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Fetal Development: The First Trimester



You're pregnant. Congratulations! You'll undoubtedly spend the months ahead wondering how your baby is growing and developing. What does your baby look like? How big is he or she? When will you feel the first kick? Fetal development typically follows a predictable course. Find out what happens during the first trimester by checking out this weekly calendar of events. Keep in mind that measurements are approximate.

Weeks 1 and 2: Getting ready

It might seem strange, but you're not actually pregnant the first week or two of the time allotted to your pregnancy. Yes, you read that correctly! Conception typically occurs about two weeks after your last period begins. To calculate your due date, your health care provider will count ahead 40 weeks from the start of your last period. This means your period is counted as part of your pregnancy - even though you weren't pregnant at the time.

Week 3: Fertilization

The sperm and egg unite in one of your fallopian tubes to form a one-celled entity called a zygote. If more than one egg is released and fertilized, you may have multiple zygotes. The zygote has 46 chromosomes - 23 from you and 23 from the father. These chromosomes will help determine your baby's sex, traits such as eye and hair color, and, to some extent, personality and intelligence. Soon after fertilization, the zygote travels down the fallopian tube toward the uterus. At the same time, it will begin dividing rapidly to form a cluster of cells resembling a tiny raspberry. The inner group of cells will become the embryo. The outer group of cells will become the membranes that nourish and protect it. During fertilization, the sperm and egg unite in one of the fallopian tubes to form a zygote. Then the zygote travels down the fallopian tube, where it becomes a morula. Once it reaches the uterus, the morula becomes a blastocyst. The blastocyst then burrows into the uterine wall - a process called implantation.

Week 4: Implantation

By the time it reaches the uterus, the rapidly dividing ball of cells - now known as a blastocyst - has separated into two sections. The inner group of cells will become the embryo. The outer group will become the cells that nourish and protect it. On contact, it will burrow into the uterine wall for nourishment. This process is called implantation. The placenta, which will nourish your baby throughout the pregnancy, also begins to form.

Week 5: The embryonic period begins

The fifth week of pregnancy, or the third week after conception, marks the beginning of the embryonic period. This is when the baby's brain, spinal cord, heart and other organs begin to form. The embryo is now made of three layers. The top layer - the ectoderm - will give rise to your baby's outermost layer of skin, central and peripheral nervous systems, eyes, inner ear, and many connective tissues. Your baby's heart and a primitive circulatory system will form in the middle layer of cells - the mesoderm. This layer of cells will also serve as the foundation for your baby's bones, muscles, kidneys and much of the reproductive system. The inner layer of cells - the endoderm - will become a simple tube lined with mucous membranes. Your baby's lungs, intestines and bladder will develop here. By the end of this week, your baby is likely about the size of the tip of a pen. By the end of the fifth week of pregnancy - three weeks after conception - your baby is about the size of the tip of a pen.

Week 6: The neural tube closes

Growth is rapid this week. Just four weeks after conception, the neural tube along your baby's back is closing and your baby's heart is pumping blood. Basic facial features will begin to appear, including passageways that will make up the inner ear and arches that will contribute to the jaw. Your baby's body begins to take on a C-shaped curvature. Small buds will soon become arms and legs. By the end of the sixth week of pregnancy - four weeks after conception - your baby's heart is pumping blood.

Week 7: Baby's head develops

Seven weeks into your pregnancy, or five weeks after conception, your baby's brain and face are rapidly developing. Tiny nostrils become visible, and the eye lenses begin to form. The arm buds that sprouted last week now take on the shape of paddles. By the end of this week, your baby might be a little bigger than the top of a pencil eraser. By the end of the seventh week of pregnancy - five weeks after conception - your baby might be a little bigger than the top of a pencil eraser.

Week 8: Baby's eyes are visible

Eight weeks into your pregnancy, or six weeks after conception, your baby's arms and legs are growing longer, and fingers have begun to form. The shell-shaped parts of your baby's ears also are forming, and your baby's eyes are visible. The upper lip and nose have formed. The trunk of your baby's body is beginning to straighten. By the end of this week, your baby might be about 1/2 inch (13 millimeters) long. By the end of the eighth week of pregnancy - six weeks after conception - your baby might be about 1/2 inch (11 to 14 millimeters) long.

Week 9: Baby's toes form

In the ninth week of pregnancy, or seven weeks after conception, your baby's arms grow, develop bones and bend at the elbows. Toes form, and your baby's eyelids and ears continue developing. By the end of this week, your baby might be about 3/4 inch (20 millimeters) long. By the end of the ninth week of pregnancy - seven weeks after conception - your baby's arms bend at the elbows.

Week 10: Baby's neck begins to develop

By the 10th week of pregnancy, or eight weeks after conception, your baby's head has become more round. The neck begins to develop, and your baby's eyelids begin to close to protect his or her developing eyes. By the end of the 10th week of pregnancy - eight weeks after conception - your baby's eyelids begin to close.

Week 11: Baby's genitals develop

At the beginning of the 11th week of pregnancy, or the ninth week after conception, your baby's head still makes up about half of its length. However, your baby's body is about to catch up, growing rapidly in the coming weeks. Your baby is now officially described as a fetus. This week your baby's eyes are widely separated, the eyelids fused and the ears low set. Red blood cells are beginning to form in your baby's liver. By the end of this week, your baby's external genitalia will start developing into a penis or clitoris and labia majora. By now your baby might measure about 2 inches (50 millimeters) long from crown to rump and weigh almost 1/3 ounce (8 grams).

Week 12: Baby's fingernails develop

Twelve weeks into your pregnancy, or 10 weeks after conception, your baby is developing fingernails. Your baby's face now has a human profile. By now your baby might be about 2 1/2 inches (60 millimeters) long from crown to rump and weigh about 1/2 ounce (14 grams). By the end of the 12th week of pregnancy - 10 weeks after conception - your baby might weigh about 1/2 ounce (14 grams).

1998-2014 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). All rights reserved.Terms of Use.

Source: Mayo Clinic
Image: Mayo Clinic

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pregnant mom on her iPad

5 Ways to Go Green Before Baby Arrives

When I first found out I was pregnant, I immediately started to prepare for our little one’s arrival.

After reading many of the baby books and listening to advice, I wanted to make sure our home was safe for baby — and that didn’t mean just babyproofing. It meant making sure we were creating a greener environment for our bundle of joy.

There are several eco-friendly ways that you can prepare for your baby before they arrive, heres how we did it.

  1. Take a look at the products you are using in the household.
  2. I did a lot of research on what to look for on the label when purchasing cleaning products in the house. I made a conscious effort to buy greener laundry detergent, household cleaner, and dish soap, so that I wouldn’t risk exposing harmful chemicals to my little one.

  3. Have your guests take off their shoes at the door.
  4. Your little one will be spending a lot of time on the floor of your home. Whether it’s learning to roll over or crawling all over, their hands and feet with come into close contact with the floor often. To avoid spreading anything dangerous from the outside to inside of your home, have both you and the guests that come over take off their shoes. This creates a cleaner environment in your home and helps protect your baby.

  5. Use a low- or non-VOC paint when getting baby’s nursery ready.
  6. Decorating a nursery for my little one is one of my fondest memories. It was so much fun to pick out the decor and the color theme. One thing that I made sure of when picking out a paint color was that there were little to no chemicals being emitted when we painted. If my baby was going to sleep in this room every night, I wanted to make sure that it was a safe environment for him.

  7. Shop for baby products that can be used for extended periods of time.
  8. Shopping for baby products is so much fun. We wanted to make sure that we got the most out of the baby gear that we purchased, so I made sure to look for products that we could use much longer than just the first year. We bought a crib that we could use for both a toddler bed and a big-kid bed. The bottles that we bought could easily convert into sippy cups once our baby was ready to transition. The stroller that we bought could last us well into the toddler years. We also used hand-me-down clothes from family members and close friends. It’s important to do the research on baby products to see just how long you will use them.

  9. Keep the air clean.
  10. It’s important that you and your little one are breathing clean air. Use an air purifier and buy indoor plants to help keep the air clean inside your household. Not only will the plants add decor, but they will also help remove pollutants from the air.

Image: DisneyBaby

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Prenatal Yoga Basics

Yoga, an ancient Hindu spiritual and ascetic discipline — which focuses on controlling breath, simple meditation, and the practice of specific body postures — can be a great asset to pregnant women. The gentle stretches, connection to self, and strength-building postures all work to help expectant moms stay relaxed and fit throughout their pregnancy.

Maintaining a regular yoga practice, even if only for 5-10 minutes a day, can be an incredible way for pregnant women to build physical and mental strength. Taking the time to get in touch with your body now can also be of great benefit later during labor and delivery.

Although the benefits of yoga can be wonderful for you and your pregnancy, be sure to speak with your doctor before starting any prenatal exercise program.

Getting started: Trimester-by-Trimester Tips

You’ll need to modify your yoga practice slightly throughout your pregnancy. Here are a few important trimester-specific prenatal tips:

  1. First trimester yoga:
    “(Until) the belly pops out, women can maintain their regular yoga practices, with the exception of Bikram and other hot yoga styles,” says author Helene Byrne, a prenatal and postpartum fitness and exercise specialist and founder of BeFit-Mom (befitmom.com).

  2. Second trimester yoga:
    “In the second trimester, flow style yoga, as opposed to static poses, is best,” Byrne says. “This keeps mom from experiencing drops in blood pressure due to pooling of blood in the lower extremities.”

  3. Third trimester yoga:
    “This is a perfect time to listen to your body and honor its natural rhythm — which is a great practice to prepare for labor and childbirth,” advises Heidi Jae Mireles a trained birth doula and certified yoga instructor. On days when you feel strong and active, do a yoga practice that cultivates those qualities. On days when your energy is low, do a slower, gentler practice.

Prenatal yoga do’s and don’ts

Moms-to-be should always check with their OBGYN before beginning or continuing any exercise program. Be sure to speak with your doctor and discuss specific questions or ask about good modifications to try. Additionally, the following tips can help ensure your sessions are safe and effective.

Popular prenatal yoga poses

A multitude of yoga positions are beneficial and safe to practice throughout your pregnancy, says Lai. To learn these basic poses, check with your yoga instructor or ask your doctor for suggestions for safe online resources and tutorials. The following are some of Lai’s favorite poses for moms-to-be:

  1. Cat and cow.
    These pelvic tilts are good late in term; this posture helps to shift the baby's weight away from your spine, alleviating lower back pain. This pose also encourages your baby to move into an ideal birth position.

  2. Standing side bends.
    This posture gives space to the side body and rib cage.

  3. Warrior 2
    A standing pose, the Warrior 2 helps to build both strength and endurance.

  4. Downward-facing dog (regular or at the wall).
    One of the most popular yoga poses, downward-facing dog helps lengthen the spine and opens hamstrings.

  5. Cat balance.
    This yoga posture is a safe and effective way to strengthen your core.

  6. Legs-up-the-wall pose.
    If you don’t have issues with high blood pressure, this posture is very calming, reduces fatigue, and also reduces swelling in the legs.

Image: Thinkstock.

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Simple DIY Projects for the Nesting Mom-To-Be

As baby’s due date approaches, you will find yourself eyeing the empty space that will become your baby’s nursery. The desire to start setting up furniture, prettying the walls, and staging the various areas for reading, changing, sleeping and organizing, is a nesting instinct that is completely natural. But, you don’t have to go on a massive shopping spree in order to create the perfect room for your baby.

Instead, try some DIY projects that will allow you to satisfy your nesting urges and personalize your baby’s nursery.

Artwork is one of the easiest DIY projects to complete. One idea is to take your baby shower cards and use a stencil to cut out the messages and images from particularly special cards. Using a round circle stencil or a heart stencil will allow you to create uniform shapes. Glue these on to a foam core or poster board and frame the entire piece to hang in the nursery.

Other ideas for simple DIY artwork in the nursery include printing baby pictures of relatives to frame on the walls, finding nursery rhyme illustrations online and printing them out on card stock, and using large alphabet puzzle pieces from thrift stores to spell out baby’s name.

There are many ways to customize existing furniture to repurpose in a baby’s nursery.  You can turn a bookcase into a clothes organizer by removing the upper shelves and installing a tension rod to hang clothes. Small baskets on the lower shelves can hold tiny items like baby socks, receiving blankets, burp cloths, and onesies. Use pretty, patterned contact paper to line the back of the bookcase and the shelves for an easy design refresh. Always make sure to secure dressers and bookcases to the wall with anchors and to latch lower drawers to prevent children from pulling them out or climbing on them. Check out The Safe Nursery check list from CPSC for more safety tips.

Don’t throw out the cardboard boxes your diapers come in. Cut the tops off of the boxes and cover the boxes in fabric that matches your nursery. Refill the boxes with your diapers so you have your stash at the ready, but now they’ll be in a DIY decorative container.

Instead of spending a fortune on custom window treatments you can purchase plain or printed flat twin size sheets. You may even be able to find patterns that coordinate with your crib bedding. Most flat sheets have a hemmed upper edge, which you can snip open on either side. Simply slide a curtain rod through the now open pocket and you’ve got curtains that can easily be thrown in the washing machine when they get dirty. Remember to keep baby safe by never putting a crib, child bed, or furniture near window blinds or drapery where baby can easily grab and pull on them.

Giving in to your natural desire to start nesting can be a really fun and rewarding part of your pregnancy. By implementing some DIY projects you will also feel as if you are creating a truly personalized, safe, and unique space for your baby, that will reflect how excited you are to welcome this new addition to your family. 

Image: Getty

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pregnant mom with lotion on belly

Easy Pregnancy Beauty Tips to Make You Feel Great

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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Dad's Guide to Pregnancy

Congratulations, dad-to-be! You’ve just found out you’re going to have a baby. But what happens between now and the day your child is born? And what kind of emotional and physical changes will you and your partner experience over the coming months? Our guide will help you manage the ups and downs of pregnancy like a veteran.

For first-time fathers, pregnancy can be something of a mystery. Mom-to-Be will go through a host of dramatic physical and emotional changes. As her partner, how can you help — and what types of things are important for you to know and expect? We’ve collected some common questions and answers to help guide you through the coming months.

What can I do to help my partner manage morning sickness?

In the early weeks of pregnancy, your partner may feel ill. Although coined “morning sickness” many women feel sick throughout the day. “Remind your partner to nibble on something easy to stomach like crackers throughout the day and avoid exposing her to smells that could trigger nausea,” says Samantha Van Vleet, a birth doula and childbirth educator.

Is it OK to be intimate with my partner during pregnancy?

For most couples, it is perfectly safe to participate in sexually intimate relationships throughout pregnancy. However, it is best for you to speak with your doctor or midwife to find out if your partner might have any complications that would make sex not advisable.

What types of physical changes will my partner experience during pregnancy?

“Common changes in pregnancy include swelling of the stomach and the breasts, and itchy skin,” says Van Vleet. Additionally, she may experience backache, headache, and edema (swelling of the legs).

When can I find out if we're having a boy or a girl?

You should be able to determine the gender of your baby around your 20th week. Most pregnant women have a mid-pregnancy around this time, and an experience sonogram technician will be able to help you discern the gender of your little one.

Should I plan on attending childbirth classes?

Childbirth classes are key for you and your partner to attend together. There are several kinds of classes to choose from — and some sessions are even compressed, so that you can learn what you need to know in one longer weekend class. Most often, couples attend classes at the hospital where birth will take place, so you can see the labor and delivery, and recovery rooms.

What dietary do’s & don'ts should I be aware of?

“It is important for pregnant women to avoid consuming foods that could be a risk for listeria, such as deli meats, soft cheeses and unpasteurized juice and milk,” cautions Van Vleet. “Listeria infection could cause serious complications and fetal death. If your partner wants these foods, check with her doctor for any dietary restrictions or to discuss questions.

What can I do to help my partner manage mood swings?

Your partner is experience surges of hormones, crazy physical changes, and preparing to become a mom. Her moods may be erratic. Try to be patient and understanding.

When will I be able to start feeling our baby kick in my partner's belly?

Your partner — and you — should start to feel baby kick sometime between the 16th and 25th weeks of pregnancy, but for some first-time moms, this “quickening”, or kicking, isn’t felt until closer to the 25th week.

What happens if we go past my partner's due date?

You and your partner might be worried as your due date falls days behind. Try to go with the flow, keep busy, and help your partner stay comfortable. Some other things you can do include:

  • Help her exercise. Swimming and walking a great ways for her to stay fit. Consider going for a nice, long walk together. Some doctors say that exercise can help trigger labor and delivery.
  • Make sure she gets lots of rest. Help your partner avoid eating too late in the day, and move TVs and digital devices out of the bedroom.
  • Encourage her to eat right. Maintaining a healthy diet right now is key. If she can stomach it, suggest she try spicy foods – folklore suggests they may hasten delivery!
  • Plan ahead. Use this extra time to prepare for your new baby!
  • Stay in touch with your partner's doctor. Keep your partner's doc on speed dial – and don't hesitate to contact him or her with any questions or concerns the two of you might have.

Image: Thinkstock.

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Pregnancy Sleeping Tips

Getting some much needed rest while you’re pregnant can be a challenge. Whether it’s hormonal changes, physical discomfort, nervousness or excitement — the odds sometimes seem stacked against you. Our expert tips can help you finally get some much needed shut eye.

A variety of factors contribute to sleep discomfort throughout pregnancy, but many can be easily managed. Follow our advice and tips and you should be nodding off in no time.

Make the room the perfect temperature:

Make sure your bedroom temperature is optimal for sleep. The National Sleep Foundation (NSF; sleepfoundation.org) suggests about 65 F for a great night’s sleep.

Stay on schedule.

Create a daily schedule for yourself and stick to it. Get up around the same time, try to exercise around the same time, and maintain a steady bedtime.

Here’s a good schedule to shoot for:

  1. Get up every morning at the same time (example: 7 a.m.)
  2. Expose your eyes to natural light in the morning to help restart your circadian clock.
  3. Dim the lights and limit exposure to blue light after 7 p.m.
  4. Go to bed at about the same time every night (example: 11 p.m.).
  5. Continue to avoid blue light throughout the night.

Hydrate at the right times.

It is important to drink plenty of fluids during pregnancy, especially during the day. But because your uterus is pressing against your bladder, you may find yourself running to the bathroom more often. To help lessen the need to get up at night, reduce the amount of water and other liquids you drink in the few hours leading up to bedtime.

Nix bedtime snacks.

Eating before bedtime affects sleep quality. Pregnant women should avoid sugar, caffeine, simple carbs — all of which can be too stimulating prior to bed. And, of course, avoid alcohol.

Prevent heartburn.

Sometimes lying down can contribute to heartburn when you’re pregnant. To prevent this, don’t get prone until at least a couple hours after eating. If heartburn is a problem, you can try elevating your head with pillows while you sleep. Avoid spicy, fried, or acidic foods like tomato products — these often can worsen heartburn. Note: Talk to your doctor if you experience consistent heartburn while pregnant.

Exercise at the right time.

If your doctor has given you the green light for exercise, working out can help you sleep better at night. Schedule your sessions for the morning and avoid pre-bed workouts, as the latter can disrupt sleep.

Sleep on your left side.

The NSF recommends that you sleep on your left side during your third trimester. This allows for the best blood flow to the fetus and to your uterus and kidneys. Avoid lying flat on your back for a long period of time. Also, if you’re having trouble getting comfy in bed, consider obtaining a "pregnancy" pillow or use regular pillows to help support your body.

Take a nap.

Catching a couple extra Zzzs during the day may help you sleep better at night. An NSF poll found that 51 percent of pregnant or recently pregnant women reported at least one weekday nap; 60 percent reported at least one weekend nap.

Try hydrotherapy.

Indulge in a warm bath or shower before you go to bed. The water can help you relax, unwind, and slip away to dreamland more quickly.

Image:Thinkstock

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Pregnancy Workouts: Tips for Your Whole Pregnancy

For expectant moms, exercise is key — it helps to keep mom healthy, can help her sleep better, and has lasting benefits for baby, too. But often, pregnant moms who’ve been given the green light to work out by their doctors still worry about which exercises are OK and which they should avoid. We polled fitness pros to get the lowdown on pregnancy exercise do’s and don’ts.

There are a multitude of ways doctor-approved exercise benefits your pregnancy and even your unborn child. “Exercise can alleviate certain symptoms, notably fatigue and edema (swelling), excessive weight gain, back pain, morning sickness, and gestational diabetes,” says Amanda Dale, an ACE-certified personal trainer and nutritionist.

Additionally, “Women who have made exercise part of their lifestyle during pregnancy are more likely to continue exercising after the baby is born,” says Adriana Welborn, a personal trainer and ACE Health Coach.

Please note: All pregnant women, even those who have previously been exercising, should have a physician's approval before undertaking any workout program.

Exercise prep for expectant moms

Once you have the go-ahead to engage in prenatal exercise, keep these tips in mind to ensure you’re exercising safely:

  • Stay hydrated.
  • “Be careful of overheating and drink lots of water,” says Minna Herskowitz, a certified personal trainer specializing in pre- and postnatal fitness.

  • Stay off your back.
  • Avoid lying on your back in your second and third trimesters. During the latter part of pregnancy, the weight of your uterus presses against the major vein that circulates blood from your lower body to your heart. Staying in this position for long periods of time can make you feel a little dizzy — and restricts the flow of blood, oxygen, and nutrients to the placenta and your baby.

  • Know when to call your doctor.
  • If you experience bleeding during or immediately after exercise, feel faint or overheated, or experience swelling of the lower extremities, cease all workouts and you seek immediate medical attention as these can be symptomatic of fetal distress, strain, or blood clots, advises Dale.

  • Exercises to avoid.
  • “Contraindicated movements include anything that risks overstretching an already hyperflexible body, exercises that are done in a very hot room, activities that risk impact or falling, or intense abdominal contracting exercises,” says Dale. During pregnancy, your body produces extra relaxin, a hormone that makes your ligaments much more flexible. As a result, skip things like hot yoga, cycling, skiing, boxing, biking, and horseback riding.

Trimester tips for moms-to-be

“A pregnancy exercise can consist of anything low-to-moderate intensity, including swimming, yoga, Pilates, and light weights,” says Herskowitz. Try alternating your workouts between yoga and Pilates, water exercises, walking, and strength training with a certified trainer. Here’s an overview of some of our favorite trimester-by-trimester workout advice:

    First trimester

    “Women can basically continue the forms of exercise they were doing before becoming pregnant at this stage,” says Colleen Riddle, a certified AFPA (American Fitness Professionals and Associates) pre- and postnatal; exercise specialist and creator of the DVD series “New Mommy Makeover.” Some women may feel early pregnancy symptoms during this time, and queasiness may slow your workouts, so take it easy and do only what feels good.

    Riddle adds that this is the perfect trimester in which to focus on strengthening core muscles. “Planks are one of the best core-building exercises and can be done all the way throughout the pregnancy,” she says.

    Second trimester

    For many women, this is the best trimester of pregnancy. Morning sickness has subsided, your belly is starting to show, and you may have renewed energy. In addition to working on core strength, “It’s also important to work on building strength in the upper back, hips, and glutes. With a growing belly and breasts, your upper back and shoulders will tire easily,” says Riddle. “That’s why it’s also important to stretch the chest muscles, as well.”

    Third trimester

    You’re in the homeward stretch! Because of your belly’s growing size and the aches and pains that come with having a nearly full-term baby, exercise may be difficult. Also, after the fifth month, you hips’ range of motion can be restricted. Take things slow during this trimester.

    If you feel up to it, work on strengthening your lower body. “Leg strengthening exercises (like squats with a ball) will help strengthen quadriceps and reduce risk of injury to your knees,” suggests Riddle.

Additionally, the following workouts are safe for you to do throughout your pregnancy, with your doctor’s permission:

  • Pilates.
  • “Pilates is one of the best and safest exercise programs that a woman can do both during pregnancy and after giving birth,” says Eurona Tilley, a Prenatal & Postnatal Pilates Specialist. “Pilates helps prepare the body for delivery and promotes a quick recovery after delivery,” she adds.

  • Barre.
  • Barre clases include a combination of Pilates, dance, yoga and functional training. “Barre-based interval training and stretching helps prenatal clients alleviate circulation issues, reduce low back discomfort and improve overall mood during and after pregnancy,” says Sharon Demko, lead instructor and vice president of teacher development with The Bar Method.

  • Swimming and water exercises.
  • “Water exercise can decrease swelling in the lower body and relieve impact-related aches and pains in the joints,” recommends Dale.

  • Prenatal yoga.
  • “Yoga provides a mild, gentle workout that energizes while promoting relaxation, both of which benefit pregnant women,” says Welborn. A prenata; yoga class can be especially beneficial, as your instructor and classmates are all keyed into your specific fitness needs and contraindications.

  • Walking.
  • Whether it be in your neighborhood or on a treadmill, walking is a great way for women to get some valuable cardio exercise during pregnancy.

Image: Thinkstock.

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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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Pregnant belly with a cell phone

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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