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When will I start to show in pregnancy?

When you first discover that you’re pregnant, one of your top questions is likely to be when you will start showing. You might be looking forward to having a cute baby bump, or might be apprehensive about the changes pregnancy will make to your body. Either way, it’s important to know when to anticipate a baby bump.

When will I look pregnant?

There isn’t a particular stage of pregnancy when mums-to-be begin to show - every woman is different. If you’re a first-time mum, you may notice that your waist starts to get thicker at around 11 weeks, but this slight change won’t be visible to other people just yet. At about 12 weeks, a small bump may be visible. This is because, by about 12 weeks, your uterus starts to expand above the pubic bone. Before that point, the uterus remains hidden within the pelvis and isn’t usually visible.

At the beginning of pregnancy, your womb is the shape of a pear. Over the next 12 weeks, it will gradually become more rounded, until it reaches the size of a grapefruit. This is when your bump may become noticeable. The burgeoning of your bump is due in part to your growing baby. Before 11 weeks, your baby doesn’t need as much room as he/she is still an embryo. Your womb will progressively thicken as the baby grows, and by 16 weeks of pregnancy, your womb will noticeably stretch to provide more room.

Some women notice changes in their abdomen section as early as the end of the first trimester, while others don’t notice any difference in the shape of their belly until later. It can be hard to keep from comparing pregnant bellies, but it’s best to remember that every pregnancy is unique. 

Factors that can affect when the baby bump shows

There are all sorts of factors that may affect when you can start shopping for maternity clothes:

1. The number of pregnancies

If you’ve been pregnant before, you can expect your baby bump to pop earlier. This is because the muscles in your uterus and abdomen have already undergone the pregnancy process, which makes your body a bit more pliable and ready to go through the changes again. People who have already had a child (or two) often begin to show either in the late first trimester or early second trimester.

2. Age

Your age can influence when your bump starts to show. Older moms are more likely to show earlier than younger moms. This is because younger women typically have stronger stomach muscles, which can be useful in disguising their bumps for longer. 

3. Weight

Your pre-pregnancy size can also affect when you start to look pregnant. If you carry a bit of extra weight around your tummy, your belly may not expand as much in the first or early second trimester. However, as your pregnancy progresses, your bump will become more visible. 

It’s worth noting that every woman has a unique torso length and carries weight a little differently. This also plays a part in when you will start to show. Women carrying more body weight in general or specifically around the midsection may notice their bump has a B shape rather than the more familiar D shape. This shouldn’t be a cause for concern - the B belly shape commonly occurs in plus-size women. As the pregnancy progresses, the belly will assume the more standard D shape. 

Remember, women of all sorts of sizes and body types become pregnant, so it makes sense that there are different types of belly shapes, so comparing yourself to others is not ideal.

4. The shape of the uterus

The resting position of your uterus plays a part in when your pregnancy becomes noticeable. If you have an anteverted uterus (one that slants forward), your belly may pop out much earlier. On the other hand, if you have a retroverted uterus (tilts towards the back), your bump may not show until later in the pregnancy.

5. Bloating

Many women experience bloating as a symptom of pregnancy. For some, the symptom can exaggerate the size of their baby bumps and the effect may increase as the pregnancy progresses. 

With the added weight and pressure of carrying a baby, other processes in the body (including digestion) slow down. As a result, gas builds up, causing frequent burping and passing of gas. Bloating due to gas build up becomes even more apparent later in the pregnancy as your growing uterus continues to exert more pressure on the abdominal cavity. 

6. Genes

Your genes can play a role in when your baby bump starts to show, too. Ask your mom, sister, or any other female relatives when their bellies begin to pop out. This may give you a bit of an idea of when your bump will appear. 

7. Diastasis recti

Diastasis recti is the partial or complete separation between your left and right abdominal wall muscles along the abdominal midline. It’s very common in pregnant women, as the growing uterus pushes against the abdominal muscles and leads to their eventual separation. 

Women with diastasis recti will notice a bulge or ridge developing on their bumps in the second or third trimester. It’s a perfectly normal occurrence that doesn’t need medical attention unless you experience extreme back, pelvic, or abdominal pain. Diastasis recti is more likely in women who have been pregnant before, as well as in individuals who have carried big babies or are over 35 years old.

When do I start showing with twins?

If you’re carrying twins or multiples, you'll typically start to show in the first trimester. When you’re carrying more than one baby, your bump grows more rapidly. Women carrying twins or multiples may seem a few months further along than those carrying just one baby.

Should I be worried if I’m not showing yet?

As long as your doctor says your baby’s development is on track and your weight gain is normal, you shouldn’t be worried. There are a variety of measurements that your doctor or midwife will use to track your baby’s growth. In the first trimester, you can expect a pelvic exam to assess the size of your uterus, or you can order an ultrasound to see how big your baby is.

Final thoughts

If you’re showing later or earlier than expected, try not to worry too much. If there’s any cause for concern, your health care provider will arrange for an ultrasound scan to confirm that everything is progressing normally.

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