when does a pregnancy start to show

A baby bump is one of the most obvious outward signs of pregnancy, but when will it start to show? Read on to find out! 


How Early Can You Start Showing When Pregnant?

If you’re worried about suddenly having a large pregnancy belly, fear not: the baby bump comes on gradually, and usually doesn’t start showing until at least 12 weeks. It’s perfectly normal for the bump not to show until 16 weeks.

If you are pregnant with twins, you will probably show sooner rather than later – after all, your uterus is having to expand around two babies!

In the very first four weeks or so of pregnancy, you won’t have any belly growth. You will probably experience some of the early symptoms of pregnancy, including implantation bleeding (spotting), and your body’s rising hormone levels may induce mood swings. Otherwise, you may not notice much! 


Early Baby Bump Signs

As the first trimester progresses into weeks 5-8, you may experience nausea, fatigue, sore breasts, and a more frequent desire to urinate. Your uterus will be growing, putting pressure on your bladder. You may also develop morning sickness, but this usually improves by 14 weeks and should clear up completely by the halfway point of your pregnancy.

You are unlikely to see any baby bump signs until week 12 at the earliest. However, if you’ve been pregnant before, your muscles may have been stretched enough for the bump to start showing earlier. Your waist may also start thickening before the baby bump emerges, so keep an eye on your profile and see if you notice any weight gain or growth above your pelvis.

Whether or not your bump grows noticeably at this point, you are likely to experience other symptoms of pregnancy: 

  • Emotional changes and mood swings – it is very common to feel happy one moment and sad the next.

  • Headaches and vaginal discharge – both are very common at this point, but speak to a midwife or doctor if they are painful or excessive.

  • Back pain – your ligaments will soften and stretch to accommodate the baby bump, so you may feel back pain or stomach pain. Again, speak to a doctor or a midwife if this becomes excessive.

Over the course of weeks 13-16, the uterus will switch position to sit higher in your abdomen, signalling that your baby bump has well and truly arrived! This will unfortunately bring with it more back pain as your ligaments adjust to the extra weight in your uterus and the shift in your centre of gravity. 


Can I Be Pregnant Without a Bump?

Baby bump progression is different for every mother. Yours might appear very quickly, or it might not appear until later on. Try to be patient with yourself and your baby – but if you are concerned, speak to a midwife.

There are a few reasons you may not see a bump between 12 and 16 weeks:

  • Position of your uterus

  • Existing belly fat

  • Cryptic pregnancy

The position of your uterus is the key factor in the appearance of the bump. Prior to 12 weeks, the uterus sits where it normally sits, but as time progresses, it grows past the pubic bone to sit over the abdomen. However, you may discover that you have a retroverted – or “tilted” – uterus. This is absolutely nothing to worry about, but could lead to your bump arriving later than might normally be expected.

If you are overweight (i.e. if your BMI is over 30) then your baby bump may not show up. You will probably still experience the other symptoms of pregnancy, including morning sickness and mood swings. If you are overweight but want to get pregnant, talk to a doctor or midwife first, and they will happy to help.

Alternatively, you can be safely pregnant with no bump – or a late bump – if your abdominal muscles are very strong. This is especially true if you’re pregnant for the first time, because a pregnancy will stretch the abdominal muscles in new ways. If your muscles are strong, that stretch may take a longer time to occur, leading to a bump appearing later. This is unusual, but not impossible.

Another reason for lacking a bump is a cryptic pregnancy. This is an uncommon phenomenon, occurring in roughly 1 in 7250 pregnancies, but can cause women to be unaware they are pregnant right up until they give birth.

If you have any questions about your bump, or the health of your baby, don’t hesitate to get in touch!

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