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From the moment your test says yes, until baby makes their world debut, we have tips, articles and advice to help you.

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You can't always get what you want

Long story short, I'm a very girly girl. I love dresses, long hair, sparkles, Mary Janes, and all that jazz. I don't do makeup and went years without shaving my legs (hey, I lived in Humboldt), but overall, I've always been a pretty stereotypical girl.

I've also always been a raging feminist girl — one of my old pet projects was placing those stickers that note, "This offends women" — yeah, I used to stick those on a lot of stuff. I attended girl power events, read all the women-heavy zines, and believed in women's rights over almost everything else.

I also always knew I wanted kids. It was never a question for me. Now, all this said, guess which gender I thought I'd have. If you said, "Girl," give yourself a gold star. I honestly thought I was so pro-female that I'd never have a boy. There was never any doubt in my mind. I'd get pregnant, have a totally feminist baby girl, and we'd do all sorts of cool pro-girl stuff together.

Um, no.

When I first thought I might be pregnant years ago, I bought a pregnancy test like many women do, brought it home, took the test, and the second — the split second — I saw those positive lines, I knew I was having a boy. Like you know your own name, it was that clear to me. My partner wanted me to have an ultrasound, so we could find out the gender, and I thought that was stupid because I knew I was having a boy. He didn't trust my mama mind, so we had the ultrasound. During the appointment, I had this one fleeting hope, maybe I was wrong, maybe I was having a girl!

The ultrasound showed little boy Cedar bouncing around. Mr. Ultrasound Tech and Ben were all happy grins, and me, well honestly, I almost burst into tears. I then spent the remainder of my pregnancy feeling guilty because what if Cedar was sick, what if he had problems? If so, it would be due to my stupid girl wish, I was sure of it.

Dealing with guilt

Here's one thing you should know — you have the right to wish for a certain gender, and even to be upset if you learn different news. If you're hoping for a boy, and find out you're having a girl, you can feel disappointed. It's OK. Don't feel all guilty like I did. We all have ideas, hopes and dreams about our children. It's normal.

Your baby's health is affected by how you take care of yourself. Eat well, keep your prenatal appointments, don't smoke or drink, and so on, and you'll have the healthiest baby you can. Trust me, if you feel a little sad about not having a boy, your baby doesn't find out and take a nosedive healthwise — that's not scientific reality.

What you can do

If you're gender wishing, and you learn that you're not having the gender of your choice, I can't tell you what might make you feel better, because we're all individuals. I can tell you what made me feel better about having a boy.

After that ultrasound, I knew a baby boy was coming, no matter what. So I started asking friends and moms at forums how they felt about their baby boys. I read books like Breeder: Real-Life Stories from the New Generation of Mothers, which supports mama power in all forms and styles. I bought cute baby-boy clothing. I picked a wonderful boy name. I did all this, and slowly felt like I could have a boy and be just fine.

The thing that helped the most

The thing that ended up helping me the most was one simple quote. It sounds dumb, but I did worry that by having a boy, I was somehow less of a feminist, and then I read this quote in a book. I don't remember the book, but I'll never forget the gist of the quote. It said something akin to.

"One of the most pro-feminist actions we can take is to raise feminist sons."

Seriously, that quote helped me a lot. It let me realize that I have this great opportunity to raise a smart and kind boy, who will grow up to be a man who appreciates and respects women, which in itself is a big contribution to the world. It changed my thinking.

Once he arrived

Cedar showing up on this planet changed my life. The second I saw him I forgot all about having a girl. He was so amazing. If you're gender wishing, I'm betting the same will happen for you. You'll love your little one, no matter the gender. He or she will teach you things you never knew, and everything will work out.

Do I still sometimes wish for a little girl? Of course. My best friend had a beautiful baby girl last year, and I felt little jealous pangs, but they passed quickly. I get to be an auntie to Bella, which is cool. Sure, if I have another baby, I'll probably hope for a girl, but this time, I'll know that no matter what, I won't be disappointed by gender in the end. Having a boy has taught me a lot, having two would only teach me more, and I wouldn't trade my little guy in for anything.

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pregnant woman eating a pickle

Moms Tell All: The Funniest Pregnancy Craving

Moms-to-be can crave some of the most unusual foods and food combinations during pregnancy. Check out what these moms loved to snack on while waiting for their babies to arrive.

Many moms have stories about unusual foods they craved during pregnancy — from the stereotypical pickles and ice cream to ice cubes to super-tart lemonade. The stories are as varied as the women who experienced them. Here’s a look at what some expectant moms craved most during their pregnancies.

Like mother, like daughter.

Tamecca Tillard, a Brooklyn, New York, mother of two boys, inherited her mother’s cravings for mango. “My mom's preference was green mangos; mine was ripe mangos,” Tillard says. “I also got really into ice and seltzers in my second pregnancy. I have not been able to kick the ice since the birth of my last son, Barack.”

Tillard also shares that her mom craved chocolate when she was in utero. “This craving became part of my ‘creation’ story because I have a large birthmark that starts on my shoulder and descends down my right arm.”

Favorite fruit.

“I had a craving for fresh pineapple, not canned,” shares Anna Gamel, mom to a boy and a girl in Meridian, Idaho. Toward the end of my pregnancy, I asked for it on the side at restaurants, cooked it into all my meals or put it on the side for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and I even started dipping it in melted chocolate for a daily dessert. I would even choose restaurants based on their pineapple availability.”

Salty and sweet combo.

“I craved french fries dipped in root beer during my third trimester,” confides Cori Magnotta, a Portland, Connecticut-based mother of one who’s currently planning for baby No. 2. “My son is now almost 2 and goes crazy when he occasionally gets to have french fries as a treat,” she adds.

Perfect pretzels.

“When I was pregnant with my older son, I craved a very particular thing: mustard-flavored pretzels,” says Jennifer Reich, a Hellertown, Pennsylvania, mother of two boys. “I normally don’t like them, but I loved them when I was pregnant.” Reich started craving them again 21 months later — and suspected correctly that another baby was on the way.

Pickles and…

Kelli Eason Brignac from Lake Charles, Louisiana, who just gave birth to a girl in November, shares: “Early in my pregnancy I was pretty sick and was eating crackers and macaroni and cheese. Somehow that led to me having a thing for nacho cheese . . . like the melty cheese that comes in a jar or is served at Mexican restaurants.”

“One day we were out of crackers, chips and all other crunchy items while I was hunting for something to dip in my cheese,” Eason Brignac says. “I had also recently developed a stereotypical taste for pickles. So I dipped my dill pickle spears in nacho cheese — and it was delicious! My husband and all my friends thought it was disgusting and made no sense. But I ate that for probably the first six months of my pregnancy and loved every bite.”

Image: Thinkstock.com

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Signs that Baby's on the Way

Labor doesn’t happen out of the blue. These seven early signs will tell you that your baby’s birthday is approaching.

  1. Baby heads south
    A few weeks before you go into labor, your baby will move head-first into your pelvis. You’ll know that has happened when you can breathe more easily (because baby has shifted away from your lungs) but pee more often (baby’s head is pushing on your bladder.)

  2. Your cervix dilates
    Your cervix gets ready for birth by opening (dilating) and thinning (effacing). How will you know it’s happening? Your provider will do an internal exam to track it at your weekly check-ups.

  3. More cramps and back pain
    Especially if this is not your first pregnancy, you may feel some crampiness and pain in your lower back and groin as labor nears. (Ugh, right?) But that’s normal as your muscles and joints stretch and shift to get ready for birth.

  4. Looser joints
    Are you feeling a bit more loosey-goosey? That’s because the hormone relaxin has made all of your ligaments soften and loosen (and may account for your clumsiness lately!) It’s nature’s way of opening your pelvis to accommodate your little one.

  5. Diarrhea
    Yes, it’s annoying, but unfortunately, normal. Just as the muscles in your uterus are relaxing in preparation for birth, so are other muscles in your body — including those in your rectum.. Stay hydrated and remember it’s a good sign!

  6. You stop gaining weight (or lose pounds)
    Weight gain tends to level off at the very end of pregnancy. Some moms-to-be even lose a couple of pounds, much to the delight of your feet. This is normal and won’t affect your baby’s birth weight. He’s still gaining, but you’re losing due to lower levels of amniotic fluid, more potty breaks and even increased activity (see #7).

  7. Feeling extra-tired...or an urge to nest
    Your super-size belly and squished bladder can make it hard (even impossible) to get a good night’s sleep during the last days and weeks of pregnancy. Pile on those pillows and take naps during the day if you possibly can! That is, unless you’re feeling the opposite of fatigued: Some moms get a burst of energy as birth-day nears, and can’t resist cleaning and organizing everything in sight. That’s okay; just don’t overdo it.

In the hours before labor begins, you’ll experience discharging of your mucus plug (bloody show), labor contractions and possibly your water breaking — all signs labor is hours away. Your doctor has probably told you when to call (for example, when contractions become regular, five minutes apart for at least an hour.) In the meantime, hang in there. Baby’s coming!

WhatToExpect.com

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How Big is Baby Now? Fetal Development Week-by-Week

FIRST TRIMESTER

    Week 3 of Pregnancy

    Your baby-to-be is a teeny-tiny collection of cells smaller than the period at the end of this sentence.

    Week 4 of Pregnancy

    Your little one is now the size of that poppy seed on your whole-wheat bagel.

    Week 5 of Pregnancy

    This week baby resembles a tadpole the size of an orange seed.

    Week 6 of Pregnancy

    Your little sweet pea has grown to the size of a … sweet pea.

    Week 7 of Pregnancy

    Your blueberry-sized baby is hard at work generating brain cells.

    Week 8 of Pregnancy

    This week baby has reached the size of a large raspberry and is growing fast, gaining about a millimeter in length each day.

    Week 9 of Pregnancy

    Your little one is starting to develop muscle, but is only the size of a green olive

    Week 10 of Pregnancy

    Baby has reached the size of a prune and has been busy growing fingernails and hair follicles.

    Week 11 of Pregnancy

    Your little lime-sized love now has even tinier fingers and toes.

    Week 12 of Pregnancy

    Baby now weighs around a half-ounce and is the size of a large plum, about double the size of that raspberry.

    Week 13 of Pregnancy

    As you close out the first trimester of your pregnancy, your baby has grown to the size of a peach. You may not feel too peachy yourself, but the second trimester honeymoon is about to begin.

SECOND TRIMESTER

    Week 14 of Pregnancy

    Welcome to your second trimester! Your wee one is now the size of a large lemon—and he’s sprouting some hair on his little noggin.

    Week 15 of Pregnancy

    By now your baby can wiggle her fingers and toes (cute!) and has reached the size of an orange.

    Week 16 of Pregnancy

    Your apple-sized baby’s ears have developed to the point that she may be able to hear you speaking!

    Week 17 of Pregnancy

    As big as a good-sized onion, your little one now weighs around five ounces. Pucker up! Your baby is also practicing sucking and swallowing.

    Week 18 of Pregnancy

    Baby is now the size of a bell pepper. You may be able to feel him moving around now!

    Week 19 of Pregnancy

    Your little one weighs around eight ounces now and has reached the size of a large mango.

    Week 20 of Pregnancy

    At your pregnancy’s half-way point, baby is the size of a small cantaloupe.

    Week 21 of Pregnancy

    Baby is now the size of a large banana and is sleeping 12 to 14 hours a day (doesn’t that sound heavenly?).

    Week 22 of Pregnancy

    By now your little one has reached a full pound in weight and is the size of a spaghetti squash, about eight inches long.

    Week 23 of Pregnancy

    Now about the size of papaya, your baby is gaining weight quickly now, and your own belly button may start to pop out.

    Week 24 of Pregnancy

    Your baby has reached the approximate length of a (cute) cucumber.

    Week 25 of Pregnancy

    Your little one weighs roughly one and a half pounds now and has reached the size of an ear of corn.

    Week 26 of Pregnancy

    Baby is putting on the ounces, having gained about half a pound since last week. She’s now the size of an acorn squash. And she’s just able to open her eyes!

    Week 27 of Pregnancy

    Up until this week, your baby’s length has been measured from crown to rump. Now it’s time to change to a head-to-toe standard. Now, at nearly 14 inches, baby is around the size of an eggplant.

THIRD TRIMESTER

    Week 28 of Pregnancy

    Welcome to the third trimester! Your little one is now able to dream and has reached the length of a seedless cucumber.

    Week 29 of Pregnancy

    Baby is now the size of a head of cauliflower — but so much more adorable.

    Week 30 of Pregnancy

    Your little love now weighs around three pounds and is the size of a small, plump cabbage.

    Week 31 of Pregnancy

    You’re entering the home stretch now, as baby reaches the size of a butternut squash.

    Week 32 of Pregnancy

    Your coconut-sized baby is practicing sucking and breathing now.

    Week 33 of Pregnancy

    At four and a half pounds, your bundle has reached the size of a head of lettuce.

    Week 34 of Pregnancy

    Your little honey is now as big as a honeydew melon.

    Week 35 of Pregnancy

    Now the size of a very clever pineapple (but without those pointy leaves, thank goodness), your baby is now around 20 inches long and five and a half pounds. Her brain is developing rapidly now.

    Week 36 of Pregnancy

    Baby is now the size of a canary melon and weighs in at around six pounds.

    Week 37 of Pregnancy

    Your doctor may check for labor signs, while your baby prepares for birth by sucking, turning, and breathing in the womb.

    Week 38 of Pregnancy

    Your little one isn’t so little now, having reached the size of a petite personal watermelon. Don’t forget to stay hydrated yourself!

    Week 39 of Pregnancy

    Hang in there! Your baby is now the size of a winter melon — around 21 inches long — and will be soon making his debut!

    Week 40 of Pregnancy

    It’s the official end of your pregnancy — congratulations! Your baby, now the size of a bunch of Swiss chard, should be arriving very soon.

WhatToExpect.com

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Maternity Style in Your Third Trimester

It’s your third trimester and there is definitely no hiding that baby bump anymore.  Embrace your blossoming figure and own your third trimester belly with confidence while staying stylish (yes, it’s possible) and comfortable too!

You may not be able to see your toes in your third trimester, but they will thank you when you wear cushioned shoes throughout the day. Just because the shoes are sensible doesn’t mean they have to be homely. You can give yourself a little height to help balance out your proportions with a low chunky heel or wedge.  And while we’re talking about feet, the third trimester is a great time to get pedicures and foot massages as your feet bear more and more weight!

Body hugging layers are a great way to show off that third trimester bump, and if you’ve waited to buy true maternity camisoles and t-shirts now is the time since they have the length you will need to keep your belly covered. Maternity clothes are cut with the proper proportions to allow growth where you need it the most, without becoming shapeless on top. Even though the end of your pregnancy is in sight, you will get a ton of wear out of these basic layers – and they’re good for post-partum as well. Stock up on neutral colors like black and white that can go with everything.

Monochromatic looks can help you look taller and more put together in an instant. Without investing a lot of money you can get more mileage out of maternity basics if you pair like colors on top and bottom. Black leggings or maternity jeans with a black fitted shirt create a smooth silhouette, which you can punch up with a non-maternity cardigan kept unbuttoned, a blazer or even a cropped leather jacket. Add some statement jewelry and you’ve got instant style that can take you from day to night.

Your third trimester is also a great time to go for a professional bra fitting. Comfort is key and an experienced maternity lingerie saleswoman can help you find bras that are soft and fit well as your breasts expand. If you think you may nurse you can also pick out a couple of nursing bras. Having a good bra is the foundation of your maternity wardrobe, and chances are you will keep wearing them for months after your baby is born.

Let’s face it, everything gets bigger and rounder during the third trimester so don’t be afraid to really show off those curves! Body conscious dresses are a wonderful way to create an instantly sophisticated maternity look, and not worry about a top that rides up or bottoms that may get too snug around the middle.  You can go simple with a little black dress or opt for on-trend florals or prints with flair.

Even though you may feel bigger than ever, and more and more ready for your baby to arrive, you can still celebrate your changing body and the life growing within by dressing with style and curves in mind during your third trimester. 

Image: Getty Images

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Why Nesting Is a Natural Part of Pregnancy

It seems like from the first day I take my pregnancy test, I am a woman on a sole mission-to organize my house.

Closets, drawers, spare cupboards, the garage bearing the remnants of the worst winter of all time-nothing can escape my pregnant wrath.

And while part of me secretly relishes the pregnant cleaning spree, another part of me wonders if it's all in my head. Does pregnancy really cause my purging and cleaning streak, or is it just a convenient excuse to throw out my husband's old sweatshirts?

Currently, I am almost 23 weeks along in my fourth pregnancy. (I always round up when people ask me. Tell me I'm not the only one.) And I am obsessed, apparently, with outdoor storage. I can't stop googling "outdoor wicker storage" so I can have even more toy clutter outside on my deck for my kids.

Sigh.

But seriously. Wouldn't a black wicker storage ottoman be handy with all the warm-weather gear coming up?

OK, but focusing here. There seems to be a fundamental need for me to organize everything in (and out of) my house right now. I am hugely and irrationally stressed out that we don't have a room in our house for this upcoming baby (she'll be bunking in with mom and dad for awhile-in her playpen), and my husband can't understand my need to have everything in ship-shape before her big arrival.

"Chaunie, she will be a baby," he says calmly. "It's not like she'll ever know!"

I've finally come to the realization that there is no rational rhyme or reason to the desire to have the nursery organized, the bedrooms spruced up, and our entire home clean and sparkling before the baby comes. It simply goes back to the primal instinct for a woman to have a place for her baby, not to mention the fact that we're not exactly going to feel like cleaning out those closets after giving birth, are we?

And according to the American Pregnancy Association, there are a few more interesting tidbits about the nature of pregnancy nesting that I wasn't quite aware of:

  1. Nesting can be worse if your baby is due in late spring or summer (the case with every single one of my babies!)
  2. Nesting can be as simple as wanting to fold a drawer of baby clothes or as widespread as looking for a new house (also guilty on both counts!)
  3. The most common time for nesting during pregnancy occurs during the last month, but it can start anytime
  4. Nesting can occur in dads, too (my husband is currently building new bedroom sets for our kiddos!)

Did you experience nesting during your pregnancy at all?

Image: Getty

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Childbirth Education Classes

There's a wealth of information to help you maintain a healthy pregnancy, but the act of childbirth itself can seem a bit mysterious to many first-time moms-to-be — even if you've read up on all the details. That's where a childbirth education class comes in. Taking one gives you hands-on practice and knowledge about the entire birth process. In turn, knowing what to expect from that first contraction to that final push will go a long way toward reducing your anxiety and preparing you for the incredible journey you're about to go through.

What You'll Learn in a Childbirth Class

Depending on the type of class you take, you'll get answers to all of your questions from an experienced instructor.You can learn the following:

  • Techniques to relax, breathe and distract yourself (or do all three simultaneously) to get some relief
  • Various labor positions that can help your baby line up with your pelvis and speed your labor and relieve pain
  • Pain relief options, including how and when and how to request them should you decide you need them
  • The stages of a normal labor and delivery
  • Possible delivery complications and how they might be handled
  • Basics to care for your newborn baby, including your baby’s anatomy and physiology, postpartum care, basic care and breastfeeding
  • Birth planning and assistance, including birth plans and information about where you can give birth (hospital births versus delivering in a birthing center or at home)
  • Other medical interventions that may be used, such as a C-section or induction
  • Hands-on instruction in alternative approaches to pain relief, including breathing and relaxation techniques

Other Benefits of Childbirth Classes

In addition to hands-on learning opportunities, benefits include:

  • The opportunity to bond with other expectant couples
  • A chance for your partner to join in — and a way to connect with your birthing partner or labor coach
  • Addressing your fears
  • Sharing your concerns with other mothers and the instructor
  • Confidence from knowledge and experience that can help you to have a more satisfying childbirth experience
  • A chance to explore the facility where you plan to give birth

Choosing a Childbirth Class

Courses are run by hospitals, private instructors or by practitioner through their offices. There are several classes to choose from, each with its own philosophy and teaching method — but all share a common goal: to provide pregnant women and their partners with tools and information that'll make the birthing experience as positive as possible.

Here are a few things to consider when choosing a class:

  • The general philosophy.
  • Make sure the class is compatible with your visions of an ideal birth. You may also want to ask if the class is taught by a private instructor and the instructor’s views on birth, to determine if they coincide with those of your doctor. Additionally, it’s important to know if the class is affiliated with a hospital and therefore more likely to endorse medical interventions. If it is, consider whether that’s okay with you and your partner.

  • The teaching method.
  • Find out if it’s hands-on, interactive instruction, whether partners are required and the maximum class size.

  • The curriculum.
  • Ask for a course online. A good course includes a discussion of cesarean delivery and both natural ways to reduce or cope with pain (like massage, acupressure, aromatherapy or using a birthing ball) as well as medicated pain-relief options (such as epidurals). It should deal with both the psychological and emotional as well as the technical aspects of childbirth.

  • How the class is taught.
  • Are films of birth show? Will you hear from moms and dads who have recently delivered? Will there be ample opportunity for Q&A? Are techniques practiced in class?

  • The size of the class.
  • Five or six couples to a class is ideal; more than 10 to 12 may be too large. Not only can a teacher give more time and individual attention to couples in an intimate group — particularly important during the breathing and relaxation portions of the session — but the camaraderie in a small group tends to be stronger.

  • The techniques.
  • Consider which childbirth techniques the class teaches (more on that below).

Childbirth Education Techniques

Childbirth education classes may be taught by nurses, nurse-midwives or other certified professionals. Approaches may vary from class to class, even among those trained in the same program. There are variations and hybrids of the following techniques, but here are the most common approaches:

  • Lamaze.
  • Pioneered in the 1950s, Lamaze emphasizes relaxation and rhythmic breathing along with the continuous support of a coach to help the laboring mother achieve a state of "active concentration." The goal is to enable women to get through childbirth more naturally, with a minimum of medical intervention, although information about pain-control meds and other standard interventions is included in the curriculum.

  • Bradley.
  • The original "partner-coached" education program, the Bradley method teaches deep abdominal breathing and other relaxation techniques that focus the laboring mom's attention inward, to her body, rather than at a "focal point" outside the body, as in Lamaze. The course is also designed to help mom accept pain as a natural part of the birthing process; the vast majority of Bradley graduates don't use pain medication during delivery.

  • Alexander.
  • When it comes to labor and delivery, the Alexander technique, which is often used by actors to get the body and mind working in sync, focuses on countering the natural tendency to tense the whole body during contractions. It emphasizes coping with pain by exerting conscious control over posture and movement. Students learn how to sit and squat comfortably to release the pelvic floor and work with gravity as the baby descends through the birth canal.

  • International Childbirth Education Association (ICEA).
  • These classes tend to be broader in scope, covering the many options available today to expectant parents in family-centered maternity care. They also recognize the importance of freedom of choice, and so classes focus on a wide range of possibilities rather than on a single approach to childbirth.

  • Hypnobirthing.
  • This method provides techniques that help laboring moms achieve a highly relaxed state. The goal is to reduce discomfort, pain and anxiety during childbirth as well as during other stressful situations well beyond the birth of the baby.

How to Find a Class

Not sure where to find a class that’s right for you in your area? Ask for recommendations from your doctor or contact your local hospitals, birthing centers, La Leche League chapter or your health insurance company. You may want to consider exploring the option of online childbirth education classes (though you’ll miss out on the hands-on help you’ll get in an in-person class). Women who have recently had babies are also a great resource, as they now have a realistic perspective on how well the classes they took prepared them for the actual experience.

When to Take a Class

There are “early bird” classes, taken in the first or second trimester, which cover nutrition, exercise, fetal development and sex. And there are down-to-the-wire 6- to 10-week preparation classes, usually begun in the seventh or eighth month, which focus on labor, delivery and postpartum mother and baby care. The bottom line is, any time before you go into labor is a good time to take a childbirth education class, but enrolling around month 6 or 7 of your pregnancy is when most experts recommend. Keep in mind that the sooner you register, the more flexibility you’ll have in terms of class dates and times.

Classes for Second-Timers

Even if it’s not your first pregnancy, you may want to consider taking a class. Every labor and delivery is different, so even seasoned pros can benefit from a refresher course. Aside from that, it may be an opportunity to learn about new childbirth options that weren’t available during your previous birthing experience. Keep in mind, too, that “refresher” courses are available in most areas.

Just remember that no matter how well prepared you are, giving birth can be full of surprises, so try to get ready to roll with whatever comes your way.

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Fetal Ultrasound

From Mayo Clinic

A fetal ultrasound, or sonogram, is an imaging technique that uses high-frequency sound waves to produce images of a baby in the uterus.

Fetal ultrasound images can help your health care provider evaluate your baby's growth and development and determine how your pregnancy is progressing. A fetal ultrasound might also give you the chance to study your baby's profile months before delivery. In some cases, fetal ultrasound is used to evaluate possible problems or confirm a diagnosis.

Fetal ultrasound is often done during the first trimester to confirm and date the pregnancy and again during the second trimester - between 18 and 20 weeks - when anatomic details are visible. If your baby's health needs to be monitored more closely, ultrasounds might be repeated throughout the pregnancy.

A 2-D fetal ultrasound can help your health care provider evaluate your baby's growth and development.

A 3-D fetal ultrasound can provide images of a developing baby with photo-quality details.


Why it's done

A fetal ultrasound can be done at any point during pregnancy. Your health care provider might use a fetal ultrasound to:

Confirm the pregnancy and its location. Some embryos develop in the fallopian tube instead of in the uterus. A fetal ultrasound can help your health care provider detect a tubal (ectopic) pregnancy.

Determine your baby's gestational age. Knowing the baby's age can help your health care provider determine your due date and track various milestones throughout your pregnancy.

Confirm the number of babies.If your health care provider suspects a multiple pregnancy, an ultrasound might be done to confirm the number of babies.

Evaluate your baby's growth.Your health care provider can use ultrasound to determine whether your baby is growing at a normal rate. Ultrasound can be used to monitor your baby's movement, breathing and heart rate as well.

Study the placenta and amniotic fluid levels.The placenta provides your baby with vital nutrients and oxygen-rich blood. Too much or too little amniotic fluid - the fluid that surrounds the baby in the uterus during pregnancy - or complications with the placenta need special attention.

Identify birth defects. An ultrasound can help your health care provider detect various birth defects.

Investigate signs or symptoms. If you're bleeding or having other complications, an ultrasound might help your health care provider determine the cause.

Perform other prenatal tests.Your health care provider might use ultrasound to guide needle placement during certain prenatal tests, such as amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling.

Determine fetal position before delivery. A C-section might be needed if the baby is in an abnormal position.Fetal ultrasound isn't recommended simply to determine a baby's sex - but it might be a bonus for curious parents when an ultrasound is done for medical reasons. Similarly, fetal ultrasound isn't recommended solely for the purpose of producing keepsake videos or pictures.

If your health care provider doesn't suggest a fetal ultrasound but you'd like the reassurance the exam can provide, share your wishes as you work together to determine what's best for you and your baby.

Risks

Routine fetal ultrasounds are considered safe for both mother and baby. Researchers haven't noted any adverse effects of fetal ultrasounds in children followed for several years after birth.

Still, caution remains important. The use of fetal ultrasound solely to create keepsakes isn't recommended.

Fetal ultrasound also has limitations. Fetal ultrasound might not detect all birth defects - or might incorrectly suggest a birth defect is present when it's not.

How you prepare

You might be asked to drink a certain amount of fluid or avoid urinating before a fetal ultrasound, depending on the type of ultrasound. When scheduling your ultrasound, ask your health care provider for specific instructions.

Also be aware that fetal ultrasound can be done through the vagina (transvaginal) or over the abdomen (transabdominal), depending on why it's being done or the stage of your pregnancy. If you're having a transabdominal ultrasound, consider wearing loosefitting clothing so that you can easily expose your abdomen.

What you can expect

There are two main types of fetal ultrasound exams: 

Transvaginal ultrasound. With this type of fetal ultrasound, a wand-like transducer is placed in your vagina to send out sound waves and gather the reflections. Transvaginal ultrasounds are used most often during early pregnancy, when the uterus and fallopian tubes are closer to the vagina than to the abdominal surface.

Transabdominal ultrasound. A transabdominal fetal ultrasound is done by moving a transducer - a small plastic device that sends and receives sound waves - over your abdomen. This type of fetal ultrasound helps your health care provider determine your baby's gestational age and evaluate your baby's growth and development. The exam usually takes about 20 minutes.

Various other types of transabdominal ultrasounds are available, including:

Specialized or targeted ultrasound. This type of fetal ultrasound targets a suspected problem and uses more sophisticated equipment than does a standard fetal ultrasound. The exam might take from 30 minutes to several hours.

3-D ultrasound. A 3-D fetal ultrasound can provide images of a baby with photo-quality details. This type of ultrasound is sometimes used to help health care providers evaluate a baby's growth and development, as well as detect facial abnormalities or neural tube defects.

Doppler ultrasound. A Doppler ultrasound measures slight changes in the ultrasound waves as they bounce off moving objects, such as blood cells. A Doppler ultrasound can provide details about a baby's circulation.

Fetal echocardiography. This type of fetal ultrasound provides a detailed picture of a baby's heart. It might be used to confirm or rule out a congenital heart defect.

During the exam

During a transabdominal fetal ultrasound, you'll recline on an exam table and expose your abdomen. Your health care provider or technician will apply a special gel to your abdomen. This will improve the conduction of sound waves and eliminate air between your skin and the transducer - the small plastic device that sends out sound waves and receives those that bounce back.

Your health care provider or technician will move the transducer back and forth over your abdomen. The sound waves reflected off your bones and other tissues will be converted into black-and-white or gray images on a monitor.

Your health care provider or technician will measure your baby's head, abdomen, thighbone and other structures. He or she might print or store certain images to document important structures. You'll likely be given copies of some of the images.

Depending on your baby's position and stage of development, you might be able to make out a face, hands and fingers, or arms and legs. Don't worry if you can't "see" your baby. Ultrasound images can be hard for an untrained observer to decipher. Ask your health care provider or technician to explain what's on the screen.

The procedure for other types of fetal ultrasound exams is similar. If you're having a transvaginal ultrasound, however, you'll be asked to change into a hospital gown or undress from the waist down. You'll recline on an exam table and place your feet in stirrups. Your health care provider or technician will place a lubricated transducer in your vagina rather than moving it across your abdomen.

After the exam

You can wipe off any residual gel or lubricant. If you had a full bladder during the ultrasound, you'll be able to urinate after the exam.

Results

Typically, a fetal ultrasound offers reassurance that a baby is growing and developing normally. If your health care provider wants more details about your baby's health, he or she might recommend additional tests.

A 2-D fetal ultrasound can help your health care provider evaluate your baby's growth and development.

A 3-D fetal ultrasound can provide images of a developing baby with photo-quality details. 



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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. It’s likely, however, that labor will start a couple of weeks earlier or later — in fact, at least 50 percent of all babies are latecomers. If you do make it to (or past) week 40, 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 crampy 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: Your dreams may be more vivid than ever as you near your due date, likely due in part to pregnancy hormones. 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 soon.

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.
  • Choose your baby’s pediatrician. Interview a few candidates with a list of questions around week 32 and pick your favorite.
  • 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.
  • Learn about the stages of labor. Get prepared for baby’s birthday by learning what to expect during early, active and transitional labor as well as pushing baby out and delivering the placenta.
  • Consider how you’d like to manage labor pain. Want an epidural or other medication to manager 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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Prenatal Yoga FAQ

Want to feel more relaxed and prepared for birth? Here's when, why and how to try prenatal yoga.

Prenatal yoga may just be the ideal exercise for pregnant women. Why? It’s not only low-impact, but each move is created with pregnant women in mind. Here’s an FAQ of what you need to know before starting a prenatal yoga routine.

What is prenatal yoga?

Yoga is a form of exercise and meditation where breath and specific body positions are used to help connect the mind and body. Prenatal yoga focuses on positions that are specifically designed for pregnant women’s bodies.

How is prenatal yoga different from regular yoga?

Common positions in regular yoga — such as those where your feet are spread far apart — may be too stressful for your joints and pelvic area when you’re expecting. As your baby grows, there’s a lot more weight pushing down on your bladder and pelvis. Pregnancy hormones also loosen your ligaments, making joint and bone problems (especially in the pubic bone) a source of discomfort. In addition to modifying positions for pregnancy, prenatal yoga also emphasizes breathing, stretches and strengthening moves that help your body prepare for labor.

Can prenatal yoga be the first time I ever do yoga?

Yes! You don’t have to be a yogi before you conceive to jump on the prenatal yoga bandwagon. As long as your doctor has given you the green light to stay physically active during pregnancy, yoga is an ideal activity for all expectant moms: It’s gentle and designed for pregnancy, which means it helps prepare you for the mental aspects of childbirth (and beyond). But remember, it’s always a good idea to check with your doctor before starting any new exercise during pregnancy.

What are the benefits of prenatal yoga?

You probably already know that doctor-approved fitness during pregnancy is good for you. Here are some of the benefits of yoga during pregnancy:

1. Relief from pregnancy symptoms.

Getting active — including during prenatal yoga — helps relieve symptoms including constipation, back pain, bloating, swelling and fatigue.

2. Better sleep.

As you likely know, a good snooze is extra tricky when you’re expecting — but a good sweat session has been shown time and again to improve sleep.

3. Lower blood pressure.

Studies have shown that pregnant women’s heart rate and blood pressure lowers after doing prenatal yoga — even more so than after doing other low-impact exercises like walking.

4. Reduced risk of preterm labor and other complications.

High stress levels have been shown to increase miscarriage and preterm birth rates, and yoga is a great stress-reducer. In one study of 335 pregnant women, half the women did yoga — including breathing exercises, posture positions and meditation — for one hour a day, while the other half of the women walked for 30 minutes twice a day. Though both groups spent the same amount of time active, the yoga group had a lower preterm labor rate as well as lower risk of pregnancy-reduced hypertension.

5. Stabilized moods.

Another study showed that integrated yoga — that is, exercise-based yoga combined with meditation, deep relaxation and breathing exercises — significantly decreased levels of depression in moms-to-be.

6. Weight management.

Like all physical activity, yoga keeps you active, which helps you to better manage your prenatal weight gain.

7. An improved delivery experience.

The breathing exercises you’ll practice in yoga can be calming when it comes time to push baby out. Plus the many stretching and strengthening moves can improve your delivery experience and your recovery (from either a vaginal birth or C-section), since your core and other important muscles will be stronger and more toned. In fact, one small study found that women who participated in a yoga routine involving just six sessions before birth spent less time overall in labor than those who did not. They also reported they felt less pain and more comfortable during and immediately after labor.

What can I expect to do in a prenatal yoga class?

In a prenatal yoga class, you’ll likely be encouraged to use accessories (bolsters, blocks, wedges or folded blankets) to achieve the proper alignment. You can typically expect to focus on:

  • Breathing techniques
  • Gently stretching the different areas of your body
  • Gentle prenatal yoga poses that will help you build your strength, stamina, endurance, flexibility and balance
  • Cooling you down at the end of your workout, helping you relax your muscles and restore your resting heart rate and your normal breathing rhythm

What poses will we do in class?

While there are countless variations of yoga poses an instructor may guide you through, a few of the most popular — which focus on breathing and relaxation — include:

  • Mountain pose:

    Stand and spread your legs a little farther than hip-width apart, while bending your knees slightly, pointing your toes straight ahead and putting your hands in a “prayer” position in front of your chest. Inhale, stretch your arms out to the side and then up over your head, bending your back slightly. Exhale, and return to the start position.

  • Cross-legged seated position:

    Sit cross-legged on the floor with your entire spine flat against a wall. You can also place a folded blanket or firm cushion beneath you if sitting on the floor is uncomfortable.Focus on your breath.

  • Cat and cow:

    Kneel down on all fours with your palms below your shoulders and your knees beneath your hips. Round and arch your back and look down toward your belly. Gently drop your pelvis and lift your tailbone so your spine curves downward. Repeat, alternating between these “cat” and “cow” positions.

How can I stay safe?

If you’re in a prenatal yoga class, your instructor should design the class to be safe for you — just be sure to never push yourself past the point of comfort.

  • Drink enough water. This goes for anytime you’re working out, no matter how much of a sweat you break.
  • Stay off your back. Avoid any exercises after the first trimester where you’re lying on your back, since your baby’s growing weight puts pressure on your vena cava (a major vein that brings blood to your heart), interfering with circulation and making you feel dizzy and nauseous.
  • Skip hot yoga. Don’t do yoga (or any other exercise, for that matter) in any extreme heat, in part because exposure to excessive heat could result in neural tube defects, and also because it can cause you to feel dizzy and nauseous. That goes for both Bikram yoga and exercise outdoors on a hot day.
  • Avoid deep abdominal work, back bends and twists. Your center of gravity can be off during pregnancy, and back bends and twists may cause you to fall. As with most things during your pregnancy, if it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it.
  • Talk to your instructor. If you choose to do regular yoga, just be sure to let your instructor know that you are pregnant and how far along you are in case any poses need to be modified for you and your growing baby. Practice in a well-ventilated room to avoid overheating.

What are signs I should stop?

If you experience any of the following symptoms, stop doing yoga right away and call your doctor:

  • Any kind of fluid leaking from your vagina
  • Dizziness, shortness of breath or feeling light-headed
  • Calf pain or swelling
  • If you’re further along in your pregnancy and you feel your baby moving less
  • If you feel like your baby is pushing down, or if you feel pressure in your pelvis
  • If you have belly cramps or backaches

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