Understanding your pregnancy: Week 18

Understanding your pregnancy: Week 18

A quick snapshot

This should be an exciting week for you as you become aware of your baby moving. Until now, the amniotic fluid has been acting as a buffer for your baby's activity and your baby has been too small to be in direct contact with the nerve endings in the wall of your uterus. Now that your baby is large enough to be stimulating those nerve pathways, your brain will register that there is something moving around in there.

You will probably find that you become more conscious of your baby's movements when you are lying down or sitting still and not distracted by other things. Remember though, every baby will develop their own pattern or movements and every mother will have her own unique experience of her baby's movements. Try to be patient as you wait and see. You will soon be left in no doubt that what you are feeling is your baby.

What’s changing in your body

  • You should be able to feel the top of your uterus between your pubic bone and your navel. It will feel like a firm, muscular ridge which doesn't yield when you press gently down.
  • Your uterus is about the size of a rock melon, so it's no wonder that you are feeling a dense, heavy feeling in your pelvis.
  • If you have put on a fair amount of weight, you may be starting to get stretch marks. Most women do develop these during pregnancy and not a lot can be done to avoid them. Rub some emollient cream into your tummy each day but avoid spending a lot of money on creams which claim to stop them developing. They don't tend to work.
  • A lot of pregnant women start snoring, much to their horror. Blame those congested mucous membranes and your nasal stuffiness. Sleeping on a couple of pillows can help, as can lying on your side.
  • This week you could find your appetite really increases. Until now, the baby has been growing quickly, though for the next couple of weeks its growth will plateau slightly. Stock the fridge and pantry with lots of healthy foods which will help support you both. Look for low GI (Glycaemic Index) foods which take longer to digest and will satisfy your hunger for longer periods of time.
  • Your heart is working extra hard to pump your blood. Your total circulating blood volume has increased so much that your heart needs to work almost 50% harder in pumping blood around your body. If you are still smoking at this point, do yourself and your baby a big favour and give up.

How your emotions are affected

  • If you've been feeling a little ho hum about the whole pregnancy deal, this week you may start feeling a bit brighter. You are likely to be feeling the first of many of your baby's movements and have a sense that your pregnancy is all very real.
  • You may feel as if you just want to keep the news of the baby's movements all to yourself for a while. A lot of women feel some silent, secret connection with their baby which they want to keep private. This is fine though you may want to let your partner know too, just to be fair.
  • If the thought of childbirth has seemed like some way off event, this week it may not appear to be so distant. Your expanding tummy and the baby's movements combine to provide a constant and niggling reminder that at some stage, your baby will need to come out. Do allow yourself time to think about how you want your labour to proceed and what you can do to feel actively involved in its planning.

How your baby is growing

Second Trimester: Week 1821

  • It's getting a little squeezy in your uterus. It has to fit in your baby, the amniotic fluid, the placenta and membranes and the umbilical cord. Not to mention the extra space your baby takes up when they are rolling and kicking, stretching and turning. Fortunately your uterus is a uniquely designed muscle which able to expand and grow many times bigger than its original size and shape.
  • This week your baby could be sucking its thumb. Ultrasounds taken at 18 weeks have shown lots of babies have found their little thumbs by this stage and don't want to let go. Some babies are born with blisters on their fingers and thumbs, from months of latching on and going for it.
  • Your baby's bones are ossifying, meaning they're getting stronger and are less like cartilage. Watch your calcium intake and make sure you're getting enough dairy foods. Even if you're not a milk drinker get into some cheese, yoghurt, custard, ice-cream, fish with edible bones and even almonds. Green leafy vegetables also contain calcium.

Tips for the week

  • Still enjoying a little drink? For the sake of your own health and your baby, give up. There is no guaranteed, safe level of alcohol for pregnant women to drink and the only 100 percent safe level is through abstaining altogether. Go for fruit juice, mineral or soda water, soft drinks or just plain water with a squeeze of lemon.
  • If you haven't done so already, book in for your screening ultrasound. Most women have this between weeks 18–20. Make it at a time when your partner can come as well so you're not on your own.
  • Start a list if you've got questions for your doctor. Pregnancy amnesia can make your memory, well, a distant memory. Keep a notebook for jotting down any queries or worries you may have. All you have to do then is remember to take it with you to your appointments.