When do you start showing in pregnancy and when will others notice your belly for the first time? This is one of the main questions you will ask yourself when you first learn you are pregnant.
Anything small can be troubling during pregnancy, especially if it is the first one. For example, while looking at other expectant mothers, a woman begins to worry: why are their bellies already growing, and I’m still not?
Even a doctor won’t be able to give a precise answer to this question because each woman’s pregnancy progresses uniquely, and the belly growth will start at different times for each woman and each pregnancy she may have.
In some cases, it is slightly noticeable from the first trimester; although the reason is not related to fetal growth but to increased water and bloating. In others, it is not practically released until after 6 to 7 months.
After all, a rounded belly is an obvious sign of an interesting life experience, which is impatiently awaited by every expectant mother.
In which week of pregnancy does the belly start to develop?
Various women’s forums are full of revelations: in some pregnant women, the belly begins to develop from the 8th week of pregnancy, in others from the 12th week, and for certain cases, it is not noticeable until the 30th week.
But the keyword in these revelations is precisely the “belly”. Many women mistakenly think that the belly should expand early in pregnancy and are confusing concepts of “belly growth” and “uterus growth”.
The growth and increase in the belly size during the first months of pregnancy are not associated with uterus growth, the woman’s organs do not begin to develop vigorously until 16 weeks after conception when the embryo starts to increase significantly.
A growing belly at the beginning of pregnancy has completely different reasons: It may increase due to excessive gas accumulation in the intestine, or to the rapid weight gain associated with excessive eating and high-calorie food intake.
Until the 11th week of pregnancy, your baby is still an embryo. He doesn’t need a lot of space right now! Instead, you may feel a little larger in the middle, as your uterus expands in order to carry your little child.
Around the first 12 weeks, the uterus gradually grows rounder until it reaches the size of a grapefruit. This is when your belly may start forming.
The period between 12 and 16 weeks are most commonly considered as the beginning of belly growth. But if this is not your first pregnancy, you can start showing earlier since your uterus and abdominal muscles may have already been stretched during your last pregnancy.
At the 16th week of pregnancy, the fetus is 12 cm long and weighs about 100 g. The uterus begins to stretch to fit your growing baby, this is when your belly may really start to show, and you can already see it protruding.
Doctors say that normally the uterus begins to increase from the 16th week, and after about 20 weeks, the belly is already clearly visible to others, especially if a woman’s clothes are tight.
Generally, at that time, expectant mothers visit stores or pregnancy services to renew their wardrobes. But if you think your belly is not growing, you should contact your specialist or have an ultrasound scan done to get rid of your concerns.
From this time on, the obstetrician-gynecologist will measure the concave belly circumference and the uterus height.
Why Do Pregnant Women Show At Different Times?
It is quite difficult not to compare pregnant women’s bellies! Now, we understand that during pregnancy, the size, shape, and growth period of the belly are very individual. So, what factors determine when you start showing in pregnancy?
For the first pregnancy, a belly will appear a little later than for the second or third one. This is due to the fact that, for abdominal muscles that have already undergone stretching, it is easier to adapt to the new posture.
Abdominal and belly muscles stretching is a little slower during the first pregnancy, as they are not yet prepared for an accelerated uterus growth.
The rate of belly development during pregnancy depends on a woman’s body growth and construction. It should be noted that in females with narrow hips, the belly becomes round more quickly than in those with large hips.
For thin and skinny girls, the uterus only grows forward, so their bellies are visible more quickly.
Yes, your genes can affect the time of your belly growth, its size, and shape. Therefore, ask your mother or grandmother at what time of pregnancy their bellies started to show.
The fetus size, growth, and development.
The bigger and faster the baby is, the earlier and more visible the belly will be because the uterus will develop more quickly.
The fetus position
Uterus growth and belly size in a pregnant woman are affected by the baby’s position in the uterus. If the embryo is attached closer to the back wall of the uterus, the belly will be more visible a little later than in the previous presentation.
With a sedentary lifestyle, excessive nutrition and fat accumulation in the stomach will make the growth of your belly noticeable earlier. On the other hand, exercising and stronger abdominal muscles will make your belly visible a little later.
How does the doctor control the growth of your belly?
Abdominal circumference measurement and compliance with norms are performed at the 16th week of obstetrics. The average increase in the circumference of the growing belly is 2 to 3 cm in volume; measures are taken every 2 weeks.
From then on, the obstetrician-gynecologist will regularly measure your uterus size and monitor the intra-uterine development of the fetus, starting around the 20th week, to ensure your belly growth is on the right way.
The uterus dimensions are measured with a measuring tape, and the results are then compared to standard values representing the belly’s growth rate during pregnancy.
Any deviations detected from the standards allow the obstetrician-gynecologist to identify possible pregnancy problems by performing time control tests or additional examinations.
Your doctor records all measurement data in your pregnancy’s medical file. The data allows you to track and control the baby’s growth and development, as well as to learn more about how your pregnancy progresses.
Note that in a normal physiological process of pregnancy, uterus length refers to the number of weeks. As an example, at 12 weeks, a uterus is 12 centimeters high. And at this stage, it is too early to talk about a significant rounding belly.
How to measure your belly circumference during pregnancy
From the 12th to 16th week, belly growth can be measured by a partner, a mother, a friend,… etc. In short, people who are in constant communication with you and who know your usual parameters.
Keep in mind that a rounded belly should be measured with a measuring tape in a horizontal position on a flat surface. No measurements are performed with a full bladder.
When measuring your belly, the measuring tape at the back should pass below your waist, where the spinal curve is located, and go through your navel at the front.
Unless there is a health condition such as diabetes or abnormal fetal development, most women will produce a baby the right size for their pelvis to have a normal birth. Your baby’s changing position can sometimes make your belly smaller or bigger at other times.
In addition, belly size is affected by the amniotic fluid amount, which performs very important functions for pregnancy and the baby’s life. The volume of amniotic fluid is variable, its quantity varies according to a pregnancy’s duration.
Slow belly growth can be explained by the mother’s large pelvis, when the uterus develops first on the sides, then only forward, or by insufficient nutrition in a pregnant woman.
If your belly looks small and its growth rate does not match the expected week of pregnancy, it may be an incorrect estimate of pregnancy duration or may be the result of fetal pathology development.
If the belly grows very quickly and its circumference far exceeds the norms, this may be a sign that the fetus is developing, so that the belly grows faster, in advance of the standard indicators.
Multiple pregnancies are a common cause of rounded belly in the first trimester, up to the 16th week. A woman’s uterus with twin or triplet protrudes above the pubic bone after 12 weeks: this already complicates its lodge in the pelvic cavity.
Pockets and significant weight gain in a pregnant woman can also lead to increased belly size. In this case, it is advisable to reduce your calories intakes, adjust your diet, and avoid excessive salt consumption.
In case of any deviation from standard belly circumference measurements, consult a doctor to find out the real cause of a significant increase or, too slow belly growth and prescribe timely treatment.
Your doctor can not only measure your uterus length but also monitor your fetal heart rate with an obstetrical stethoscope. In any case, be sure not to miss any regular visits to the prenatal clinic and follow all OB/GYN instructions and recommendations.