Week 21 pregnant
Your baby is the length of a banana this week. Baby’s arms and legs look as if they are in proportion to each other and those kicks you are feeling are less random and sudden. They seem to be stronger and more intentional than they have been.
Finding it hard to sleep on your tummy? This is because you can’t ignore the rather big lump that is forming in your middle. Also, creeping into bed seems to be a signal for your baby to wake up. Some people say this is nature’s way of preparing mothers for broken sleep when the baby is born. Even so, it’s hard to stay focused on nodding off when it feels like there’s an acrobat flinging around in your tummy. If you’re finding it impossible to go to sleep, give in and get up. A drink of milk, something light to eat, a book or something mindless on the television can all help your mind to switch off into neutral.
Is anyone else a little warm?
If you find you are hot, hot, hot and those sheets are too sticky for comfort, investigate your cooling options. You may need to sleep with a fan or air-conditioning on, no matter what the season. Night clothes could be just too stifling, so strip off if you feel more comfortable. Although your partner might like to think this is a sign for a little action, let him know this is for your benefit, not his. Wet cloths wrung out and placed on your forehead, neck and chest can be very cooling. Don’t worry that you may get a “chill”. Unless you have a problem with the temperature regulating region in your brain, you will know if you’ve gone overboard on the cooling steps.
Take a little time out
Try to take some time every day, just to enjoy your pregnancy. This is a time when the early discomforts have (hopefully) settled, but your baby isn’t so big that it’s causing you to be really uncomfortable. You could feel yourself in love with the world, a sense of well-being infusing every pore. Alternately, you could just be feeling fat and a little fed up.
You may find you have a very short fuse when it comes to tolerating others and get irritated by the smallest things. Make the time to exercise, which will help your body release endorphins, those feel-good hormones. Swimming, walking, Pilates and Yoga are all good at defusing a little excess energy. Think about some solitary pursuits where you can connect with your baby and don’t feel you need to share yourself with anyone else.
Your physical changes this week
The skin on your legs and arms could be looking a bit blotchy this week. An uneven skin tone is common in the second trimester and is a result of your high levels of oestrogen. You will find that after delivery, it will settle.
Don’t look too deep if you’re searching for your belly button. If you’ve usually got an “innie” it’s probably being pushed out a little by this stage. At 21 weeks of pregnancy, many women find their belly button is flat and at the same level as their surrounding skin. It may well pop out and become more prominent as the baby grows. Interestingly, belly buttons are another one of a mother’s body parts, which go through permanent change after pregnancy. So expect a little variation to what it used to look like.
Your breasts have probably stabilised in their growth by this stage and you’ve become used to their different appearance. Your nipples will become bigger and the areola will darken as your pregnancy progresses. Make sure you wear a comfortable, well fitting and supportive bra. It is not uncommon to need to upsize maternity bras a couple of times through pregnancy. All of these early changes in your breasts are nature’s way of preparing your body for breastfeeding and producing milk.
You’ll notice you are starting to put on more weight than you have been for the last couple of weeks. In fact, over the next 10 weeks you are likely to pick up almost half of your total pregnancy weight gain. Your baby is responsible for some of it of course, because it’s laying down more fat stores and muscle as well.
Craving for strange things? If you start to look longingly at sandpits, coal or charcoal in the fireplace or braai, or even sticks of chalk, don’t think you’re loosing it. Craving non-edible foodstuff is known officially as “Pica” and although it seems strange, this may have its origins in something more fundamental. These substances can be a source of trace elements and your body is craving them for a reason. However, resist the temptation and put that chalk down. Instead, make sure you eat from a wide variety of food groups and look for texture as much as taste with what you’re eating.
Your emotional changes this week
You could be getting a little stressed at this stage. If you are employed, the realisation that you’ll need to take leave is dawning. Although you’re probably not yet at the stage of counting down, this time will come. Get organised early on, do what you can and learn to prioritise what has to be done. Try to avoid leaving planning for the baby till the last minute. Babies often come when they are ready and can be unpredictable little creatures. Many parents have been caught short on time, thinking they had lots to spare when in reality they didn’t.
If you’ve had a child before, you may be wondering how on earth you could love another child as much as you do the first one. This is such a common concern amongst pregnant women and is really helped by talking about it. Be reassured, babies are very good at helping their parents fall in love with them. Don’t agonise over endless possibilities; it takes away valuable energy from everyday pleasures.
Your baby’s changes this week
Back to fruit size comparisons in week 21 and now your baby is the size of a big banana and weighs about 310 grams, still tiny but growing all the time. Just out of interest: an average birth weight is around 3.5 kg, head circumference 35 cm and length around 53 cm. So, if you’re looking for an easy way to remember these numbers just think in combinations of 3 & 5 and it will come to you. That’s how much growing your baby needs to do yet.
Your baby’s brain and muscles are working in synchronisation this week which means there’s intent behind those movements. You’ll find they’re less jerky and random and seem to be more deliberate and strong. If you lie in a particular position and your baby doesn’t like it, you may find them wriggling around so they can find their own comfortable space. They can be picky little things.
Your baby is constantly taking amniotic fluid into its mouth and swallowing it. This cycle of swallowing, digesting and then recycling the fluid as urine will take place throughout the rest of your pregnancy. Waste products are already forming in your baby’s bowel, to be passed in their first bowel motion; known as meconium.
Tiny tooth buds for your baby’s permanent teeth are starting to form in their gums from this week. If you live in an area where the water supply is fluoridated, your baby will be getting the benefits. The placenta will do a good job filtering out many substances, though fluoride is one of the proven compounds which are harmless when taken in safe doses.
Hints for the week
If you find your feet are giving you grief, think carefully about the shoes you are wearing. Orthotic inner supports, a lower heel, supportive heel cup and wearing a larger shoe size than you normally do can all bring relief. If you are concerned, an appointment with a podiatrist may be useful.
If you have cats and they use litter, excuse yourself from this little domestic cleaning up duty. Toxoplasmosis is a nasty parasitic disease transmitted in infected cat faeces. If you have to dig in dirt or places where cats may have been, wear gloves and wash your hands carefully when you have finished.
Avoid eating uncooked meat, unwashed fruit and vegetables and drinking unpasteurised milk because of the risk of contracting toxoplasmosis.
Pull out the photo album and look at yourself and your partner as babies. Ask your parents what you were like and what they can remember of your temperament. Babies are not born in isolation and generally come into families who have a history and a past. Some of this is worth sharing.
22 weeks pregnant is next.