How long does pregnancy last?
Pregnancy is one of the most stressful yet amazing experiences that a woman’s body will go through in her life. From the moment of conception to the moment her child is born, the baby is going through constant changes within the womb. So how long does pregnancy last? Pregnancy usually lasts 9 months, although it can last less or more time in some cases. Pregnancy can be divided into several sections called trimesters in which the baby goes though different developmental stages.
The first trimester of pregnancy lasts for about the first three months of pregnancy, and is usually the time when a woman realizes that she is pregnant. During the first trimester a woman may experience nausea, extreme tiredness, headaches, mood swings, and several other symptoms. Some women may not have any symptoms at all, while some will experience very severe discomfort. Each woman and each pregnancy is different, so it is difficult to predict exactly which symptoms someone may experience, and how long each trimester will last.
The development of the baby during the first trimester is perhaps the most dramatic stage during pregnancy. During this stage the baby will go from being a tiny ball of cells to a recognizable baby with fingers, toes, and a face. At 4 weeks into the pregnancy the brain, spinal cord, heart and the first buds that will become arms and legs begin to form. By 8 weeks all of the baby’s major internal organs have begun to form, and their heart begins to beat. By 12 weeks and the end of the first trimester the baby is about 3 inches long and can move and even make a fist. It is around 12 weeks that the sexual organs show, and when an ultrasound can reveal if your baby is a boy or girl.
The second trimester lasts from week 13 of pregnancy to about week 28. During this time the symptoms that a woman experienced during the first trimester may go away, but are often replaced with new symptoms. Numbing of hands, swelling of ankles and face, and body aches are all symptoms that usually present themselves beginning in the second trimester.
Development of the baby during the second trimester is significant and includes many milestones. At around 16 weeks the skeleton is almost completely formed and the baby is able to suck with its mouth. By 20 weeks the baby can swallow and hear, and has fingernails, toenails, eyebrows, and even eyelashes. At 24 weeks and the end of the second trimester, the baby is almost fully formed and has footprints, fingerprints, and taste buds.
The third trimester is the final stage of pregnancy and lasts from about week 29 until around 40 weeks, or birth. During the last few months of pregnancy the quickly growing baby can have some effects on a woman. Because the baby grows rapidly during the third trimester, it takes up more and more room in the abdominal cavity. This can cause heartburn, shortness of breath, and frequent urination due to the weight of the baby putting pressure on the bladder and lungs.
The development of the baby is less dramatic in the third than in the first and second trimesters. The third trimester is mainly a time of weight gain for the baby. During this time the baby can open and close its eyes, sleep, and typically gain weight at a rate of half a pound per week. In the weeks leading up to birth, most babies will grow to be 6 to 9 pounds and 19 to 21 inches long.
When someone asks, “How long does pregnancy last?”, it is important to remember the many stages a baby goes through to be ready to survive outside of its mother. Through a development process of only 9 months a tiny ball of cells becomes a fully formed baby.