The pregnancy belly becomes so important that some women might begin worrying if the belly is smaller than that of others. But should you worry about it? And how do you know if your belly is growing at the right rate?
In this MomJunction post, we tell you about the factors that determine your belly shape and size, share the pregnancy belly growth chart, and address the related concerns.
Does The Belly Size In Pregnancy Really Matter?
The size of your pregnancy belly may not be something of concern. Your belly could be big, small, pointy, round, or high, but that still might not necessarily affect the pregnancy. Some people may try to guess the baby’s gender, health, and progress by looking at your belly, but you should not worry about what anyone other than your doctor or midwife says.
Does Your Belly Size Determine The Gender And Size Of The Baby?
The belly size and shape determine neither the size nor the gender of the baby. A large belly could be due to excess body weight or amniotic fluid, while a small belly could be due to less amniotic fluid or if it is the first pregnancy. The size of the belly has nothing to do with the gender of the baby.
Can Belly Size Accurately Indicate Your Stage of Pregnancy?
The size of the belly may not be an indication of the stage of pregnancy. The belly size during different phases of pregnancy differs from one woman to another, based on her body type and size. Regardless of the belly size, ensure that you’re maintaining a healthy weight as being overweight or underweight during pregnancy might affect the growth of the baby (1).
It is best not to compare the size of your bump with that of other pregnant women, as the belly size may depend on several factors.
What Factors Determine Your Belly Size?
The following factors might determine the size and shape of the pregnant belly:
- First pregnancy: If it is your first pregnancy, you may tend to have a more compact bump as the abdominal muscles have not been stretched before. The muscles that hold your baby high feel tighter and more toned. Also, the bump is likely to be smaller than it would be in your second or subsequent pregnancies.
- Second or subsequent pregnancy: The first pregnancy could stretch your abdominal muscles and make it quite flexible. Unless you are into fitness or you are an athlete, your muscles might not regain their original shape or tone back. So, you may notice a bigger bump than before. Again, that does not mean your baby would be bigger.
- Amniotic fluid volume: Throughout the pregnancy, the amniotic fluid index keeps changing. The average index of the amniotic fluid in a normal pregnancy is more during the second trimester, while it is comparatively less during the third trimester. Based on the production of this fluid, but not your baby’s size, your belly may appear small or big (2).
- Change in the baby’s positions: From the second trimester, the baby might become active and begin to move inside the tummy. This may alter the shape and size of your belly. For instance, your baby might sometimes move from one side to the other, changing the shape of the tummy slightly (3).
And during the last stage of pregnancy, the head generally moves down into the pelvis, making the tummy look bigger at the bottom. This means that the baby’s position may affect the belly size and shape.
- Mother’s height: Taller women have a longer torso, which gives more space for the baby to grow. So, while the baby grows, the belly grows upwards and not outwards. On the other hand, shorter women will have less space, and their baby will push outwards and not upwards.
Next, we give you a chart of the average belly size during pregnancy.
[ Read: Itching Belly During Pregnancy ]
Pregnancy Belly Size Chart
This chart shows the changes you may notice in your belly as the baby grows. It is an approximate chart, and the measurements and changes could vary from one woman to another (4).
|Month/week||Belly size/fetal development|
|First month (week 1-4)|
|Second month (week 5-8)|
|Third month (week 9-13)|
|Fourth month (week 14-17)|
|Fifth month (week 18-21)|
|Sixth month (week 22-26)|
|Seventh month (week 27-30)|
|Eighth month (week 31-35)|
|Ninth month (week 36-40)|
In case you do not notice the above changes, do not panic or assume something is wrong. Check with the midwife or doctor if you’re worried about the shape or size of the belly.
Common Concerns About The Pregnant Belly
Some of the common concerns that pregnant women might have about their bellies are mentioned here:
- Small belly: If you have a small belly and your doctor or midwife tells you it is normal, then you do not have to worry about it. One of the concerning reasons for a small belly could be oligohydramnios or low amniotic fluid. The condition may be diagnosed through an ultrasound, and the doctor could suggest a treatment based on factors such as its extent and your medical history (5).
- Large belly: If your belly is growing quickly, you may visit your doctor for a check-up. Usually, it could be normal due to your previous pregnancy or other factors. One of the concerning reasons for an unusually large belly could be polyhydramnios, or a high amount of amniotic fluid (6), which would be diagnosed by your doctor and handled appropriately.
- High belly: If you are carrying high, it usually means you have a good muscle tone and strong abdominal muscles. Also, it could be because you’re tall, and in most cases, a high pregnancy belly is considered normal unless diagnosed otherwise by your doctor or midwife. However, make sure your doctor monitors the size of the belly regularly.
- Low belly: With a low belly, it might seem like the baby is ready to come out any minute, but that is not normally the case. Carrying a low belly could cause discomfort, pressure on the lower back, and pelvic pain, but is not a reason for concern.
- Wide belly: Carrying wide usually means that the baby is in a side-to-side position, a situation termed as a transverse lie (7). It could be a problem if the baby does not turn with its head down at the time of labor. However, sometimes, an overweight pregnant woman may carry wide, which is not a reason for concern.
Your pregnancy belly lasts only as long as your pregnancy does. So, celebrate it with special activities.
[ Read: Stomach Tightening During Pregnancy ]
Celebrating Your Pregnancy Belly
Here are some exciting ideas to make your pregnancy memorable:
A pregnancy photoshoot is a trend these days, and lets you capture your pregnancy belly every month and create a beautiful collage at the end.
2. Belly painting:
Painting something creative and beautiful on your belly is another thoughtful way to celebrate your pregnancy. You can let your husband or child do it, or get it done professionally.
3. Pregnancy book:
You can record anything and everything about your pregnancy. Take pictures of your pregnancy belly every month and paste them in the book. Also, you could write what you are feeling at every stage. Your baby would be happy to read it when he/she grows up.
Enjoy every week of your pregnancy, eat healthy foods, and follow the instructions of your doctor or midwife. Do not pay attention to the folklore surrounding the shape and size of a pregnant woman’s belly. Also, ensure that your doctor or midwife is carefully monitoring fetal growth and belly size.
How was your pregnancy belly? Do share your experiences and what stories you came across about your belly in the comment section below.
2. A. Kofinas and G. Kofinas; Differences in amniotic fluid patterns and fetal biometric parameters in third trimester pregnancies with and without diabetes; The Journal of Maternal-Fetal and Neonatal Medicine (2006)
3. Pregnancy: The Second Trimester; Johns Hopkins Medicine
4. Fetal development: Stages of growth; Cleveland Clinic
5. Amniotic Fluid Problems/Hydramnios/Oligohydramnios; Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
6. Polyhydramnios; Lee Health
7. R. E. Jackson; Transverse presentation of the fetus; University of Nebraska Medical Center