This week your little one is the size of a mango. A white oily coating known as vernix caseosa is forming on its body around now; another means of protecting that tender skin.
Hooray! You’re almost half-way through your pregnancy. Enormous changes have occurred both in your own body and for your developing baby over the past 16 weeks, since you first conceived. Though for some women it is still not obvious to anyone other than themselves that they are pregnant. Tight abdominal muscles can hide an enlarging womb or alternately, if a woman carries extra weight around her middle, this may camouflage her pregnancy. If you are keen to keep the news of your pregnancy private, with careful dressing it may still be possible to cover up your tummy, especially in the cooler months.
It is human nature to compare ourselves with others, particularly when it comes to pregnant women and comparisons with tummy size. Try not to feel despondent if you still only have a little “pod” which may only be obvious to you. Every woman will carry her pregnancy differently. It is not possible to assess the size, the well-being or even the sex of a baby simply by looking at how a pregnant mother’s tummy looks. These are purely old-wives tales, despite what your neighbour or your mother-in-law believes.
Where’s my purse?
It’s time to start thinking about the baby’s nursery. It’s not too early to start planning for this and the practicalities of how to accommodate another little person into your household. The safest place for babies to sleep is in their own cots, beside their parent’s bed for the first 12 months.
You may like to start buying baby clothes and nursery furniture at this stage, since your energy levels have picked up and there’s still lots of time to invest into doing some careful research. Consider buying second-hand, borrowing or making do if money is a problem. You may have friends who are happy to lend you their baby equipment if you don’t want to buy everything brand new. However, if you are planning to have a few children, it may pay to invest in what you want initially and then enjoy using it for all of your children.
Your physical changes this week
You could find yourself getting breathless and not having as much stamina as you usually do. Your circulatory system is working very hard to pump blood efficiently around your body and through the umbilical cord to your baby. Make sure you have a diet high in iron and plenty of Vitamin C. This means red meat, green leafy vegetables, good quality cereals and fresh fruit.
You could be perspiring more easily as a result of your inner temperature being a little higher. You have your own internal heater going 24/7 which means you probably won’t want to wear as many layers of clothing as everyone else. Shower as frequently as you feel you need to. Avoid wearing synthetic fibres next to your skin and don’t get overheated. You could find you need to sleep with a fan or air-conditioning on.
Watch out for urinary tract infections. The female urethra is relatively short and it is easy for bacteria to find their way up into the bladder. Remember to wipe from front to back after you’ve been to the toilet and empty your bladder both before and after having sex. Drink plenty of fluids and when you have to go - GO. Make sure you completely empty your bladder when you do go and try not to rush, it’s not worth it.
Your womb is almost at the level of your navel, so say goodbye to your waistline. Don’t be too heartbroken because it will come back.
Heartburn may be your new companion this week. The smooth muscle fibres in the stomach and gut are being affected by your pregnancy hormones. This means that the acidic stomach contents, which should be staying well down in your stomach, can easily regurgitate up your oesophagus (food pipe). You could feel a burning sensation after eating, especially spicy foods and curries. Some mothers get relief by eating bland meals and avoiding foods which are too rich and hard to digest. Try sleeping on a couple of pillows and check with your doctor or pharmacist if it’s safe for you to take some antacids. Rediscover the soothing benefits of drinking a glass of cold milk, it can do wonders.
Your emotional changes this week
You could be very preoccupied with waiting for your baby to move. It’s likely you’ve already felt some “quickening” and been excited by this. You’ll find yourself with your hand on your tummy waiting for those little flickers to remind you that all is well. Just don’t expect your partner to be able to feel them when you ask him to, babies have a way of not cooperating when it suits us.
You could be very focussed on the baby around this time and not too interested in other people. This is nature’s way of helping mothers prioritise what needs to be done and to ignore what isn’t as important. Avoid feeling as if you’ll never be able to think anything but baby again, most things have a way of working themselves out.
If you are prone to depression or have a history of mental health disorders, this may be a stressful time for you. It is important that you have a health professional who is available to support you. Speak up if you are not feeling well and ask for help.
Your baby’s changes this week
Your baby is just over 14 cm long, with skin so translucent that the veins are clearly visible. It is still too early for fat to be laid down, though this week a very special type of substance known as brown fat starts being produced. This is unique to babies and helps to keep their vital organs protected from temperature extremes in the newborn period.
Vernix caseosa is a white greasy substance covering most of your baby’s skin this week. If your baby is born early it will still have traces of vernix over it but closer to term and over, vernix starts to deplete.
Your baby’s kidneys are working well this week. They are producing urine, which forms a fair percentage of the amniotic fluid. If you have an ultrasound performed this week it will be possible to see your baby’s kidneys.
Your baby is developing more hair on its little head as well as on the body. Babies who are born premature can be covered in fine hair, especially on their backs and upper arms. Some babies are born bald and stay that way for months and others have a mop of thick hair. It really is highly individual and different for every baby.
Your baby spends a lot of its time sleeping. This is when it is growing and conserving valuable energy so it can develop to maturity. But you’ll become aware of times when it is more active and has cycles of moving around and even kicking. This usually happens when a mother is trying to sleep or has just gone to bed. Typical.
Hints for the week
Don’t forget your ultrasound booking this week or next. Pregnancy ultrasounds in the second trimester are commonly done between weeks 18 to 22. They specifically look at various aspects of your baby’s development including the spine, brain, heart, kidneys and other vital organs. If you want to know the sex of your baby, this is an ideal time to find out. If you don’t, just make sure you tell the sonographer well in advance that you’d prefer to keep it a surprise.
Talk to your baby if you haven’t already started. At 19 weeks your baby can hear you and your voice and this is the time to start chatting to them. Get your partner in on the act if you can, and feel for your baby’s responses.
Think about doing some resistance exercises with weights. This will help maintain your weight and reduce the likelihood of developing gestational diabetes. Some pregnant women get together in a group with a personal trainer and enjoy the companionship and shared interests.
Week 20 is next.