Pregnant Belly Shape And Size: A Month-By-Month Guide
Medically reviewed by Robyn Rosenblum, MD, FAAP
Since you’re tuned in to all things baby right now, you’ve no doubt noticed the size and shape of your pregnant friends’ bellies and wondered about your own.
Just like our bodies, pregnant tummies come in all shapes and sizes, but you probably still have questions.
Should you be concerned about the size of your belly? What affects the size and shape? When will you start showing? And what sort of growth should you expect each trimester?
Newton Baby is here to answer those questions! First, let’s talk about whether or not the size of your pregnant belly is something to add to your list of things to worry about.
Table Of Contents
- Does The Size Or Shape Of Your Pregnant Belly Matter?
- What Affects The Appearance Of Your Pregnant Belly?
- Your Pregnancy Belly Month By Month
- Common Concerns About Your Belly Size
- Post-Pregnancy Belly
- FAQs For Curious Moms-To-Be
- Celebrate Your Pregnant Belly
Does The Size Or Shape Of Your Pregnant Belly Matter?
What you see on the outside — the general size and shape of your belly — doesn’t have much to do with your baby, their health, or their size. A healthy baby can grow regardless of how your belly looks.
During your second trimester, your doctor will start taking fundal height measurements. This is a better way to tell whether your baby is big or small for their gestational age and can be an indicator of conditions like slow fetal growth or too much or too little amniotic fluid.
If you feel worried about the size or shape of your bump, by all means, talk with your doctor about it! They will check it out and put your mind at ease.
But for now, rest assured that no matter how your pregnant belly looks on the outside, as they say, “it’s what’s inside that counts.”
What Affects The Appearance Of Your Pregnant Belly?
Why do pregnant bellies look so different if babies develop the same on the inside? Several factors can affect how you carry your baby, when you start to show, and how big (or small) your belly looks.
Let’s talk about a few of them.
Your Muscle Tone
Yes, your pre-pregnancy six-pack (or lack thereof) does affect how your bump will look!
Having tight abs before you get pregnant might mean that you don’t show as quickly and that you carry your baby higher once the baby bump appears.
While abdominal muscle tone may affect the size and shape of your pregnant belly, remember you don’t need super-defined, fitness-model muscles to be healthy.
A gentle, safe exercise program during pregnancy is important, as is postpartum exercise.
Whether you’re tall or short can affect your bump.
Tall pregnant women with long torsos tend to carry in front since the baby has room to push up, while short pregnant women tend to have a belly that pushes outward and is a bit more spread out.
Due to body shape and height, pregnant bellies can also create an optical illusion. Your bump might seem bigger or smaller than your friend’s bump when really they’re the same size.
How Many Pregnancies You’ve Had
If this isn’t your first rodeo, you might show a baby bump sooner than you did with your first pregnancy and carry a bit differently.
This is because, for second and third (and fourth and fifth!) pregnancies, your ligaments, muscles, and uterus are already a bit stretched out.
How Many Babies You’re Carrying
If you’re expecting more than one baby, your pregnant belly will grow differently to accommodate twins or triplets.
Don’t be surprised if you show earlier than expected or your tummy grows to be quite big!
Your Pregnant Belly Month By Month
Since pregnant moms have bellies of all shapes and sizes and grow at different rates, there’s no way to say exactly what’s “normal.”
But, in this section, we’ll give you an idea of what you’ll see and feel, the size of your uterus, and the size of your baby each trimester.
Months 1 Through 3 (First Trimester)
Your first trimester lasts through week 12, so it’s the first three months of your pregnancy. Keep in mind that pregnancy lasts about 40 weeks, so you’re pregnant for closer to 10 months than nine.
What You’ll See
You may notice that your pants fit a bit differently, but some women don’t see any sort of baby bump during the first trimester!
As we mentioned, when you start showing depends on your body, whether you’ve had previous pregnancies, and how many babies you’re carrying.
Even if you feel a tiny bump, it’ll probably be a while before other people notice. If you think you are showing a bit at this stage, it could also be due to extra water or bloating.
The Size Of Your Baby
It makes sense that you don’t show much (or at all) during the first trimester because your baby is very tiny! Your baby goes from a fertilized egg at conception to being around three inches long by week 12.
The Size Of Your Uterus
Your uterus begins growing during the first trimester but can still stay snug inside your pelvis.
The American Pregnancy Association says that your pre-pregnancy uterus is the size of an orange, and by week 12 of gestation, “the uterus is the size of a grapefruit and starts to grow up and out of your pelvis, but still fits within it.”
Months 4 Through 7 (Second Trimester)
Your second trimester lasts a little over three months, from weeks 13 through 27, and is when your doctor will start taking fundal height measurements.
They’ll use a tape measure to check the length from your pubic bone to the top of the uterus. This gives your doctor an idea of whether your baby is small or large for their gestational age.
The fundal height is measured in centimeters, and after 24 weeks, this measurement is usually about the same as the week of pregnancy.
For example, if you’re 26 weeks pregnant, your fundal height measurement will be around 26 centimeters. If your measurement is off, it may only mean that your due date was calculated incorrectly.
Ask your doctor if you have questions or concerns.
What You’ll See
Sometime during the second trimester is when you’ll really start to notice your baby bump!
It will probably be visible to others at the beginning of the second trimester, and by the end of this trimester, your pregnant belly will likely be in full swing.
The Size Of Your Baby
Your baby does a lot of developing and growing during this trimester! They’ll go from around four inches long to 12 or 15 inches by the end.
The Size Of Your Uterus
With all the growing your baby is doing, how much does your uterus grow to accommodate them?
According to the American Pregnancy Association, “your uterus will grow to the size of a papaya. It no longer fits inside the pelvis. It will be situated midway between the navel and breasts.”
Months 8 Through 10 (Third Trimester)
What You’ll See
If you haven’t worn maternity clothes up to this point, the third trimester is when you’ll need them! Your pregnant belly will grow bigger by the day.
Some women look like they’re carrying a small basketball up to the day they go into labor, while others look like they’re about to pop during the whole trimester!
The Size Of Your Baby
During your third and last trimester, your baby grows to around 18 or 20 inches — how long they will be when you hold them for the first time!
The Size Of Your Uterus
This is as big as your uterus will get!
The American Pregnancy Association says, “The uterus will finish growing and be the size of a watermelon. When you reach full term, your uterus will extend from the pubic area to the bottom of your rib cage.”
There’s no doubt your uterus takes up a lot of room now! Because it pushes on your bladder, lungs, and stomach, you may have heartburn, shortness of breath, and find yourself making frequent trips to the bathroom at night.
In-between those trips to the bathroom, our Pregnancy Pillow will provide you with ultimate support to sleep comfortably.
Common Concerns About Belly Size
It’s normal to see one little change in your pregnant belly or notice a difference in your belly size compared to your friend with the same due date and begin to worry.
Let us ease your mind a bit by discussing some common concerns below.
A Small Belly
A small belly may indicate oligohydramnios, which is low amniotic fluid.
This condition can be diagnosed through an ultrasound. Additional symptoms include leaking amniotic fluid and a uterus that is smaller than expected for how long you are in your pregnancy.
Treatment of oligohydramnios depends on your symptoms, pregnancy, general health, and severity of your condition.
That being said, your doctor knows best. If you have a small belly and your doctor tells you it is perfectly normal, try not to worry.
A Large Belly
If your belly is larger than normal, it could be polyhydramnios, which is too much amniotic fluid surrounding your baby.
This condition, similar to oligohydramnios, is diagnosed by ultrasound, during which your doctor will measure your abdomen to determine if your uterus is too large. Monitoring is the most ideal treatment for polyhydramnios in mild cases or if you’re at the end of your pregnancy.
More commonly, you may seem to be carrying big because of how your baby is positioned in your womb or even how you're built.
In addition, if this isn't your first pregnancy, it may look like you popped much earlier than you did for your previous ones. This is because your muscles have stretched and give in more easily to the pressure of your expanding uterus.
But if you feel like your pregnant belly is growing faster than usual, call your doctor for a check-up.
A High Belly
There are a couple of different reasons that you may carry high (not because you’re having a boy or girl).
If you are an active mom-to-be, then your great muscle tone and strong abdominal muscles can cause a high belly. Another reason could be if you are tall.
A high belly is typically normal. It's not uncommon for babies to settle themselves into the womb in this way, especially during the first two-thirds of pregnancy. Some women carry all of their pregnancies this way from start to finish.
Make sure to continue to have your doctor regularly monitor the size of your belly.
A Low Belly
A low belly may trick you into thinking that you will be giving birth any second, but this isn’t usually the case.
Carrying low may be uncomfortable, causing pressure on your lower back and pelvic area, but it is rarely a cause for concern. Exercises like pelvic tilts can help ease any discomfort or pain that a low belly can cause.
A Wide Belly
Carrying wide usually means that your baby is in a transverse lie, meaning positioned from side to side rather than with their head up or down. Your doctor will be able to feel if this is the case.
An overweight pregnant woman may also carry wide. And while it could be a problem if your baby does not turn around with their head down at the time of labor, it is rarely a reason for concern.
Try Not To Compare Pregnant Belly Sizes
Comparing your pregnant belly to others is tempting, but how a woman appears to carry small or large depends on her shape, bone structure, muscle tone, and many other factors. Try not to let someone else’s shape and size affect how you feel about your belly.
Remember, the only other assessments of your belly size that are worth paying attention to are the ones that come from your doctor. Comments made regarding your belly size by anyone other than your doctor should be ignored.
Pregnant bellies come in all shapes and sizes. So take comfort that your doctor or midwife is measuring and monitoring the size of your belly at every prenatal visit.
The big day has come and gone. Now, what can you expect from your belly?
Like anything else, every woman’s experience is different, but don’t expect a six-pack to appear after giving birth. Realistically, your postpartum belly won’t be the same as it was before getting pregnant, but it will improve with time.
Here are some things you can expect along the way.
Leaving The Hospital
Just by giving birth, most pregnant women can lose up to 12 pounds. But the exact amount of weight loss varies due to the baby’s size, as well as the weight of the amniotic fluid and placenta.
In fact, after delivering your baby, you can still look six months pregnant, and that is completely normal!
6 Weeks Postpartum
As your uterus shrinks back to its regular size and excess fluids continue to flush out of your body, your belly will gradually start to slim down and your abdominal muscles will start to firm back up.
If you had a C-section, it can take two weeks for your scar to heal and six weeks or longer to fully recover from your surgery.
6 To 8 Weeks Postpartum
At this point, your uterus has most likely returned to its normal position in your pelvis after shifting during pregnancy.
You’ve shed more weight, but you may not reach your pre-pregnancy weight for weeks or months. In fact, it could take 10 months to two years, especially if you’ve gained 35 pounds or more during pregnancy.
But keep in mind there’s no specific timeline for postpartum weight loss. Be patient! You just experienced something amazing.
FAQs For Curious Moms-To-Be
1) When Will I Start To Feel My Baby?
Expect to start feeling your baby between the 18th and 20th weeks of pregnancy. The initial feelings may be soft movements in your lower abdomen, like bubbling or tingling, or a feeling of butterflies in your belly.
As time goes on and as the space inside your uterus shrinks, the movements will be more abrupt, like little kicks.
2) What Is That Dark Line On My Belly?
That dark, vertical line running down your belly is called the linea nigra, also known as the pregnancy line. It shows up during most pregnancies but is more noticeable in women with dark skin or hair.
The linea nigra appears because of high levels of hormones, like estrogen and progesterone, during pregnancy. This can make some areas of the skin look darker. But it typically fades within a few weeks postpartum.
3) Why Does My Belly Itch?
The hormones your pregnancy generates, along with the stretching of your skin, are most likely the culprits of your belly itching.
That annoying itch on your tummy during pregnancy is completely normal. The itching peaks in the final weeks of pregnancy and is more intense at night.
As hard as it may be, try to avoid scratching. Scratching triggers further irritation, skin lesions, and stretch marks on the belly. Good hydration and hypoallergenic moisturizers can help prevent and soothe this symptom.
4) Can My Pregnant Belly Predict My Baby’s Gender?
Have you ever heard, “You’re carrying low so you are definitely having a girl!” or “It’s a boy for you because you’re carrying high.”?
With any gender prediction, there’s a 50/50 chance of being correct. The only way to test whether you’re having a boy or a girl is through genetic testing or waiting until you give birth.
As fun as that would be, the size of your belly has nothing to do with the gender of the baby.
Celebrate Your Pregnant Belly
Now that you know what to expect from your pregnant belly month to month, consider these ways to flaunt it.
1) Have A Photoshoot
You’ve probably seen pregnancy photoshoots as you scroll through Instagram. What a wonderful way to commemorate the journey to your little bundle of joy!
Some moms-to-be like to capture their belly each month to make it into a collage. Others like to dress in beautiful gowns. However you choose to do it, pregnancy photoshoots are a fun way to look back at these memories.
2) Paint Your Belly
If you are comfortable with it, belly painting is a fun way to use your pregnant tummy as a canvas. You can get as creative as you want and have it done professionally, by your husband, or even a future sibling!
Painting something beautiful on your tummy is another thoughtful way to celebrate your pregnancy.
3) Create A Pregnancy Journal
Start a journal to record your thoughts, feelings, and experiences throughout your pregnancy. Include pictures, drawings, ultrasounds — whatever you’d like!
You and your little one will enjoy flipping through it together someday.
Love Your Pregnant Belly
No matter the size or shape, whether you’re big or small, or carrying low or high, your pregnant belly is the perfect place for your baby to develop and grow!
Love your bump and get excited for your little one on the way.
Use our guide to get an idea of what your tummy might look like during each trimester and how big your baby and your uterus are. And when you near the end of your pregnancy, prepare your baby’s nursery with a Newton Baby Crib Mattress.
In no time at all, your baby will be out of your tummy and in your arms!