Pregnancy and childbirth

Your step by step guide to pregnancy

Being pregnant can be one of the best feelings in the word but there are so many unknowns! Fear not though, we’re here to help! Our step by step guide talks about pregnancy week by week, it outlines what to do when pregnant and what to expect when pregnant, the key childhood development stages and gives you an insight into what comes next and what to expect during each key stage in your little one's exciting journey from newborn through to toddler, and includes everything from feeding, to weaning, to walking!

We have also outlined some of the key milestones for baby's and younger children that you can expect at each stage.

A week-by-week guide to what's happening inside your body

  • Week 1 - 5
  • Week 6 - 10
  • Week 11 - 15
  • Week 16 - 20
  • Week 21 - 25
  • Week 26 - 30
  • Week 31 - 35
  • Week 36 - 40
Week 1

Week 1

Your pregnancy begins with the first day of your period – at a time when you're not yet pregnant. This date forms the basis for all other calculations. If you are planning to try for a baby, you should rethink your habits and your diet as early as possible and if you do smoke, give up now.

Week 2

Week 2

And we're off! When your partner's sperm meets your ovum shortly after ovulation, with a bit of luck they combine to form your baby’s first cell. The miracle of life can then take its course.

Week 3

Week 3

The fertilised ovum travels through the fallopian tubes to the womb. Over the course of the journey, it divides until it is made up of several hundred cells. On reaching its destination, the ovum embeds itself in the mucous membrane of the womb. By this time it has already been decided whether your baby will be a girl or a boy!

Week 4

Week 4

Deep in the womb, the ovum develops into both your baby and the placenta. Your body reacts with a flood of hormones to make you fit for the coming months. Some women notice this change immediately and suffer from sickness, a rollercoaster of emotions, tender breasts or mild cramps in the lower abdomen. Other women don't even realise they are pregnant.

Week 5

Week 5

By the end of this week, the collection of cells in your womb has already grown into an embryo. Your baby measures four millimetres and its heart begins to beat. Only now does a missed period indicate that you are expecting a baby. The pregnancy test provides definitive proof of the wonderful news – although you may not feel so wonderful at this stage; the hormones make many women more sensitive and irritable.

Week 6

Week 6

Even at this early stage, all your baby's major organs are forming, including the liver, stomach and intestine. The foundations are also laid for the brain to develop. The spinal cord has formed. And the beginnings of arms and legs are also visible. There are still no outwardly noticeable changes in you – apart from possible morning sickness, problems sleeping at night or the exhaustion that accompanies the development of your baby.

Week 7

Week 7

The embryo has grown to around 14 millimetres. The nose, ears and mouth start to form. Even the hands and feet are starting to take shape. At this stage, your breasts become larger and heavier in preparation for breastfeeding. You may also be surprised by changes in your sense of smell and taste. You suddenly develop new likes and dislikes.

Week 8

Week 8

Your baby now weighs around 1.5 grams, its heart beats twice as fast as yours. The head appears to grow disproportionately to the body. The baby begins to develop an optic nerve and a little tongue. The spinal column begins to develop around the spinal cord. It's almost time for your first ultrasound! Avoid excessive physical exertion as it can cause the womb to contract, however, it is generally extremely difficult to harm your pregnancy at this stage.

Week 9

Week 9

The embryo already measures 20 millimetres and the head still takes up most of the room in your tummy. The neck now separates it from the rest of the body and your baby’s face continues to form. The eyes and eyelids have already formed and now it's time for the lips and gums. A healthy, balanced diet is essential during this stage of rapid development. Fresh, easily digestible food is best, to ensure that you are able to pass on enough vitamins and minerals to your baby.

Week 10

Week 10

Your embryo now measures around three centimetres and weighs around 13 grams. Your baby is now “complete”, all organs are in place and the heart is now divided into a left and a right side. Now all your baby has to do is grow and develop. The hormones in your blood really influence your mood, passing on every feeling of happiness, but also every form of stress. Your kidneys begin to work more, your blood volume will increase by around 35 percent and your womb will grow from around 70 grams at the start of the pregnancy to around 1,000 grams in the final stages.

Week 11

Week 11

The embryo becomes a foetus. The face in particular begins to take on human traits - the eyes and ears are in the right position. The mouth and nose continue to develop, eyelids now cover the eyes and the eyeball is maturing underneath. You will find yourself getting out of breath more easily. Your heart beats faster as the amount of blood in your body increases, forcing your heart to work harder. Around 25 percent of your blood is needed purely for the placenta.

Week 12

Week 12

The baby begins to move around. While this is only a reflex action at this stage, your baby’s newly developed muscles enable it to move its arms and legs, turn its head and make a fist. A set of adult teeth forms underneath the milk teeth already in place. Your sickness and tiredness symptoms begin to pass. You already have the first three months behind you and will have gained up to 2 kilograms in weight. Around 48 grams of that weight can be attributed to your baby. The rest is distributed over the placenta and amniotic fluid, the breasts and the larger womb.

Week 13

Week 13

Your baby now has its first bones. The leg and pelvic bones are now visible and the ribs are forming. The golden rule for you is everything in moderation and stop as soon as it gets difficult, even sport. Pregnant women generally feel especially comfortable in water. The water relieves the pressure from your joints and difficult movements become easier again.

Week 14

Week 14

A trained eye will now be able to tell if you are having a girl or a boy. The gonads now start producing the hormones required to develop external genitals.

Week 15

Week 15

Your baby is now able to open and close its mouth and make sucking movements. Its skeleton continues to develop. Your doctor can measure the circumference of your baby’s head using ultrasound. Your waist disappears, your tummy gets rounder and you start to grow out of your skirts and trousers. Pregnant women often find that their face looks softer and more radiant. This may be due to completely normal fluid retention under the skin.

Week 16

Week 16

Your baby's thyroid begins working and produces hormones for various tasks, such as ensuring growth. The thyroid needs iodine to work properly, iodine is found in food such as fish. Many doctors recommend taking iodine supplement tablets, as iodine is lacking in many of our diets.

Week 17

Week 17

Your baby now measures around 16 centimetres from head to toe and weighs around 135 grams. It continues to get oxygen from your blood. Your baby already makes irregular breathing movements, although they serve no function at this stage. The baby practices the complicated interplay between breathing and swallowing. You may start to sweat more easily which is due to the increase in your bodily temperature during pregnancy. This is completely normal – as is the significant increase in vaginal secretion.

Week 18

Week 18

You finally feel your baby’s first kick – and what a kick it is! Your baby kicks or punches you with its entire body. Most women feel great in both body and soul during this stage of the pregnancy. Complaints associated with the initial stages of pregnancy are gone for good. You look forward to your baby’s arrival more each day. It is normal to feel warmer than usual. While this is pleasant in winter, it may be a little uncomfortable in summer.

Week 19

Week 19

Your baby's nerve fibres net together more, the muscles become stronger, the movements more defined and the fine motor skills begin to develop. To build up its muscles still further, your baby follows its own fitness regime of grabbing, turning, kicking and punching. Your baby slowly starts to put on fat. By this stage at the latest, your baby bump will be clearly visible.

Week 20

Week 20

You’ve reached the half-way mark and your baby can hear. Not only can it hear your heart beat and your blood rushing around your body, but noises from outside as well; music, noise, people and their voices. Your baby now has all twelve to fourteen billion nerve cells. You are faced with the question "to breastfeed or not to breastfeed?", as single drops of milk may start to emerge from your breasts. This means your body is busy preparing for the period after your baby is born.

Week 21

Week 21

Your baby measures around 21 centimetres from head to toe and weighs around 330 grams. It sleeps for between 16 and 20 hours each day – sometimes deep, sometimes light. It spends the rest of the day doing its "fitness regime". The pressure put on your organs by the womb at this stage can sometimes cause the sphincter to the stomach to stay open. This causes acid to flow back and results in heartburn in some pregnant women. Increased fluid retention can also cause feet and hands to swell slightly, uncomfortable, but completely normal.

Week 22

Week 22

Your baby's skin is now opaque and red in colour. It is still wrinkled as your baby's body is still thin and hasn't yet gained enough fat. Personal hygiene becomes ever more important for you, as your tummy and breast tissue is under immense strain from the rapid growth. Lots of moisture for the skin and pregnancy massages will make you feel more comfortable. Stretch marks may appear, but will fade after your baby is born.

Week 23

Week 23

Your baby grows thin hair and nails begin to grow too. The brain cells mature and your baby is able to understand and remember. You may experience tingling or heavy legs at this stage. Pregnant women may also suffer from varicose veins and haemorrhoids.

Week 24

Week 24

Your baby's head now measures around six centimetres in diameter. From the vertex to the soles of its feet, your baby now measures around 26 centimetres and weighs around 500 grams. The eyes are still closed but the eyelashes are growing, and your baby can dream. Towards the end of this week, the womb can reach the height of the navel.

Week 25

Week 25

Your baby takes in amniotic fluid through the mouth and skin, some of which is released again as urine. Towards the end of the pregnancy, the amniotic fluid is replaced within two hours. The quantity fluctuates between 300 millilitres and 1.5 litres. Your own organs are pushed out of their original position by your rapidly growing baby. Breathing can become more difficult and you may need to go to the toilet more often.

Week 26

Week 26

Your baby now measures around 30 centimetres from head to toe and weighs around 650 grams. Your tummy may already be very round. You may find that the stretched skin itches more and more frequently, but this can be easily controlled by applying moisturising oils. You may also have difficulty getting to sleep.

Week 27

Week 27

Your baby's skin loses all its wrinkles and starts to smooth out, as the growing fat deposits become more visible. Your baby lives alongside you, it doesn’t miss a thing that goes on, both inside and outside your body and won’t hesitate to let you know with kicks and punches! The first milk, otherwise known as colostrum, may already be forming in your breasts at this stage. This milk is easy to digest and will provide your baby’s first meals after it is born, until the actual breast milk is produced.

Week 28

Week 28

Your baby opens its eyes and can distinguish between light and dark. It drinks more and more amniotic fluid. Almost all the liquid that passes through the digestive system is filtered by the kidneys and passed out again. Up to half a litre of urine enters the amniotic fluid each day and you gain weight rapidly. Not only is the baby growing, but the placenta and the amniotic sac also add to your weight. Fat deposits form over your body, which you should under no circumstances try to combat with a diet.

Week 29

Week 29

Your baby's brain continues to develop. A complex network of nerves is formed. Each "thread" in this network is insulated with a protective sleeve to enable stimuli to be transmitted more quickly, and the nerve fibres are created. Pregnant women often put on half a kilo during this week alone. Your tummy gets bigger and bigger and your navel may start to protrude outwards.

Week 30

Week 30

Your unborn baby's skin starts to develop pigmentation. Its little body becomes rounder thanks to the fat deposits which can now account for up to 8% of its weight. A straight, dark line may appear in the middle of your tummy, this is known as the linea nigra, which can appear due to the increased pigmentation in your skin. It will disappear again at some point after your baby is born.

Week 31

Week 31

Your baby continues to drink lots of fluid, which is processed by the kidneys, stomach and intestine. It is thought that the amniotic fluid changes its taste depending on the diet of the mother. Your little one is also discovering a sense of taste. Be particularly careful of infections. Bacteria and viruses can pass through the placental barrier at this stage, as the villous wall has become thinner to allow larger quantities of nutrients to enter.

Week 32

Week 32

Your baby is beginning to get cramped in your tummy. It moves less and focuses more on finding a comfortable position. If your baby were to be born at this stage, although its lungs are not yet fully developed, medical technology can help to support your baby’s breathing giving it a good chance of survival. The womb may contract in preparation for childbirth. These contractions last around 20 seconds and you may not feel a thing, however, you may feel pain in your pelvis as it expands.

Week 33

Week 33

Your baby can measure up to 40 centimetres and weigh up to 1,700 grams by this stage. It now turns into the delivery position. In 95% of cases, the head points downwards and is the first part of the body to come into the world. Avoid trying to compensate for your excess weight by leaning backwards. This changes your perspective, as well as your centre of gravity.

Week 34

Week 34

Your baby's blood contains a higher level of calcium than your own. It needs this amount for its bones to grow. The placenta obtains the calcium your baby needs by tapping into your calcium reserves.

Week 35

Week 35

A green-black sticky mass known as meconium fills your baby's intestine. It is made up of cells and fat residues from the amniotic fluid, hairs, mucus and bile. This mass is excreted after birth. Most babies turn into their final delivery position by this stage at the latest. Your thoughts are focussed more and more on the arrival of your child…

Week 36

Week 36

The fine, downy hair (lanugo hair) covering your baby’s entire body falls out. Your baby does not yet have an immune system of its own. It gets its antibodies from you and is protected against everything you have developed antibodies against. You may experience irregular pre-labour contractions. Some of these may be strong and painful, but they don't happen frequently, nor do they occur at regular intervals. That is what makes these contractions different to those which you will experience during labour, those will happen at regular intervals. Now is the time to have your bag packed and ready for the hospital.

Week 37

Week 37

Your baby continues to grow and is already around 45 centimetres in size and weighs around 2,400 grams. Your placenta now measures between 20 and 25 centimetres, is 3 centimetres thick and weighs around 500 grams; Large enough to guarantee the exchange of nutrients and waste between you and your baby.

Week 38

Week 38

Your baby produces cortisone, a hormone that prepares the lungs for baby's first breath. From the moment your baby is born, its blood circulation is separate from your own and no longer connected to yours. If you are experiencing fear or uncertainty regarding the birth it's completely normal. Many pregnant women become extremely active just before they give birth.

Week 39

Week 39

Your little one has wrapped its arms around its chest, bent its legs and hardly moves at all at this stage. Don't worry if your baby doesn't move as frequently. After all, your baby is now around 50 centimetres in size and weighs around 3,000 grams.

Week 40

Week 40

There are many little signs to indicate that your baby will soon arrive – such as sudden tiredness or nausea. This is due to the hormonal changes designed to trigger the birth. Make your way to hospital when your waters break, or you notice bleeding, or if you have been having regular contractions every five to ten minutes, for over an hour at least.

Everything you need to know about childbirth

  • Preparation
  • The Birth
  • Your Newborn Baby
Preparation

Preparing for the big day!

There is a lot to think about in the run up to giving birth but thankfully there is also lots of help and advice available for expectant parents.

Attending antenatal classes is a great way of preparing both you and your partner for the big day. They are generally available from 20 weeks of pregnancy and are designed to prepare you physically and mentally for child birth, covering a wide range of topics including the development of your unborn baby, changes for you and your partner, your health and wellbeing, giving birth and caring for your baby. Arguably the biggest benefit of antenatal classes though is being able to meet other expectant parents; these classes are well known for the friendships and networks that form as expectant parents bond on their journey towards parenthood!

Selecting where to give birth

When it comes to choosing where and how you are going to give birth, there are a number of options for you to consider, whether it’s a traditional hospital birth, a home birth, a natural birth or even a water birth! The choice is endless! What is important though is that you choose an option that both you and your partner are comfortable with. Your doctor or midwife will be able to advise you of the merits of the various options.

 

What to pack in the hospital bag

As you approach the big day its best to be organised as it is impossible to predict exactly when your new bundle of joy will decide to make an appearance! From around week 36 it makes sense to pack a hospital bag because it means you are prepared and ready to go. You’ll need to pack carefully as normally there is only limited space on the maternity ward but practical items and a few home comforts will make your stay in hospital much more pleasurable.
The following list isn’t exhaustible but it’ll give you some inspiration as to what you might what to pack in your hospital bag:

• Nursing bras
• Breastfeeding pads, nipple shields and cream
• Nightie & dressing gown
• Nursing tops/vests – something that’s breastfeeding friendly!
• A change of clothes and a few pairs of underwear
• Slippers or comfy shoes
• Toiletries
• Lip balm
• Hair band
• Breastfeeding or pregnancy pillow
• Drinks and food – for both you and all those visitors you’re going to get!
• iPod or Tablet
• Phone/Camera and charger
• And of course for the journey home remember you’ll have one extra in the back of the car! So you’ll need a car seat, a babygro, nappies and a set of clothes to keep the little one warm: jackets, socks, hat etc

 
The Birth

The initial stages of childbirth

Signs that you are going into labour include your waters breaking, bleeding and regular contractions. These are contractions of the womb triggered by hormones. If the contractions continue over the course of an hour at intervals of between five and ten minutes, it is time to make your way to the hospital or birth centre or to call your midwife if you have opted for a home birth.

The childbirth process

The entire process of childbirth can be divided into three phases. The first phase is often the longest and is when the cervix opens to its full extent. The contractions are weak to begin with, with long intervals between them. This is followed by the second phase of labour when the long awaited event finally happens - your child is born. The final stage of labour lasts until the placenta is discharged along with the umbilical cord and the amnion. Then you can rest and bask in the joys of parenthood.

Pain relief during childbirth

Everyone knows that childbirth can be painful, even extremely painful. How much pain you will experience depends largely on what course the birth takes and your individual pain threshold. We do know, however, that an exact knowledge of the childbirth process helps reduce the pain. So find out in good time about the various pain treatment options available to you during childbirth. The pain relief available ranges from homeopathic remedies, relaxation techniques and acupuncture, gas and air (entonox), right through to injected pain killers and epidural anaesthesia (peridural anaesthesia or PDA for short). Whatever you decide, you should make sure that your wishes are taken seriously – whether you want to do without painkillers completely or want the pain to be taken away right from the start.

 
Your Newborn Baby

Baby's first feed

The sucking and swallowing reflex of your newborn baby reaches its peak up to two hours after birth. If you hold your baby in your arms, its sense of smell will help it find your breast and the best baby food in the world. Crying also helps this process. It releases hormones which are essential for breastfeeding. Fear and stress can also make breastfeeding impossible for both mother and child. So take your time and make sure you receive a good breastfeeding consultation. In many hospitals, breastfeeding consultation already forms an integral part of puerperium care. Even if it doesn't work right away, experience shows that practically every mother can breastfeed. So there’s nothing to worry about.

Understanding your baby

Your newborn child is an individual. It will kick, cry, sleep and be hungry whenever and for however long it likes. In order to build a strong bond with your baby, it is important that you get to know each other. The best way to do this is to spend lots of time together right from the start. Soon you will be able to read your baby's different bodily signals and noises. And your baby will also be able to tell from your touch and tone of voice how you are feeling. If you understand each other, breastfeeding often goes more smoothly too.

Postnatal care

For the initial period after your baby is born, you will receive puerperium care with a midwife. They will be able to advise you on breastfeeding, as well as monitoring the post-birth vaginal discharge and the reforming of the womb. During the first few weeks after birth, both your midwife and health visitor will be able to offer further advice and support and tips on how best to handle your newborn baby.