You've almost made it to the halfway point of your pregnancy, just one more week to go before you're past the hump. Anomaly scans are offered between 18 and 22 weeks of pregnancy, usually during the 20th week, so if you've not yet made an appointment and would like to have another ultrasound, you should get this sorted now.
Most Moms to be will be feeling their little ones dance around quite frequently now, but if you're not feeling any movement yet, don't worry. If this is your first baby, if you have incredibly tight abdominal muscles (lucky you!), if you're carrying a bit more belly fat than normal or if you have an anterior placenta it may still be a few weeks until you join the kicking club.
Baby: What's Happening?
Your baby has probably gone through a massive growth spurt in the last few weeks, and is now expected to weigh about 8.5 ounces, and measure about 6 or 7 inches from head to bottom (it's much easier to measure to the bum now as your baby has less space and is starting to curl up into a ball).
Around now your baby will start to develop vernix caseosa; a greasy, creamy, somewhat cheesy substance that coats the entire body and protects the skin from the amniotic fluid. Up until now, your baby has been fine floating in the fluid, but think about what happens when you have a bath. After an hour or two you start to look a bit like a prune, right? Well, think of what your baby would look like after a 40 week bath! The coating stops the skin from drying out and keeps it moisturized, but what many Moms don't know is that it actually does a lot more.
The vernix caseosa coating contains a protein that acts as a sort of topical antibiotic. This helps to protect your baby from disease both in and out of the womb as the natural antibiotic is absorbed by the skin, providing protection for your newborn in those first few weeks when they are most vulnerable to infection.
If your baby is born on time, there may be a little of this coating left on certain areas of the skin, although there shouldn't be too much and it's easy to clean off. If your baby comes early, they may be covered in much more of the substance, and if your baby arrives past your due date it should all have completely disappeared.
Your baby is practicing all manner of facial expressions now, especially opening and closing the mouth. If your baby is awake during your ultrasound you may see this happening, which can make them look a bit fish-like! You'll endure all sorts of bizarre expressions from your newborn, but should be rewarded with ear-to-ear grins from about 4 or 5 weeks of age!
You: What's Happening?
Feeling your baby move is one of the most exciting parts of pregnancy, and now your baby's had a bit of a growth spurt, and your uterus is measuring about 19 cm, or about 7.5 inches, you may be feeling all the flips and twists. However, as mentioned, some women don't feel anything this early on. There's nothing to worry about, but if you're not feeling any movement by 22 weeks make an appointment with your midwife, it could be that your placenta has attached to the front of your uterus and is cushioning the blows; you'll find this out at your ultrasound.
Unfortunately, that beautiful pregnancy glow may start to diminish around now as your skin goes through some changes due to the high levels of estrogen in your body. You may notice your palms are unusually red, and some areas of your face may become darker if you're pale skinned, or lighter if you're dark skinned. Your nipples and areola will usually darken, too. These pigmentation changes are known as chloasma and can also occur if you take the contraceptive pill. There's no cure unfortunately, but it is only temporary. Keeping out of the sun, or using a high factor sunscreen may prevent more patches developing.
Aches and pains are common around this time, especially round ligament pain which is caused by the ligaments that support your uterus being stretched beyond their normal capability. The pain is different to usual aches, presenting as a sharp, fast and quite severe jab in your sides, normally around the groin area.
Round ligament pain certainly isn't fun, but the good news is that the pain only lasts for a few seconds. It can hurt in those few seconds, though, so it's always best to try and minimise the risk. As difficult as it may be, try and avoid any sudden or severe movements; don't roll over in bed too quickly, don't sit up too quickly and try to cough gently if you need to clear your throat. Laughing also causes round ligament pain, but avoiding a bit of fun is dangerous to your health!