The belief that you might be pregnant can trigger a host of conflicting emotions, ranging from joy and excitement to uncertainty and fear. Whatever you're feeling, if you suspect you might be pregnant, you'll probably be watching your stomach closely for signs of fetal growth. Knowing how pregnancy affects your stomach -- both internally and externally -- can help you be better prepared for the changes pregnancy brings.
Growth of the Uterus
Shortly after conception – and weeks before you see an actual bulge in your stomach -- your uterus begins expanding to accommodate your growing fetus. Nestled among the bones of your pelvis, your uterus is approximately the size of a fist before pregnancy. Your uterus grows along with your fetus, and by your 10th week of pregnancy, it will likely have swollen to the size of a grapefruit. Once you reach the 12-week mark, your uterus will probably have grown and protruded beyond the protective frame of your pelvis, but you still might not be visibly pregnant.
At some point during your fourth or fifth month of pregnancy, your uterus will begin pressing outward against your abdominal wall, and you'll start to "show". It's difficult – if not impossible -- to correctly predict what part of your stomach will expand first. Some women present higher -- and some lower -- on the abdomen. According to Baby.com, your height, pre-pregnancy weight and body type can affect where your tummy bulge will emerge, as can your baby's orientation within the uterus. First-time mothers, and mothers with particularly well-toned abdominal muscles, also tend to show differently than women who have carried children previously or are out of shape at the time of conception.
Along with growth in your uterus and abdomen, expect some – or significant --growth and change elsewhere on your body. As the authors of "What to Expect When You're Expecting" point out, many women experience breast enlargement as one of the earliest signs of pregnancy, sometimes within days or weeks of conception. In the first few weeks of pregnancy, you can also expect to lose the curvature above your hips. As your organs shift around to make room for your expanding uterus, you'll likely thicken around the waistline and find it difficult to close the top button of your jeans.
If you have experienced recent growth in your abdominal area and have not yet seen a doctor, schedule an appointment for an exam and consultation. While an enlarged stomach can be a sign of pregnancy, it can also be an indicator of other conditions that require treatment.