There are no un-amazing weeks when you're pregnant -- no breaks in the action, no downtime in development. There are only weeks when the miracles of new life and endless heartburn hurtle toward completion like a glowing, bloated freight train on a mission.
Or maybe not glowing. Maybe breaking out like a teenager. But nonetheless hurtling toward completion (and once-again clear skin).
Week 18 is no exception. What's going on inside you, whether you can feel it or not -- and you may in fact be feeling it! -- is stunning.
Here, what you may be feeling this week, and what your little boy or girl is doing with all those hours of fetal nirvana …
What You Might Be Feeling
This week, as far as symptoms go, is probably more of the same: heartburn, bloating, slightly swollen ankles and feet, and skin changes like increased pigment around the eyes. You breasts may still be growing, your gums still bleeding and your legs still developing varicose veins. Try support hose.
The round ligament pain, those uncomfortable sensations running down the sides of your belly, may be increasing as your uterus continues to push the boundaries of your abdomen, and dizziness may still plague you, especially when you stand up quickly. All of it's normal, and all will pass. The latter can be reduced by slowing down.
There are also a few symptoms you might be feeling for the first time, including:
- Stretch marks -- If you're showing, this could be the official start of those pink, shiny lines on your abdomen and possibly your hips and butt. Those creams, oils and lotions haven't been proven to make a difference in whether you get stretch marks or not; That's just genetic. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't use them. They'll help with stretching-related itchiness, and applying them is a nice thing to do for yourself.
- Joint pain -- As the hormone relaxin starts really loosening up your joints (in preparation for hip expansion during delivery, some say), you may find your knees, hips and any other major joints starting to ache. Take it easy, and try to stop carrying heavy objects, since your joints aren't working at full capacity and you could hurt yourself.
- Back pain -- Your expanding uterus is shifting your center of gravity, which is causing you to adopt an awkward posture. This can cause some serious backaches, especially down low.
- Balance issues -- That shifting center of gravity can also affect your sense of balance, causing you to trip and fall more than usual. (Take care on the stairs, especially.)
- Leg cramps -- It's unclear exactly why these happen, but they may be waking you up in the middle of the night. Try massaging your calves, which is the most common site of the shooting pains.
- A fluttering in your belly -- The fluttering, or possibly rumbling, sensations typically start anywhere from weeks 18 to 22 (give or take a couple of weeks), so you might be feeling your little one moving around now! Some women describe it as butterflies, others as mimicking indigestion. If you're feeling it, enjoy the sudden physical awareness of the life you're growing. It'll help take the focus off the cramps, stretch marks, heartburn …
And speaking of the life you're growing …
What's Going On in Your Body
Length: About 5.5 inches. Weight: About 6 ounces. Bones: Starting to harden.
Oh, the things that are transpiring in your uterus. Eyes are sensing light through thin eyelids, ears are hearing music you play in the car, and the skeleton is starting to ossify into what we know as bone.
All that, and:
- Increasing movement -- Baby is now kicking, punching, yawning, sucking, rolling around and stretching like never before.
- Facial expressions -- Facial muscles are practicing the expressions you'll notice immediately at birth, like pursed lips, a tiny frown and crinkled eyes.
- Taste buds -- They're now developed enough to distinguish between the bitterness of your morning decaf coffee and the sweetness of your late-night chocolate treat.
- Nerve protection -- A coating called myelin is forming around delicate nerves.
- Gender development -- Girls are well on their way to having the sex organs they'll be born with, like properly positioned fallopian tubes. Theoretically, you could see a vagina or penis at an ultrasound this week, but only if the positioning is just right (and it often isn't).
- Proportionality -- No longer shockingly big-headed, your baby's body is catching up in length and size.
And as all this goes on deep inside your uterine walls, your partner can put some attention toward some perhaps less miraculous but still quite significant issues for both of you …
What Your Partner Should Know
This week, both expectant parents are working hard. Your partner may in fact be experiencing sympathy weight gain and indigestion -- but probably not. That type of physical empathy is rare, and it's a good thing: At least one of you needs to be in tip-top form. There are issues to address.
For instance, partners may want to think about:
- Active together time -- As she starts or continues to show, backaches, joint pain and balance problems will likely start to prevent her full participation in physical activity, so plan some good outings while you can both enjoy them. Hiking, long walks, easy bike rides -- anything you usually do together that might become more difficult later on.
- Increased involvement -- Check-ups -- and those exciting ultrasounds -- are starting to be more frequent, and there's no better time to connect. More than ever, get in there and share the nervousness, excitement and question-and-answer sessions with the doctor or midwife. You might find out this week whether you'll have a son or a daughter, so this may be the time to take a couple of hours off work to attend the ultrasound, if possible.
- Her "me time" -- While she's probably past the fatigue of months two and three, exhaustion is still an issue. After all, her heart, lungs and most other body systems are working for two. Give her time each day for a nap, or maybe just some time to sit in peace. It'll help her, both physically and mentally, more than you realize.
And some other things to keep in mind this week …
Some Things to Consider
As your little bundle starts to look more and more like a full-on baby, you've got more and more full-on issues to think about. Some of them are serious. Others are just plain fun. Just a few of things you may want to start (or finish) contemplating this week include:
- Testing -- If you'll be screening and testing for possible genetic problems during your pregnancy, it's going to happen now or in the next few weeks, so you'll need to complete the decision-making process if you haven't yet. Get help from your doctor if you're still having trouble.
- Names -- If you're finding out the sex, you could know this week! You can start your name-selection sessions in earnest now, if you haven't already. It may take some time to find the right one (or two or three, if you're carrying multiples).
- Solutions -- While you are at the mercy of your hormones, you're not powerless. You can minimize heartburn by popping Tums and eating smaller, more frequent meals, decrease bloating by avoiding things like broccoli and beans, and sleep more comfortably by wedging a pillow under your belly.
- Pregnancy leave -- This is happening. And if you work, your coworkers are probably starting to notice. That means it's time to start discussing maternity (or paternity) leave with the powers that be.
- Changes in fitness routines -- As your body changes, your physical abilities change. It's just the way it is. Be mindful of altered states of balance, blood flow (dizziness and faintness) and joint capacity, and make any necessary adjustments in your exercise routine.
Of course, you may (or may not) be experiencing "pregnancy brain," making mental energy a precious commodity. Either way, feel free to limit the mental focus you spend on some probably needless worries …
Don't Worry If…
So many changes, so little time and energy. Save a little of both by banishing any deep (or shallow, as it would be) concerns about:
- Stretch marks -- If you're going to get them, you're going to get them, so don't waste time worrying about it. To decrease the severity, gain weight slowly and keep it in a healthy range (typically under 35 pounds).
- Dark spots/lines -- Those new freckles and that perhaps-disturbing line (linea negra) down the center of your belly will fade after delivery. If you had perfectly even-toned skin before pregnancy (lucky you), you'll probably have it afterward, too.
- Sitting (or lying) around more than usual -- No, you're not getting lazy or "milking it." There are physical, totally legitimate reasons why you feel like you need to rest a lot these days. Go with it.
- Lack of perceptible fetal activity -- It's perfectly normal to start feeling movement in the fifth or even sixth month. Don't sweat it. There's plenty going on in there. If you need to see it, request an ultrasound.
At the end of this week, you'll be halfway through month five and nearly halfway through the physical, mental and perhaps spiritual experience that is your pregnancy. Do your best to focus on the positive and enjoy the bloated, glowing ride. You may find you miss it when it's over, heartburn and all.
- Guide to Being One Week Pregnant
- Guide to Being Two Weeks Pregnant
- Guide to Being Three Weeks Pregnant
- Guide to Being Four Weeks Pregnant
- Guide to Being Five Weeks Pregnant
- Guide to Being Six Weeks Pregnant
- Guide to Being Seven Weeks Pregnant
- Guide to Being Eight Weeks Pregnant
- Guide to Being Nine Weeks Pregnant
- Guide to Being 10 Weeks Pregnant
- Guide to Being 11 Weeks Pregnant
- Guide to Being 12 Weeks Pregnant
- Guide to Being 13 Weeks Pregnant
- Guide to Being 14 Weeks Pregnant
- Guide to Being 15 Weeks Pregnant
- Guide to Being 16 Weeks Pregnant
- Guide to Being 17 Weeks Pregnant
- Quiz: Pregnancy Myths
- "2nd Trimester: Week 18." Parenting. (April 11, 2011)http://www.parenting.com/pregnancy/timeline/second-trimester-week-18
- "18th Week of Pregnancy." American Pregnancy Association. (April 11, 2011)http://www.americanpregnancy.org/weekbyweek/week18.htm
- "Week 18 of Pregnancy." What To Expect. (April 11, 2011)http://www.whattoexpect.com/pregnancy/week-by-week/week-18.aspx
- "Your Pregnancy Week by Week: Weeks 17-20." WebMD. (April 11, 2011)http://www.webmd.com/baby/guide/your-pregnancy-week-by-week-weeks-17-20