When you're expecting you can't help but compare bumps with friends and you'll find that everyone will have their opinion to add in about how you're carrying and what this means. Sometimes it can be quite alarming if friends or family (or even a stranger in the street!) are 'critical' of how you're carrying your baby, and even off-the-cuff comments can leave you wondering if your bump is 'normal'. So, to give you the confidence you need to embrace your blossoming bump, we explain everything you need to know about your 'baby belly'.
When will I start to show?
While you'll start to notice other changes to your body shape early on in your pregnancy it's unlikely that your bump will start to become 'obvious' until you reach your second trimester. This is because, despite the speed at which your baby is growing, your uterus doesn't actually reach a size where it begins to protrude above your pubic bone until somewhere between 12 - 16 weeks. While your jeans may have been feeling tight around your tummy before, it's at this point that you'll start to notice a proper pregnancy bump developing.
When exactly you'll begin to show depends on a number of different factors so you may notice you develop a little bump slightly earlier or later than this. For example, first time pregnancies often don't show until later as the uterine muscles tend to be stronger than on women who have experienced previous pregnancies. Similarly, women who have strong abdominal muscles may not notice a bump developing until later as their core muscles are effectively holding the bump in. Curvy Mums-to-be may not start to obviously show until later while, conversely those who are particularly slim may notice their baby bump soon on.
Does size matter?
The size of your bump does matter, but not as much as you would think. Having a big bump doesn't necessarily mean you'll have a big baby and vice versa as a huge number of factors influence how big and how fast your bump will grow.
- Height - Taller women have more height to carry the baby and so can sometimes appear as if they have smaller bumps than shorter ladies.
- Weight - Slimmer women can sometimes appear as if they have bigger bumps as the contrast is all the more noticeable in proportion with the rest of their body.
- Posture - If you slouch your bump may look bigger as your stomach muscles are more relaxed.
- Fitness - Super-fit women with 'abs of steel' may appear as if they have smaller bumps as their stomach muscles hold in their baby bump more tightly.
- Babies - Parents who have experienced other pregnancies may notice that they have a bigger bump the second time around as their uterine muscles stretch more to accommodate the growing foetus.
- Fluid - The amount of amniotic fluid surrounding your baby will have an impact on how large or small your baby bump appears.
- Twins - Mums-to-be who are expecting more than one baby tend to have bigger bumps simply because they have double the babies inside.
- Size - Sometimes bigger bumps are just down to bigger babies and smaller bumps down to smaller babies.
Throughout your pregnancy your midwife will gauge your baby's development by measuring your fundal height. This is the distance in centimeters between the top of your uterus and your pubic bone and is roughly equivalent to the number of weeks pregnant you are. Your midwife will use this as a check to ensure your baby is developing as expected and should you be measuring small or large for your stage of pregnancy you may be referred for further investigation just to make sure everything is ok.
Is bump shape important?
The old wives tale goes that if you're carrying your bump high and wide (like a watermelon) then you're expecting a girl. Whereas 'football' shaped bumps (low and carried out front) mean that you'll have a boy. While some people swear by this old adage it's not exactly scientific fact and there is little evidence to suggest that the shape of your bump bears any relation to whether you're having a boy or girl.
While bump shape, just like bump size, varies greatly from woman to woman depending on their size and genetics it can, towards the end of your pregnancy, give you an idea of how your baby is lying. If your bump has a wide look to it, it may mean that your baby is lying side on whereas if, towards the end of your pregnancy, you are still carrying your bump high it can mean your baby has settled in a breech position.
Second and subsequent pregnancies are likely to sit lower and wider than first time babies as uterine muscles have already been stretched and will support baby in a slightly more relaxed way.
Your bump is likely to change shape as you progress through your pregnancy and your body expands to accommodate a growing baby, so you shouldn't let any alterations in the height or width of your bump cause you any concern.
What about after the birth?
Once your baby arrives don't be too surprised if your bump doesn't go down right away. It usually takes approximately 4 weeks for your uterus to shrink back down to its pre-pregnancy size. The excess fluid your body stored up during pregnancy will also be expelled during this time. However, exactly how long it will take for your tummy to regain its pre-pregnancy appearance will depend on how strong your stomach muscles are and how much baby weight you put on.
Are you embracing your bump or are you still learning to live with an extra bit out front? Whatever your situation why not find support, giggles and friendship with others in a similar situation on the AskBaby forums.