a few of the big highlights happening in this exciting time:

  • Baby’s bones: By about week 6, baby starts to sprout arms, legs, hands and feet — and fingers and toes around week 10.
  • Hair and nails: Skin begins forming between weeks 5 and 8, with hair follicles and nail beds forming around week 11.
  • Digestive system: By about week 8, baby’s intestines will begin forming, and your baby will have already gone through two sets of kidneys (with the third and final set on its way!).
  • Sense of touch: Your baby will have touch receptors on his face (mostly lips and nose) around week 8. By week 12, he’ll have receptors on his genitals, palms and the soles of his feet.
  • Eyesight: Optic nerves (which pass info from the eyes to the brain and back) and lenses begin to form by week 4, with the retina beginning to form around week 8.
  • Heart: By week 5, the tube that will become your baby’s heart begins to beat spontaneously. It will become stronger and more regular — and you’ll be able to hear it! — around week 9 or 10 (though sometimes later, depending on your baby’s position in your uterus).
  • Brain: By about week 8 of pregnancy, your baby’s brain will be wiggling his developing limbs.
  • Sense of taste: Your baby will have developed taste buds that connect to his brain by about week 8 — but he’ll need taste pores before he can taste the surrounding amniotic fluid (which, by the way, tastes like your most recent meal).

Other major first-trimester milestones include the formation of muscles, the production of white blood cells to fight off germs and the development of vocal cords.

Changes in your body

A lot happens for you in the first trimester, too. A couple of the most common early symptoms of pregnancy you may experience:

  • Morning sickness: Unfortunately it doesn’t just strike in the morning — and it typically starts up by about week 6 of pregnancy. Ginger tea or drops might help, as can small but frequent meals. If it’s severe, you might want to consider talking to your doctor about medications to treat the symptoms of pregnancy-related nausea.
  • Tender breasts: So tender, so tingly, and so big! You might be wondering where your old boobs went by about week 6.
  • Mood swings: You may (or may not) feel up, then down, then up again by week 7. If you have a history of depression or think it might be more serious, talk to your doctor about getting screened for prenatal depression.

As your pregnancy progresses this trimester, you may experience plenty of other pregnancy symptoms — heartburn, constipation, metallic taste, food aversions and headaches. Hang in there: The second trimester will offer welcome relief! Keep in mind, too, that every woman is different. So just because your mom or sister reported cramping or frequent urination doesn’t guarantee either symptom will happen to you too.

Weight gain

Your baby is still very small — which means all told you only need to gain about three to four pounds in your first trimester. If you’re suffering from appetite loss, you might even lose a couple of pounds. That’s OK, too — as long as your pregnancy weight gain picks up steam in the second and third trimesters. For now, just focus on eating frequent light meals of any high-density nutritious foods (e.g., avocados, yogurt, bananas, whole grain bread or crackers) when you can stomach it.

Feeling extra ravenous? Try to keep a check on your caloric intake during pregnancy in check: You don’t actually need any extra calories during your first trimester (though your intake will go up in the second and third trimesters). If you do end up gaining more than is recommended now, all is not lost. Just focus on getting back on track over the duration of your pregnancy.

Symptoms to have checked out

With all of the changes going on in your body during pregnancy, you may wonder what’s normal — and what’s not. In many cases, that odd twinge is not a cause for concern. However it’s also important to understand that your risk for miscarriage is the highest during the first trimester. Here are a few symptoms that do always warrant a call to your doctor:

  • Heavy vaginal bleeding
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Sudden thirst
  • Painful urination
  • Fever over 101.5 F, chills and/or backache
  • Severe puffiness in the hands/face
  • Vision disturbances

If you experience any of the above symptoms, call your doctor’s office right away. If you don’t get someone on the phone within a few minutes, head to the nearest ER.

First trimester to-dos

  • Start a prenatal vitamin. If you haven’t already, start taking a prenatal vitamin immediately — doing so in the first trimester has been shown to greatly reduce the risk of neural tube defects (like spina bifida).
  • Choose your practitioner. There are a number of different practitioners you can choose for your pregnancy, from OB-GYN to midwife to family physician. So take time to consider your options and pick the right practitioner for your needs.
  • Book your first ob-gyn visit. Your doctor will review your medical history and perform a thorough physical exam. You’ll likely undergo a battery of tests, including a Pap smear, urinalysis and blood work to determine your blood type and Rh status, hCG levels and the presence of any infections. You’ll likely have an initial ultrasound to confirm a heartbeat, date your pregnancy and be sure things are progressing as they should. You might also be screened for genetic illnesses or diabetes, depending on your family history. While your practitioner will ask lots of questions, be prepared to ask plenty of your own: Now’s the time to inquire about the safety of any medications you’re currently taking, help for quitting smoking or anything else that’s on your mind.
  • Consider genetic tests. You’ll likely have a nuchal translucency screening (between weeks 10 and 13 of pregnancy) to look for Down syndrome and congenital heart defects; based on your risks, your practitioner may also recommend NIPT around week 9 (a noninvasive blood screening that looks for chromosomal abnormalities) and/or invasive but more definitive prenatal tests (chorionic villus sampling or amniocentesis).
  • Look into health insurance options. The cost of pregnancy varies based on a number of factors (and it’s a whole lot more expensive if you don’t have health insurance). So now’s the time to sign up for a plan or review the terms of your policy, focusing on your premiums and co-insurance to keep your overall costs as low as possible. The good news: You can still take steps to reduce your prenatal insurance costs.
  • Make a budget. Growing your family is an excellent — and necessary — time to reevaluate your monthly expenses. So learn the cost of having a baby, then set up your monthly budget.
  • Eat right. Now’s the time to cut down on caffeine, as well as to learn which foods to avoid and which to feature in your pregnancy diet so you can stock your kitchen accordingly.
  • Carve out time for fitness. There are lots of benefits of exercise during pregnancy for you and baby — which can be good motivation to get your 30 minutes of physical activity most days of the week.
  • Have sex, if you feel like it. It’s fun and safe for baby — plus it has benefits for both of you.
  • Start thinking about baby names. If you don’t have a baby name in mind, it’s never too early to start tossing around ideas.
  • Plan to announce your pregnancy. Think about how and when you want to tell your friends and family the good news, and if and when you’ll announce on social media. Most women wait until the end of the first trimester to do so, when the risk of miscarriage is lower. And if you’re employed, start thinking about when to tell your boss your pregnant and what to say; do your research in advance to understand your company’s maternity leave policies.

 

Your Guide to the Second Trimester of Pregnancy

The next three months bring lots of changes for your growing fetus and, most likely, welcome relief from early pregnancy symptoms for you. Here’s more on what to expect.

 

Welcome to your second trimester — for many women, the most comfortable of all three. With the arrival of this milestone, you’ll experience some welcome changes. Most early pregnancy symptoms will ease up or even disappear. You’ll likely feel less queasy (which means food may finally smell and taste good for the first time in a long while), your energy levels should be picking up, and your breasts will still be bigger but feel a whole lot less tender. Most amazing of all: By the end of this trimester, the bulge in your lower abdomen may be looking less like the remains of a large lunch and more like the beginnings of a pregnant belly.

When does the second trimester start and end?

The second trimester starts in week 14 of pregnancy and lasts through the end of week 27.

Baby’s growth in the second trimester

Your baby is very, very busy in the second trimester. By week 18 of pregnancy, he weighs about as much as a chicken breast, and can even yawn and hiccup. By around week 21 you should be able to feel his newly coordinated arms and legs give you little jabs and kicks. By about week 23, your baby takes a cue from you and starts to pack on the pounds; in fact, he’ll likely double his weight in the next four weeks. By the end of your second trimester, you’ll have a 2-pound human in your belly!

A few more exciting things going on this trimester:

  • Hair, skin and nails: By around week 16, baby’s first tiny hairs are starting to sprout, and by week 22, he’s got eyelashes and eyebrows, too. Baby’s skin is now covered in lanugo (a downy “fur coat” that keeps him warm until builds up more fat in the third trimester) and, by week 19, vernix caseosa  (a greasy layer of oil and dead skin cells that shield his skin from acidic amniotic fluid) — both of which will shed before birth.
  • Digestive system: Baby’s digestive system was fully formed by the end of the first trimester. So now baby is starting to suck and swallow in preparation for life outside of the womb. What’s more, he can even taste the foods you eat via your amniotic fluid — which research has shown can influence his preferences outside of the womb (all the more reason to chow down on a healthy pregnancy diet filled with a variety of fresh fruits and veggies). Baby’s waste systems are working hard too: Although he still gets his nutrition via your placenta, all of that swallowing means he’ll be doing plenty of peeing.
  • Senses: Baby’s ears and eyes are moving into their correct positions. By week 22 of pregnancy, his developing senses mean he’s starting to smell, see and hear, and those little eyes are beginning to open.
  • Heart: By 17 weeks, baby’s heart is no longer beating spontaneously, as his brain is now regulating his heartbeat — which you should be able to hear with a stethoscope by week 20. In week 25, capillaries begin forming to carry oxygenated blood through his body.
  • Brain: In addition to controlling your baby’s heartbeat and inducing kicks, by 26 weeks your baby’s brain will start blinking those little eyelids.

Changes in your body

This trimester certain pregnancy symptoms may persist (like heartburn and constipation). At the same time, others may pop up for the first time as your belly continues to grow and levels of pregnancy hormones rise, including:

  • Congestion as blood flow is increased to your body’s mucous membranes (including your nose). You may even find yourself snoring for the first time! Fortunately there are some OTC medications that are safe to use during pregnancy.
  • Mild swelling of the ankles and feet, which is experienced by about three in four pregnant women, starting at about week 22 of pregnancy (though sometimes earlier) and lasting until delivery. To reduce puffiness, try to keep active, kick up your feet when you’re not moving, avoid long periods of standing or sitting and sleep on your side.
  • Sensitive gums and even some bleeding — but be sure to see your dentist if your gums are bright red and bleed easily, as it could be a sign of gingivitis (which is relatively harmless but can develop into a bigger problem if not properly treated).
  • Leg cramps, which usually start in the second trimester and last through the third. It’s due not only to hormones and weight but also possibly a shortage of calcium or magnesium — so be sure to keep eating a healthy, well-balanced pregnancy diet.
  • Dizziness caused by lower blood pressure due in part to all the extra blood your body is pumping. Take it easy, eat plenty of small meals and fill up on fluids to reduce symptoms.
  • Achiness in the lower abdomen — otherwise known as round ligament pain — as the ligaments that support your belly stretch to support your belly’s increasing size.
  • Varicose veins and/or hemorrhoids (a type of varicose vein) — which, fortunately, should shrink or go away after pregnancy if you didn’t have them before you conceived.

All of the above are perfectly normal and temporary — as are feelings of apprehension, irritability, forgetfulness and even frustration at looking positively plump but not definitively pregnant.

There may be some big changes in the bedroom as well during the second trimester. Pregnancy can wreak havoc on your sex life as you and your partner cope with your changing body and mood-killing symptoms like fatigue and nausea. Some (lucky) ladies find themselves hotter than ever, with extra blood flowing to all the right spots. A few things to keep in mind: Communication is key to avoiding resentment, so keep talking through the dry spells. And remember — sex will neither hurt your fetus nor scar him emotionally. (In fact, he’ll probably enjoy a little rocking and rolling.)

Weight gain

These next few months are when you’ll really start to gain pregnancy weight, as your appetite likely increases (or appears, if you were suffering from nausea and appetite loss in the first trimester) to support your growing baby. If you started out your pregnancy at a normal weight, expect to gain around one pound per week for a total of about 14 pounds over this trimester.

Symptoms to have checked out

Odds are that once you make it to your second trimester it should be relatively smooth sailing for the next three months. However there are a few symptoms that do always warrant a call to your doctor, including heavy vaginal bleeding, severe abdominal pain and fever over 101.5 F.

Also keep an eye out for signs of gestational diabetes (which usually starts around week 24 to week 28 of pregnancy), including extreme thirst, frequent and copious urination, extreme fatigue and snoring. Also talk to your doctor if you notice sudden weight gain, severe swelling in the face and hands and vision changes, which can be signs of preeclampsia.

Second trimester to-dos

Words to live by now: Eat well, exercise regularly and get plenty of rest. Here are the top to-dos for the second trimester:

  • Prepare for routine monitoring: At each checkup this trimester, your practitioner will check your weight, the size of your uterus, height of your fundus (top of your uterus) and the baby’s heartbeat to ensure everything is progressing as expected.
  • Schedule a level two ultrasound: Usually between 18 and 22 weeks of pregnancy, your doctor will measure the baby, check developing organs, determine the amount of amniotic fluid, and — if you like — clue you in on your baby’s gender. Keep in mind that while it’s exciting to get a peek at your developing baby, only your doctor should perform ultrasounds, including 3D and 4D ultrasounds (in other words, avoid the keepsake versions from your local mall).
  • Get your glucose screening: About one in 10 pregnant women is diagnosed with gestational diabetes, which is why the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that all women be screened for the condition around week 24  to week 28 of pregnancy. If your test result comes back positive for extra glucose in your urine, it doesn’t always mean you have gestational diabetes — you’ll need further testing for a diagnosis. If you do, your doctor will probably refer you to a nutritionist who can help create a meal plan, and you’ll have to keep track of your blood sugar levels regularly.
  • Talk to your doctor about prenatal genetic screening: If you haven’t already and if you have certain risk factors, your doctor may suggest a genetic screening including NIPT or a quad screening, both of which are blood screens that look for increased risk factors for chromosomal or congenital abnormalities (such as Down syndrome or neural-tube defects). If either of these screenings comes back positive, your doctor may recommend amniocentesis — where amniotic fluid is extracted and analyzed for genetic abnormalities — to get a more definitive diagnosis. It’s up to you ultimately whether you get a genetic screening, so it’s a good idea to learn more about what they can tell you, testing benefits and questions to ask your doctor first. And keep in mind that while all this might seem overwhelming and even a bit frightening, the majority of babies are born healthy.
  • Get immunized: If you’re pregnant in cold and flu season, make sure to get the flu shot, and plan to get the Tdap vaccine in the third trimester to protect baby against whooping cough when he’s born. Also make sure to avoid these vaccinations during pregnancy.
  • Shop for maternity clothes: Now that your bump is finally starting to show, you’ll need a maternity wardrobe to match.
  • Sleep on your side: While pregnancy sleep is usually easier to catch in the second trimester than in the first or third, you will want to start sleeping on your side now, since the weight of your growing uterus puts pressure on the vena cava (the vein bringing blood from your lower extremities back up to your heart), which can interfere with circulation.
  • Keep doing your Kegels: Keep your pelvic floor in shape for birth by getting in the habit of doing Kegels regularly— aim for ultimately three sets of 20 every day.
  • Decide if you’ll find out baby’s sex: Your second trimester ultrasound, around week 20 of your pregnancy, can tell you — so think about the pros and cons of finding out your baby’s sex before birth.
  • Make prenatal workouts a priority: Given all of the benefits of exercise for you and your baby, it’s a good idea to pick up a pregnancy-friendly workout (if you haven’t already). Just avoid activities that aren’t as safe now that your belly is bigger.
  • Bump up your caloric intake: If you were at a normal weight before getting pregnant, you’ll need about 300 to 350 additional calories during the second trimester (which is less than you might think — only about two glasses of skim milk and a bowl of oatmeal).
  • Track your weight gain: Now that you should be steadily gaining weight, your doctor will likely recommend that you keep track of it every week.
  • Take bump shots: While you’ll likely want to wait until the third trimester to have your “official” baby bump photo shoot, it’s a smart idea to schedule it now — and in the meantime, take plenty of selfies as souvenirs of your ever-growing bump.
  • Think about taking a babymoon: Since first-trimester nausea should be quelled (and some airlines put restrictions on traveling later in pregnancy), now’s a good time to plan one last hurrah before baby’s arrival.
  • Envision your baby shower: While you won’t be the one actually planning your baby shower, you can certainly let your host(s) know any theme/food/décor requests you have. If it’s your second or third time, think about having a baby sprinkle.
  • Create a baby registry: On that note, you’ll also need to create a baby registry for your shower guests and other well-wishers.
  • Keep considering baby names: You still have time, but if you haven’t landed on a baby name yet it’s a good idea to keep reviewing your options.
  • Look into childbirth classes. While you likely won’t start taking one until the third trimester, start looking into your childbirth class options and try to find a program that offers your preferred method near you.
  • Think about where you want to give birth: In a hospital? Birthing center? At home? Start looking into your options now. You’ll want to take a hospital or birthing center tour in your third trimester, but you might want to schedule it toward the end of your second trimester.
  • Start looking into childcare: If you’re planning to go back to work after your maternity leave, it’s not too early to start looking into your local childcare options — whether daycare, nanny, babysitter or relative.
  • Look forward to your third trimester: Once you make it through your second trimester, it’s on to your third — and then baby’s arrival before you know it!

 

 

Your Guide to the Third Trimester of Pregnancy

You and your belly may be two-thirds of the way there, but your baby still has plenty of growing to do. Here’s more on what to expect in the third trimester of pregnancy.

It may feel as if there’s no way your belly can get any bigger, but there’s no doubt about it —  it will get bigger over the course of the third trimester of pregnancy. A lot bigger. Here’s what to expect from your body and your rapidly-maturing baby in these final few weeks.

When does the third trimester start?

The third trimester begins in week 28 of pregnancy and lasts until you give birth, which may be around week 40 of pregnancy. In other words, your third trimester lasts from month 7 through month 9 of pregnancy. It’s likely, however, that labor will start a couple of weeks earlier or later — in fact, about 30 percent of all babies linger past the 40-week mark. If that’s the case, you can try a few tricks to naturally induce labor on your own, but once you reach week 42 of pregnancy, you’ll be officially considered overdue, at which point your doctor will induce labor if it doesn’t begin on its own.

In the meantime, hang in there! You’re almost to the finish line.

Baby’s growth during the third trimester

Your little one will get a whole lot larger in the third trimester, growing from about 2 1/2 pounds and 16 inches long in week 28 of pregnancy to between 6 and 9 pounds and 19 to 22 inches long in week 40. Indeed, your baby is growing fast — so don’t be surprised if his increase in size (along with a decrease in living space) leads to some serious kicks and pokes in your gut.

Here are a few of the highlights happening in your third trimester of pregnancy:

  • Bones: As your baby transforms cartilage to bone in months 7 and 8, he’ll be getting all of her calcium from you — so be sure to eat plenty of calcium-rich foods.
  • Hair, skin and nails: By week 32 of pregnancy, baby’s formerly see-through skin will become opaque. In week 36, fat continues to accumulate as your baby sheds his vernix (the waxy substance that protects his skin from your amniotic fluid) and lanugo (the hairy coat that keeps him warm in there).
  • Digestive system: In the final weeks of pregnancy, meconium — or baby’s first poop, consisting mostly of blood cells, vernix and lanugo — starts to build up in baby’s intestines.
  • Five senses: Your baby’s touch receptors will be fully developed around week 29 or week 30. By week 31 of pregnancy, your baby will get signals from all five senses, perceiving light and dark, tasting what you eat, and listening to the sound of your voice.
  • Brain: In the third trimester your baby’s brain will grow faster than ever, test-driving some nifty skills including blinking, dreaming and regulating his own body temperature.

Around week 34 of pregnancy, baby’s body turns southward, settling into a heads-down, bottom-up position — unless, of course, your baby remains stubbornly in the breech position (in which case your doctor will likely attempt to manually turn baby around week 37).

Changes in your body

With that busy baby inside your belly, you’re probably feeling lots of fetal activity. You may also be experiencing changes in your body as your bump gets bigger than ever, including:

  • Abdominal achiness: As your round ligaments (which support your lower abdomen) stretch to accommodate your growing bump, you may feel cramps or sharp pain. There’s not much you can do other than take it easy.
  • Fatigue: You’ll feel more zapped this trimester because of the demands pregnancy is putting on your body, so eat well and frequently, stay active and solve pregnancy sleep problems.
  • Heartburn: In the last few weeks of pregnancy, your uterus will push your stomach and its contents upward, causing that persistent burn. If it’s really bothering you, talk to your doctor about proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs) or H2 blockers, which are safe to use during pregnancy.
  • Braxton Hicks contractions: Your body’s way of preparing for labor, you’ll start to feel these irregular practice contractions now until real labor starts.
  • Varicose veins: You may notice these bulging veins (including hemorrhoids, which are actually a type of varicose vein) in your lower body due to all of the extra blood you’re pumping. The good news: If you didn’t have them before pregnancy, they’ll likely disappear after you deliver.
  • Stretch marks: These tiny tears, which appear in skin that’s being stretched to the limit during pregnancy, are usually a result of genetics. Moisturize to minimize their appearance.
  • Backache: As the pregnancy hormone relaxin loosens your joints and your growing belly pulls your center of gravity forward, you may start to have an achy back — another reason to put your feet up, literally. (Sharp, shooting pain from your back down your legs, on the other hand, may be a sign of sciatica.)
  • Crazy dreams: Thanks to pregnancy hormones, your dreams may be more vivid than ever as you near your due date. They’re totally normal — so take them with a grain of salt and have fun swapping stories with a loved one.
  • Clumsiness: Your hormones are on overdrive, your belly is throwing you off balance and you’re more forgetful than ever. You’re in good (pregnant) company — so just try to be careful and have a sense of humor about it!
  • Lack of bladder control: You sneeze = you pee. Indeed, all that extra weight on your pelvic floor makes it harder to stay dry. To the rescue: Your daily Kegels regimen.
  • Leaky breasts: Your body’s warming up to feed your baby.

With all of these pregnancy symptoms and more weighing on you, just try to keep your eye on the prize: your beautiful baby, who you’ll meet in just a few weeks!

Symptoms to have checked out

As D-day approaches, and you may experience false labor symptoms. A few of the real signs of labor to watch out for include:

  • Lightening: By about week 36, you may find yourself waddling as your baby drops in your pelvis.
  • Bloody show: This stringy mucus tinged pink or brown with blood is a sure sign labor is well on its way. You also may or may not notice the discharge of your mucous plug (which seals off your uterus from the outside world).
  • Labor contractions: Compared to Braxton Hicks contractions, these intensify, rather than diminish, the more you move around.
  • Your water breaking: This may not even happen, however, until you’re already at the hospital.

Your doctor will likely tell you when it’s time to call or head to the hospital — likely around the time active labor starts. Congrats! Baby is on the way.

If at any point, however, you experience heavy vaginal bleeding, a fever over 101.5 F, severe lower abdominal pain, sudden weight gain, signs of preterm labor or any other signs that warrant a call to your doctor, don’t hesitate to reach out — you’re always better trusting your instincts and staying on the safe side when you’re expecting.

Third trimester to-dos

  • Keep track of fetal movement. From about week 28 on, you’ll want to count baby’s kicks regularly and note any changes in activity, especially during month 9.
  • Watch your weight. Your pregnancy weight gain will pick up speed at the beginning of the third trimester and taper down as your due date nears (you may even lose a pound or two). If you’re not gaining enough (or if you’ve gained too much), work with your doctor to adjust your pregnancy diet to get back on track.
  • Keep moving! As long as you have your practitioner’s OK and you follow a few fitness safety precautions, it’s safe to continue pregnancy-safe exercises up until your due date.
  • Schedule your third trimester checkups. Expect tests for glucose levels, anemia and group B strep in months 7 and 8. In month 9, your practitioner will perform an internal examination of your cervix to see if effacement and dilation (the thinning and opening of your cervix) have begun. If you’re classified as “high-risk,” your doctor may also schedule a biophysical profile or nonstress test in the last few weeks just to be sure everything is proceeding as expected.
  • Take a hospital tour. If you haven’t already, month 7 is a great time to take a tour of the hospital or birthing center where you plan to give birth.
  • Buy baby gear. Make sure you have the baby gear essentials — especially a crib, stroller, car seat (which you’ll need to bring your baby home from the hospital), changing table and baby monitor. On that note, take your car seat in to be professionally installed.
  • Get educated. In addition to a childbirth class — which will help you to feel more prepared for the entire birth process — you may also want to consider classes on infant CPR and baby care.
  • Prepare to breastfeed. Read more about why and how to breastfeed before baby arrives, and possibly even take a breastfeeding class. And don’t hesitate to ask your doula or a lactation consultant for help later if you need it.
  • Consider how you’d like to manage labor pain. Want an epidural or other medication to manage labor pain? Thinking about having a natural birth, possibly in a birthing tub? Now’s the time to discuss your options with your practitioner.
  • Check your birth plan. From whether or not you want an epidural to when and who cuts baby’s umbilical cord, make or finalize your birth plan. (Just remember, when it comes time to push baby out, not everything always goes exactly as planned — the important part is keeping you and your baby safe and healthy!)
  • Set up your nursery. Get all of the essentials you’ll need for your nursery. And don’t forget baby basics like bottles, baby clothes, diapers, wipes, pacifiers and formula (if you’re not planning to breastfeed).
  • Commemorate your baby bump: Arrange a professional baby bump photo shoot or take some beautiful bump shots of your own — you can hang them in the nursery or add to your baby’s photo album later.
  • Stock your fridge. You may want to whip up a few meals to keep in your freezer for the first few weeks, when you’ll be busy with a new baby and recovering from birth.
  • Plan financially. Consider the costs of having a baby and start following a new family budget accordingly.
  • Pack your hospital bag. Pack light — but don’t forget a few comforts from home that you’ll want to have with you at the hospital.
  • Arrange for cord blood banking. If you’re considering cord blood banking — public or private — be sure your practitioner is aware of your plans, and don’t forget to pack any cord blood kit the bank sends you in your hospital bag.
  • Learn what happens after birth. Read up on what happens in the first 24 hours after birth as your body repairs and you begin to adjust to your new role.
  • Prepare for baby’s first year. Learn more about all the exciting milestones that happen in baby’s first year of life — there’s so much to look forward to!

Getting excited? You should be — it won’t be long now until you meet your baby!

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