Are you pregnant and wondering what factors affect the timing of when you start showing?
All women are different and it’s very likely you will show at a different time than other moms you know. This shouldn’t cause you to worry — your little one is just a little shy.
There are many factors that contribute to when your little baby bump is going to make its presence known. By becoming aware of these factors, you can ease your mind and not stress about why you potentially might not be showing yet.
- When Will I Start Showing?
- When Will I Begin To Show If I Am Overweight?
- How Is A Pregnancy With Multiples Different?
- Will I Show Sooner If I Have Already Been Pregnant?
- How Does Your Height Factor In?
- Your Fitness Level Can Affect Your Bump
- I’m Not Showing So Why Don’t My Clothes Fit?
- If You Have Concerns
- The Bottom Line
When Will I Start Showing?
It’s typical for a woman to begin showing between 12 and 16 weeks (1). If you show before this time or after, that is usually just fine too.
There are numerous factors that can contribute to when your baby bump is going to become noticeable in your pregnancy. All pregnancies are unique and different so some women may show way earlier or way later than others, and even in the same woman, the bump may become visible at a different time than it did in her previous pregnancy.
Here is a glimpse at some factors that contribute to the visibility of your baby bump:
- Fitness level.
- Uterus position.
- Expecting multiples.
- Previous pregnancies.
- Previous abdominal surgeries.
Once your little bump makes its appearance, be sure to document this journey. You will love having the opportunity to look back on this priceless experience.
If the uterus is carrying just one fetus, my experience is that the top of the uterus can usually be felt above the pubic bone at about 13-14 weeks. If you are carrying twins or higher-order multiples, this may happen earlier. You may not show at this time but the doctor or midwife can usually feel the uterus on examination, even if you are overweight.
Belly bump measurements will usually start around 20 weeks. In most women, this is the time when the doctor can estimate gestational age by measuring the height of the ‘’top’’ of your uterus, the so-called fundus. Still, keep in mind that the accuracy of this method depends on many factors, so it is just one of the methods we use to check that you and your baby are on track with expected growth measurements.
Editor's Note:Dr. Irena Ilic, MD
When Will I Begin To Show If I Am Overweight?
Some women who are overweight are afraid they will just look larger, and never develop that obvious pregnant belly. Unfortunately, this is the case for some moms and it depends on your body type, but some also end up with extremely distinct baby bumps.
Some overweight women can actually look pregnant earlier on in their pregnancy if all their new weight gain is in the abdominal region.
No matter what your pre-pregnancy weight, you will probably gain at least 20 more pounds during your pregnancy. It is important to eat a healthy and balanced diet and monitor your weight gain during pregnancy together with your healthcare provider. The expected weight gain depends on your body mass index before pregnancy and whether you are expecting one or more babies.
Weight gain within the recommended range is a sign of a healthy pregnancy (2). However, too much weight gain can lead to complications during labor, increase the risk for hypertension and gestational diabetes mellitus, and it can also make it harder for you to lose weight after delivery and lead to having even more weight in your subsequent pregnancies (3).
While you are pregnant you should engage in 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week. Spread it out throughout the week as convenient for you. This means, for example, brisk walking for 10 minutes twice a day. If you are wondering what moderate intensity means – that’s an activity during which you can normally have a conversation but you can’t sing. Just make sure you avoid risky physical activities such as contact sports and after the first trimester avoid exercises that involve lying on your back (4).
One thing that can prevent people from realizing you are pregnant is if you choose to wear your typical wardrobe rather than maternity clothes. Maternity clothes emphasize your pregnant belly and can make it more apparent that there is a tiny human growing in there (5).
It is very possible you could end up looking very pregnant, or you may just look larger than before.
Don’t let the way your pregnant belly looks get you discouraged, it’s what’s on the inside that matters. No matter the shape or distinction of your baby bump, the end result is what matters — that beautiful baby. Instead of worrying about the appearance of your bump, try thinking proactively and take steps that can help you prevent and minimize stretch marks.
How Is A Pregnancy With Multiples Different?
Mothers who are expecting more than one baby will have more significant body changes than a mother carrying a singleton.
Many moms suspect they might be pregnant with multiples when their belly growth seems to be rather rapid, but since this can also be due to bloating which is fairly common in pregnancy you’ll still need to confirm being pregnant with multiples with an ultrasound exam at your doctor’s office.
A multiples pregnancy can begin showing as early as 6 weeks. This is a significant difference from the 12-16 weeks associated with a singleton.
Your body knows it is pregnant with multiples, so it has to be prepared to accommodate two embryos. Your uterus will have to stretch much more than it would when carrying one baby, so it is not unlikely for you to look like you are much further along than you are. If you are carrying multiples, you will probably appreciate all the benefits that maternity belts and belly bands can give you both during and especially after your pregnancy.
More than one-half of women carrying twins and almost all women pregnant with triplets or more actually give birth before 40 weeks because of multiple factors including decreased space for their little ones to grow.
Will I Show Sooner If I Have Already Been Pregnant?
If you have already experienced pregnancy, chances are you will notice your baby bump significantly sooner than you did in your first pregnancy.
The reason you may show sooner is that your first pregnancy has already “prepped” your body for what is to come. Your previous pregnancy stretched your abdominal and uterine muscles making them more pliable for your new pregnancy (6).
Your uterus also does not shrink back down to the original size it was before you ever became pregnant, so it has a jump start to begin growing in your next pregnancy (7).
If you have already been pregnant at least once, chances are you will show about one month earlier in your next pregnancy.
Not only will you start showing sooner, but you will feel your baby move sooner than you did in your first pregnancy, and labor probably won’t last as long — yay!
While you will start showing sooner in your second and later pregnancies due to physiological changes your body went through during the previous pregnancy, the fact that you will feel your baby move sooner is likely just because you are more aware and have experience in distinguishing it after your previous pregnancy.
Editor's Note:Dr. Irena Ilic, MD
How Does Your Height Factor In?
Your height plays a rather large role in the timing of your baby bump. Your baby needs room to grow, and tall women seem to have a lot more space.
One could say that short women are compact, so their babies only have one way to grow — out. The issue really comes down to the amount of space below the rib cage.
A taller woman has significantly more space under her ribcage, so the baby doesn’t have to grow outward as much as the baby of a shorter woman.
Don’t Sweat It
So, even if you are months into your pregnancy, don’t be discouraged by people commenting on how small you are. As long as your doctor has no worries, and your baby is growing on schedule, the prominence of your bump doesn’t matter.
Don’t get discouraged if you don’t have the large bump you desire, chances are you are much more comfortable than a shorter woman with her basketball on full display.
It is believed that pregnancy overall is a lot easier for taller women because it doesn’t strain their body near as much. Still, because of the extra space their babies have for growing, these infants are sometimes born with higher weight which can lead to labor complications and presents a risk factor for some chronic diseases like hypertension later in the child’s life. Therefore, tall pregnant woman should consult their healthcare provider about the recommended level of physical activity and avoid a sedentary lifestyle during their pregnancy (8).
Whether you are tall or short, make the most of your pregnancy and appreciate that growing life inside of you. Just because you have a large bump or one that is barely noticeable, it doesn’t make you any less of a mother. Remember, just like every woman – every pregnancy and every bump is unique.
Your Fitness Level Can Affect Your Bump
It seems as if it only makes sense for thin, in-shape individuals to develop a baby bump rather early. The thing is, these individuals are actually able to hide their bump much longer.
Although being thin can cause your bump to become more prominent, those who frequently work out have an extra layer of protection.
A woman with defined abdominal muscles will be able to mask that baby bump because her abs are hiding her uterus from view. There are some extremely fit pregnant mothers who barely show even a couple of weeks before delivery. In these cases, if the doctor judges that a woman’s pregnancy weight gain is within the recommended range for her, then this is perfectly normal. The same weight gain does not look the same on every pregnant woman.
This is an extreme case of course, but if you have strong abdominal muscles, chances are your bump will make its appearance significantly later.
Age And Abdominal Muscles
Many young mothers seem to show significantly later than middle-aged mothers. This all has to do with the abdominal muscles once again. A younger mother usually has a rather tight stomach, and this can also hide the uterus for longer periods of time.
Tighter abdominal muscles are also one of the reasons younger mothers tend to “bounce back” faster than mothers of an older age.
I’m Not Showing So Why Don’t My Clothes Fit?
Some expectant moms will begin to notice their clothes are already fitting tighter even though there isn’t the slightest hint of a baby bump.
If your clothes aren’t fitting and you don’t have a bump, it is likely you are just experiencing early pregnancy bloating. All of your pregnancy hormones can cause this bloating to occur, and it should not be mistaken for a baby bump.
It is likely your clothes may fit one day and not the next, depending on the severity of your bloating. In due time your clothes will no longer fit because of your growing uterus and baby, but that time isn’t now.
Your body is changing every day to figure out its best way of accommodating your little one. Cherish every moment, your belly will pop soon enough!
In nine months you aren’t going to be worried about whether or not you started showing too early or too late. You are just going to care about that special someone you’re holding in your arms.
If You Have Concerns
It is not crazy to question many milestones on your journey to motherhood. You know your body best, so if you have any worries you should take them seriously.
It is very useful to mark relevant pregnancy-related events in a journal or using an app, and your healthcare provider might even instruct you to do so. This may help you compare your current with your past and previous pregnancies and also give your doctor some valuable information. If you believe the growth of your belly seems extremely advanced, or behind, contact your doctor.
Your doctor will either reassure you and give you peace of mind, or you just helped catch a problem early on. There are different reasons why belly growth can be advanced or behind, including multiples pregnancy, too much or too little amniotic fluid, gestational diabetes, hypertension, inadequate diet, substance abuse, or smoking.
Never be afraid to ask questions. Your doctor has probably heard just about everything, so don’t hesitate to reach out as there is no such thing as a silly question when it comes to matters of health. You are responsible for two lives now instead of one, you deserve all of the positive validation you can get!
The Bottom Line
Pregnancy is a journey, and the growth of your belly is just one part of that. No matter the shape or size of your bump, the end reward is always the same — your beautiful baby.
Each pregnancy is unique and there are numerous factors that determine the size and look of your bump and when it will appear. Try not to compare your pregnancy with the pregnancies of those around you. They don’t even have to be similar to those of your mother or sister!
This is an experience catered to you, and that makes it so much more special than having the perfect baby bump. If you are one of the lucky ones to have a perfect baby bump, congrats and thank your genetics!
If you aren’t happy with your bump, no two pregnancies are the same, so you just might have that the next time around.