Baby bump size: that’s why they’re not all the same!

The size of the baby bump can vary a lot from one woman to another, given the same week of pregnancy. But what are the factors that influence the size and shape of the pregnant belly? Let’s find out together!

Pregnancy is not the same for everyone: every expectant mother experiences her child in a unique and personal way, both physically and emotionally.

For this reason, in addition to the symptoms, the shape and size of the belly during pregnancy can also vary greatly from one woman to another , sometimes causing some minor concern. Here then is that, while some expectant mothers wonder why, having arrived at the 14th week of pregnancy , their belly is already “huge”, others look in the mirror and worry because they still don’t see any change.

Why are the shape and size of the belly different for the same week of pregnancy?

Why does pregnancy become visible in some women earlier than others? And why do some bumps look big and others, weeks being equal, much smaller?

To try to answer these questions, let’s see together what are the factors that influence the growth of the belly during pregnancy.

1. Abdominal muscles

During the nine months of gestation, the woman’s body undergoes a real transformation. The stomach and liver move to accommodate the expansion of the uterus, the bladder is compressed and the abdominal muscles also undergo important changes : they lengthen, change position and separate, due to the outward push caused by the growth of the baby .

If the expectant mother is young or in good physical shape , her abdominal muscles will be more toned and will oppose this push, making her belly appear smaller .

On the other hand, if the muscles have already been stretched from a previous pregnancy , they will tend to be less resistant and, consequently, the belly will be seen much sooner .

2. Weight and height

Body size is another factor that can influence the size and shape of your baby bump.

If a woman is  tall and has a long torso , her pregnancy may be less visible than a smaller woman, given the same gestational period.

On the other hand, in a woman of short stature , the belly will appear wider in the last stages of pregnancy, because the baby will have less space available vertically.

Even the  weight of the expectant mother can affect the size of the baby bump.

In overweight women , in fact, the belly may appear less evident in the first few months, compared to normal weight or underweight pregnant women.

Also, an expectant mother free from pregnancy sickness may have more appetite and accumulate more body fat in the first trimester. As a result, you may already show a small belly in the first few months , which is more due to weight gain than to an expanding uterus.

3. Single or twin pregnancy

In general, most women  don’t show a noticeable increase in their belly  before  16  weeks of pregnancy . If your belly is growing sooner than expected, however, it could also be a sign of a twin pregnancy . Having two or more babies will naturally lead to a larger bump .

4. Hormonal factors

Pregnancy hormones, especially progesterone, tend to cause digestion to slow down, which often results in bloating . Since this symptom often manifests itself already in the early stages of pregnancy, it may happen that expectant mothers notice an early increase in the belly , which however is due to the presence of intestinal gas and not to the growth of the child. Other hormonal effects that could affect the size of the baby bump are also constipation and water retention .

5. Position of the uterus

If the growth of the belly occurs later than expected , the cause could also be represented by the presence of a retroverted uterus , i.e. tilted towards the back and not towards the front of the pelvic cavity.

This particular anatomical variation has no effect on the smooth running of the pregnancy , except for the negligible one of making the belly less visible in the first months of gestation .

5. Position of the fetus

In addition to the position of the uterus, the position of the fetus can also influence the shape of the baby bump . In fact, near the birth, the baby tends to channel the head into the pelvis in the so-called “commitment” or “lightening” phase , which is accompanied by a visible lowering of the belly .

This descent, however, does not occur at the same time for all expectant mothers . In women in their first pregnancy, in fact, the commitment usually takes place a few weeks before the onset of labor (generally around the 36th week ). In mothers with their second or third child, on the other hand, it tends to occur later or even when labor has begun.

Baby bump size: when to worry?

What matters for the good course of pregnancy is not the size of the belly, but the development of the baby. Consequently, if the tummy is small but the future baby is growing well, there is no reason to be alarmed.

In any case, it is good to remember that all expectant mothers should present themselves regularly for visits with their gynecologist or midwife , just to check that everything is proceeding in the best possible way.

During the check-ups, the measurement of the fundus will also be carried out , which is usually started at the 20th week of pregnancy , when the fundus reaches about the navel. The values ​​obtained will be reported on a special  table and, together with the ultrasound scans, will be used to monitor the growth of the child and the amount of amniotic fluid .

No to useless comments

Given the many factors that influence the size of the belly during pregnancy, it would be advisable for family, friends and acquaintances to avoid unnecessary and annoying observations .

Off the mark comments like “You have a huge baby bump!” or “You have a very small belly, are you sure everything is fine?” they can cause unwarranted concern in expectant mothers.

Having said that, being aware of the fact that the size of the baby bump changes from woman to woman (and from pregnancy to pregnancy) could help expectant mothers to feel more serene and not to make too many comparisons with each other, remembering that each baby bump is unique in its characteristics , inimitable and special!

Kathryn Barlow is an OB/GYN doctor, which is the medical specialty that deals with the care of women's reproductive health, including pregnancy and childbirth.

Obstetricians provide care to women during pregnancy, labor, and delivery, while gynecologists focus on the health of the female reproductive system, including the ovaries, uterus, vagina, and breasts. OB/GYN doctors are trained to provide medical and surgical care for a wide range of conditions related to women's reproductive health.

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