After the initial shock and phase of being overwhelmed with happiness when you and your partner learn that you’re going to be having a baby very soon, one of the first questions (from a seemingly endless list of pregnancy related questions) you ask yourself after getting back a positive pregnancy test is: “when will I start showing?”.
You’ll want to know when to announce the news to all your friends, family and loved ones before that baby bump of yours will eventually state the obvious.
You’ll also want to plan some of the important stuff ahead of time, stuff such as buying maternity clothes for when you’ll need them.
When Do Pregnant Women Start Showing?
Generally speaking, pregnant women begin showing in their second trimester, between the 12th and 16th weeks of their pregnancy1. Most pregnant women find they need to wear maternity clothes after their 17th week.
It’s in their second trimester that most women begin to notice a gradual decrease in pregnancy symptoms and a gradual increase in belly size.
Before they reach this point when their bump becomes quite obvious, most women will have already told their coworkers and employer about their pregnancy.
Waiting to break the news to those you see on a near daily basis after your bump becomes obvious just makes it awkward for everyone – but it is, in the end, completely up to you to decide.
Contrary to popular belief, though, not all pregnant women will start to show at the same time during their pregnancy.
No two women out there are exactly alike, so mothers-to-be will start to showcase an obvious pregnant belly at different times during pregnancy.
Even though most pregnant women begin showing in the beginning and the middle of their second trimesters, some women may begin showing during their first trimester, while others may only begin to do so quite late into their second trimester.
How Can I Tell When I Will Start To Show?
Before you go rushing to shop for maternity clothes just yet, read the following list that covers some of the most important factors that go into determining when a pregnant woman is more likely to begin showing.
1) First Time Mothers
Generally speaking, first time mothers tend to show later than mothers that have given birth to a baby before.
Veteran mothers who have already been pregnant before will show earlier because this is not the first time their uterine (womb) and abdominal muscles stretch from a pregnancy. Your uterus never returns to the size it was before your first ever pregnancy.
If this is your first time ever conceiving, then you’re most likely to start showing that baby bump in 12 weeks to 16 weeks.
If this is your second time (or more) being pregnant, then you may begin showing 4 weeks (one month) earlier than you did back when you got pregnant for the first time ever.
2) Number Of Babies In Womb
How many babies you have in your womb also plays a role in whether you show at an earlier stage or later stage in your pregnancy.
Women pregnant with twins are likely to notice a bump earlier than women pregnant with just a single baby, and women pregnant with multiples at the same time are likely to notice a bump earlier than women pregnant with twins2.
The more babies you’re carrying in your womb at once, the more room they take up and the sooner you’ll begin showing as a result.
3) Baby Size
The size of your baby and whether they’re developing according to schedule or are behind schedule also plays a role in when your pregnancy belly will become obvious for everyone to notice.
The smaller the baby you’re carrying is, the more time you’ll need to show, while the more obvious things are going to be when the baby you’re carrying is large in size.
Your age also has a lot to do with how soon (or how late) you begin to look pregnant. Generally speaking, older pregnant women tend to show earlier while younger pregnant women tend to show later.
It makes sense from a visual perspective that the more overweight a pregnant woman is, the more difficult it will be for her to look pregnant during the earlier stages because of the extra weight that’s already around her abdominal area. Pregnancy will become obvious to everyone during the later stages, though.
The skinnier a pregnant woman is, on the other hand, the more obvious her pregnancy will be at an earlier stage to everyone.
Some women who are very overweight may not clearly show until they’re in their third trimester, while exceptionally skinny women may clearly show early in their first trimester.
This is also why it’s very important for you as a mom-to-be to watch your food intake during pregnancy.
You keep hearing it all the time that you now have to eat for two, and while this is true, it’s very easy for women to overeat their way into gaining unwanted excessive fat really fast.
That’s why it’s very important that you follow a properly structured diet according to which phase of pregnancy you’re in and your baby’s needs at the time. This way you won’t be overeating, and you won’t confuse excessive fat gain around the abdominal area with actual pregnancy showing.
6) Body Frame
Women with smaller body frames are likely to show earlier than women with larger builds.
7) Abdominal Muscle Tone
See? It turns out that all the constant advice you hear about the benefits of going to the gym were true after all! Women with tight and toned abdominal muscles will show later than women with less tight and less tones abdominal muscles.
8) It Runs In The Family
As is the case with everything else in life, genetics has its say in this as well. Ask the females in your close family circle about when they started to show when they were pregnant.
Chances are you’re likely to show around the same time your mother, sister or other female relatives from your mother’s side did due to genetics passed down from one generation to the next.
9) Retroverted Uterus
One physical condition that many pregnant women often experience (around 15% of them) that causes them to show later than anticipated is having a retroverted uterus.
A retroverted uterus is one that’s abnormally tilted backwards rather than to the front, a condition that delays your pregnancy bump from showing until the later stages when it tends to fix itself as your uterus expands3.
10) Clothing Choice
Even though this has no direct effect on your pregnancy belly and its expansion, what clothing you choose to wear plays a role in this as well.
By choosing to wear tight clothing, you’ll be making a quicker announcement to the world around you than you would be by choosing to wear loose clothing that can buy you a few more weeks before you can’t hide the obvious anymore.
And, it goes without saying that maternity clothes will make what’s going on obvious to everyone, even if you’re still not showing much yet.
11) Weight Gain
During the initial stages of your pregnancy, you’re not likely to gain much weight for anyone to notice a drastic change in your body. Gaining up to 5 pounds is pretty much the standard during this early stage.
However, and as you progress through your pregnancy, you’re going to gain more weight at a faster pace, and the more pregnancy weight you put on, the faster you’ll start to show.
Why Do These Bumps Appear At This Phase?
Shortly after you find out that you’re pregnant, your uterus is still fairly small in size. During this early stage, many experts liken your uterus’s form to the shape of a pear (the fruit).
However, as you progress throughout your pregnancy and as you gradually cross the 12 week mark, your uterus begins to expand and becomes rounder. At this stage, experts liken its form to that of a grapefruit more than a pear.
Most women begin to notice a pregnancy bump at this stage.
However, it should be noted that this bump in your belly is not entirely caused by the baby growing inside of you.
On the contrary, your growing baby only causes a small part of this bump in the early stages of your pregnancy.
At this phase and while still not at the 12 week mark, your baby doesn’t need that much space just yet, it’s just your uterus thickening to be able to better support your growing baby.
Between the 12 week mark and the 16 week mark, that’s when the most of your uterus expansion and stretching is going to happen, and is also when the majority of women will really start to show.
What Should I Do If I’m Not Showing Yet?
If you’re still not showing yet and you’re getting towards the later part of your second trimester, don’t stress yourself about it just yet.
It can indeed be an anxious feeling not knowing what’s going on, especially considering that you won’t be reassured by feeling your baby’s kicks until weeks 18 to 20, but panicking won’t help you get to the bottom of the issue.
When it’s getting late in their pregnancy and they’re still not showing yet, many women worry that their baby is too small and not developing properly, but this isn’t always the case. Many women don’t begin showing before their third trimester, and go on to deliver very healthy babies in due time.
With that being said, if you’re worried about your baby measuring too small, talk to your doctor about it.
If need be, they’ll run you through an ultrasound to make sure (and reassure you) that everything’s going according to schedule.
Sometimes, the due date you were given at first may turn out to be inaccurate, and this is something your doctor will be able to determine and notify you about upon performing a new ultrasound.
If the reason you’re still not clearly showing yet is because your baby is smaller than expected at this phase, your doctor will let you know what needs to be done and will request to run frequent checks to make sure they properly develop from here forward.
Talking to your doctor about this becomes even more of a necessity if you’re still not showing yet and you’re already in your third trimester.
Should I Worry If I’m Showing Too Early?
Just like showing late is a cause of alarm for many pregnant women, showing early is also often a cause of alarm, even though it shouldn’t always be so.
As we’ve already covered above, sometimes circumstances exist that have you show early without there being anything necessarily wrong with you or your baby.
Whether you’ve gone through previous pregnancies that have caused enough expansions already or are pregnant with more than one baby at once, showing early should very often not be a cause of worry.
If you want to be reassured that there’s nothing abnormal going on, though, you can ask your doctor to perform an ultrasound on you to double check.
A Quick Note About Bloat
During pregnancy, and most often shortly after they learn that they’re pregnant, some women experience bloating and confuse this for showing4.
So, it should be made very clear that bloating and showing are not the same thing.
Confusing bloating with showing most often happens with mothers-to-be while still in their first trimester and early on in their second trimester. You can be even more sure that it’s bloating if you’re also experiencing excessive gas build up at the same time.
Changes in hormone levels towards the beginning of a woman’s pregnancy plays a significant role in these cases of bloating and excessive gas build up.
Other women also experience something often referred to as a “come and go” belly during the earlier stages of pregnancy, where it feels really expanded one day but goes back to normal the next.
Stuff like bowel movements and water shifts in the body usually have their role in this kind of belly that many women confuse for pregnancy showing.
Not Just A Belly Bump
Keep in mind that when you start showing, your bump won’t be the only giveaway that announces your pregnancy to everyone around you.
Around the 12 week mark when most women begin showing, their breasts also tend to increase in size as well, which makes for another obvious giveaway to more pregnancy savvy individuals.
- When Will My Pregnancy Start to Show? https://www.verywellfamily.com/when-will-i-start-to-show-2759757. Accessed June 30, 2019.
- When Do You Start Showing with Twins? https://www.twinstuff.com/when-do-you-start-showing-with-twins/. Accessed June 30, 2019.
- How Having a Tilted Uterus Affects Pregnancy. https://www.whattoexpect.com/pregnancy/tilted-uterus. Accessed June 30, 2019.
- Bloating and Gas During Pregnancy. https://www.whattoexpect.com/pregnancy/symptoms-and-solutions/bloating.aspx. Accessed June 30, 2019.