Understanding your pregnancy: Week 21

Understanding your pregnancy: Week 21

A quick snapshot

This is a time when the early discomforts have (hopefully) settled but the baby isn't so big 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 may be feeling fat and a little fed up. You may find yourself having a very short fuse when it comes to tolerating others and easily irritated by the smallest things.

Make the time to exercise as this will help your body release endorphins – the ‘feel good’ hormones. Swimming, walking, Pilates, 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 yourselves with anyone else.

What’s changing in your body

  • The skin on your legs and arms could be looking a bit blotchy this week. A bluish or motley appearance is common in the second trimester and is a result of your high levels of oestrogen. It doesn't mean you have a reduced blood supply to these areas and will settle after you deliver.
  • Many women find that their belly button is flat and at the same level as their surrounding skin. It may pop out and become more prominent as the baby grows. Belly buttons are another one of a mother's body parts that 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 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 over your 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 that 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 gain almost all of your total pregnancy weight gain. Your baby is responsible for some of it because it's laying down more fat stores and muscle.
  • If you start to look longingly at sandpits, coal or charcoal in the BBQ or even sticks of chalk, don't think you're losing 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.

How your emotions are affected

  • 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. Get organised early on, do what you can and learn to prioritise what has to be done.

How your baby is growing

Second Trimester: Week 2123

  • Your baby is the size of a banana. Their weight is about 310 grams, still tiny but growing all the time.
  • Your baby's brain and muscles are working in synchronisation this week. This 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.

Tips for the week

  • If you find your feet 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. Also 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 past. Some of this is worth sharing.