1. Home
  2. Services
  3. Maternity Services
  4. What to Expect When You're Pregnant

What to Expect During Your Pregnancy

As an expectant or new parent, you have the trusted pregnancy resources of Emory Decatur Hospital. As you prepare for this wonderful event, remember that early prenatal care and regular checkups are important gifts to give yourself and your baby. While every woman and pregnancy is different, this general information is designed to help you care for yourself and your baby and to help you know what to expect in pregnancy. Of course, the best source of information is your healthcare provider. We encourage you to talk with him or her about any specific information you may need. The tabs below list information in regards to what you can expect in the different stages of your pregnancy.

The Journey Begins -- First Trimester

Conception – 15 weeks

In the first month of pregnancy, your baby is about one-half inch long. The circulatory system and other vital organs such as the heart, brain, lungs, eyes and ears have begun to form. By the end of the second month, all essential structures are in place, and the baby is about 1 inch long.

What You Do, Do For Two

A healthful lifestyle provides a solid foundation for your baby’s growth and development. This includes being seen regularly by a health care provider and taking care of yourself and your baby. It’s important to rest during the day. A 30-minute nap can do wonders for how you feel. As your abdomen grows, extra bed pillows can help support your back, tummy and hips.

Protect your baby as he or she grows by avoiding substances which can be harmful to your developing baby including:

  • Caffeine: If you can’t go completely caffeine-free, limit it to one or two caffeinated beverages a day.
  • Artificial sweeteners: If you must use them, aspartame (NutraSweet) is considered safer than saccharin. If you use aspartame, limit it to two to three servings per day.
  • Alcohol: All alcoholic beverages, including beer, wine and hard liquor, should be avoided. There is no “safe” amount of alcohol to consume while pregnant.
  • Medications: Avoid all over-the-counter and prescription medications, especially in your first three months. Talk with your health care provider if you regularly take any prescription or over-the-counter medications.
  • Cigarettes: When you smoke, your baby receives less oxygen, which may cause long-term problems for your baby. Remember, secondhand smoke also is dangerous.
  • Illegal drugs: Any quantity or type of illegal or “street” drug is very harmful.

Safety First

Provide the safest environment possible for your growing baby by keeping these safety tips in mind:

  • Avoid hot tubs, especially during the first three months of pregnancy since they can increase your body temperature and harm your developing baby.
  • Don’t handle cat litter because cat feces may contain a virus known as toxoplasmosis that can harm your baby.
  • Be careful when gardening or handling raw and undercooked meats because toxoplasmosis also can be found in gardens and in rare or undercooked meats. Use gloves when gardening. Wash your hands after handling raw meat, chicken or fish and cook until well done.
  • Wear your seatbelt. The shoulder belt should be snug across your shoulders and the lap belt low on your hips. As your abdomen grows, put the lap belt under your growing tummy.


Regular exercise can enhance your physical well-being during pregnancy, during labor and afterward. If you haven’t been exercising, try walking. Start slowly and build up to a goal of 30 minutes at least three times per week. Swimming also is an excellent form of exercise. Pay close attention to your body. Remember to drink plenty of fluids, stop if you become overheated or fatigued, start slowly and build up gradually. If you have been on a serious exercise program, be sure to talk with your health care provider about any adjustments you may need to make in your exercise routine. You should not exercise flat on your back after the third month of pregnancy.

How Are You Feeling?

Morning sickness such as nausea or vomiting is common in early pregnancy. Whether you feel sick in the morning or have symptoms all day and night, try these tips:

  • Eat a few dry crackers before you get out of bed.
  • Eat six small meals throughout the day.
  • Drink liquids between meals.
  • Avoid heavy, fried or greasy foods.
  • Call your health care provider if you can’t keep anything down or if you have dry, cracked lips, urine that is dark yellow, a fever or persistent dizziness.

Sexual Activity

Most women can continue lovemaking throughout their pregnancy. You may experience peaks and valleys in your desire depending on your fatigue level. After your third month, creative positioning is important. You should not lie flat on your back. Avoid heavy weight on your growing abdomen.

Where does the weight go?

On average:

7 lbs – maternal stores

4 lbs – increased fluid

4 lbs – increased blood

2 lbs – uterus

6 to 8 lbs – baby

2 lbs – amniotic fluid

1 lb – placenta

Call for Help

If you have any of these symptoms, call your healthcare provider:

  • Vaginal bleeding or spotting
  • Severe cramping
  • Vomiting more than three times a day

Feeding Your Baby

One important choice you will make is how you will feed your baby. Breastfeeding is the best feeding for baby, with lifelong health benefits for mother and baby. Emory Decatur Hospital offers ongoing support for breastfeeding moms:

  • Breastfeeding Basics class to learn more before baby is born.
  • In-house Lactation Centerwith retail products.
  • Breastfeeding Warm Line for help after baby arrives (404.501.5787).
  • BABY TALK weekly breastfeeding support group facilitated by an international board-certified lactation consultant.

Some mothers may choose not to breastfeed. Your pediatrician can recommend the best formula. If you are unsure about infant feeding, dial 404.501.5787 and an Emory Decatur Hospital lactation expert will be happy to talk with you.

The Journey Continues – Second Trimester

16 – 28 weeks

Your baby is starting to grow faster and you’ll begin to “look” pregnant. Your baby’s teeth, eyelids and eyelashes and arms and legs are developing in detail. You may feel the baby move for the first time. By the end of your fifth month, your baby is about 10 inches long.

Caring for You, and Baby Too

Maintaining a nutritious, well-balanced diet is important. Remember to drink at least eight glasses of water each day. Because your baby’s brain is growing and developing rapidly, you need to eat high protein foods daily – three servings or 6 ounces. Your baby is building up iron stores and your body needs iron to maintain normal hemoglobin. Be sure to eat iron-rich foods including green leafy vegetables, most breakfast cereals, red meat, raisins and blackstrap molasses.

Travel During Pregnancy

Unless your health care provider advises otherwise, it is safe to travel until the 28th week of pregnancy. Be sure you drink plenty of water while traveling. For car and air travel, stretch every two hours, walk and empty your bladder. Wear your seatbelt low on your hips and below your expanding tummy. Discuss travel after your 28th week with your health care provider.

Call for Help

You can help prevent premature birth by recognizing the warning signs and physical symptoms of preterm labor. If you have any of these symptoms, call your healthcare provider:

  • Vaginal bleeding or spotting
  • Cramping
  • Lower back pain that comes and goes
  • Pelvic pressure
  • Leaking of vaginal fluid
  • Vaginal discharge with unpleasant odor
  • Burning sensation with urination

Pick a Pediatrician

You need to select a pediatrician for your baby. This doctor will see your newborn in the hospital and then provide ongoing care for your child. It’s best to select a pediatrician by your 30th week of pregnancy. If you need help finding a pediatrician, call Emory Decatur Hospital’s free physician referral service at 404.501.WELL or read more about finding a physician. Many pediatricians’ offices have ‘get to know us’ meetings to help you decide on your baby’s doctor. You may want to consider:

  • How the office handles questions.
  • Whether a lactation specialist is on staff.
  • Whether separate waiting rooms are available for well children and sick children.
  • Whether special sick hours are available.
  • How after-hours phone calls are handled.
  • Whether the doctor is on your insurance plan.

You also need to start thinking about how you want to parent your baby. As you select the pediatrician for your baby, ask him or her for any recommendations on parenting books or websites.

Baby’s Movement

A developing baby’s sleep-wake cycle can range from 20 minutes to two hours. You will typically feel your baby move sometime between your 16th and 20th week of pregnancy. Movement will increase and become more noticeable as your pregnancy progresses. Soon family members will be able to feel those kicks and wiggles. Baby’s movement will continue throughout your pregnancy, although movement may be less noticeable in the last few weeks. If you notice a decrease in baby’s movement, call your health care provider immediately. The baby’s position along with the mother’s blood sugar level, occupation and eating habits as well as light, sound and physical stimulus to the uterus can affect fetal movement. Each baby has a different movement rhythm.

Aches and Pains

Many women may experience pain in their joints and muscles during pregnancy. Emory Decatur Hospital offers Rehabilitation Solutions for Women, a group of physical therapists who specialize in relieving pain during pregnancy. If you are experiencing pregnancy-related aches and pains, talk with your health care provider to see if this is right for you.


Although some medications are allowed in the second trimester of pregnancy, you still may want to ask your health care provider about taking any prescription and over-the-counter medications.


Many women experience more vivid dreams during the last half of pregnancy. If what you are dreaming about is worrying you, talk with your health care provider.

The Journey is Almost Complete – Third Trimester

29 – 40 weeks

From seven to nine months, you’ll gain the most weight while your baby is growing incredibly fast. In your eighth month, your baby weighs about 4 pounds and is about 17 inches long. The baby’s bones and nails are hardening and wrinkles disappear as fat begins depositing under the skin. At full term, the average baby weighs 6 to 8 pounds and is about 19 to 20 inches long. Emory Decatur Hospital offers classes to help parents know what to expect, prepare for the arrival and be ready for the baby at home. Read more here about these classes or call us at 404.501.WELL.

Be sure you’ve scheduled your tour of Emory Decatur Hospital’s Women’s Center. all 404.501.WELL. You’ll learn:

  • Where to park.
  • Where to check in.
  • More about birthing options.
  • How to pre-register for admission, which minimizes delays and makes your admission when you are in labor quick and trouble-free. Be sure to bring a photo ID and insurance card for pre-admission.

If you can’t come for a tour, please call 404.501.1389 to make arrangements for pre-registration.

Is this labor?

Possible Signs of Labor

  • Backache with low, nagging pain that may come and go.
  • Lower abdomen cramps.
  • Soft bowel movements.
  • Contractions with irregular pattern or same length, strength and frequency, little or no cervical change occurs.

Positive Signs of Labor

  • Slippery blood-tinged mucus from vagina that may occur days before real labor begins (bloody show).
  • Contractions:
    • Become longer, stronger and closer together.
    • Are painful or very strong.
    • Prevent you from walking or talking.
    • Are felt deep in pelvis or lower back.
    • Dilation of cervix progresses.
    • Gush of amniotic fluid.

Checking for Contractions

Place fingertips gently but firmly at top of uterus and feel entire uterus for tightening or hardness. From beginning of one contraction to beginning of next is ‘how often’ the contractions are coming. From beginning of one to end of same contraction is ‘how long’ they are lasting.

When to Call

If this is your first baby, you’ll want to let your health care provider know when you are having contractions every five minutes for about two hours. If you’ve already had a baby, call your health care provider after one hour of regular contractions. If you think your water has broken, call your health care provider immediately, regardless of contractions.

OB Hospitalists

You want only the best care for you and your baby during birth, and so does DeKalb Medical. With this in mind, Emory Decatur Hospital Women’s Center now offers an Obstetrics and Gynecology (OB/GYN) Hospitalist program to serve alongside our community OB/GYNs. Emory Decatur Hospital’s OB/GYN Hospitalists focus exclusively on providing care for women in labor and delivery. They are board certified, highly skilled in many birthing techniques, and are required to maintain professional standards and clinical performance.

Emory Decatur Hospital Hospitalists work seamlessly with our community’s OB/GYNs, family physicians, and certified nurse midwives to enhance the continuity of care for pregnant women, new mothers and their infants. This program underscores our commitment to providing the highest level of care in Women’s Services. Hospitalists contribute to our position of being “With You” as we support your wishes through carefully evaluated birth plans, and many natural birthing options.

If your physician is unavailable or delayed, our professional hospitalists will take care of you and answer any questions you have – keeping in contact with your obstetrician to know the particulars of your birth. Anesthesiology is also included — available around the clock — ensuring women in labor won’t have to wait for pain relief, if needed. Additionally, our hospitalists can assume care if the patient does not have their own obstetrician, ensuring you are never alone in this process.

While these hospitalists are an important addition to the staff of Emory Decatur Hospital, they are not a replacement for your personal OB/GYN. Rather, they will act as a safety net for private practice obstetricians, as well as necessary backup at irregular hours. Emory Decatur Hospital’s new Hospitalist program means that no matter what happens along your birthing journey, an experienced Emory Decatur Hospital OB/GYN will be With You All the Way.

Warning Signs to Report

Preterm Labor

  • Less than 37 weeks pregnant with contractions, which may not be painful, occurring every 15 minutes.
  • Menstrual-like cramping in lower abdomen.
  • Dull lower backache that is not eased with position change.
  • Pelvic heaviness that may come and go.
  • Intestinal cramping with or without diarrhea.
  • Sudden change or increase in vaginal discharge.
  • General feeling something is not right.

Labor Check In

At Emory Decatur Hospital, we support family-centered maternity care, and we want to make your baby’s arrival special for you and your family. After you check in at the nurse station, you’ll meet with a specially trained labor and delivery registered nurse who will gather information about your general health and assess your labor. Be sure to share your personal preferences for labor and the comfort measures you would like to use. Our Labor-Delivery-Recovery suites, known as LDRs, provide a relaxed, spa-like environment. Yet, they also are equipped with the most advanced technology and monitoring equipment for you and your baby. And, every room has a private bath with a shower and/or tub. At Emory Decatur Hospital, we welcome complementary therapies such as aromatherapy or acupressure and extra support persons such as a birthing coach or doula.

Your Baby's Here

You and your baby have just completed an incredible journey. Some mothers are surprised that their baby isn’t “picture perfect” when he or she arrives. Babies are born with a thin, whitish coating and they are bloody. Their heads have been conforming to the birth canal so their skull may be distorted or cone-shaped. Underneath the wrinkles and red and white messiness is a bundle of joy – your beautiful son or daughter.

Mother-Baby Unit

Our Mother-Baby Unit is designed to provide a quiet, comfortable place to rest and recover from your delivery with 52 private Mother-Baby rooms. New mothers are encouraged to keep their baby with them round-the-clock, using this special time to discover your new baby and become more familiar with his or her care. Our Mother-Baby nurses are happy to show you all you will need to know about caring for yourself and your new baby. Each room also features a window seat couch/sleeper and your partner or one other adult is welcome to spend the night with you.

Special Care

While we give all our mothers and babies special attention, some require greater medical care. Should your baby require extra attention, Emory Decatur Hospital offers a neonatal nursery in Georgia with a Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). This unit is for babies who are born early or those who need heart monitoring, special medications or assistance breathing. Parents are encouraged to take an active role in their baby’s care.

Lactation Center

Emory Decatur Hospital offers support for breastfeeding mothers while you are in the hospital and when you and your baby have gone home.

Hospital Stay

How long you are in the hospital after your baby is born depends on your health and your specific insurance coverage. Generally, mothers stay 24 to 48 hours days after a vaginal birth and 48 to 72 hours after a cesarean birth.

contact us

FIND AN OBSTETRICIAN online bill pay access my account

Emory Decatur Hospital

Maternity Center


Contact Maternity
in the news
Visit Press Releases