Although there are plenty of other things to worry about while you’re pregnant, the most well-meaning of comments can set a girl to worrying about the size and shape of her bump.
‘Gosh, you’re so big’
Every woman carries differently, and some women even carry differently during each pregnancy. If your bump is on the plus side, you might worry that you’re picking up too much weight, or that you’re going to have a huge baby, but there’s really no standard for bump size.
There are several factors that could influence the size of your pregnant belly, including how many babies you’re carrying, the way your baby is lying and how much amniotic fluid you have, explains Dr Trudy Smith, specialist gynaecologist and obstetrician at Park Lane hospital in Johannesburg.
Women with good muscle tone, or women who are taller and have a longer torso, may not have a large bump, while women with a shorter torso may show more prominently, as there’s not as much space for the uterus to expand. If this is your second or third pregnancy, or you’re an older mom with comparatively weaker muscle tone, you may carry lower.
Your bump will also show sooner in second or third pregnancies, because those muscles are more relaxed. But, the bottom line is that much depends on your size, genetics and physical condition. Your doctor will tell you if weight gain is a concern, and if she’s not worried about your baby’s growth and development, you shouldn’t be either.
The measure of it
Your baby’s growth is measured using symphysis-fundal height, which translates as the measurement from the top of the bone of the pelvis to the top of the uterus. “The fact is that when you lie down and we measure from the top of the pelvic bone to the top of the uterus, that’s actually the same in everybody,” explains Dr Smith. The symphysis fundal-height after 26 weeks is 26cm, and 28cm when you’re 28 weeks pregnant. Doctors measure up until you are 36 weeks pregnant.
“It depends on when you stand up, where your uterus lies – if it tips forward or to the back – there is no science behind it,” she adds. It’s different for multiple pregnancies, but for single-baby pregnancies, this is the norm.
The shape of you
The shape of your bump may be influenced by the way your baby is lying. Most babies lie head down, but a percentage of babies assume a different position. A breech baby (lying transverse across your stomach), may change the shape of your bump, advises midwife Mary-Ann Alves. “If you have a transverse lie, your stomach will be wider on the sides,” she says. If your baby is head up, your stomach will be big on top, or if your baby is head down, your bump might be lower,” she explains. It’s also important to remember that amniotic fluid, your uterus size, the size of your baby and the size of the placenta all contribute to the size of your bump, she says.
Generally speaking, the size of your bump has no correlation with having a big or small baby, says Dr Smith. But if your baby is large according to the gestation, your healthcare provider will first rule out gestational diabetes before considering any other factors. However, there are moms who have big babies unrelated to diabetes, such as simple genetics.
“Look at how your mother and grandmother carried. This can often – but not always – give you an idea of how you will carry,” says Mary-Ann.
Normal – or not?
Mild itchiness is usually just your skin stretching and drying out, in which case a good moisturising cream will help. But in rare cases, severely itchy skin can be a symptom of a liver condition called obstetric cholestasis, so if you’re feeling unusually itchy, mention it to your healthcare provider.
Has your belly button “popped”? This is completely normal and harmless – it’s just that your developing uterus puts pressure on the rest of your abdomen, pushing your belly button outwards. It will return to normal after pregnancy, once that pressure is gone.
Some women will notice a dark line developing on their stomach during their pregnancy. This is known as the linea nigra (black line), and that line has always been there, it’s just usually much lighter and is known as the linea alba (white line). This is just a part of pregnancy, related to pregnancy hormones. The good news is that it will lessen and fade away after the birth.
If it’s high, it’s a boy…
Let’s just set the record straight – the size and shape of your bump have no bearing on whether you’re having a boy or a girl. Yes, we’ve all heard the old wives’ tales that a high, tight bump means a boy and a low, sideways-spreading bump means a girl, but there’s no medical proof backing up these theories.