When Do Pregnant Women Start Showing: Baby Bump Progression

Image: Shutterstock

IN THIS ARTICLE

If you recently found out you’re pregnant, you probably can’t wait to see your small, adorable baby bump. But when do you start showing in pregnancy? We’ve got the answer to this question and more in this post.

Whether you are pregnant for the first time or are expecting a second child, the idea of seeing your baby bump is exciting for any expectant mother. Moreover, it is the first visible sign of being pregnant.

Read this post to learn more about when your baby bump begins to show in pregnancy, how your belly develops and grows, how much you will show in each trimester, what it means if your bump shows a little early, and whether it is concerning if your bump hasn’t shown yet.

When Do You Start Showing In Pregnancy?

There is no given time when you can safely say that you will start showing your pregnancy bump. As with other symptoms of pregnancy, the time and month when you start to show your baby bump will differ for every woman. Some women will not start to show till they are way into their second trimester while some may start showing as early as the end of their first trimester itself. Here are a few factors that can influence how late or how early you start showing when pregnant (1):

1. Bloating:

Image: Shutterstock

Some women experience bloating that makes them feel a little tighter at the waist, and it can be as early as the moment they get to know they are pregnant! While it is possible to start feeling bloated right during the first few weeks after your pregnancy is confirmed, it is not the same as showing your pregnancy bump.

2. First pregnancy or subsequent pregnancies

If you are pregnant for the first time, you will most likely start to show a baby bump as early as between the 16th and 20th week of pregnancy. If you have been through earlier pregnancies, you may start to show earlier than the first time moms. As you already have been pregnant earlier, the muscles in your uterine area and your abdomen will already be stretched, making you show earlier than moms who are pregnant for the first time.

3. The rate at which your stomach grows

For some mommies, the stomach starts to grow even much earlier than the 12th week. It is not always due to your baby bump, but could also be due to various other reasons such as gas, flatulence, or even constipation. All these are the normal symptoms of pregnancy, and it is perfectly possible that they are causing your belly to stretch, and it is not because your baby bump is showing.

4. Carrying twins, triplets, or more

Image: iStock

One reason that could make you start showing your baby bump earlier than others is if you are carrying twins, triplets or multiples. In that case, you will start to show sooner than mothers who are carrying single babies.

5. The size of your unborn baby

Sometimes, the size of your unborn baby will also determine how early or late you start showing in your pregnancy. If your unborn baby is smaller than usual, you will start to show late in your pregnancy. On the other hand, if you have a larger baby who is bigger than other unborn babies, you may start to show your baby bump earlier than other women who are pregnant.

6. The clothing you choose

The type of clothing that you choose to wear while you are pregnant will also have a big role to play in how early or late your baby bump starts to show. If you mostly wear loose fitting and comfortable clothes, especially those that are loose around your stomach, your baby bump will show later than others. On the other hand, if you wear clothes that are tight and well fitting, especially around your stomach area, you will start to show earlier than other women.

Quick tip
Choose dark-colored clothes over light-colored clothes if you want to hide your early baby bump. Layering clothes can also help you hide the baby bump.

A Quick Look At How Your Pregnancy Belly Develops And Grows

  • While you are in your earliest stages of pregnancy, your uterus will be in the shape of a pear fruit.
  • During the first 12 weeks of your pregnancy, your uterus will start to get into a rounder shape till it becomes the size of a grapefruit. Once it reaches that stage, your baby bump will just begin to form (2).
  • Even though your baby bump may start to form at this stage, it is not because your baby is growing that big. Before you reach 12 weeks in pregnancy, your unborn baby is technically just an embryo and does not need so much room to grow or develop.
  • You may still feel that your abdomen area is growing, but it is not because your baby is growing so much. Instead, it is because your uterus is starting to grow thicker so that it can provide the right amount of support for your baby.
  • Once you are around 16 weeks in your pregnancy, your uterus will stretch to a size in which your unborn baby will be able to fit in properly. It is at this time that your baby bump will start to show.
Quick fact
The uterus may grow to the size of a papaya and will be situated midway between the navel and breasts in the second trimester. Then, it may grow to the size of a watermelon in the third trimester (2).

How Much Will You Show In Your First Trimester?

As we mentioned earlier, different women will start to show differently during the pregnancy months, based on a host of factors. Whether you are showing enough or not should not be a cause for concern. Also, while some women may start showing as early as during their first trimester, some may not show at all until they are in the middle of their second trimester. Here are a few conditions that may cause your pregnancy bump to start showing in first trimester:

1. Being constipated or bloated

  • Being bloated or having constipation is a common concern that most women experience while they are pregnant. If you are bloated or constipated, you will also experience some amount of gas. While you are pregnant, your digestive system may not be as strong as earlier and can lead to fluid retention or gas buildup in your body. As a result, your abdomen may start to get distended.
  • An increase in the pregnancy hormone, especially progesterone can also lead to the feeling of bloating. Increased levels of progesterone can make the tissues in your muscle too relaxed, which can further slow down your digestive system. Even though it will not harm your baby, and your unborn baby will keep getting the nutrition it needs, it can result in constipation or a bloated stomach. Constipation can make it seem like your baby bump is showing, but it may not be the case.

2. Decrease in your muscle tone

Image: iStock

  • If you have tight or toned muscles in your abdomen area, your belly will probably not show as early as some other women.
  • However, if the muscles in your abdomen area are not tight, you will start to show earlier than others.

3. In case of a subsequent pregnancy

  • If you are experiencing a subsequent pregnancy, the muscles in your abdomen area are already relaxed and loose.
  • Also, the muscles in your uterus area will also be stretched from the previous pregnancy. As a result, your baby bump will start to show earlier than those women who are pregnant for the first time.

4. Excess weight gain

Image: Shutterstock

  • If you gained a lot of weight already or were overweight when you got pregnant, you will show earlier than those women who have the right weight or are underweight.
  • It occurs as excess fat loosens your stomach muscles and makes your baby bump more apparent earlier than usual.

5. If you have a petite frame

  • Contrary to what many women feel, if you are of a petite frame, you will show earlier than those women who are heavier.
  • As you do not have much fat on your body due to your slender frame, it means that the moment you start putting on any weight, especially in your tummy area, it will begin to show.

6. The wrong date

  • It is possible that your doctor calculated your pregnancy age wrong, which could be due to some reasons, and often as a result of a wrong menstrual cycle date. If you were not planning to get pregnant or were not sure about the date when you had your last menstrual cycle, it would render the doctor’s calculation about your menstrual cycle incorrect. It means that even though your doctor may give you an indication of how far you are in your pregnancy, you are probably a little ahead already, without even knowing so.
  • In case you think this could be a possibility, you can speak to your doctor about it. Your doctor will most likely suggest you get an ultrasound examination done to assess your right gestational age. Once your doctor assesses the correct date, he can offer the relevant support at the right time.

7. Multiple babies

  • If you are carrying twins or more, you will start showing almost as soon as the first few months in your first trimester.
  • If your doctor thinks your uterus is growing faster than it should as per the age of your pregnancy, it could be because you are carrying multiples.

How Much Will You Show In Your Second Trimester?

No matter what your body type or overall weight, you will start showing your baby bump sometime in your second trimester if you were not showing earlier.

  • You will most likely start to notice a change in the size of your abdomen around the beginning of the second trimester.
  • Your initial symptoms of pregnancy, such as nausea and weakness, start to subside and you are likely to begin showing (3).

How Much Will You Show In Your Third Trimester?

By the time you are in your third trimester, you will be showing off your baby bump with pride. However, it is also possible that in some cases, you may still not be showing. Here we look at why such a situation could occur:

  • In case you enter your third trimester and are still not showing your baby bump, do not panic. If there is something to worry or any cause for concern, your doctor will always attend to the same, so do not worry if your doctor is not worried about the lack of a baby bump.
  • There are many women who will not start to show until quite late in the third trimester. If you are not showing yet, it does not mean that your unborn baby is too small in size or that there is something wrong with your baby’s growth and development.
  • In some cases, your baby bump may not show till late in your third trimester due to your body type.
  • Another reason that could prevent your baby bump from showing till you are in your late third trimester is the amount of weight you gain while you are pregnant. Regardless of whether you had a slender build before you were pregnant or when you got pregnant, if you did not gain the required amount of weight during your pregnancy, you may not start to show yet.
  • Sometimes, your doctor may assess that the reason you are not showing your baby bump is because the age of your pregnancy has not been calculated correctly. In that case, your doctor will refer you for an ultrasound examination to assess the correct age of your pregnancy. If it turns out that your doctor had predicted the date of your pregnancy incorrectly, your doctor will now tell you the right age of your pregnancy and resume your care accordingly. If it turns out that your doctor had predicted the date of your pregnancy correctly, but you are still not showing, it is still possible for you to give birth to a healthy and perfectly developed baby. However, just to make sure that your baby is growing in the proper way, your doctor will most likely monitor you more.

What Does It Mean If Your Baby Bump Is Showing A Little Early?

Of course if the bump starts to show a little early, there is nothing wrong with it, but there are a few reasons that could lead to it:

  • You may be suffering from water retention. When you are pregnant, your body starts accumulating additional fluids that may make you look bloated and swollen. It is one of the reasons that you may start showing as if you have a baby bump that is already prominent.
  • Once you are pregnant, your body starts preparing in different ways to get ready for the baby. Your body will start adjusting itself in such a way that it can keep your baby protected and comfortable, as well as provide it the nutrition that it needs. At this stage, your body starts to store additional fat in your body which it can later use to keep your baby comfortable.
  • You may be experiencing flatulence and gas buildup in your body, which can also cause your stomach area to look bloated and feel a little hard.
  • Constipation is another common issue that most women face when they are pregnant. If you are constipated, you will have a lot of accumulated waste in your body that will also make your stomach area look and feel hard, almost as if it is a baby bump.

Should It Be A Cause Of Concern If Your Bump Is Not Showing Yet?

Image: iStock

It is quite normal for your pregnancy baby bump to start showing later, and if you feel you are past the mentioned weeks but are still not showing, there is nothing to worry about yet. Here are a few things to keep in mind when you want to understand if your bump is showing early or late:

  • Sometimes, your uterus can be placed in a different way as compared to the regular placing over the pelvic bone, which can delay the time when your baby bump will start to show. Do not worry, as it is nothing of concern and is perfectly normal. In some cases, your uterus may be retroverted, which means it will be tilted towards the back, and it will make your baby bump show later than others. Similarly, if your uterus is anteverted, which means that your uterus is tilted towards the front, you will show your baby bump way earlier than other women who are pregnant.
  • If you are showing late, it does not mean that your baby is small or that your baby is not developing properly. Your doctor will check the growth of your belly and your bump around the end of the second and the start of the third trimester to see if your baby is growing as it should.
  • Your overall weight gain will also have a big role to play in how early or how late your baby bump begins to show.
  • If you have gained a lot of weight during your pregnancy or if you were already overweight when you became pregnant, you may already start to show soon. Alternatively, if you have a lot of fat around your abdominal area, you may not show your baby bump soon, as it will blend in with the other parts of your body where the fat is stored.
  • If you have not gained much weight during your pregnancy or if you were underweight when you became pregnant, the slightest change in your abdomen area will make your bump show. As a result, you may show even the tiniest amount of baby bump earlier than many women who are in the same week of pregnancy as you.
  • If you have had any abdominal surgery in the past or if your abdominal muscles are stretched or are loose, your baby bump may start to show earlier than most other women who are in the same stages of pregnancy as you.
  • In many cases, age also has a role to play in how early or late you will begin to show your baby bump. If you are a little older, you may start to show a little early as compared to other women who are of the same gestational age. It happens because as you age, your muscles tend to get looser and get more stretched. Once you become pregnant, the muscles that are already loose will get more stretched and hence you will start showing your baby bump earlier than those who are younger (1).
  • Sometimes, your genes may also have a role to play in how soon or late you may start to show your baby bump. If your mother or sister had started to show early in their pregnancy, chances are you too will start to show early in your pregnancy. If the women in your family started to show later in their pregnancy, you too might show later in your pregnancy as compared to other women who are in the same age of their pregnancy.
Quick fact
Women who carry more weight in their midsection or are overweight may have a “B” shaped belly than the usual “D” shaped belly, which is entirely normal (1).

You may wonder about many things once you know you are pregnant, including when do pregnant women start showing. The answer to this may vary for each woman. While some may start to show the signs of the bump in the first trimester, others may show it during the second. Pregnancy symptoms, such as bloating, previous pregnancies, and the fetus’ size might affect the bump’s size. Understanding the fetus’ size during each week of pregnancy could help you know when you might see a bump. However, note that the size of the bump may not be an indication of the baby’s health. Therefore, have your routine checkups to understand your pregnancy progression and fetus growth accurately.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. When does your stomach start to get hard when you are pregnant?

Your belly may start to feel firmer from the second or third trimester. During this phase, you may sometimes feel tightening or hardening of stomach muscles with mild discomfort due to Braxton-Hicks contractions (false contractions) (4).

2. What does an eight-week belly look like?

The baby bump will not be noticeable by the eighth week since your uterus will only be the size of a lemon (5).

3. Are pregnant bellies hard or squishy?

During pregnancy, your belly may sometimes feel hard and sometimes soft. This difference can be due to various factors, such as stages of pregnancy, pregnancy-related hormonal changes, and your body type.

4. How many weeks is a three-month pregnancy?

Being three months pregnant means that you’re at 12 weeks of gestation.

References:

MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
Was this article helpful?
thumbsupthumbsdown
The following two tabs change content below.

shreeja pillai

Shreeja holds a postgraduate degree in Chemistry and diploma in Drug Regulatory Affairs from the University of Mumbai. Before joining MomJunction, she worked as a research analyst with a leading multinational pharmaceutical company. Her interest in the field of medical research has developed her passion for writing research-based articles. As a writer, she aims at providing informative articles on health...
View Profile

Dr. Neha Singh

(MS OB/GYN)
Dr Neha Singh has over eight years of experience as a gynaecologist and more than four years experience as an IVF specialist and endoscopic surgeon. She won an award for her paper on ‘Maternal & Child Health' in UPCOG 2016. She is a senior consultant and clinical head at NOVA IVF, Gorakhpur, India. She is also an assistant global coordinator...
View Profile