If you haven’t told anyone you are pregnant, do so now. By 18 weeks, your waistline will surely give away your growing bundle of joy.
Try to eat all the healthy food that you can as you know that whatever you eat will be benefiting the baby as well. This is not a time to think of dieting or losing weight. You can however avoid eating fried and heavy food which is neither beneficial for you or the baby. Eating fresh fruits and vegetables and taking regular walks can be included as part of your daily schedule if you are healthy and have no pregnancy complications. Try to avoid lying on your back in the last two trimesters as the uterus can compress a major vein called the inferior vena cava that circulates blood from the lower half of your body to the heart. Lying on the side or tilting sideways prevents this compression and improves the flow of blood.
In the 18th week your cardiovascular system is going through a major change and your blood pressure might be lower than normal. Getting up suddenly might cause dizziness. You can have an ultrasound done now if you have not done one before as this can help in checking the growth of the baby as well as screening for birth defects or seeing how many babies you are carrying. Try to get periods of rest even if you are a working mother to get small naps to relax and relieve stress.
Your Symptoms: You may feel dizzy when you change positions; this is due to a decrease in blood pressure and is normal. Make sure to get up slowly to avoid falls. Your appetite might also be increasing.
Baby’s Development: Baby’s eyes and ears are in their final positions. The sex organs are complete. The baby is also bigger than the placenta for the first time.
Baby’s Size: 11.6 cm (size of a bell pepper) 100 g.
To Do: Most women have an ultrasound between 18 and 22 weeks to see how the baby is developing. Decide if you want to know your baby’s gender.
In the 18th week, the baby’s crown to rump length will be around 51/2 inches long and the weight will be about 5.25 ounces. The baby continues growing and developing fat layers. In this week the growth of the baby will slow down for a while. Heart abnormalities can be detected at this stage through an ultrasound examination. If any abnormalities are detected, further investigation might have to follow.
There is still a lot of space in the uterus and the baby will be active with periods of rest from time to time. Your baby might somersault or sit cross legged at this stage. The baby will become more sensitive to sound as the bones which pass the sound to the inner ear harden. The part of the brain which that sends and receives nerve signals from the ears are also developing now so the baby reacts to loud sounds by kicking or prodding. The baby will get used to familiar sounds such as the beating of your heart, familiar voices in your surroundings, and other daily routine sounds like blood rushing through the umbilical cord. If you have a stethoscope at home you can check the baby’s heartbeat by yourself. The baby is busy flexing its arms and legs and you might notice the movements more clearly now. A protective layer called myelin begins to form around the nerves which will continue for a year after the birth. If you are having a girl, her uterus and fallopian tubes are formed by this time and found in place.
Changes with your body
You will be able to feel your uterus below your belly at this stage. If you measure with your fingers there will be about two finger width gap below the belly. The uterus is approximately the size of a cantaloupe at this stage. Although each woman varies, the total weight gain at this stage is usually around 10 or 13 pounds. The frequency of urination will increase. Before lying down or sleeping, make it a habit to visit the restroom.
Postural hypotension can cause dizziness in some women because of the slow reaction of the cardiovascular system. This can be minimized by changing positions while standing or sitting and avoiding getting up too quickly. There will be noticeable changes in the breasts by now as the areolas darken and the breasts become tender to touch and large in size. Some women might face digestion problems and face constipation. Indigestion can lead to heartburn and occasional headaches in some women. Itching can increase especially if you are still wearing tight fitting clothes and undergarments. Stretch marks might appear which can be reduced by applying anti-wrinkle creams or cocoa butter lotion.
What to expect
Women experiencing their first pregnancy will be waiting anxiously for their baby’s first movements. You want to know if your baby is sending any messages or signals and many women find this signal very reassuring as a sign of the baby’s well being. Small rumblings of fetal movement can be felt between the 18th and 22nd week. However, there is no reason to worry if the baby is doing fine if you do not receive any indications of movement. Each pregnancy is different from the next. If your abdominal muscles are strong or you have large deposit of fat on the abdomen, the fetal movement might not be as easily felt.
You know whether you are having a single baby or multiples since most women have had an external sonogram by now. Years ago, one out of 100 women would experience multiple gestations. Today, the number has increased to one out of 50 women because of the increased use of fertility drugs as well as the increase in the age of the women delivering for the first time. Teen mothers are also prone to conceiving multiple fetuses and the risk of preterm deliveries is more common in twin deliveries or multiple deliveries. To keep your energy levels high, you can eat food with high fiber and include a lot of dried fruits as well as high protein snacks in your diet such as chicken, low fat cheese, oatmeal with raisins, soy milk or skim milk, whole grain cereals and fresh fruits and vegetables.