⚡In a nutshell
There’s a lot of chat about how to (and how not to) fall pregnant. But, what the heck happens once we’ve actually got a bun in the oven?
Growing a baby is a wild and wonderful process. But, there’s a stack of stuff most of us don’t know will happen along the way. And none of us want to be in the dark about what to expect.
So, here’s your complete month-by-month guide to everything you need to do during pregnancy, every step of the way.
After your egg has been fertilised, it only takes 24 hours for it to begin dividing into multiple cells. It’ll then remain in your fallopian tube for roughly three days.
After that, your fertilised egg will begin to grow and a water-tight sac will form around it (which will fill with fluid). That’s your amniotic sac, and it’s essential to keep your growing embryo safe and cushioned.
What you need to do (it's a long list in this first month!)
- Confirm your pregnancy with a trip to your GP: Your doctor will use either a blood or urine test to double check your pregnancy.
- Chat about your birthing options with your doctor (and your friends and family): Deciding how you’d like to give birth is a big decision, and it can be really helpful to get both a professional opinion as well as personal insights from your friends and family. Here are a few things to think about during these conversations:
Do you want pain relief or not?
Who will be your main antenatal care provider?
How many antenatal visits will you have?
Where would you like to receive your care?
Would you prefer a home or hospital birth (and what are the risks of each option)?
When would you consider medical intervention during birth?
- Book antenatal check-ups: Once you’ve chatted with your doctor, make sure to book in your future antenatal check-ups now! It’s easiest to get these dates locked in at the beginning so you never miss a visit.
- Get a prenatal or pregnancy multivitamin: Don’t let the name fool you, prenatal vitamins aren’t just for when you’re trying to conceive. They’re super beneficial during pregnancy, too. Make sure to look for an option that uses methylated folate (not folic acid) as this is the most bioavailable form that every body can absorb and get the most benefits from.
- Check-in with your lifestyle: First up, it’s time to ditch a few things once your pregnancy is confirmed. Cigarettes and alcohol need to be top of that list, but also consider things like how much processed sugar you consume and whether not-so-healthy eating habits (such as binge eating) are an issue for you. For you and bub, tonnes of veggies, a balanced diet and plenty of sleep will be your best bet for the next nine months.
- Keep tabs on caffeine: While studies have shown the fertility doesn’t seem to be affected by up to 200-300mg of caffeine a day, it’s advised you stick to around one serving a day. And be careful: different cafes and brands have different defaults for how much coffee they put in your brew.
- Ask your doctor about safe medications (and check about the ones you already take): Your baby’s development can be affected by what you put into your body – and that includes medication. A small number of medicines can harm your baby, so chat to your doctor about any medicines you take, and if something comes up while you’re pregnant, run it by the experts first.
- Here’s a good rundown of why you should have this convo sooner rather than later.
- Check your exercise levels: Regular exercise during pregnancy definitely has health benefits, but don’t overdo it! Check with your doctor to make sure your routine isn’t too high stress or harmful to you and your baby. A light to moderate workout plan is your friend here, rather than extreme HIIT sessions or epic marathons.
- Start reading up on maternity leave: Depending on who you work for and how long you have been working there your rights to maternity or paid parental leave will differ. The sooner you brush up on this, the better.
- Here is a good resource from the Australian Government, and here’s a simpler (jargon-free) breakdown to give you an overview of what you might be entitled to.
- Book your first ultrasound: Most experts will wait until around 6 weeks into your pregnancy before performing the first ultrasound. If you miss this date, you’ll likely have a dating ultrasound at about 10-13 weeks pregnancy. The first doctor you see to discuss the next 8 months will be able to help you organise an ultrasound, either at their clinic or elsewhere.
✌️ Month Two
In month two, the heart of the embryo has formed. Yep, it happens pretty rapidly!
Ears, eyes, liver, lips, and eyelids will begin forming as well, and tiny webbed fingers and toes will develop. By now, pregnancy symptoms like breast tenderness, tiredness, frequently urinating, and morning sickness will become much more noticable. But it’s nothing you can’t handle!
What you need to do
- Check-in on your insurance: If health insurance is something you want to have as a helpful tool during your pregnancy it’s time to start planning. If you’re going to receive private care during your pregnancy and/or birth, it’s a good idea to look at your Private Health Insurance plan. Pick up a phone if you’re already covered and ask your provider for a list of exactly what you’re entitled to.
- Start putting together some questions: Don’t feel shy about entering every doctor’s appointment with a stack of questions - they’ve definitely seen it all before and, ultimately, this is all about you. Month two will involve many of your first appointments, and they will likely involve a number of check-ups and tests. You will probably also be given an official date-range of when to expect the birth to mark in your calendar, too.
- Have your first antenatal appointment: Your first big antenatal appointment with a doctor can be exciting, but make sure you show up prepared. Have a good idea about your own medical history, your gynecological history, your obstetrical history, and any family history of disease.
- Morning sickness will kick in, so get some help: Vomiting and nausea is common during pregnancy. We all know it as morning sickness, but really, it can happen at any time in the day. Morning sickness generally begins to go away after the first 3-4 months of pregnancy, which means month two can be particularly hard.
To help out, make sure you’re eating smaller meals more often, limit your intake of spicy or fatty foods, and ask a friend, partner, or family member to help out when you’re feeling nauseous. Remember: you’re the pregnant one here, so don’t feel bad about asking for help.
- Think about what your baby will cost: Babies cost money. In fact, they cost money when they grow into toddlers, then teenagers, and then adults, too. But no surprises there! During month two, start thinking about how much your baby is going to cost you.
You can find Kin’s in-depth How To Budget For Children Booklet here.
- Say farewell to kitty litter: If you happen to have a pet cat, make sure you’re not going anywhere near its litter. Cat faeces can carry a parasite that causes toxoplasmosis (a dangerous infection that can be harmful to your growing baby). Of course, we’re not suggesting you ditch the feline entirely, just leave the fun job of emptying the litter box to someone else.
- Ditch bad plastics and toxic beauty products: A chemical called phthalates is found in many lipsticks, perfumes, and lotions. You can’t avoid this chemical entirely as it’s just about everywhere (including plastic packaging and other cosmetics). But you can minimise your exposure to it by also cutting down on your use of things like tupperware, plastic drink bottles, and factory-made cosmetics.
- In case you were wondering why, Phthalates act like hormones and can interfere with male gential development and increase the risk of diabetes.
🎶 Month Three
Once you reach month three, your embryo has grown into a fetus. It’s still pretty tiny at this stage (around 1-1.5 inches) and now has an umbilical cord that connects their abdomen to the placenta (which is how your growing bub absorbs nutrients).
At this point, your baby has lost its webbed fingers and toes and its skin and fingernails begin to grow (yep, Juno got this right). It’s also during month three that their external sex organs start to develop.
What you need to do
- Talk about prenatal testing with your doctor: A prenatal screening checks if your baby has a health condition (such as Down syndrome, neural tube defects and birth defects), and are usually done with an ultrasound and blood tests. It’s important to speak with your doctor about the pros and cons of each test and think about what the results would mean for you and your family.
- Get a nuchal translucency scan: Usually, a nuchal translucency scan will be taken as part of your ultrasound scan at around 12 weeks of pregnancy. This is done to measure the fluid-filled space at the back of your baby’s neck, and can tell you if your baby is at risk of a chromosomal abnormality.
- Check-in with your doctor: At this point in your pregnancy, you’ll likely have another routine antenatal check-in to review things like your blood pressure. It’s also your opportunity to ask any questions you have about your symptoms or check what tests you have coming up.
- Get a new bra: Seriously. Your breast size is likely to change the most during your first trimester. But around 13-15 weeks your breast changes will slow down, which makes now a good time to go for a maternity fitting. Make sure to give yourself some wiggle room as your ribcage will continue to expand during your pregnancy.
- Book in to see your dentist: Keep your pearly whites looking, well, pearly, is important for you and bub. Many women can develop gum disease during pregnancy (thanks to all the changes in our hormones), so visiting your dentist now can stop small issues turning into big (and painful) problems.
- Clean out your household cleaners: While it’s almost impossible not to come into contact with chemicals during pregnancy, now is a great time to give your cleaning cupboard a spring clean. ‘Toxic’ household products (such as some household cleaners) can be harmful to your growing baby. Your safest best is to get someone else to throw them out and switch to more natural products for the rest of your pregnancy.
- Check-in on your maternity leave: At this point, make sure you have a clear idea of your company’s maternity leave policy. Chat to your partner to see what leave they might be entitled to as well, as start thinking about whether you might take additional unpaid leave after giving birth. You’ll need to give at least 10 weeks notice before starting your leave, so make sure you’ve got these dates in your diary.
- Moisturise regularly: While stretch marks are almost guaranteed during pregnancy, keeping your belly, thighs, hips and breasts moisturised can help. This will support your skin’s elasticity and help to soothe dry or dehydrated skin. And don’t be shy about slathering your moisturiser everywhere you need it.
- Check if you’re having twins: At your 10 to 12 week ultrasound, your doctor should be able to tell if you’ve got more than one bun in the oven. This also means they’ll be able to see if you’re having identical or fraternal twins, which can help you make decisions about your antenatal care (as a twin pregnancy can be more complicated than a single pregnancy).
🍀 Month Four
Welcome to your second trimester!
By now, your baby’s hair has started to grow and their sex organs are developing (the prostate glands for male fetuses and the ovaries for female fetuses). If you’re having a girl, she’ll already have hundreds of thousands of eggs in her ovaries by the time she reaches 16 weeks.
You’ll probably notice you’re less nauseous but you might have other digestive problems (like heartburn and constipation). Your breasts might also grow in size and become sore. Symptoms such as shortness of breath, dizziness, bleeding gums and nosebleeds are also common as your body works hard to help your baby grow.
What you need to do
- Start sleeping on your side: To combat new symptoms like a blocked nose and leg cramps, many women find it helpful to start sleeping on their side during the second trimester. Plus, you’ll need to start doing it during your third trimester (to reduce the risk of stillbirth) so now is a good time to practise this position.
- Start looking for your pediatrician: It’s a good idea to start meeting with pediatricians at this point to help you navigate the final months of pregnancy. This gives you a stack of time to build a relationship with your pediatrician, find the right person for you and learn some helpful strategies to create a strong bond with your bub from the beginning.
- Find out the sex of your baby (if you want to): At around 18 weeks, you’ll have a routine ultrasound to check-in on your baby’s development (known as a fetal anomaly or morphology scan). Plus, this scan gives you the chance to find out if you’re having a boy or girl. But remember, this is entirely your choice so make sure to think about whether you want to know (or not) prior to your appointment.
- Ask your doctor about the quad marker screen: During your second trimester, you’re able to get a simple blood test done to check for developmental problems with your baby (known as the quad marker screen). It’s most accurate during your 16th to 18th weeks of pregnancy, and your doctor might recommend you get one done if you meet certain risk criteria.
- Make sure you’re getting enough calcium: While there’s no need to go chugging milk, it’s a good idea to ensure you’re meeting the recommended doses of calcium at this stage in your pregnancy (which is around 1,000 mg a day for women).
- Look at birth centres: It’s your choice where you have your baby (whether that’s at a midwifery unit, a hospital or at home). But, it’s important to chat through these options with your doctor to make sure you factor in your specific needs and any risks you might encounter. This decision isn’t set in stone, so don’t feel pressured to commit to the first birth centre or hospital you find either.
🖐 Month Five
At this point, your fetus should be around 16cm and has a fine downy hair (known as lanugo) that covers the body. Plus, the baby’s skin is now covered in a greasy material that is designed to protect their skin.
This is also the stage when you’ll start to feel your baby move for the first time. It tends to feel like flutters or butterflies in your tummy, which is a pretty amazing feeling. You’ll probably still be experiencing the same symptoms from last month and your breasts are likely to have grown more too (usually up to 2 cup sizes bigger than usual).
What you need to do
- Expect ‘baby brain’ to be a thing: Yep, the mental fog you’re experiencing is a real, scientific thing. While scientists can’t figure out exactly what causes it, you might experience memory lapses, forgetfulness and difficulty navigating complex tasks.
- Book in for antenatal classes: To get you ready for birth and parenthood, antenatal classes are a great way to learn how to prepare for birth, understand the stages of labour, learn birthing positions and so much more. These classes usually run over several weeks, so it’s a good idea to book in around 20 weeks.
- Use a humidifier if you’re struggling with congestion: Many women experience a thing called ‘pregnancy rhinitis’, which is basically congestion or a stuffy nose at this point in their pregnancy. If that’s the case for you, taking hot showers or investing in a humidifier can reduce swelling and help relieve pressure in your nose.
- Chat with your other half about how you’re going to share the load: If you haven’t spoken to your partner about how you’re going to balance bringing up your baby, now is the time to do it. Talk through things like how you’re going to split cooking, cleaning and caring for bub (particularly during the first few weeks and months postpartum).
- Combat swelling by wearing flat shoes: There’s a bunch of reasons why our feet (and ankles) swell during pregnancy, including changes to our blood flow and hormones. As you progress in your pregnancy, your swelling might get worse. So, avoid standing for long periods of time and wear comfortable, flat shoes.
- Read up on pre-eclampsia: This is a condition that impacts some women during the second half of pregnancy or straight after birth. It causes high blood pressure, fluid retention and protein in our urine, which can lead to serious complications to you and your baby if left untreated. The good news is that your doctor or midwife will usually pick this up during your regular antenatal check-ups.
😲 Month Six
By now, your bub has grown to around 20cm and has started developing taste buds, eyebrows, eyelashes and bone marrow to start producing their own blood cells.
As for you, you’ll be happy to hear your shortness of breath is likely to improve. Your breasts are probably starting to produce tiny drops of early milk, something you’re likely to continue experiencing for the rest of your pregnancy.
It’s also worth noting that some women experience Braxton-Hicks contractions around this point (which can feel like a painless squeezing of your abdomen). Think of it like your uterus practicing for labour. It’s totally normal and doesn’t mean you’re going into labour, but chat to your doctor if you’re experiencing painful or frequent contractions.
What you need to do
- Think about breastfeeding: Now is a good time to consider whether you’re going to breastfeed your baby or not. If you’re unsure about the pros and cons, chat with your midwife or doctor to understand what option is right for you.
- Check if you need to upgrade your maternity bra: Your breasts might have changed significantly in size since you last purchased a maternity bra, so now is a good time to get fitted again to find your perfect fit.
- Consider hosting a baby shower: While this isn’t right for everyone, some mums-to-be like to celebrate their upcoming arrival with a baby shower. Now can be a good time to do this in case your baby arrives early or you experience uncomfortable symptoms when you become heavily pregnant.
- Prevent varicose veins: Swollen legs are a normal part of pregnancy, there are ways to prevent or reduce the discomfort you’ll probably experience. By staying active, not sitting for too long, putting your legs up while resting and avoiding uncomfortable shoes or tight pants you can support healthy blood flow to your legs.
- Think about your childcare options: Even if you and your partner are taking time off work once your baby arrives, it’s important to have a longer-term plan about who is going to care for your child when you return to work or need some time off. Do your research into family day care centres or even discuss informal options (such as getting your family members to help out) to make sure you’ve got support ready when you need it.
- Get tested for gestational diabetes: Up to 8% of women will get gestational diabetes around this time during pregnancy, which causes too much glucose in our blood. You can check if this is the case for you by getting a Glucose Tolerance Test from your doctor.
🕖 Month Seven
This month is a big one. By now, you’ve reached your third trimester and you’re really on the home straight. Your baby is up to 25cm and has started to develop more fat to prepare for the final stages of pregnancy.
At this point, your uterus will continue expanding to make room for your growing baby. That means things like back pain will become more common and you might experience less dizziness than in the previous months.
What you need to do
- Write a birth plan: With the end of pregnancy in sight, now is the perfect time to get your birth plan down on paper. This ensures your partner, loved ones and doctors know your wishes (even if you can’t advocate for yourself during labour).
- Pre-register at a hospital or birthing centre: Now is also a good time to pre-register for where you want to give birth. This gives you the peace of mind knowing you’ve selected where you’d like to give birth ahead of the big day.
- Select the pediatrician that’s right for you: After all your research over the previous months, you should be almost ready to lock in your pediatrician. Make sure you feel comfortable with them to ensure you can openly ask any questions you might over the coming weeks and once your baby has arrived.
- Find a birth doula (if you’d like one): If you’re looking for extra antenatal, emotional and physical support during labour, you might be thinking about using a doula. Find out how much this might cost as well as how to know if a doula is right for you in this guide from Choice.
- Start visiting your doctor or midwife every two weeks: From this point in your pregnancy, you should be having regular check-ups every fortnight to review you and your baby’s health.
🎱 Month Eight
At this point, your baby is up to 28cm. The fine, soft hair that has covered their body up until now begins to fall off as you and bub prepare for birth in the weeks ahead.
As you’re carrying a nearly full-grown baby, you’re probably feeling pretty exhausted and might have a bit of trouble breathing. There’s also a chance you might develop varicose veins and develop stretch marks as your skin expands.
Plus, your Braxton-Hicks contractions might continue along with heartburn and constipation. And if you happen to have an accident when you sneeze or laugh, that’s totally normal (you’ve got tonnes of extra pressure on your bladder, remember). On the plus side, your hair might appear fuller and healthier due to shifts in your hormones at this point.
What you need to do
- Baby-proof your house: Before your little one arrives, take some time to get your place ready. That means putting safety plugs over outlets, blocking cords with furniture, using doorstops and checking all blind cords and chains are out of reach.
- Here’s a helpful checklist for how to childproof your entire place.
- Take off any rings in case of swelling: Your fingers may start (or continue) to swell at this point, so it’s a smart move to take off any rings before they get stuck.
- Ask your doctor about RhoGAM: Rh factor is an important protein in our blood, and each of us can be Rh positive or negative. If you and your baby fall into different categories, complications can occur. That’s why your doctor might suggest getting a RhoGAM injection at around 26 to 28 weeks to reduce the risks of problems.
- Check your fibre intake: Just like staying hydrated, make sure you’re getting enough fibre in your diet to avoid nasty symptoms such as constipation and even hemorrhoids. That means adding plenty of fruits, grains, nuts, legumes and vegetables to your diet.
- Get your baby gear sorted: With birth now in sight, make sure you’ve got ways to transport your baby, such as car seats, strollers and prams ready.
- Pack your hospital bag: Going into labour can be a stressful time, so give yourself the best experience possible by getting ready ahead of time. If you’re unsure what you need to bring along, download this helpful checklist.
- Add your baby to your insurance policy: Each insurer will have different rules about when to add your child to your policy, so make sure to get this sorted now in case you need to give some notice.
- Get a group B strep (GBS) test: This is a routine antenatal test that shows if your baby is at risk of infection of this type of bacteria. It usually involves a swab from inside your vagina and is usually taken towards the end of pregnancy.
- Purchase postpartum recovery items: Your attention might be on labour and delivery, but it’s important to get ready for how you’ll recover after birth. Now is a good time to secure helpful items such as maxi pads, ice packs, nursing bras, and mesh underwear.
- Make a final call on your pediatrician: If you haven’t already, now is the time to make a decision. Chat with your partner and make sure you’re both aligned on who is the best fit for your family.
👶 Month Nine
As you’d expect, your baby is nearly fully developed and their lanugo is nearly gone. Their eyes will have developed enough for the pupils to constrict and dilate when exposed to light and they’ve put on considerable body fat.
As for you, you’re under a lot more strain and are likely to experience increased fatigue, trouble sleeping, difficulty holding urine, shortness or breath and more. Your baby is also likely to drop down into the lower part of your uterus at this point (although some won’t do this until the very end of pregnancy).
What you need to do
- Plan maternity leave: By now, you should have given your employer notice of how much leave you’re planning to take. Now is a good time to confirm the exact dates of when you’re hoping to be back at work as well as ensure you know what support and benefits you’re entitled to.
- Ensure you’re getting enough iron: This is especially important during your final 10 weeks of pregnancy as this is when your baby begins to develop their own iron stores (that will support their first 6 months’ of life).
- Here’s a helpful guide to how to make sure you’re getting enough iron in your diet.
- Ensure you’ve got a baby first aid and emergency kit at home: This should stay in a locked cupboard out of reach of your children. If you’re not sure what it should include, check out this helpful guide to everything you need in your home’s first aid kit.
- Get the baby’s nursery ready: By 36 weeks, you’d want to have your nursery ready to go, so now is a great time to get it sorted. Make sure you’ve got all your baby supplies ready (such as nappies, clothes, bedding, dummies and a baby monitor) and set all all the furniture you’ll need (such as a cot and change table).
- Review your birth plan with your midwife, doctor or nurse: This document explains what you’d like to happen during labour, and is a great way to communicate your wishes with your doctor and midwife. If you haven’t already, make sure to share this with your doctor and ensure it’s up-to-date with your wishes.
- Practice breathing techniques for labour: Go into delivery feeling calm and confident by practising the breathing techniques you’ve learned in your antenatal classes. These can help during strong contractions and can keep you focused on something other than the pain of birth.
- Here is a guide to a few helpful breathing techniques you can try practice and try ahead of delivery.
- Count the kicks: This is a great way to monitor your baby’s health during the final weeks of pregnancy, and you should be checking the time, pattern and duration of these kicks.
- To find out more about how to count the kicks of your baby, check out this helpful app that allows you to record and track your baby’s movements in your final trimester.
So, there you have it. Understanding what to expect at every stage of pregnancy is a great way to help you feel empowered and in-control during this exciting time. But, every one of us will have a different experience of pregnancy, labour and birth. That’s why it’s important to regularly speak with your doctor throughout pregnancy to ensure you’re getting tailored advice and recommendations based on your own medical history and individual circumstances.