While modern ultrasounds provide some amazing insight, baby’s watery world is still a mystery in many ways. Luckily, nature provides some clues to help us know that the pregnancy is a healthy one and that your tiny bean’s development is on track.
Welcome to queasy town
Most women experience some degree of nausea and vomiting during pregnancy, especially between weeks 6 and 14. Morning sickness seems to go hand in hand with rising hormones (particularly hCG and estrogen), so many take it as a sign of a healthy pregnancy. If you’re not spending time at the toilet, it doesn’t necessarily mean your pregnancy isn’t going well; you might just be one of the lucky few that maintains a strong stomach.
There is also a small percentage of pregnant mamas who suffer from hyperemesis gravidarum—extreme nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. These ladies are apt to feel extremely (even debilitatingly) sick all day long, and the nausea and vomiting could last throughout the whole pregnancy. Again, this is not a sign that anything is wrong with baby, but your doctor will want to make sure you’re keeping down enough calories and fluid to maintain your own health and allow baby to grow properly.
Putting on the pounds
You are growing a new human inside your body—you are going to gain weight! If you started out at an average weight, plan to gain about 25 to 35 pounds. If you were underweight to begin with, you’ll need to gain more; if you were overweight or obese, it’s wise to gain less.
It may feel like you have no control over your climbing numbers on the scale, which is true in part. A healthy pregnancy will weigh in with increased blood volume, amniotic fluid and placenta poundage, and expanded breast tissue, not to mention around 7 ½ pounds of baby! You can, however, make healthy food choices and maintain a reasonably active lifestyle so that your gain remains in check. Remember that “eating for two” does not mean doubling your diet—one of you is itty-bitty! Your intake should go up by about 300 calories a day beginning in the second trimester, with a max of about 500 extra calories a day at the end, when baby is fattening up for birth. These calories are best accrued by adding extra nuts, avocados, veggies or whole grains, not
by dishing out ice cream on the daily.
A mover and shaker
Baby’s movements are some of the most reassuring hints of his well-being. You’re likely to notice movement for the first time somewhere in the ballpark of 20 weeks’ gestation. A few weeks later, you’ll be able to feel movement from the outside when you place your hand on your belly, so your partner can also get in on the bonding! If this is your first baby, it may take a bit longer for you to recognize baby’s kicks for what they are; repeat moms are more likely to identify them sooner.
Your budding bean will not move and kick all day long. There are periods of rest and periods of activity. As baby grows stronger and takes up more space in your uterus, you’ll be able to detect movement regularly and grow familiar with your little one’s schedule. If activity drops noticeably, get in touch with your caregiver ASAP. She may run tests or have you record a daily kick count (during which you’ll track how long it takes for you to feel 10 distinct movements).
The measure of a mom
Starting at the halfway point (20 weeks), your doctor will pull out a tape measure to check fundal height at every appointment. Fundal height is measured from the pubic bone to the top of the uterus, and the measurement should fall within 3 centimeters of the gestational week. For example, at 20 weeks, the fundal height should be between 17 and 23 centimeters.
If you’re measuring small or large, your doctor may order an ultrasound to gain further insight, and she might run tests to check for certain conditions. A small measurement could mean that your baby isn’t growing at the expected rate or that you have low fluid. A high measurement might be the result of excess fluid, gestational diabetes or carrying multiples. However, if you’re measuring within the expected range, you can rest assured that your uterus is doing its job and baby’s growth is likely coming along just fine.
Baby’s got the beat
Typical prenatal checkups allow for only two ultrasounds (usually one around 8 weeks and another close to 20 weeks), but your doctor should listen in on baby’s heartbeat at every appointment. Using a handheld Doppler device, she’ll get a heart rate (and you can hear it, too!) to make sure baby is getting enough oxygen and deploying blood at a normal rate. Baby’s heartbeat will likely sound super fast to you. While an adult should have a resting heart rate of about 60 to 100 beats per minute, fetal heart rate ranges from about 120 to 160 beats per minute. Your doctor might report baby’s heart rate to you (certainly if you ask her), or she might just say it sounds fine and move on with the appointment.
If you’re interested, you can also buy a device to listen to baby’s heartbeat at home. Just don’t let it stress you out when you notice changes in rate. It’s normal for baby’s heart rate to decrease somewhat as you get closer to delivery. As long as it’s still registering over 120 beats per minute, there’s no need to worry.