Perhaps your first Rite of Passage as a parent is your journey to pregnancy. Every parent’s journey is unique – your pregnancy may be much longed for, totally unexpected and maybe not even welcome or it could be a happy surprise. You may be in a stable, loving relationship or on your own, through choice or circumstance. Your family may be a ‘traditional’ or not. You may be contemplating being a mum, dad or supporting partner. However, as pregnancy progresses each of us will be on our own personal journey to parenthood. Parents adopting a child will also experience their own unique period of waiting, preparing and anticipating as they wait for a baby or child to join their family.



What to expect

It is amazing to think that a human baby develops, in utero, from a collection of a few cells to a full-term baby in just 9 months. Here are just a few of the key milestones that you and your baby can expect.


First Trimester (Months 0-3)

In the first trimester it is not unusual to keep the pregnancy quiet – a little secret between mum and dad and maybe close family and friends. This can be particularly challenging for mums to be as the first trimester is typically associated with feelings of excessive tiredness and sometimes nausea or even acute sickness. It can help mums to understand that the first few weeks and months of pregnancy are a crucial foundation to baby’s healthy development and that the rate of development is phenomenal!

  • Although you may not know that exact date of conception, pregnancy is officially calculated from the first day of your last period
  • In week 4 the beginnings of an umbilical cord are formed and the placenta starts to form
  • By week 6, baby is shrimp shaped with a definitive head and tail and arm buds & week 7 sees rapid head enlargement and brain development
  • By week 8 a tiny skeleton has been fully formed and by week 9 all the foundations for future organs are in place and baby can make very simple movements. By week 10 the embryo is well developed in to a foetus.
  • At around 11-12 weeks the baby will start yawning and may begin sucking and swallowing. He now looks like a tiny baby and you will be looking forward to meeting him at your 12 week scan.


Second Trimester (Months 3-6)

For many mums, the second trimester is an enjoyable time. They feel they can relax in the fact their pregnancy is going well, and celebrate by sharing the news with others. The second trimester is also associated with a new sense of energy and wellbeing for many mums. However, some expectant mums find the physical and emotional changes of pregnancy disconcerting and feel ambiguous or uncomfortable about their changing body and their growing baby. For many dads, the second trimester is when the pregnancy starts to become real. Dads may have seen baby at an early scan and will also be able to notice the changes in the partner as her ‘bump’ grows and the fact that she is pregnant becomes obvious to the outside world.

Your baby will be developing at a fast rate and you can celebrate the following milestones:

  • By weeks 12 to 14 your baby can open his mouth in response to touch and suck his fingers
  • During weeks 15 to 18 there is rapid growth and coordinated limb movements although these will not yet be felt by the mother. You may be able to see the sex of your baby at your next scan. Your baby can now move his eyes and make sound vibrations in the womb
  • By weeks 19 to 20 you may begin to feel your baby move as he kicks or rolls over. By week 20 you may even notice differences between your baby’s activity during day and night time.
  • During weeks 21 to 25 your baby’s hearing has developed so much he can recognise your voice. Teeth buds have started to form and hair is starting to grow. The lungs are maturing and a baby born after 24 weeks would stand a good chance of surviving providing they receive the necessary specialist care.


The Third Trimester (Months 6-9)

By now, as you enter the third trimester, the birth of your baby may seem very real, but for some parents it can still seem difficult to grasp such a huge transition. Many parents attend birth preparation classes around this time. It is also common to start ‘nesting’ and maybe reorganising your home in preparation for your new baby’s arrival. This may include cleaning, shopping or even some home decoration.

Your baby is developing as follows:

  • Your babies bones will be fully develop by week 29
  • By around week 30 your baby’s eyes will be open when they are awake and by around week 33 their pupils will have developed enough to detect light.
  • When your baby is awake they are likely to be alert and as their muscles develop you may be increasingly aware as they kick and punch inside the womb.
  • During weeks 30-34 your baby’s immune system is starting to develop as the placenta takes up antibodies from your bloodstream. Your baby will continue to ‘borrow’ your immunity until they develop their own and this can be boosted after birth by your colostrum and breast milk.
  • Your baby may well have a full head of hair and by week 35 -37 your baby’s nails have grown
  • By around week 37 your baby’s organs are ready to function on their own and your baby’s head may well start descending in to your pelvis ready for the birth
  • At week 40 your baby our baby is considered ‘term’ and has probably grown around 7 times taller and 200 times heavier than at your 12 week scan!
  • Don’t be surprised if your due date comes and goes with no sign of your baby arriving. It is not uncommon for first babies to arrive 10-14 days ‘later’ than their due date. In fact some Midwives think it helpful to think about a due month – your baby may have decided to arrive a couple of weeks early or may decide to wait a few days longer than expected!


If your baby arrives early

Not all pregnancies follow the textbook and some babies arrive early. Sometimes parents may have been expecting an early arrival due to complications during pregnancy and sometimes an early arrival comes as a big shock. For more information on coping with a high risk pregnancy or an early arrival and guidance on the support and resources available to you as new parents please see our Having a Premature Baby page in the Special Needs section of this website.



What may help your journey

It is undeniable that the circumstances surrounding our conception can affect our outlook and mind-set during pregnancy. The traditional excitement and ‘nesting’, that is, building a suitable ‘nest’ for the expected baby applies to many couples, particularly first time around when the growing bump is such a key focus for everyone’s attention. However, ambivalent feelings are also common at a time of such major transition so try to be kind to yourself whatever you are feeling.

Many expectant dads find that the imminent approach of a baby seems less real to them. The mother can appreciate the changes that her growing baby is wreaking on her body and new fathers can sometimes feel like mere observers in this process. Things that can help dads to get more involved and assist both parents to bond with their unborn baby include:

  • Talking, singing or playing favourite music to baby whilst baby is in mum’s tummy
  • Attending appointments with the Obstetrician and seeing baby during ultra sound scans
  • Researching how baby is developing in utero each week. See Further Information for suggestions
  • Attending prenatal classes together. Both the Maternity hospitals in Luxembourg Centre offer a wide range of pre natal classes, some in English and the Well Baby Clinic offers classes in English including weekday mornings antenatal classes and a new Birth and Beyond course held at weekends for couples to attend together.
  • Celebrate the physical changes pregnancy brings by creating some DIY pregnancy art such as a bump cast or a photo montage of your growing bump or even invest in a professional photo shoot


What may hinder your journey and where to find help

Anxieties about supporting a new baby

Of course, your journey to pregnancy can impact how much or how little you enjoy the experience. If your pregnancy is unplanned or your living situation or Finances are not in a good place to support a new family member this can create stress during pregnancy.

It can be helpful to talk honestly about your feelings to someone you trust like a family member or friend. Although it may seem taboo to admit it, the truth is, not all parents are unreservedly delighted about the prospect. Investigating the support that may be available to you as a new parent can make specific aspects of the journey less daunting. The Government here in the Grand Duchy is very supportive of families and offers specific support in the following areas:

  • Birth allowance
  • Family allowance
  • Support with childcare costs


Feelings of ambivalence about pregnancy or motherhood

Because pregnancy is commonly held as such a special and magical time it can be difficult to admit to any feelings of ambivalence about becoming a parent, maybe even to yourself. It may be reassuring to know that such feelings are actually quite common. After all, becoming a parent is one of the biggest life transitions we face and, in general, people tend to feel a bit anxious, unsettled and uncertain when faced with change. Be assured that feeling ambivalent about your pregnancy in no way means you will be a ‘bad’ or unsuitable parent.

It may be helpful to understand we all approach becoming a parent in our own way but, based on her years of clinical experience, psychoanalyst Joan Raphael-Leff has described 3 key orientations of approaches to pregnancy and mothering. She describes Facilitators, Regulators and Reciprocators as follows:

An expectant mother with a Facilitator orientation to motherhood may approach pregnancy as a culmination of her identity as a woman. She views pregnancy and birth as a natural experience and enjoys communicating with her unborn child. As a new mother she may favour breastfeeding, co-sleeping and carrying baby in slings. She feels she is the best person to understand and interpret her baby’s need.

By contrast, a mother with a Regulator outlook may view pregnancy as a rather uncomfortable means to an end and may feel uncomfortable with the idea of her changing body and identity. Mums with a Regulator orientation are likely to prefer a medicalised birth and opt for pain relief. As new mums they may favour bottle feeding and are likely to be open to sharing the care of their baby with others, seeing parenting as a learned rather than an instinctual skill.

Expectant mothers with a Reciprocator preference are likely to view pregnancy as an exciting time whilst being aware of her ambivalence to the restrictions that pregnancy and becoming a new mum may place on her old life.

It is helpful to remember that there is no ‘right’ way to feel about your pregnancy and try and be kind to yourself and accepting how you feel is how you feel.


Low mood and antenatal depression

As explored above, feelings of ambivalence, uncertainty, anxiety and doubt are very common during pregnancy. It is hardly surprising that many pregnant mothers and/ or their partners begin to feel unsettled at a time of such significant change. However for about 10% of expectant mums, these feelings are coupled with antenatal depression.

The symptoms and treatments for antenatal depression are very similar to those of postnatal depression. See our attached article for more information on the support available here in Luxembourg. The first step is to admit to others, for example your partner and your Doctor or anyone else who is close to you and you think can offer support, how you are feeling.


Assisted conception

If you became pregnant with the help of assisted conception (for example, drugs to help stimulate ovulation, IVF, ICXY, donor sperm or egg) it is likely that you are delighted that the prospect of becoming a parent now seems like a reality. However, research shows that couples who became pregnant with medical assistance often experience more anxieties about the pregnancy and can feel guilty if anxiety, or other pregnancy related conditions, prevent them from enjoying the pregnancy as much as they had hoped to. Below we have listed some organisations who offer support to couples facing fertility issues.


Loss of previous baby

Understandably, some parents who have previously experienced miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, still birth or loss of a baby find that their grief, or anxieties about history repeating itself, get in the way of them being able to appreciate their current pregnancy moment by moment.

Feelings of grief, confusion, anger and anxiety are all normal but it is maybe more accurate to say there is no ‘normal’ way to feel when faced with this kind of loss and each parent, even 2 parents within a couple, may experience their personal loss differently. Reading about the experiences of others and seeking support from groups who work with parents experiencing loss can be helpful for some parents and suggested websites are given at the end of this section.

If you are pregnant again after a previous loss it can be helpful to speak with the health professionals who are looking after you during your pregnancy, talk through any anxieties and let them know how you are feeling so they can offer the best support.



Further information: Useful Links

Pregnancy & Parenting

NCT: A helpful source of evidence based information and advice for parents.

NHS Choices: The website is a wealth of information for all things health and pregnancy related.

Baby Center: Offers a nice summary of your baby’s development week by week.

Mayo Clinic: Provides information and guidance on a healthy pregnancy and your baby’s development week by week.

Ask Dr Sears: The founder of the Attachment Parenting ethos shares both information and insights.


Antenatal and Postnatal depression

NCT: Advice and information on parenting issues from conception to 2 years including ante and post natal depression

NHS: The UK Health Service’s online patient information service including information on PND, symptoms and treatments

Association for Postnatal Illness: UK based organisation offering support and helpline for those affected by postnatal illness

Postpartum support international: International organisation supporting those affected by postnatal illness or anxiety

PANDAS: Friendly and approachable pre and postnatal depression advice and support for families



Infertility Network UK: The UK’s leading fertility charity offers information and support to anyone facing fertility issues. Services include a UK based Supportline staffed by trained nurses and a helpline through which you can get support from volunteers who have faced similar challenges.

Fertility Europe: The association of European organisations and associations involved in fertility. Also provides a space for families to share their special stories in English and/ or their mother tongue.

Assisted Conception Taskforce: Provides online support and advice for couples experiencing fertility issues and keeps a list of registered centres world wide.


Miscarriage and loss of a baby

The Miscarriage Association UK: Offering support and information to those affected by miscarriage.

SANDS: The stillbirth and neonatal death society supports anyone who has been affected by the death of a baby before, during or shortly after birth.



Further Information: Recommended Reading

Becoming a Mother by Kate Mosse
Great for expectant mums who want lots of detail on pregnancy and the first few weeks.

Birth and Beyond by Dr Yehudi Gordon (2002)
Written by one of the pioneers of water birth and active birth in the UK, this book offers an informative and empowering guide for parents from conception, through pregnancy, birth and becoming a new parent. Also offers a helpful A-Z health guide.

Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn (4th Edition): The Complete Guide by Penny Simkin (2010)
An authoritative and informative guide written by a renowned Doula, childbirth educator and physical therapist.

Pregnancy: the inside story by Joan Raphael-Leff
The author, a psychoanalyst and mother, draws on her many years of experience working with pregnant women to explore the psychological and emotional roller coaster of pregnancy. “No pregnant woman could finish this book and think herself strange for whatever feelings pregnancy has evoked.” – Melissa Benn, British Journal of Psychotherapy.

The birth of a mother: how motherhood changes you forever by Daniel Stern
Great for a psychological exploration of motherhood complemented by a narrative of the early days of life through the eyes of a baby.

The Bloke’s Guide to Pregnancy – Jon Smith (2004)
A down-to-earth book with real stories and advice.

The rough guide to pregnancy and birth by Kaz Cooke (2006)
An entertaining guide to your pregnancy week by week.

What to Expect When You’re Expecting, 4th Edition by Heidi Murkoff & Sharon Mazel (2008)
An American bestseller that explores pregnancy stage by stage.



Article by:  Kate Ensor, who is a coordinator for Passage and a postnatal group facilitator & childbirth educator at the Well Baby Clinic of Luxembourg.

Last updated:  Wednesday 14th October, 2015