10 Frequently Asked Questions About Your Pregnant Belly

The size and shape of a pregnant belly are different for each woman, as there are many factors involved in its growth.
10 Frequently Asked Questions About Your Pregnant Belly
Leidy Mora Molina

Written and verified by the nurse Leidy Mora Molina.

Last update: 11 October, 2022

The growth of your pregnant belly is undoubtedly the most important bodily change of this beautiful stage. The modification of its shape and size is the tangible way to know that there’s a being forming and growing inside you.

Therefore, it’s normal for questions to arise about how it will evolve. When will you be able to notice it? What shape should it take on?, Why does it itch? How should you take care of the skin on your pregnant belly? In short, there are many concerns that we want to clarify about this great change in your body. Therefore, below, we’ll answer 10 of the most frequently asked questions about the belly during pregnancy.

1. When does your pregnant belly start to show?

The moment when your belly starts to show is different in each pregnant woman. Generally speaking, your belly becomes evident beginning in the second trimester, around the 12th and 13th week.

However, some factors directly affect abdominal distention, and therefore, the moment in which this kind of change in pregnancy can become evident. These include:

  • Whether it’s your first pregnancy or if you’ve had previous pregnancies: It’s noticed earlier in mothers who’ve given birth, because the abdominal muscles give way faster.
  • Pelvic size: If your pelvis is narrow, it tends to show sooner.
  • Whether your mother-to-be has a little or a lot of body fat: This change is noticed later on in women who have extra pounds.
  • The waist and muscle tone of the mother’s abdomen: In women with a thin waist, the belly shows sooner because it will grow forward. If, on the other hand, the waist is wide, it will grow sideways and will start to show weeks later.

2. What is its growth like?

The size of the belly goes hand in hand with the growth of the baby and also with the body constitution of the mother. As the uterus grows, the abdomen will be more bulging, from the belly towards the chest. This is related to the place where the uterus is positioned as the months go by. Let’s see how the growth takes place per trimester:

  • First trimester: In this trimester, the growth of the belly is almost imperceptible, as the uterus remains inside the pelvis. The belly may feel a little swollen due to the increased blood supply and the formation of the placenta and the baby. At the end of this trimester, you’ll begin to notice that your waist is getting wider and your abdomen is getting larger and rounder.
  • Second trimester: In this trimester, the pregnancy becomes evident. The growth is progressive, and depends on factors such as the number of pregnancies you’ve had, if it’s a multiple pregnancy, and your muscle tone. Usually, by the end of this trimester, the belly is the size of a soccer ball, surpassing the line of the navel.
  • Third trimester: Belly growth in this trimester is rapid. The height of the belly tends to match the gestational age, i.e. at 34 weeks, it measures 34 cm. From the eighth month, the uterus is located under the ribs and then descends in the final weeks, as a result of the baby’s insertion in the pelvic bones.

3. Can you determine the baby’s gender based on your pregnant belly?

One of the most deeply rooted popular beliefs about your pregnant belly has to do with the relationship between the shape it takes on and the sex of the baby. If it’s round, they say it will be a girl, and if it is pointed, it will be a boy. However, there’s no scientific basis to confirm this relationship.

Certainly, the shape of the belly depends on other aspects, such as the mother’s body constitution, because the thinner it is, the more pointed it will be. The same happens when the uterus is more elongated.

On the other hand, if the baby is large and adopts a position with its back facing forward, your belly will look more pointed. Above all, this important anatomical aspect is only confirmed by ultrasound or fetal DNA studies.

4. My belly is huge: Is my baby too big?

The size of your belly during pregnancy is usually not proportional to the size of the baby. A large belly in pregnancy may be the result of having a large amount of amniotic fluid, abdominal fat, or abdominal distention from gastrointestinal distress.

Spinal problems such as lumbar lordosis cause the abdomen to be pressed outward and the belly to be larger. A baby can have a size and weight above the percentile in utero, without the mother having a large belly.

5. When will I start to feel the baby in my belly?

Your baby begins to be felt in the belly from the 18th and 20th week. At first, you may feel some soft movements in the lower abdomen, like bubbling or tingling, a feeling of butterflies in your belly.

Later, as the space inside the uterus shrinks, the movements will be more abrupt, like little kicks, which will be felt especially during the night.

6. What does it mean if my belly feels lower?

In the last weeks of pregnancy, the baby settles into the maternal pelvis in order to “prepare” for its future exit. This settling makes the belly feel lower.

A lower belly is often associated with the onset of labor, however, this doesn’t indicate that labor is imminent, but rather that the baby is already in the right position to come out. In fact, even if you have a low belly, it may take a few days, even weeks, for labor to start.

7. A black line has appeared on my belly, will it stay like this after delivery?

This line is known as the linea alba, and is a brownish spot that extends vertically from the pubis to above the navel. It usually appears in the second trimester and becomes darker toward the end of pregnancy, to later disappear in the postpartum period.

This line is the result of hormonal action on the skin, specifically on the melanocytes, which will produce a greater amount of melanin, causing the skin to increase its pigmentation and favor this type of spots.

8. Why does my belly itch?

The skin during pregnancy is affected by the action of hormones. This, together with the stretching of the skin of the belly, are usually the most common causes of itching during pregnancy. This symptom, although annoying, is normal, and usually becomes more acute in the final weeks of pregnancy, becoming more intense during the night.

It’s important to avoid scratching. This triggers irritations, skin lesions, and the dreaded stretch marks on the belly. Good hydration and the use of hypoallergenic moisturizers help prevent and soothe this symptom.

9. What’s the best way to sleep so as not to put pressure on my belly?

According to specialists, the best way to sleep during pregnancy is lying on your left side, if possible, with a cushion between your legs. This position favors blood flow to the uterus, fetus, and kidneys. It also prevents pressure that the weight of the uterus may exert on the liver.

Although sometimes sleeping on your back may be comfortable, especially when your belly is very large, this position puts pressure on the inferior vena cava, affecting the free flow of blood to the uterus and lower limbs. Studies affirm that the risk of fetal death due to lack of oxygenation is higher when resting in this position.

10. Is it normal for my belly to get hard?

Feeling that the belly gets hard during pregnancy is a fairly common symptom. It’s related to the following aspects:

  • Belly growth: When the uterus, abdominal muscles, and other tissues such as tendons and ligaments are stretched by the growing baby, they produce some resistance, which can be perceived with hardening and slight discomfort in the belly. It’s more noticeable in the second trimester.
  • Baby’s movements: When the baby has gained enough size, its movements may become more abrupt, generating slight contractions and even momentary changes in the shape and tension of your pregnant belly.
  • Braxton Hicks contractions: These are false contractions that prepare the uterus, starting in the second trimester, for the moment of delivery. When they appear, the belly becomes hard and although they’re usually painless, some women may feel mild discomfort, especially toward the end of pregnancy.

This symptom can also be associated with miscarriages and gastrointestinal distress. It’s important to observe if it’s accompanied by other manifestations such as sharp pain and bleeding. In this case, a specialist should be consulted.

It’s normal for concerns to arise regarding the growth of the belly during pregnancy and the symptoms associated with it. Ideally, they should be clarified by health professionals during prenatal consultations.

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Your Belly During Pregnancy: What You Need to Know

Your belly during pregnancy will go through a lot of changes. To help you prepare for them, we'll answer some common questions.