Guide to Being 21 Weeks Pregnant

Pregnancy Image Gallery Talk, read and sing to your baby -- at 21 weeks, he or she can hear you! See more pregnancy pictures.
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Well, week 21 might not be the exciting midpoint landmark that week 20 is, but just think of it this way -- you're on the downhill side now. The nausea, fatigue and uncertainty are probably all behind you, so try as best you can to put your feet up and relax. You're probably feeling relatively good right now, so enjoy it! Keep up your exercise routine, take long strolls if you're lucky enough to have good weather, hang out with friends, go to the movies -- because in a mere month or two, you might not feel like doing any of that stuff at all.

Pretty much everyone you see now will know you're pregnant, which means no more strange looks from people who are trying to figure out if you're expecting or if you just threw a spare tire around your midsection. You might be getting a new round of congratulations from people you haven't seen in awhile -- and from random shoppers in the grocery store. On your more antisocial days, you'll probably want to just tape a sign to your belly that displays your due date and the baby's sex (or your reason for not wanting to know), but our advice is to smile and enjoy the compliments!

On the next page, we'll tell you a little bit about what you might be feeling at this stage of your pregnancy.

What You Might Be Feeling

During week 21, you should still be trucking along and feeling pretty good -- your pregnant body is kind of on autopilot right now. You're feeling fairly chipper and are still getting a decent amount of sleep at night, your belly isn't too unwieldy, and you can actually get out of a chair without having to call the fire department for help. But, of course, there are a few things that could be bothering you, like:

  • Oily skin and breakouts: That pregnancy glow caused by raging hormones and increased blood circulation might leave you feeling a bit greasy. To combat yucky skin, use a gentle non-soap cleanser and oil-free makeup.
  • Swelling: As always, your best bets for preventing swelling in your extremities are to drink lots of water and keep your feet propped up whenever possible.
  • Varicose veins: Your body is doing a lot of extra work these days, which puts a lot of pressure on your blood vessels and causes them to bulge out from the surface of your skin. High progesterone levels and family history also up your chances of getting varicose veins, but exercise, sleeping on your left side and (we hate to even say it) support hose can help minimize them.

If you think your body is changing, just think about your baby, who's basically unrecognizable from the tiny bundle of cells he was only a few weeks ago . . .

What's Going On in Your Body

This week, your care provider starts measuring your baby from crown to heel instead of crown to rump. He or she should be about 10 or so inches long and weigh around 12 ounces. The top of your uterus is now about half an inch above your belly button.

Your baby is still growing quickly, but the growth rate is beginning to slow. The digestive tract is maturing, helped along by the gulps of amniotic fluid the baby's been taking. Your placenta still provides most of the baby's nutrition, but it's getting some caloric intake through its own actions, which is really amazing! He or she can also taste the fluid with the brand-new taste buds developing on the tongue. Teeth buds are starting to form in the gums, too.

Until this point in the pregnancy, your baby's spleen and liver have done most of the work to produce blood cells, but around now, the bone marrow starts to take over. The spleen will stop its blood-making duties in week 30 or so, but the liver continues until later in the third trimester.

But enough about you and your baby; on the next page, we'll talk about the tasks your partner can do this week.

What Your Partner Should Know

Your partner is probably starting to feel a little bit more connected to the pregnancy now that you're really showing and he or she can hear the baby's heartbeat and feel kicks; if those things haven't happened yet, they will soon. It also helps to know that the baby can hear you now, too.

If this is your first baby and your partner hasn't witnessed a birth before -- or, for that matter, if you haven't -- you two should probably see a birth film. You'll most likely view one in your childbirth class, if you're taking one, but if you don't, find another way to watch a birth video. Any other inexperienced friend or relative who's planning to be with you in the delivery room should join in, too. To put it mildly, it's really eye-opening to see a birth from start to finish. Honestly, it could make prospective birth coaches a little woozy if they haven't participated in a birth before, but it's an amazing way to start getting mentally prepared. And it will definitely lead to many interesting conversations. After the shock and initial apprehension wears off, the excitement will remain, and you and your partner can really begin to get ready for the big day.

What else should you be thinking about this week? Find out on the next page.

Some Things to Consider

Even though you'll probably have to give up sushi, not all seafood has to be avoided during pregnancy.
Even though you'll probably have to give up sushi, not all seafood has to be avoided during pregnancy.
iStockphoto/Thinkstock

Eating fish is really great for your body during pregnancy, but you might be worried about what fish you can safely eat. Mercury is the main reason for concern about fish consumption by pregnant women, so swordfish, bluefish, striped bass and bluefin tuna are on the no-go list. You should also steer clear of fish from the Great Lakes in the United States because freshwater fish can contain high pollutant levels. Check with your doctor whether you shouldn't eat a certain type of fish or seafood, but these fish are generally safe (and remember, wild is better than farm-raised):

  • sole
  • flounder
  • haddock
  • Pacific halibut
  • cod
  • salmon

It's also important to continue to watch your iron intake. Iron is an essential part of hemoglobin production in your baby, and it helps prevent premature delivery and low birth weight. The recommended daily intake during pregnancy is 27 to 30 milligrams, but this doesn't mean you have to choke down a heaping plate of liver and spinach every day (although if you enjoy liver and spinach, by all means keep eating it). There are plenty of other foods that are high in iron, including:

  • lean red meat
  • pork
  • dried beans
  • dried fruits
  • wheat germ
  • oatmeal

If you're concerned about the iron levels in your diet, ask your doctor to recommend an iron supplement to take in addition to your prenatal vitamins.

So now that you have this handy info, click to the next page for some things you don't need to worry about.

Don't Worry If. . .

You might've noticed by now that your baby is developing activity patterns, and if you've been kept awake at night by a kicking, punching, disco-dancing baby, you might've also noticed that your schedules aren't matching up. But don't be concerned about that: It's totally normal, and it could be that you're noticing nighttime activity more because you're quiet and resting. Consider it practice for those early days of parenthood, when the little guy will want to sleep peacefully all day and party all night.

And don't worry if you haven't detected any baby sleep-wake patterns; it's early yet, and you might never get a handle on it anyway. There's no clock in there, after all, so the baby's habits are likely going to change frequently. It's nothing to lose sleep over, so enjoy your rest now while you can.

There's a lot more information about pregnancy on the next page.

Related Articles

Sources

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