When Do You Start Showing in Pregnancy? All About Your Pregnant Belly

Last Updated: September 28, 2023
Liesel Teen, RN-BSN

By Liesel Teen

BSN, RN, Practicing Labor and Delivery Nurse

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A lot of things can impact not only when you start showing in pregnancy but also why baby bumps come in all different shapes and sizes! 

While some reasons are more obvious than others, there is one thing that is certain, all bumps are beautiful. Whether your bump is big or small, round, high, low, wide, square, with stretch marks or without – embrace it, mama!

Here you’ll learn what can affect when you start showing, what the different ways of carrying might mean, when you can expect to pop, and more. Let’s go!

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What affects when your belly pops during pregnancy?

Actually – a lot! You see, when your belly pops isn’t exactly a “one size, fits all” scenario. Pregnancy is different for every person and affects everyone’s body in a different way and at a different pace. 

Additionally, every pregnancy can progress a little differently, even for the same person! So if you started showing at “x” number of weeks or carried one way in one pregnancy, don’t expect it to be the exact same in the next! 

There are several factors that impact when someone’s belly pops during pregnancy. But, I will say, the majority of women report noticing their bellies pop towards the end of the first or the beginning of the second trimester. But again, this isn’t the case for all. 

So that leads us to: what actually impacts the belly pop during pregnancy?

Number of previous pregnancies

Generally, you show earlier with subsequent pregnancies than you do with your first. You can thank the ligaments and muscles surrounding your belly for this!

You see, during pregnancy, the muscles and ligaments around your abdomen stretch as your uterus expands. Once they have been stretched in one pregnancy, they seem to stretch much sooner and much easier in subsequent pregnancies. And let me tell you, I can attest to this phenomenon!

We’ll get into this in a little more detail below – so stay with me.

Your pre-pregnancy size

I’ll dive into this a little more below too, but your pre-pregnancy weight can impact when your pregnant belly pops and how it looks as you progress through pregnancy.

Similarly to your weight, your height can also impact you baby bump timeline.

Torso length

In addition to your height and weight, the length of your torso can affect how soon you’ll show during pregnancy. 

Generally, women with shorter torsos show sooner than women with longer torsos – regardless of their overall height!

Carrying multiples

For fairly obvious reasons, a mama carrying more than one baby will likely begin showing sooner! 

Because of this, she might also appear “larger” or further along than her actual gestational age because, well, her uterus has to make appropriate accommodations.

Uterine anatomy

Just like how people come in all different shapes and sizes, your anatomy can come in all different shapes and sizes too!

What do I mean by this? Well, the general size and shape of your uterus, as well as the elasticity of the muscles around your abdomen can all play a role in how early you start showing and your bump progression.

Diastasis recti 

Diastasis recti is the partial or complete separation of the abdominal muscles, which meet at the midline of your stomach. If you have it, your bump might pop sooner or appear larger than someone without diastasis.

This is very common during and after pregnancy due to the uterus stretching the abdominal muscles to accommodate baby!

Related Listening: Chatting About Diastasis Recti with a Pelvic Floor PT

What does it actually mean for your belly to “pop” during pregnancy?

When you reach week 12 of pregnancy your uterus begins to expand above the pubic bone – this is the pop! 

Before 12 weeks your uterus is normally still pretty low within the pelvis and isn’t very noticeable (at least not to those other than the mama). As your abdomen begins to look (and feel) fuller, thanks to your growing uterus, your baby bump will become more and more noticeable 

For reference, your pre-pregnancy uterus is about the size of a lemon, but by the time you reach week 12, it will have grown to the size of a grapefruit and will only get bigger from there!

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Curious about when you will start showing in pregnancy?

Okay, so above we talked about the different factors that can impact when you’ll show during pregnancy, but I thought it would be helpful to break it down for different situations.

This way, you can reference which of these scenarios best describes you to have an even greater sense of when you might start showing!

When do you start showing in your first pregnancy?

Generally, women carrying their first baby start showing between 12 and 18 weeks. Women that have a more narrow body frame and minimal body fat tend to show on the earlier side of that range than those with a curvier stature.

But remember, this isn’t a hard and fast rule – because as you learned above there are a lot of other factors in play.

One thing that’s usually true is that a first time mom won’t show quite as early as someone on their second (+) pregnancy. This is because your muscles and ligaments have never stretched out in this way before.

When do you start showing in your second pregnancy?

If you are reading this as a second- or third-time mama, then you are well aware of how early in pregnancy your belly can pop. Like I mentioned, there are muscles and ligaments allllll around your abdomen that get stretched during pregnancy – round ligament pain anyone?

As your uterus and belly grow during pregnancy, these surrounding ligaments and muscles get nice and stretched out to accommodate the growth. Unfortunately, they never quite go back to how they were prior to your first pregnancy.

This right here has a lot to do with why mamas that have been pregnant before typically show earlier in pregnancy than first-time moms.

When do you start showing in pregnancy if overweight?

Pre-pregnancy weight and size can not only impact how soon you start showing during pregnancy, but also how your bump looks throughout your pregnancy. 

When a plus-size woman starts to show in pregnancy is dependent on a few things:

  • Her body shape prior to pregnancy
  • How her body carries weight
  • If she has previously been pregnant and how many times 

Generally speaking, if you are a plus-size woman, you can expect to start showing around the 16–20-week mark, with some even being closer to 20-24 weeks. 

Remember what we discussed previously though – there is a lot that plays into bump timeline and shape aside from pre-pregnancy weight alone.

When do you start showing with twins?

When carrying multiple babies, you can expect your bump to not only grow faster, but to also show sooner. A lot of mamas carrying multiples begin to show in their first trimester. 

A uterus accommodating two (or three or more) babies will begin to grow and stretch much sooner and will stretch larger over the course of 9 (give or take) months.

Let’s talk about pregnant belly shapes and sizes

The size of your bump during pregnancy might be a result of numerous different things, many of which I have touched on above. 

Just like people, pregnant bellies come in all shapes and sizes, and one shape or size is not “better” or “worse” than another.

Let’s look at some specefic scenarios.

Small pregnant belly

Again, genetics, body shape, and size prior to pregnancy has a lot to do with how your bump appears to others and to yourself. A mama that is tall might be able to “hide” her bump in her longer torso, making her pregnant belly appear smaller than someone that is shorter.

Along the same lines, a mama carrying her first baby might have a smaller belly, especially earlier on in pregnancy than someone carrying their second, third, etc. baby. And very tight abdominal muscles can also cause your pregnant belly to appear smaller.

Should I worry? Usually not, but further along in pregnancy, a smaller pregnant belly might be indicative of either a baby on the smaller side or low amniotic fluid, something known as oligohydramnios in the medical field.  

This is something that your provider can discuss if you have any concerns.

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Big pregnant belly

On the contrary, a larger pregnant belly might be related to several different things as well. If you learn one thing from this article it’s that genetics and pre-pregnancy weight and size can impact how big or small your bump looks!

While not always the case, a mama that is short might have a larger looking baby bump than someone taller with a long torso. This is quite simply because there just isn’t as much room in their torso, lengthwise, so the abdomen doesn’t really have anywhere to go but out. 

A bigger pregnant belly might also be indicative of a larger baby, twins or multiples, or high amniotic fluid (polyhydramnios).

Carrying high during pregnancy

There are tons of old wives’ tales about how you carry your baby bump and the sex of your baby, but there isn’t really any scientific research to support these theories. 

How you carry your baby (high vs. low) has much more to do with your body shape and size, and less to do with your baby’s sex. 

Just as baby’s vary in shapes and sizes, so do baby bumps. Taller women normally appear to carry their baby higher in pregnancy simply because they have more room in their torso. 

Additionally, how you carry your baby might simply be an indication of how strong (or weak) your abdominal muscles are. Maternal age, physical health, and number of previous pregnancies all play a role in how the strength of our abdominal muscles.

Someone with stronger abdominal muscles will likely give the appearance that they are carrying their baby higher. 

Related Reading: Have Fun With Some Pregnancy Old Wives’ Tales

Carrying low during pregnancy

Again, totally unrelated to the sex of the baby you are carrying. Carrying your baby low during pregnancy might simply be the result of a short mama that has less space for baby to expand.

It might also mean that mama has decreased abdominal muscle tone. And before you get upset for me telling you that you have weak abdominal muscles, just remember that this is one of many possible reasons and that some of the reasons for it are out of our control aka previous pregnancies and/or diastis recti. 

As you get closer to your due date, it’s common for baby to drop lower into your pelvis to get ready for birth. When baby drops, your bump can definitely appear lower than it did before!

Feeling more confident about that bump? 

I hope you are feeling more confident than ever about rocking your beautiful baby bump after reading this article, mama!

No matter the shape or size, whether it’s high or low – be proud of the amazing work your body is doing and embrace your bump.

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Liesel Teen, RN-BSN

Liesel Teen

BSN, RN, Practicing Labor and Delivery Nurse

As a labor and delivery nurse, I’ve spent countless hours with women who felt anxious — even fearful — about giving birth. I want you to know it doesn’t have to be that way for you!

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