a pregnant woman holding her belly

Pregnancy is an exciting time for parents. You’ll most likely have a lot of questions about your upcoming journey. The good news is you’ve got some time to gather information, calm your fears, and prepare for the realities of parenthood. 

The experienced obstetrician-gynecologists (ob-gyns) at NewYork-Presbyterian can help answer questions and provide you with the highest level of care to keep you and your baby healthy throughout your pregnancy. Our focus is prenatal care, which considers your unique health needs, personal philosophies, and preferences. 

Common Pregnancy Questions

Pregnancy lasts about 40 weeks, starting from the first day of your last normal menstrual period. The weeks are grouped into three trimesters. While each day may bring additional questions, there’s one constant: the obstetric team at NewYork-Presbyterian is here to guide you. Here are some answers to your most common pregnancy queries.

First Trimester

Even before taking that first pregnancy test, you may experience pregnancy symptoms. Whether its fatigue, nausea, breast tenderness, or intense food cravings, these may be signs you’re expecting. Pregnancy symptoms may last for the entire first trimester.

How soon can you take a pregnancy test?

Some home pregnancy tests claim you can use them even before your first missed period, but they’ll be more accurate if you wait until the first day of your missed period. Your body doesn’t start to make the pregnancy hormone, human chorionic gonadotropin, or hCG, until about ten days after conception. Professionals advise that the earlier someone takes the test, the harder it is for the test to detect the hCG. If your periods are irregular, test about three weeks after unprotected sex.

How accurate are pregnancy tests?

Pregnancy tests—whether they are done at home or at the doctor’s office—are about 99 percent accurate. If you have a positive result, you should call your doctor to schedule an appointment for prenatal care. If your pregnancy test is negative, you may have taken it too early. Take another test in a few days. Call your doctor if it’s still negative but you still haven’t gotten your period. They can do a blood test to check for sure.

When do pregnancy symptoms start?

Pregnancy symptoms can begin as early as five weeks into pregnancy or a week after your first missed period. The most common signs are nausea, breast tenderness, increased urination, and fatigue. Most women experience symptoms by about week eight of pregnancy.

Why do pregnant women feel tired?

One of the first signs of pregnancy may be feeling so exhausted you want to crawl into bed and stay there all day. You can blame pregnancy hormones, specifically the rise in progesterone in the first trimester. Pregnancy can also decrease blood pressure and blood sugar levels, which can tire you out. The good news: your energy should improve once you get into the second trimester.

Is cramping during pregnancy normal?

You may experience cramping very early in the pregnancy—before you realize that you’re expecting—due to the embryo implanting into your uterus. But you may also notice some cramping in the first trimester. This cramping may happen when you exercise or make a sudden movement like rolling over in bed. It’s caused by a uterine ligament spasm and/or irritation of nearby nerve fibers. It should go away on its own. Let your doctor know right away if cramping persists or worsens, as it could signal an ectopic pregnancy.

When do you begin showing during pregnancy?

Every woman is different, but most display a burgeoning belly by around week 16-20 of pregnancy. If they’ve had a previous pregnancy, they may “show” earlier.

When do pregnancy cravings start?

Up to 90 percent of all American women report pregnancy cravings, and around ¾ experience them by the 13th week of pregnancy. Top of the list? Chocolate, followed by high-calorie carbohydrates such as pizza and chips, and animal proteins like chicken and steak a close third.

What part of the breast hurts in early pregnancy?

There’s no one part of the breast that hurts more than the other, although you may notice that you’re extra sensitive and sore around your nipples. Your breasts may feel fuller or heavier and even tingle. 

When does pregnancy nausea start?

Like many pregnancy symptoms, nausea often varies among women. It can begin as early as a couple of weeks after you conceive or show up later in the trimester. Some women may notice their nausea resolve after a few weeks, and some find it continues throughout the pregnancy. While often referred to as “morning sickness,” pregnancy-related nausea can happen at any time or even in the evening.

When does heartburn start in pregnancy?

Heartburn can happen at any time, and for some women, it begins in the first trimester. Pregnancy hormones like progesterone relax the valve between your stomach and esophagus. As a result, stomach acid can back up, causing you to feel the burn. Eating smaller meals and sleeping propped up can help.

Second Trimester

Many early pregnancy symptoms such as fatigue and nausea may improve during the second trimester and sometimes even disappear. But even if this part of pregnancy seems smooth sailing, it’s essential to stay up to date on your pregnancy checkups. Aside from routine monitoring, you’ll have at least one ultrasound scan and glucose screening to check for gestational diabetes this trimester. 

What kind of breast changes are normal during pregnancy?

During the second trimester, your breasts may get bigger, thanks to a growth in both fat and milk glands. Your nipples may darken and develop small bumps. Your areolas—the dark areas around your nipples—may get larger, too. Towards the end of your pregnancy, a yellowish, sticky liquid may begin to leak from your nipples. This is called colostrum, and it’ll feed your baby the first few days after birth. 

When can you start to feel the baby move?

You can feel your baby move usually midway through your second trimester. Initially, it may feel like gentle flutters in your belly. Rest assured, your baby’s moved before, but they were too small for you to feel it. Second (or third, or fourth) time moms may notice these flutters earlier.

What should I eat during my second trimester of pregnancy?

Most pregnant women require about 2200 calories a day during their second trimester. Focus on foods rich in protein, calcium, and healthy fats, like omega-3s, and low in added sugars. In general, that means:

  • Grains like bread, cereal, rice, and pasta
  • Vegetables
  • Fruit
  • Dairies, such as milk, yogurt, or cheese
  • Poultry, fish, meat, dry beans, eggs, and nuts

Should I avoid certain types of foods during pregnancy?

While most foods are okay, at least in moderation, there are some you should keep off your plate. They include:

  • High mercury fish such as bigeye tuna (canned light tuna is safe), mackerel, orange roughy, swordfish, and shark.
  • Raw seafood (including uncooked sushi)
  • Unpasteurized dairy products, such as soft cheeses like brie, feta, and blue cheese
  • Alcohol
  • Herbal tea
  • More than 200 mg of caffeine (the equivalent of two eight-ounce cups of coffee)

How big is your uterus during pregnancy?

Your uterus goes from the size of a small one-ounce lemon to the size of a two-pound watermelon when you give birth. It will shrink back down to its pre-pregnancy size about six weeks postpartum.

Third Trimester

You’re in the home stretch, but your baby—and your uterus—still have plenty of growing to do. You’ll see your health care provider more frequently, including the possibility of weekly visits once you get closer to your delivery date.

When do more regular checkups start?

Regular checkups may begin once you enter your third trimester. From now on, you will see your health care provider every two weeks. Once you reach week 36, you’ll have weekly prenatal visits until you deliver. These visits are often short and sweet, and that’s okay. You’ll still need to go to them.

When do cervical checks start in pregnancy?

Cervical checks generally begin around 36 -38 weeks. As you near your due date, your cervix may thin and soften as it prepares to dilate. This is normal and your body’s way of getting your birth canal open and ready. 

During the last month of pregnancy, your doctor may check your progress by doing a quick cervical check. Not all physicians do them, though—and not all women want them—so you can always discuss whether or not you need them with your provider.

What does it mean if my doctor tells me I’m dilated? 

The cervix thins and widens as your body prepares for birth. The widening of the cervix is referred to as dilation. Before you get too excited, remember that you can stay one centimeter dilated for days or even weeks. Other clues that a woman may be approaching labor include the loss of her mucus plug, water breaking, and increased contractions. However, not all women may experience all (or any) of these signs.

Labor & Delivery

While many pregnant people may worry about not knowing when they are in labor, it is usually quite clear once it happens. Medical professionals characterize labor as intense contractions increasing in frequency and intensity over time. 

Strong signs of labor may include experiencing contractions that come every five to ten minutes. Typically, a health provider will tell pregnant people to call when the contractions are every five minutes, last for 1 minute, for at least 1 hour. Some may call this the 5-1-1 rule. 

Others may include water breaking or seeing bloody vaginal mucus. If you’re in doubt, you can call your provider, who may tell you to head to the labor and delivery unit.  

When do most women go into labor?

The average length of pregnancy is 40 weeks. But it’s just that: an average. Most women go into labor between 38 and 41 weeks of their pregnancy. 

How does birth feel?

For many, contractions are the most memorable part of labor. Contractions are when your uterine muscles tighten up and then relax. These can feel like anything, from menstrual cramps to cramping associated with an intense stomach ache. 

These contractions last for up to a minute and come five to ten minutes apart (they get more intense and closer together over time.) Usually, the pain is so bad you can’t walk or talk. At some point during labor, your water may break. Water breaking may feel like a gentle tickle or a big rush of fluid. 

How much weight do you lose after giving birth?

Don’t pressure yourself to lose weight quickly, as your body needs time to rest and heal after delivery. Each woman loses postpartum weight at their own time and pace. Medical professionals advise pregnant patients to have lost all their pregnancy weight by six months postpartum. 

How long do you bleed after giving birth?

You’ll have lochia, or vaginal bleeding, for about six weeks after delivery. It will be heaviest the first ten days, then ease off. This process is nature’s way of getting rid of all the extra blood and tissue your body uses during pregnancy. 

Let your doctor know if your bleeding is very heavy (more than a pad an hour) and/or contains clots bigger than a quarter.

How long does it take to heal after giving birth?

Don’t expect to bounce back in a few days. Women typically feel better in six to eight weeks. Your doctor can help you develop a recovery plan that works for you.

Get Care

Trust NewYork-Presbyterian for your Pregnancy Needs

If you’re pregnant, you are in good hands at NewYork-Presbyterian. We deliver more babies in New York City and Westchester combined than any other hospital in New York. We offer a variety of labor and delivery services for women and pregnant people. See how we can help you in the journey of parenthood by viewing our labor and delivery services.