Your edging nearer and nearer to the halfway milestone and will soon be having your anomaly scan which checks that your baby is growing and developing well and can also confirm your baby's gender! It's one of the most exciting times of pregnancy, and hopefully you're feeling good about your growing bump. Don't worry if if you're not as excited as you think you should be, some people just never enjoy their pregnancy! It's rarely talked about but it's far more common than you'd think.
While the first trimester symptoms should be well and truly gone (yay!), you may find you're starting to experience the second trimester symptoms now you're into week 18 (boo!). Aches, pains, swelling, heartburn, congestion.... It's not surprising, your body is under a lot of pressure growing that baby of yours, and unfortunately these symptoms are likely to stick around until the birth. Fortunately, there are a few little tricks to ease discomfort, so check out the handy hints below.
Baby: What's Happening?
Your baby's about 5.5 inches from head to toe, although when you go for your ultrasound the sonographer may measure from head to bum, as it's much easier due to the curled up position your baby is in. Your newborn will remain in this shrimp-like position for a few weeks after the birth, until they realise they have room to spread themselves out.
Weighing in at about 6.5 ounces, your baby is getting heavier by the day. The main activity at the moment is putting on fat, as most of the major development is now complete. Adding fat and putting on weight keeps your baby nourished, healthy and warm. Once he or she has enough fat, the fine hair covering the body will start to vanish, as it's no longer required for warmth. The fat is also helping the skin to become more opaque, although at this point the blood vessels inside your baby can still easily be seen - that's if you could peek into your uterus, of course.
At 18 weeks, the sulci in the brain begin to form. These are the little indents that give the human brain its characteristically bumpy look. This happens at the back of the brain first, and is quickly followed by the front. Your baby's brain is controlling more and more of the activities in the womb, so there's almost no random movements any more. Your baby can even yawn at nap times!
Both girls and boys have testosterone, but by 18 weeks the difference in these hormone levels between boys and girls is noticeable. Your baby boy's body will have testosterone racing round, while your baby girl will have much less, but will have her ovaries and fallopian tubes in place.
You: What's Happening?
Your uterus measures about 18 cm, or just over 7 inches, and your center of gravity has shifted. You're officially "front heavy" and are probably noticing it's quite difficult to stay upright when you're walking! A fall could be dangerous for both you and your baby, so it may be time to pack away the fabulous high heels and choose a more sensible shoe for the next 22 weeks.
Flat shoes might also be more comfortable as you're probably noticing your feet are swelling which is caused by all the extra blood in your system. Periodic swelling is normal, and should disappear shortly after the birth, but check with your Midwife if your swelling gets severe or painful.
You should be feeling your baby move now, and the movements might seem so intense that you're wondering what your little one could possibly be up to in there! At this point, your baby is still small enough to make full turns and twists in your uterus, so big movements are normal. As your baby gets bigger, you'll notice these movements become smaller and are more like kicks and punches.
You might find that walking causes a bit of pain in your hips. This is because your pregnancy hormones are starting to loosen your pelvic joints in preparation for the birth, which makes it much easier for your baby to be born. While a little bit of discomfort is normal, if you're in a lot of pain you may have symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD) which is an inflammation of the joints. Lots of rest and minimal walking is recommended in this situation. Severe cases may also see you put on bed rest.
With your baby bump being big, round and hard, you'll want to start sleeping and lying down on your side rather than your tummy which could harm baby, or your back which could put too much pressure on your spine. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done, as the loosening of your pelvic joints could make lying on your hips very painful.
A good trick to ease discomfort is to lie with a pillow under your bottom hip, and with a pillow between your knees, too, so no part of your hips or knees are resting on anything other than soft pillow. Some women find it beneficial to extend the pillow between the knees right the way down to the toes. There are special pregnancy pillows that are designed to be used in this position, and they even include a bump cushion to keep you supported during the night. Medically-approved pillows can be expensive, but they're well worth it. Having your legs slightly elevated in this way can also help to reduce swelling.