Karissa Zimmer is a Central PA portrait photographer specializing in Maternity Photography in Mechanicsburg, Harrisburg, Camp Hill, Carlisle, Hershey PA. Karissa offers a full service, custom portrait experience. View Karissa’s Maternity Photography Gallery Here.

Pregnancy Timeline by Trimester


Being pregnant is such an exciting and overwhelming time in your life, especially if it’s your first child. You want to do everything just right, but you may not even know what to expect as your body changes to support this precious little life growing inside you.

Whether you’re about to be a parent for the first time, or this is your third or fourth pregnancy, we want to help. A full-term pregnancy can range from 37 to 42 weeks, and each trimester lasts 12 to 14 weeks, or about three months. This simple guide breaks down what to expect from each trimester.

  • First Trimester - Weeks 1 to 13

    Although you may not appear pregnant, your body is going through incredible changes to support your growing baby. You’ll experience significant changes in your hormone levels and an increase in heart rate. Your body will increase its blood supply to carry oxygen and nutrients to your baby.

    With these changes to your body come many of the more well-known pregnancy symptoms: morning sickness, fatigue, headaches, and constipation.

    Your first doctor’s appointment should take place somewhere between six to eight weeks after your last period. At this visit, the doctor will confirm the pregnancy with a urine or blood test, and you’ll have an ultrasound to check on the baby’s health. Your doctor may also order blood work to check your nutritional levels and immunity.  

    The first trimester is crucial for your baby’s development, as your little one will develop all their organs by the end of the third month. Here’s what you can do to help ensure your baby has a healthy development:

    •     Maintain a healthy diet and avoid shellfish and deli meats
    •     Take folic acid and prenatal vitamins
    •     Avoid smoking and alcohol use
    •     Ask your doctor if you’re taking any prescription drugs that could affect your baby’s development

    The biggest thing you can do for your baby is to be open and honest with your doctor and talk about any concerns you may have. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

  • Second Trimester - Weeks 13 to 27

    Compared to the first trimester, the second often feels much more comfortable for many women. You’ll feel fewer of those early pregnancy symptoms like morning sickness and fatigue and may even feel more energetic and sleep better. However, you may notice some new symptoms, like leg cramps, backaches, and nasal congestion. 

    During this time, you’ll start to see the growth of your baby bump, so it’s a good time to start stocking up on maternity clothing and wear looser outfits. You may also notice an increase in your appetite and faster weight gain. Be sure to talk to your doctor about your weight at each visit, so you can make sure you’re not gaining too much or too little. 

    Since the risk of miscarriage is significantly higher in the first trimester, many women wait until the second to announce their pregnancy. The second trimester is also when most women feel their baby movie for the first time, usually around 20 weeks. In fact, your baby can even hear and recognize your voice at this point!

    During your second trimester, your doctor may perform screenings. Be sure to have your detailed medical, family, and genetic histories, so the doctor will know what issues your baby may be at risk for.

    An anatomy ultrasound is generally performed between 18 and 22 weeks. This ultrasound checks different parts of your baby’s body, like the heart, brain, and lungs, to ensure they’re fully functioning. You can also find out the sex of your baby at this time, if that’s something you choose to know before the birth.

  • Third Trimester - Week 28 to birth

    You’re in the homestretch! In the third trimester, you’ll visit your doctor more often, so they can regularly check your blood pressure, your baby’s heart rate, and check your hands and legs for any swelling. The doctor will also test your urine for protein and measure your fundal height (the approximate length of the uterus), as well as identify the baby’s position and check your cervix to make sure your body is preparing itself for birth.

    During your seventh or eighth month is the best time to take your maternity photos. Your belly will have a nice, round shape and will show well in images. If you take your photos earlier, you may not have the silhouette you want, and if you take them later, you will likely be more uncomfortable and find it harder to move and pose. 

    In the last trimester of your pregnancy, you’ll want to stay a little closer to home, just in case baby comes early. Talk to your doctor about any travel restrictions. For example, most airlines recommend you don’t fly without permission from your healthcare provider. 

    Your third trimester is a great time to enroll in a childbirth class to help prepare you and your partner for labor and delivery. Doing so gives you the chance to ask any questions you may have and help you better understand what to expect.

    Keep in mind that your due date is better described as an estimated date of delivery. Your baby may arrive anywhere between 37 to 42 weeks, and it’s important to be prepared to welcome your bundle of joy into your lives. 

10 Creative & Beautiful Maternity Photo Shoot Ideas

maternity photoshoot with baby shoes

If you think all maternity photos are the same, think again. Just like any other photo session, your maternity shoot should be about capturing your personality and celebrating your unique and wonderful pregnancy journey. Check out these 10 ideas for making your maternity photo shoot your own.

  • Go graceful with a flowing dress

    If you’re looking for stunning imagery, consider wearing a flowing maternity dress with a long train. These dresses come in almost any color and look beautiful in outdoor maternity shoots when they’re caught by the wind. This simple yet beautiful shoot idea is a great way for the mom-to-be to feel beautiful in her last trimester.

  • Show off your silhouette

    Maternity photos are all about the beauty of pregnancy, and a cool way to capture your baby bump is with photos of your silhouette. These high-contrast photos can be taken outside in front of a sunset, in a studio, or even in your home in front of a window. No matter where you choose to take your photos, the silhouette shot is a lovely way to capture the miracle of pregnancy.
  • Choose an unexpected location

    Sometimes the best locations are the ones you wouldn’t normally think of for photos. Instead of going for a park or field, consider the natural wonders of your area, whether that’s a mountain backdrop, a gorgeous hiking trail, or a secluded spot on the beach. Talk to your photographer about their favorite less common spots for photos and be open to trying something new.
  • Mix it up

    When you think of maternity photos, you may think of an expectant mother holding her belly and smiling, but your session is what you make it. Don’t be afraid to try different poses, whether serious or silly. Let your personality show! After all, these photos are all about you and your pregnancy journey, which is different for every woman. Find poses, shots, and locations that are meaningful to you or help tell your unique story.
  • Take advantage of golden light

    Timing is everything when it comes to natural light photos, and one of the best times to take maternity photos is during “golden hour”—just before sunset. As the sun goes down, everything is suffused with a beautiful golden glow, which is the perfect setting for your maternity photos. If you want to get these stunning images, be sure to talk to your photographer about the best time of day to schedule your shoot so you don’t miss the light.
  • Get in close

    While it’s wonderful to have full-body photos, sometimes closeup images can be the sweetest ones! Whether taking photos with a partner or on your own, ask your photographer to capture some closeup images of your hands and belly. You never know what unique shot might end up being your favorite!
  • Consider staying at home

    Not interested in going out and walking through a field for your maternity photos? Consider an in-home shoot where you can be more comfortable and more yourself. This also gives your photographer an opportunity to snap more natural, candid photos of you and your family as you prepare for your baby’s arrival. You can even take some photos of the nursery to capture the anticipation of waiting for your little one.
  • Don’t say no to the studio

    Natural light photos are incredibly popular right now, and a lot of people think that studio photos are outdated or cheesy. But studio photos are so much more than a cheap backdrop at the local mall. Photographers have complete control of lighting and backgrounds in their studio, allowing them to capture images that perfectly reflect your personality and beauty. If you have your heart set on an in-home or outdoor session, go for it, but don’t be afraid to give a studio session a try.
  • Take it to the streets

    Your outdoor maternity session doesn’t have to stick to fields and lakes. Instead, consider going a little more urban by strolling the streets of your local downtown. Murals, cafes, shops, and even graffiti can make for incredible backdrops to your images, and you still get all the color and brightness of natural light with a fresh, more modern look.
  • Do what you love most

    Are you an avid reader? Do you love to garden? Maybe you play piano or work with rescue animals. Whatever you love, consider incorporating it into your maternity photos. Whether it’s wearing a jersey for your favorite team or bringing your dog along to your session, express the things that matter most to you—and the things you can’t wait to share with your child. 

How to Prepare for Your Maternity Session

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Congratulations on your pregnancy! As you prepare for your little one to enter the world and join your family, your to-do list is probably a mile long. Having a professional maternity session may seem like just another item to add to your list, but a maternity shoot can be a perfect time to remind you of the power and beauty of your body during your pregnancy journey. 

You deserve to have this incredible moment in your life captured, to celebrate with your partner and family the joy of a new baby entering your life.

If you’ve never had a maternity session before, you may not know how to prepare or what to expect. That’s why we’ve put together this handy guide to everything you need to know in order to make the most of your session and get images you will love.

  • Schedule your session early

    The earlier you book your session, the better. Your best bet is to book your maternity session somewhere between 12 and 16 weeks, around when you find out the sex of your baby. Especially if you have a specific photographer you want to work with, it’s important to book as early as possible to make sure they will be available.

    Plan to book a shoot for your third trimester
    The best time to take your photos is in your third trimester, between 28 and 32 weeks. At this point, your bump will be showing well and look great in photos, and you will still be able to move around and pose comfortably. While you can do your maternity session later in your pregnancy, there’s a good chance you will have more trouble posing and standing for long periods of time.

  • Talk to your photographer about your desires

    Every photographer is different and every mom-to-be is different as well. If there are specific images you want—or don’t want—be sure to let your photographer know. Talk to your photographer about what images are important to you and whether you’re interested in doing partial or implied nudes. It’s important to let your photographer know what you’re comfortable with before your session so they can better plan out what shots and poses to do.

  • Pamper yourself

    Your hands will appear in almost all of your images, so you want them looking good! Your maternity session is the perfect excuse to pamper yourself a little with a professional manicure.

    Have your hair done professionally
    Continue the pampering with a visit to your hair stylist. If you’re not sure how to have your hair done, think about what you want your photos to look like. If you’re going for a more casual look, a loose and simple hairstyle may be the perfect option. But if you want your images to look a little more formal, don’t be afraid to go dramatic with an elegant look.

    Consider hiring a makeup artist
    While some photographers may include makeup and hair as part of your session, others may allow you to make your own choices about how you want to look. If you really want to look your best, a professional makeup artist is the way to go. A pro will know how to do your makeup so it shows best in photos. If you decide to do your makeup yourself, you want to go a little bolder with your makeup than you normally would to make sure your eyes and lips are well-defined in your images.

  • Get plenty of rest the night before

    I know, it can be hard to get any decent sleep during pregnancy, but if you’re able to, go to bed early and try to get a full night’s sleep. That way, you’ll be refreshed and relaxed at your session the next day.

    Stay hydrated—and don’t skip breakfast
    It’s critical to drink plenty of water both before and during your session. Hydrated skin will look fresh, and staying hydrated will help keep your energy up throughout the shoot. And even if you have a case of nerves about stepping in front of the camera, be sure to eat breakfast before your session.

  • Decide who to bring with you

    Your family members are absolutely welcome at your maternity session, especially if you want to include your spouse or other children. Just keep in mind that extra people can be a distraction and can even make you feel less comfortable in front of the camera, so avoid bringing friends and extended family members along.

    Bring along sentimental items
    Anything special you want to include in your photos is a great addition. Whether that’s a family heirloom, your ultrasound, or even your own baby blanket or favorite childhood toy, these mementos can add special meaning and a personal touch to your images.

  • Choose what to wear

    Whether you want to keep it casual with slacks and a blouse or wear a flowing maternity dress, or even both, take time before your session to choose your outfits and make sure they fit and look the way you want them to look. You should also pick out clothing for any other family members who will be part of the session and make sure to choose outfits that coordinate and don’t clash with your own.

    Go with stretchy fabrics
    Of course, you want to look good in your photos, but comfort is just as important. Be sure to pack plenty of clothes made with stretchy fabrics, like yoga pants, maxi dresses, and sweaters. This is also a great excuse to go shopping if you need a few new pieces to add to your wardrobe.

    Keep your colors simple
    You and your baby bump will be the primary focus of your images, so you don’t want to wear any bright colors or loud patterns that will distract. Instead, stick with neutral colors and jewel tones that will look great with any background and any skin tone.

    Make sure you have the right undergarments
    Give some thought to your underwear and bras as well. For example, if you’re wearing a white dress, you don’t want to wear dark panties that will show through the fabric. And if you plan on doing partially nude images, make sure to bring along lacy undergarments that will look good in your photos.

  • Prepare on the day of your session

    Before your session, make sure to have a light snack and drink plenty of water. Pack a bag of extra snacks and any other items you think you may need throughout your maternity shoot.

    Put on some non-greasy lotion
    A couple hours before your session, take time to apply some non-greasy lotion to reduce any dry spots on your skin. Be sure to avoid using any artificial tanners or spray tans as they may give your skin an unnatural orange look.

    Don’t wear any clothing with elastic
    While you should definitely dress in comfy clothes to go to your session location, be sure to take off any clothes with elastic bands at least an hour before your shoot. Elastic leaves marks on your skin, and you want your skin to look naturally smooth. Also, be sure to remove any hair ties or other tight bands from your wrists. 

    Make plans for your other children
    If you want to include your older children in your maternity session, it’s a good idea to make plans for someone to pick them up when they’re finished. That way, they don’t have to sit through all the individual shots of you, and you don’t have to worry about keeping them calm or entertained.

    Don’t stress
    It’s easier said than done, but do your best to relax and not worry about your session. Your photographer will walk you through every pose and position. All you have to do is be your natural, beautiful self!

7 Reasons Why You Should Take Maternity Photos


You’re counting down the days until your little one arrives! Depending on how you feel at this stage of your pregnancy, you may be unsure about whether you want to invest time and money into professional maternity photos. Maybe you’re self-conscious about the way your body looks or maybe you’re just not sure about the cost of a photo session. While it’s most important to make a decision that’s right for you and your personal needs, there are many reasons why maternity photos are definitely worth the investment and are a choice you won’t regret.

  • Celebrate your pregnancy journey

    Pregnancy may not be a phase of your life you enjoy, especially in the last few months. As your body grows larger, you may not want any photos of yourself taken and wouldn’t want to share images with friends and family. It can be a challenge watching your body change so much, and it can also be easy to forget just how miraculous and incredible pregnancy really is. A maternity photo session allows you to focus on the new life your body is working so hard to create, instead of the way you look, and can remind you of the excitement and joy that comes with bringing your child into the world.

  • Capture the joy and anticipation

    No matter how you feel physically, pregnancy is a time of looking hopefully and delightfully toward the future. In the months and years to come, as you focus on raising your new child, you may forget what it felt like to be eagerly awaiting their arrival. Maternity photos can serve as a reminder of those feelings in the years to come. After all, most women only experience pregnancy a few times in their lives, and chances are you won’t regret having a memento of that special time.

  • Mark this moment in your family’s growth

    I’m a firm believer that you can never have too many photos of your family. So much of life passes by in a blur, and we often forget more than we remember. Whether this is your first child or your fourth, your pregnancy is a great time to get some family photos with not just you and your partner, but your other children as well. If you take time to do photo sessions on a regular basis, you can chart the growth of your family over the years—something your future self and your children will definitely be thankful for.

  • Reveal the sex or name of your child

    A professional maternity session can be a fun way to announce either the sex or the name of your child—or even both! There are so many fun and creative ways to announce your little one’s name or sex to the world with photos, and your photographer would be more than happy to help you make that announcement. Scroll through Pinterest for ideas or think about the interests or hobbies you and your partner share as inspiration for telling the world your news.

  • Have an excuse to get all dressed up

    Let’s face it: during pregnancy, most of us don’t feel our most beautiful. You may spend a lot of time wearing whatever is most comfortable and a lot less time on your hair and makeup. But maternity photos are the perfect excuse to go all out on your beauty routine, whether that means doing your hair yourself or stopping into a salon to get the perfect hairdo. Pregnancy is a time in many women’s lives when they really need to feel beautiful because they so often don’t. A maternity session allows you to revel in your beauty and strength and to remind yourself of how absolutely stunning you are.

  • Take time to bond with your partner

    One of the coolest things about maternity sessions is the interactions between couples as they celebrate the new life they’ve created. Your maternity shoot gives you and your partner a chance to reflect on the life you’ve built together and how much has changed in your relationship since the beginning. Plus, maternity images are a great way to mark a major shift in the life of your family and in who you both are as you transition to parenthood.

  • Get images worth displaying

    A lot of people have their wedding photos hanging on the walls of their home, but imagine having images on your walls from every stage in your family’s growth—from marriage to your first child all the way down to when you become grandparents. Maternity photos capture a moment in time that’s just as important as your wedding day. You’re welcoming a new child into your lives and your home—that’s huge! It’s definitely a moment that deserves professional photography, just like your wedding day.

Laura and Joe | Mechanicsburg Pa Maternity Photographer

As a Mechanicsburg Pa maternity photographer, I think it’s so special when couples want to capture and preserve the memories of this time leading up to the arrival of the new little life they created.

I met Laura and Joe this spring for a consultation to plan their maternity and newborn sessions.  They are seriously the cutest, most fun couple, and oh so deserving of the beautiful baby they were getting ready to welcome.  Laura suggested her back yard as the setting for their maternity photos. When I arrived for their session I knew she made a great choice. It was perfect!

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I absolutely loved this session and their images. I loved working with Laura and Joe to capture this special time in their lives.  This is a time you can’t get back.  There is truly no better way to remember your pregnancy than to capture it through portraits. Maternity photography will allow you to look back on this moment forever.

Let’s work together to plan your custom maternity and newborn photography sessions. Planning ahead is best! The ideal time to have your maternity portraits photographed is between week 35 and 37 of your pregnancy.  Send me a message so that we can plan to capture and preserve your most special memories!