Welcome to week twelve, the last week of your first trimester. Rejoice! For many women, the second trimester is much easier than the first and you’re almost there.
At twelve weeks, your baby is now 2.5 inches long and weighs half an ounce. All of its bodily structures are present and fully formed, though they still have some maturing to do. The digestive system is beginning to function, strengthening the muscles that it will use for processing food after emerging from the womb in 28 weeks. Bone marrow is busy producing white blood cells, hair is sprouting from the follicles, sweat glands have been formed, and the liver and spleen are producing antibodies and working to rid the developing body of old red blood cells.
Week 12 Ultrasound
This is the first week in which your baby’s external genitalia may be visible and clear enough for your doctor to be able to identify your baby’s sex. By week twelve, your baby’s proportions are beginning to even out and its facial features are more defined as the ears move closer to their correct spots and the eyes continue to develop. Your baby’s appendages are longer and more proportional as well and should be clearly visible on your week twelve ultrasound.
Changes in You
You are likely noticing some changes in your skin. Stretch marks are common during pregnancy and their severity largely depends on your skin’s elasticity. They usually fade after you give birth. Your areolas are darkening and the skin on your face and neck may have some dark patches on it—these will also fade after you give birth. The dark spots are called chloasma or a mask of pregnancy.
Pregnancy increases your risk of developing gum and teeth diseases, and your gums are much more prone to bleeding. You may want to consider taking extra dentist appointments and, of course, be especially diligent about maintaining your brushing and flossing routine, though to the increased risk of bleeding gums, be sure to perform all oral care gently.
Changes in your partner (Couvade syndrome)
Your partner may start noticing that they are experiencing pregnancy symptoms, despite not actually being pregnant. This is called couvade syndrome, also known as sympathetic pregnancy. Those afflicted may have abdominal pain, changes in appetite, sleeping problems, depression, decreased libido, and bloating—basically any symptoms that you may experience while pregnant. Much is not known about Couvade syndrome, including whether or not it is a physical condition that stems from psychological causes. If your partner does experience symptoms of Couvade syndrome, remember that becoming a parent is stressful and exciting for everyone involved—not just the person carrying the child. Encourage them to attend prenatal classes and appointments, read parenting books, and help prepare for the upcoming birth.
What You Should Be Doing
This week is a great time to start doing Kegel exercises, also called pelvic floor exercises, which help strengthen vaginal muscles and the muscles that support the bowels, uterus, and bladder. Strengthening these muscles can make childbirth much easier, as it teaches you to control the muscles used during labor and delivery, and it can also help maintain your bladder control during pregnancy (something that tends to decrease during this time) and prevent hemorrhoids. Kegels are even helpful after pregnancy, as they encourage the healing process and bladder control.
The greatest thing about Kegel exercises is that you can do them almost anywhere, at any time, because no one can tell that you are doing them. Kegels are performed like this:
- To find your Kegel muscles you can either insert your finger inside your vagina and try to squeeze the muscles around it or you can try to stop your urine midstream, though you should not do the latter more than a few times because repeatedly stopping your flow of urine increases your chance of urinary infections and weakens your muscles over time.
- Once you have found them, contract them and hold them for five to ten seconds, then release them. Do this ten to twenty times as often as you like. Make sure that you empty your bladder before doing these exercises.
End of Week 12
Once you make it to the end of week twelve, you should start breathing a little easier, for several reasons. For one, the risk of miscarriage drops considerably after the first trimester, and for many women, the negative side effects of pregnancy start to subside.