Understanding your pregnancy: Week 20

Understanding your pregnancy: Week 20

A quick snapshot

At 20 weeks pregnant, you may find you are walking a little differently to accommodate that extra lump in your belly. This is because your centre of gravity is changing. Watch your posture and remember what your mother used to say, "Don't slouch and put your shoulders back." It's amazing how much more room this makes in a crowded tummy.

If you have a desk job, spend some time thinking about the comfort of your chair. You may need to adjust the back and seat height so that you are avoiding unnecessary strain. Organise your work area so that it is working for you. Make sure you wear comfortable shoes so you are stable when you walk.

Expect some interest and fascination about your pregnancy from others around now.

What’s changing in your body

  • Your uterus is around the level of your navel this week. Your waist has gone and in its place, you'll find your body's width is continuing from under your arms through to your hips.
  • Your heart has been increasing its blood pumping capacity and this week it is managing to pump out around 7L of blood every minute. Because of the effects of your pregnancy hormones, your blood vessels are more lax to allow for the extra blood flow. This means you could be finding yourself developing varicose veins or even haemorrhoids. Don't be too horrified. They tend to settle after delivery and generally do not cause ongoing problems.
  • You may be developing a heat rash under your breasts, in your armpits or between your legs. Your inner body temperature is up a couple of degrees from normal so you are probably more sweaty than usual. Avoid wearing anything other than cotton underwear next to your skin and make sure the sizing is right. Go for comfort rather than look. A light dusting of an absorbent talcum powder can be helpful after showering, buy try to resist the temptation to cake it on.
  • Chloasma; the darkly pigmented facial mask of pregnancy occurs in around 50-75 percent of pregnant mothers, so consider yourself lucky if you don't get it. Also known as the butterfly mask, it tends to follow a pattern similar to a butterfly's body over the nose, with the wing formation over the cheeks. Chloasma settles after birth but if it is worrying you in the meantime, think about using concealer or foundation to cover it up. Make sure you wear a hat and sunscreen if you're going outdoors. UVA and UVB rays will make it worse.
  • You could feel dizzy or faint this week, a common experience in the second and third trimesters. Avoid standing still for long periods or standing up quickly if you've been lying down. Allow your body to adjust as you go from being horizontal to vertical.

How your emotions are affected

  • You could find yourself thinking about your labour and delivery this week. At 20 weeks, a certain mental shift occurs as it becomes obvious to you that this baby is going to need to come out at some stage. A very small percentage of women are genuinely terrified of labour and build up significant anxiety about it over the course of their pregnancy. If this is your experience, make sure you speak with your doctor about your concerns. Sometimes prenatal counselling becomes necessary.
  • If this was the week of your scan, you could be feeling much more emotionally connected with the baby. Many women hold back until the foetal screening scan confirms that all looks normal with their baby. This is completely understandable. Seeing your baby's face for the first time is a momentous occasion, even if it is through a screen.
  • If you find yourself needing to break into a sprint, or you are in a potentially risky situation, you'll probably find your hand automatically goes down to support your belly. Get used to these little mannerisms which seem to bypass the thinking centres of your brain as you just go onto automatic pilot. There is usually a very good reason for them.
  • Is your partner feeling a little detached? Make sure he comes to the ultrasound and as many prenatal appointments as possible. Although you may be 100% baby focused, try to remember his experience of the pregnancy so far, is only through your symptoms. Give him time to develop his own relationship with the baby and don't push him too hard or fast.

How your baby is growing

Second Trimester: Week 20Pregnant -lady -wk -20-closeup

  • By 20 weeks your baby's external ears are perfectly formed. They are designed to channel sound waves towards the inner ear where noise can already be heard as it filters through your abdominal wall. This is why it is important to talk to your baby every day, so they can learn to recognise your voice.
  • This week your baby is around 16.5cm long from its crown to bottom. Their skin is still coated in vernix caseosa, the white greasy coating that protects your baby's tender skin from drying out.
  • Your baby is surrounded by around 320ml of amniotic fluid this week. The temperature of the fluid is maintained at a slightly higher degree than your own core temperature. This helps your baby stay warm.
  • Lots of baby movements this week and you are becoming increasingly aware of them. They aren't strong enough to cause you any discomfort and are a lovely way of reassuring you that the baby is doing well.

Tips for the week

  • If you are worried by varicose veins, investigate support stockings or tights. These can give some relief if you need to be on your feet for long periods of time. Try to elevate your legs and feet when you can, sit where possible and avoid standing still for long periods to time.
  • Haemorrhoids can be helped by ensuring you have a high fibre diet with lots of fluids to drink. Bran based cereals are useful as are fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes and beans. Avoid straining when you are having a bowel motion or sitting on the toilet for lengthy periods. If you feel the need to move your bowels, don't put it off. Ignoring your body's signals can lead to problems long term so if you need to go, just do it.
  • Book in for your prenatal classes if you haven't already done this. Even if you've had a baby before, consider a refresher course if you think you'll benefit. Otherwise, spend some reading up on pregnancy and birth.

Look after your back. Avoid lifting heavy objects and twisting as you lift. Back ache and strain is common during pregnancy and it is easier to avoid a back injury than to recover from one. If you do find yourself a bit sore, go for the natural fixes. Warm baths or showers, massage, heat packs and gentle exercise can all be effective. Consider seeing a physiotherapist if you a have continuous back ache. There are specific exercises you can do to strengthen and support the muscle groups in your spine.