The Stages of Pregnancy
The high risk period or your pregnancy ends. Some of the fatigue and nausea subside and instead you may be feeling hungry and craving certain foods.
Sex during pregnancy will not hurt the baby. The uterine wall, amniotic sac, and amniotic fluid protect the baby. There is also a mucus plug closing off the cervix and uterus. Orgasm will not cause you to go into labor early although you may feel some uterine tightening. Only in very rare cases will your doctor ask you to abstain from sex.
Avoid too much sugar and try to eat small meals throughout the day. Fruits and veggies are great! Avoid food with mercury or Listeria [a list of foods that have sometimes caused outbreaks of Listeria is provided by the Center for Science in the Public Interest and includes: hot dogs, deli meats, raw milk, cheeses (particularly soft-ripened cheeses like feta, Brie, Camembert, blue-veined, or Mexican-style “queso blanco”), raw and undercooked poultry, raw meats, ice cream, raw vegetables, raw and smoked fish and the green lip mussel.] And stay hydrated!
Your child is beginning to practice breathing in the amniotic fluid. The eyes and ears continue to develop and move forward on the head. The neck is lengthening and hands are gaining function. The placenta is providing nourishment. Heartbeat is still fast and all twenty baby teeth have developed. Baby can now suck his or her thumb!
Your baby is now 2.91 inches (7.4 cm long) and weighs 0.81 ounces (23 grams), about the size of a lime!
Stages of Pregnancy – Week 14:
Your uterus is now about the size of a grapefruit. Because of continued bathroom breaks and since you may be beginning to show, finding a comfortable sleeping position can be a challenge. Shopping for maternity clothes is now on the to-do list. Consider the purchase of a belly band which can provide support to the uterus as it gets larger. Heartburn, indigestion, and flatulence occur more often as your stomach loses space to the uterus.
Your doctor may recommend some different prenatal tests during the next few weeks. Alpha-fetoprotein Test (AFP) (Quad or Triple Screen) screen for neural tube defects.
Your child’s thyroid glands are producing hormones and their bones are hardening. If your baby is a girl, her ovaries are developing; if a boy, his prostate is developing. Baby still has transparent skin now covered in very fine hair called lanugo. Thumb sucking and a lot of wiggling and movement continue.
Baby measures 3.42 inches (8.7 cm) long and weighs 1.52 ounces (43 grams), approximately the weight of a letter!
Stages of Pregnancy – Week 15:
Braxton Hicks contractions occur from week 6 of pregnancy but you may just now be becoming aware of them (although some first time mothers do not know this is what they are feeling until week 22-23). They are a way your body practices for labor. Normally there is no danger of preterm labor. If you experience mild discomfort, try changing your position or activity, take a bath, and drink more water. Reasons to call your doctor include: an increase in contractions (more than 4 per hour), vaginal spotting or bleeding, or excessively painful contractions (feel like really bad menstrual cramps). After you pass week 37 a call to your doctor is not required until the contractions are 60 seconds long and occur about every 5 minutes.
Your stomach has less and less room meaning you may switch to eating many small meals during the day since large meals can cause discomfort. Increased blood flow causes your heart to work harder and increased bathroom trips continue.
Some women claim to feel more scatterbrained and clumsy during this time. Although there is no scientific data supporting this, it is important to keep in mind a woman’s change in center of gravity which requires some adjustment by her body. She may be retaining water causing swelling in the fingers which may lead to some fumbling. Fatigue can also be a cause of forgetfulness.
You may experience round ligament pain which manifests as a strong pain the abdomen. This is caused by the uterus expanding and stretching the ligaments. Sometimes a change of position brings on the pain. A warm heating pad may help alleviate symptoms. If other symptoms occur contact your doctor.
Baby’s legs are now longer than his or her arms and a lot of squirming is going on inside of you. You may be able to feel baby’s movements for the first time! Baby still has very thin skin (blood vessels are visible through skin) and fingernails and toenails are growing. Eyebrows are developing and the ear bones are hardening.
Baby now measures in at 3.98 inches (10.1 cm) and weighs 2.47 ounces (70 grams) (about the size of a small apple or orange).
Stages of Pregnancy – Week 16:
You should soon feel movement and eventually be able to distinguish kicks from hiccups. As your hormone levels stay high expect mood changes, dizziness, and headaches. Your breasts will enlarge and you may experience pain in your lower back and abdomen. Remember never to lift heavy objects. For a more comfortable sleeping position try sleeping on your left side with a lot of pillows surrounding your body to support you.
This may be a nice time to plan a relaxing get away. If this is your first child, your life is about to change forever! If this is not your first child some relaxation away from home and busy children may still provide an important benefit. Consult with your doctor before undertaking a major vacation.
Some women will have an ultrasound in the next few weeks. Ultrasounds screen for abnormalities or deformities and may also be able to tell the gender of your baby, although accuracy significantly increases after week 18. Your doctor will be taking measurements of the baby and not specifically looking for the gender. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) discourages ultrasound for gender determination since it is unknown how ultrasounds affect the baby so fewer ultrasounds is generally assumed to be better.
It is also important during this time to choose the hospital where you plan on delivering.
Fat begins forming under baby’s skin to help maintain body temperature after birth. The ears move from the neck to the head and baby is beginning to be able to hold their head and neck straighter. The kidneys are functioning and bile is secreted into the stomach. Your baby depends on you for all of his or her nutrients. Scalp hair grows and may already have color. Facial muscles develop and your baby may even be able to open or close their mouth. A lot of sucking, swallowing, and blinking are occurring inside of you. Even though your baby lives in a liquid environment they are practicing breathing in there! Inhalation of small amounts of amniotic fluid is practice for the extrauterine environment.
Baby is 4.57 inches (11.6 cm) and weighs 3.53 ounces (100 grams). The baby and the placenta are about the same size at this point.
Stages of Pregnancy – Week 17:
Increases in gestational diabetes have been in the news recently. Chances are your doctor is testing you for gestational diabetes at each check up. Gestational diabetes is diabetes which appears during pregnancy and can raise the risk of your baby also developing diabetes. Risk can be decreased if care is taken to regulate your blood glucose levels. Blood glucose levels should not have major spikes and dips but remain relatively constant. Take time to consider the foods that you are consuming to avoid blood glucose spikes. Eat many small meals throughout the day to avoid dips in blood glucose.
As the skin covering your breasts and abdomen stretch they may become itchy. Each week you have more chance that your back is going to begin to ache as your weight increases and your center of gravity shifts. Your gums may bleed (perhaps due to the increased blood flow and hormone levels). Increases in bodily secretions (sweating, nasal congestion, and/or vaginal discharge) are normal and will subside after birth. Some women develop linea nigra (a dark line from your belly button down) which disappears after birth. Sometimes freckles on your face and skin darken but this also disappears after birth. Remember to drink plenty of water and keep your feet up whenever possible to prevent swelling.
Your baby has a more normal human form in posture and appearance. Fingertips and toes develop pads. The eyes move forward on the face although they remain closed. The ears protrude from the head and by this time your baby can hear extrauterine voices and music. They are already familiar with your heart beat, breathing, and stomach grumbling. The umbilical cord thickens and there is accumulation in the bowels. Cartilage making up your child’s skeleton, transitions to bone.
Baby measures 5.12 inches (13 cm) long and weighs in at 4.97 ounces (140 grams).
A number of genetic tests are available. These tests do not tell you whether or not your child will develop a certain genetic disease but only inform you of the percentage risk of obtaining certain genetic diseases. Consult with your doctor about whether these tests are right for you.
A protective material forms on baby’s skin (vernix) and the placenta continues growth. Alveoli in the lungs develop as do vocal cords. The heart is now visible by ultrasound. Your baby’s senses continue to develop. You may notice that baby may be more active in response to certain sounds.
The baby is now 5.59 inches (14.2 cm) long and weighs 6.7 ounces (190 grams).
Stages of Pregnancy – Week 19:
Although you can feel the baby move, other people normally can’t feel the baby move by laying their hand on your belly until week 28.
Now is an excellent time to schedule some childbirth classes if this is your first child or you would like to meet other expectant couples.
The myelin coating over the nerves is developing. Hair is growing and the permanent teeth form behind the baby teeth. Male genitals and the female uterus develop. Her ovaries even contain the precursors to eggs. The kidneys are producing urine which is secreted into the amniotic fluid. Your baby is swallowing and breathing this nutrient-filled amniotic fluid. Baby’s sleep patterns begin to become similar to a newborn’s sleep patterns.
Baby now measures 6.02 inches (15.3 cm) and weighs 8.47 ounces (240 grams) – that’s a little over 0.5 lb!
Stages of Pregnancy – Week 20:
At this time many women have an ultrasound and confirm the gender of their baby! Accuracy is normally 80-90%. While ultrasounds are not required during an otherwise healthy pregnancy, studies have shown that they increase bonding with the baby. In some countries ultrasounds are offered at every visit.
This week your belly button may change from an “innie” to an “outie” as the uterus presses up against it. If your belly button gets irritated due to rubbing against clothing, try using a band aid or piece of tape over it.
Until the baby moves down into the birthing canal (usually 4-6 weeks prior to birth) you may experience some shortness of breath as there is less room for your lungs to expand.
Your baby’s period of rapid growth ends. Baby has a strong heartbeat and finds loud exterior noises startling. Their legs now have normal body proportions. Nerve cells continue developing for the senses. The female baby’s uterus continues to develop. You begin the process of transferring your immunities to the baby for the remaining weeks of pregnancy.
This week baby measures 6.46 inches (16.4 cm) and weighs 10.58 ounces (300 grams) (these numbers are approximations).
Stages of Pregnancy – Week 21:
Congratulations you are over half way there!
If you are suffering from back pain talk with your doctor about back brace options which may be covered by your insurance.
Although some of your symptoms lessen, you may feel anxiety about labor or motherhood. Try some activities to bond with your baby such as reading aloud or listening to music together. Begin getting the nursery together.
The baby’s white blood cells form. The skin is opaque and swallowing is more common. The eyelids are still closed. The tongue develops as do the womb and vagina for baby girls. The baby’s sleep patterns become more consistent.
Baby is 10.51 inches (26.7 cm) long (now measured from crown to heel instead of crown to butt) and 12.7 ounces (360 grams).
Stages of Pregnancy – Week 22:
Frequent bathroom breaks continue as does the back pain. Digestion is harder than ever with the loss of space the stomach experiences.
Libido may increase during the second trimester due to the increased blood flow and bodily secretions. Make time for intimacy with your partner.
Your child can hear talking, reading, and singing. The fingernails reach the end of the finger and their eyelids and eyebrows are complete. The brain is in a rapid growth stage. The liver is functioning by breaking down bilirubin. Male babies are forming primitive sperm and testosterone. The testes are moving into place.
Baby measures 10.94 inches (27.8 cm) long and 430 grams (about one pound!).
Stages of Pregnancy – Week 23:
Your doctor may palpate your belly which involves pressing on your abdomen and determining the position of the baby and taking measurements. Your doctor may also check your cervix in order to determine risk of preterm labor. During this time and for the rest of the pregnancy, continue to get plenty of rest and try to sit and put your feet up a few times a day to take the pressure off your cervix and swollen joints.
Baby’s body proportions are almost normal now. The eyes are formed but do not have color yet. The pancreas is functioning and the middle ear bones are hardening. Since deeper male voices travel further, the baby can hear male voices better than female voices. If your child is born now they have a 15% chance of survival which only increases as each day goes by.
Baby measures approximately 11.38 inches (28.9 cm) and weighs 1.1 pounds (501 grams) now.
Stages of Pregnancy – Week 24:
Be aware of premature labor risks especially in the summer when it is easier to get dehydrated. Dehydration contributes to the risk of premature labor. If your cervix measures more than 2.5 cm you may be placed on bed rest. Some women experience a whitish vaginal discharge during pregnancy and even in their normal cycles called leukorrhea. This is normal. If you are itchy and your labia are enflamed you may have a yeast infection. Consult your doctor before using over the counter treatments.
The baby is beginning to gain some weight and is officially viable this week, meaning that if you gave birth this week baby has some chance of making it with the help of modern technology. Taste buds form and lungs continue to develop as baby practices breathing. Lines on the palm develop and rapid eye movement (REM) begins to occur during sleep.
Baby measures approximately 11.8 inches (30 cm) and weighs 1.3 pounds (600 grams) this week.
Stages of Pregnancy – Week 25:
You may be having trouble sleeping at night due to the increased bathroom breaks (as many as one an hour!), trouble finding a comfortable position, and anxiety about the upcoming changes in your life. It is important to drink plenty of water but you can use pillows and bend your knees upwards to support you while sleeping. The American Pregnancy Association (APA) recommends that you sleep on your left side to allow the major vein, the vena cava, which tends to be pushed to your right side (and even more so with pressure from your enlarged uterus!), to remain unrestricted. This allows optimal blood circulation for you and baby at night.
Some women experience increases in melanin on the cheekbones, forehead, and nose. These darker skin spots may fade after pregnancy. Remember to wear plenty of sunscreen and stay hydrated.
Baby’s spinal structures are forming and the lung blood supply is developing. The nostrils are opening and there is an increase in sensitivity around the mouth and lips. The baby is beginning to have swallowing reflexes and their dexterity is improving. Baby can wiggle fingers and toes!
Baby weighs approximately 13.6 inches (34.6 cm) and weighs approximately 1.46 pounds (660 grams).
Stages of Pregnancy – Week 26:
You may be able to share baby’s movements with other people this week! Although you have been able to feel baby squirming around for some time, it may have been difficult for others to feel anything. You are finishing up the second trimester!
Baby’s lungs forms air sacs and begin secreting surfactant. The spine is strengthening and baby can now respond to touch! The retinas are formed and baby can open eyes and blink. Brain waves in response to hearing and sight are now detectable.
Baby measures 14 inches (35.6 cm) and weighs 1.7 pounds (760 grams).