Your pregnancy

Pregnancy: week by week guide

17 min read

This guide covers the major pregnancy milestones to help you prepare for having a baby, with information about scans and choosing where to give birth.

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You’re having a baby – congratulations! We’re here to guide you through the different stages in pregnancy, your baby’s development, midwife appointments and everything else you need to know over these life-changing nine months.

Pregnancy first trimester milestones before week 12

6 weeks pregnant: first steps and symptoms

Whether it’s two lines on a home pregnancy test, spotting some early symptoms or getting the positive result from your doctor, finding out you’re pregnant is very special. You’re going to have a baby!

In the first weeks, you may notice some common pregnancy symptoms like morning sickness, tiredness, sore breasts and cramping. Although you probably don’t look any different yet, your body is busy preparing for the months ahead.

As soon as you know you’re pregnant, it’s a good idea to arrange your booking appointment. You can book it directly with your local maternity unit, or speak to your GP.

Find out how to book by using our search function to find your local midwives.

8 weeks pregnant: booking appointment

By now, you’ve probably missed your second period and the news of your impending arrival may have started to sink in a bit more.

Between weeks 8 and 12 you’ll have your first official antenatal appointment, which is called your booking appointment. This is usually with a midwife, although in some cases it will be with a doctor. You’ll receive a lot of information on everything from how to stay healthy during your pregnancy to the screening tests that you will be offered.

You’ll also be asked if you’ve thought about where you’d like to give birth. It may seem really early to start thinking about the birth when you’re still getting used to the idea that you’re pregnant, but the more prepared you are the better conversations you can have with your midwife or doctor.

Use our Birth Choice tool for a first look at whether giving birth at home, in a labour ward or in a birth centre might be best for you.

10 weeks pregnant: pelvic floor exercises and prescriptions

Around this week, the placenta has developed enough for you to pass oxygen and nutrients directly to your baby, connecting the two of you in a whole new way. Thankfully, if you’ve been suffering with early pregnancy symptoms like tiredness and nausea, this means that you’re likely to feel some relief soon.

You might not be thinking about running a marathon in the next year, but it’s never too early to start doing your pelvic floor exercises, which will help strengthen your muscles for the birth and recovery afterwards.

You get free NHS prescriptions and NHS dental care when you’re pregnant and until your baby’s first birthday, which can help you save money to put towards baby products. To qualify for free treatment, you need to apply for a maternity exemption certificate – remember to ask for a form at your booking appointment.

12 weeks pregnant: first scan

If pregnancy has felt slightly unreal until now, that’s all about to change with the dating scan, where you will get to see your baby for the first time. Although it’s often known as the 12-week scan, this can happen any time between weeks 8 and 14.

At the scan, the sonographer will calculate your due date by measuring your baby from head to bum. The due date is a rough estimate of when your baby will be born, but a baby is considered full term if they’re born anywhere from 37 to 42 weeks, so try not to get too obsessed on that one date (yes, easier said than done!).

The sonographer will also check that your baby is developing as they should be at this stage. If you choose to, you can have additional screening tests.

Now that the first trimester is coming to an end, you may be thinking a bit more about how you’d like to give birth. The place where you give birth can affect everything from which pain relief you’ll have access to and if you’ll be able to use a birth pool, to how likely you are to know your midwife.

Read our guide on why choosing where to give birth matters for more information.

Second trimester pregnancy milestones

14 weeks pregnant: announcing your pregnancy

Whether you post a bump picture on Facebook or sit down with your parents over a coffee; if you’ve held off from letting everyone know that a baby is about to join your family, you may now be ready to shout the good news from the rooftops.

The start of the second trimester is also a good time to start thinking about when you will tell work that you’re pregnant. As soon as you’ve let them know that you’re expecting, your employer has a legal obligation to make sure that your working environment is safe for you and your baby.

This means that they have to do a health and safety assessment, you don’t have to do overtime, you’re entitled to paid time off work for antenatal appointments and you have more safeguards in case you’re threatened with redundancy.

The best thing is that you don’t have to wait until you have the MATB1 certificate for your maternity rights to kick in – just telling your employer about your pregnancy is enough.

16 weeks pregnant: shopping for your baby

It’s time for your second antenatal appointment, and if you’re lucky you may be able to listen to your baby’s heartbeat with a doppler for the first time.

If you’re having a straightforward pregnancy, this appointment will probably be with a midwife, but if your pregnancy is classed as higher risk, it may be with a consultant doctor instead.

In the second trimester, your energy levels tend to peak and this could be a great time to start preparing for baby essentials you’ll soon need.

Finding the best child car seat or pushchair can be daunting, with so many products to choose from. Our pushchair chooser tool will help you find the best type for you, while you can put your mind at ease by choosing a Best Buy baby car seat, knowing it has passed tough Which? safety tests and should be easy to fit, too.

Maternity leave can be a tricky time financially for many families, so check what free and cheap baby stuff is available that could help you with your budget.

18 weeks pregnant: mid-pregnancy scan

When you’re between 18 and 20 weeks pregnant you’ll have your second NHS scan, a foetal anomaly scan.

Your baby will definitely seem a lot more, well, baby-like, to you now and might even yawn, suck their thumb or stretch out a leg or arm while you’re having the scan done. If you want to, you may be able to find out if your baby is a boy or a girl at this scan, but bear in mind that it’s not always 100% accurate.

The sonographer will do a detailed check of your baby’s health and also have a look at the position of your placenta. If the placenta is too low down, it could mean that you have to have a c-section. But as a first step, you’ll be asked to come to a scan later on in your pregnancy to see if it has moved further up.

The position of the placenta can also affect how early you may feel your baby kick. If the placenta is on the front of your uterus it could take a few weeks longer before you feel your baby move for the first time.

After you’ve felt those first flutters, it will be another few weeks at least until anyone else will be able to feel the kicks on the outside of your bump.

20 weeks pregnant: planning for the birth

Reaching the halfway point in your pregnancy is a real milestone. Suddenly, you’re just a few months away from meeting your baby! It’s a good idea to start preparing for the birth around this stage, so you have plenty of time to get organised. 

We have a lot of information on maternity units near you that can make researching where to give birth a bit easier. For example, if you’re very keen to use water in labour, you can find out how many birth pools your local birth centre or labour wards have as well as how many women have a water birth there.

Some hospitals and birth centres offer tours of the maternity units so you can take a look around and see how you would feel about giving birth there. Bring our checklist of useful questions to ask the midwife.

You may also want to visit your dentist when you’re at this stage as pregnancy hormones can affect your gums. Luckily, dental care and prescriptions are free when you’re pregnant and for the first year after your baby’s born. To qualify, your doctor or midwife can give you a form to get a maternity exemption certificate.

22 weeks pregnant: arranging maternity leave

Have you thought about antenatal classes yet? It could be a good idea to start looking. Although classes don’t usually start until you’re around 30 weeks, they can get booked up quickly.

Ask your midwife which NHS antenatal classes are available where you live or have a look at our guide to the different options, including NCT courses if you’re thinking about signing up to private classes.

It’s also a good time to start planning your maternity leave. You have until the end of your 25th week to let your employer know which day you want your statutory maternity leave to start. You’ll need to hand in your MATB1 certificate (available from your midwife or doctor) to get statutory maternity pay.

You can read the Which? Consumer Rights guide to maternity and paternity rights for more information about how to plan your leave, including handy template letters to hand in to your employer.

You may also want to set up a will to make sure that your legal and financial affairs are protected and a guardian of your choice is appointed for your baby if something should happen to you. 

Find the right place to give birth

Discover whether birth in a local labour ward, birth centre or at home would be best for you.

Find your best fit

24 weeks pregnant: preparing for life with a newborn

While your little one is busy growing at lightning speed on the inside, you may be starting to think about their early weeks on the outside.

If this is your first baby, you’ll have a midwife appointment around now. Midwives are there to help you with postnatal care as well as pregnancy and birth, so you can ask always ask them questions about looking after your newborn.

If you’re planning to breastfeed, reading up on what a good latch looks like, how often newborns feed and how to spot any problems can help you feel prepared. Remember to check if the maternity unit where you want to give birth has a Baby Friendly status as you’re then more likely to find good breastfeeding support.

Some women choose to express colostrum in the final weeks of pregnancy or want to start pumping milk after the birth. This can be done through hand expressing, but you may find it easier to use a pump – check out our 2018 reviews of manual and electric breast pumps for help on how to choose the best one for you. We also have advice on other breastfeeding essentials like nursing bras and maternity pillows which can make the early days of breastfeeding a bit easier. 

Looking beyond feeding, your baby will get through nappies at shocking speed so have a think about whether or not you will want to use reusable or disposable nappies. Also, visit our cot bed reviews if you’re thinking about buying one before your baby is born.

26 weeks pregnant: at home or away

If you’re thinking about having a home birth, now’s the time to look into booking a birth pool and start planning what other bits and pieces you will need when welcoming your baby at home.

At the end of the second trimester, some first-time parents-to-be plan to go away for a final holiday as a couple (aka babymoon).

If you’re looking to go abroad, check with your airline to see if they have any restrictions for pregnant women. They usually allow you to fly up until you’re around 32 to 36 weeks pregnant, as long as you’re healthy and not carrying twins.

When in the air, make sure you use support socks and get up and move around the plane every half an hour or so, as you’re at a higher risk of deep vein thrombosis when you’re pregnant.

It’s also a good idea to bring your maternity notes, travel insurance details and EHIC card (if travelling within Europe) on your holiday so you have peace of mind if you need medical care abroad unexpectedly.

Third trimester pregnancy milestones

28 weeks pregnant: midwife appointment

Now that you’re in your third trimester, you’ll be seeing your midwife or doctor a lot more often. At every appointment, your midwife will do a number of routine checks to make sure that both you and your baby are doing well and that you aren’t at risk of developing pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes or other pregnancy health conditions.

At your 28-week appointment, your midwife will take a blood test to check if you’re anaemic, and you’ll be offered an anti-D injection if you have RhD negative blood.

Many women start to experience new symptoms in the third trimester, so the appointments are a great opportunity to ask your midwife for advice on dealing with the less amazing aspects of pregnancy (yes, heartburn and pelvic girdle pain – we’re looking at you!).

Make the most of your antenatal appointments with our seven quick tips on how to talk to your midwife.

30 weeks pregnant: kicks count

Feeling your baby kick, punch, roll around, and any other acrobatic moves you can imagine is probably a very familiar feeling to you by now.

It’s a good idea to make a note of your baby’s pattern of movements so that you notice if this changes too much. In particular, get in touch with your midwife or triage at your maternity unit if your baby is moving a lot less than usual. It’s always better to get some reassurance than spend too long worrying about whether to call someone or not.

Chances are everything is fine, but your midwife may want you to go in for a check so they can monitor your baby’s heartbeat and movements. You can bring your birth partner or another family member or friend with you for support. 

Around this week, you’ll be having a routine midwife appointment if you’re expecting your first baby. As a first-time mum, you’ll have a few extra check-ups during your pregnancy, compared to women who have given birth before, to make sure that everything is progressing as expected.

32 weeks pregnant: packing your hospital bag

With just two months until your due date, you may start to feel like the birth is right around the corner.

If you haven’t yet decided where you’d like to give birth, don’t worry. You can change your mind about where you want to have your baby at any point during your pregnancy, but making the choice in advance can help you prepare for the birth.

You can use our Birth Choice tool to find local birth centres and maternity units that are the best fit for you. Interested in a home birth? The tool will also tell you how to arrange one. If you have any further questions about the maternity options where you live, check in with your midwife or doctor.

Wherever you’re planning to give birth, it’s a good idea to put a few essentials together in a hospital bag and start planning your route and journey time to the birth centre or hospital so you’re prepared whatever may come. And anyway, packing and organising a bag is great use of that nesting instinct!

34 weeks pregnant: writing a birth plan

While it’s impossible to know how your birth is going to play out, writing a birth plan can be very helpful both for you, your birth partner and the people looking after you when you’re in labour.

At this week’s appointment, your midwife might go through your thoughts on the birth with you. It is the perfect opportunity to ask any questions you or your partner have around the different stages of labour and when to go to the hospital or birth centre, or call your home birth midwife.

It’s useful to prepare for this talk, for example by reading up on your pain relief options during labour, as what you may want to use, and why, is a very personal decision.

Learning about the pros and cons of epidurals and opiods can help you decide if you think either of them are the right choice for you, and knowing how to use a TENs machine or water in labour can help you make the most of natural pain relief methods.

What is it really like to give birth? Watch our videos where nine mums talk about their experiences.

36 weeks pregnant: final preparations

In just one short week, your baby will be considered full term – another milestone for you both! However, you probably don’t need to be told that your baby is getting ready to be born. She or he is running out of space in there, which is likely to make you feel quite uncomfortable at this point.

As long as everything has been going well with your pregnancy, birth centres and home birth teams are usually happy to look after you from your 37th week if you go into labour. You can check the criteria for your local birth centre here.

If your baby is in the breech position when your midwife has a feel of your bump at this week’s appointment, they will offer to try to turn the baby around to head down position (this is done at the hospital). If you don’t want to try to turn the baby, or if it’s not successful, your midwife or doctor can explain your options for giving birth to your breeched baby vaginally or by a c-section.

Remember that your midwife can advise you on everything from the vitamin K injection for your newborn baby to postnatal depression or establishing breastfeeding, so don’t be afraid to ask any questions you might have as your pregnancy is drawing to an end.

38 weeks pregnant: induction and elective c-section

This is it – your baby is ready to be born and labour could start at any point in the next few weeks. You’ll have another midwife appointment this week (possibly your last) and it’s the perfect time to ask any last-minute birth questions you may have.

Elective c-sections are often planned for the 38th or 39th week of pregnancy, so if you know you’re having a section, you probably already have an idea of which day you’re going to lock eyes with your baby for the very first time.

If you’ve been diagnosed with certain pregnancy conditions, like pre-eclampsia, your consultant may also think that the best thing is for your baby to be born around this week through an induction.

Now’s the time to make sure you have everything you’re going to need for the birth, including your hospital bag, wherever you plan to give birth, and a baby car seat if you’re going to go home by car. The last thing you need with a newborn baby is to be scrambling around in a hospital car park trying to fix a car seat into place.

40 weeks pregnant: after your due date

Is your due date here but your baby isn’t? You may feel both disappointed and fed up if you’re still pregnant at this point, but just as many women go into labour after their due date as before, so hang on in there – you’ll soon meet your baby!

You’ll have a midwife appointment this week if this is your first baby, and another one at 41 weeks if your baby hasn’t arrived by then. Your midwife may offer to do do a membrane sweep to see if that will get your labour started – it’s up to you whether this is something you want to have done.

Your midwife, or doctor, will also explain your options if you don’t go into labour spontaneously by 42 weeks, when you will be considered overdue. Most women choose to be induced at a hospital, but you can also opt to have increased monitoring of your baby’s health instead. Either way, you will be able to talk you through the pros and cons of each option to make the best decision for you.

Whenever and however your baby makes an appearance, the moment you meet them for the first time will be special.

After the birth: Life with your new baby

The birth is the beginning of your new life together with your baby, and you’re bound to experience a range of emotions in the early days and weeks as you’re recovering and bonding with your newborn.

You’ll have midwife appointments after the birth, to make sure your baby’s doing well and that you are recovering physically as well as coping emotionally. Remember to ask any questions you may have, whether that’s around your recovery after a vaginal birth, what to expect after a c-section, or anything about your baby’s early development.

You may find that feeding your baby is a breeze, but you’re equally likely to find it a bit of a struggle to get started with breastfeeding. Make sure you have access to all the right breastfeeding support to help you at this time – nobody is expecting you to be an expert.

Above all, be kind to yourself, leave the housework to your partner (especially if they’re taking paternity leave) or any other friend or family member who offers to help, and enjoy all those new baby cuddles.


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