It’s week 18 and you would be switching a lot of things up. First is your sleeping position. No more sleeping on your back, all sleeping would be done on the side now. Why, you ask?
Well, your bundle of joy is growing so big that it can apply pressure on the large veins located at the back of your abdomen.
This could reduce the amount of blood flowing to your heart, resulting in mild symptoms like lightheadedness or a pretty serious one like low blood pressure.
No need to be alarmed though. All you have to do is sleep on your side and you’re good. Talking about pressure, your veins aren’t the only ones involved.
You might feel under some pressure yourself, and it’s totally understandable, you’re 18 weeks pregnant and there are bound to be some new changes around.
However, you need to take out time to consciously relax and take a break from everything happening around you.
Get a massage or some beautiful night out, whatever you do, live a little! Also, at this stage, your bulge is becoming pretty clear and you would be unable to hide it.
The womb is still gradually moving towards the abdomen and you would notice your waist beginning to shrink.
You’re 18 weeks gone, but it might not be exactly 18 weeks since conception. Recall the calculation in week 1 such that your day 1 starts to count from the first day of your last period before pregnancy.
Your baby is now roughly the size of an artichoke.
Your Baby’s Development
At the end of week 18, your baby would be about 5 and a half inches long and weigh around 7 ounces.
This might sound hilarious to you, but your baby is actually hard at work, practicing how to sleep. It’s a full-time job, waking and sleeping and waking yet again all through the day. And you can wake your baby at this point if it is asleep.
This is because the nerves and bones that compose the auditory system are nearing completion, so they work just fine now and are sensitive to loud noises.
And whether you know it or not, you’re actually entertaining your baby. The sounds of your blood moving through the umbilical cord and your heartbeat are the major sounds that are being listened to at this point in time.
Recall that your baby’s eyes have been closed for a couple of weeks now. Well, the retinas may just have developed well enough for them to actually see light now.
So, if you hold a light to your belly, there might be some reaction from your baby. Way to start interacting, right?!
In the meantime, some major growth is beginning to occur in your baby’s body. Myelin, the protective sheath for nerve cells is beginning to form. It is a mix of proteins and lipids and it insulates neurons.
Beyond ensuring the health and function of neurons, it is also concerned with doing the same with the brain and the remainder of the nervous system. It continues to form all through the duration of pregnancy up until your baby is born and turns one.
If your baby is a boy, the genitals should be present by now although it might still be hard to see. For female babies, the uterus and fallopian tubes would have formed and assumed their final positions in the body.
At this point, your baby may have learned how to yawn and hiccup. You may even sense when your baby is doing this.
It would feel like a bubbling or fluttering sensation. On the other hand, you just might feel nothing. Confirmed fetal movement may not start for another 2 weeks.
Your Body & Symptoms
Your pregnancy is getting a lot more visible with your uterus steadily expanding. At this point, your body may experience a shift in gravity as a result of your growing belly.
It would result in your leaning forward and this can put some stress on your spine. This could also cause pains or aches in your back and is one of the symptoms during this phase of your pregnancy.
Your spine may also feel the effects of Relaxin. The hormone is released in your body to loosen your hip joints and prepare them to lose some tension that is much needed for delivery.
It is, however, an indiscriminate hormone and may lead to overstretching muscles and ligaments.
Hypotension or low blood pressure isn’t an isolated occurrence during pregnancy as well. It is most prevalent during the mid-second trimester.
Apart from an increased volume of blood circulating in your body, hormonal changes may also result in the dilation of your blood vessels and this typically reduces blood pressure. This, in turn, can lead to occurrences of dizziness.
In addition, laying on your back can result in your steadily growing uterus resting on some major blood vessels in your body including the vena cava.
A sudden bid to stand after staying in that position for a while can cause some blood to rush to your head and make you feel lightheaded.
If you’ve been experiencing hyperemesis gravidarum (an extreme form of nausea and vomiting that can result in up to 5% loss of total body weight), it should be all gone by now.
However, seeing that you cannot immediately make up for the lost body weight, your body would provide extra blood to compensate for this loss.
To help this increase in blood volume along, taking foods that have high iron content as well as consuming lots of fluids is advised.
At this point, you may not notice a significant increase in weight. Most women add the most after they have passed the 20-week mark. You should typically gain between 22 and 28 pounds all through your pregnancy, but this, of course, depends on your BMI when you started carrying.
1. Body Aches
You may begin to experience aches and pains in your second trimester. The pressure of your uterus on the sciatic nerve could result in aches in your back, groin, or pains in your thighs.
Your body is seeing some rapid changes and as your uterus expands and your stomach bulges, your center of gravity changes.
This is another source of aches. Your baby’s increasing weight could also exert an extra force of your pelvic bones — aches galore.
During this time, a practical relief would be massaged or hot or cold compresses. If you’re going to opt for a massage, ensure that you’re dealing with someone who is experienced in the act of prenatal massages and ensure that you inform them of how far along you are while booking an appointment.
Leg cramps at nighttime are also pretty common. Staying hydrated and stretching your legs before bed may help to prevent them. You’re also advised to engage in some form of activity such as exercise in the day.
2. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome affects a significant number of pregnant women. Up to sixty-two percent of pregnant women complain about experiencing the symptoms.
It occurs as a result of a compressed nerve in the wrist resulting in sensations such as numbness, tingling, and general pain in the hand and arm.
If your job involves sitting in front of a computer, ensure that your workspace is super comfortable.
Also, it would be a good idea to avoid extended exposure to vibration from equipment such as lawnmowers or power tools. To relieve the symptoms, a wrist splint may also be helpful.
The duration of this syndrome is only as long as your pregnancy lasts. After giving birth, the symptoms disappear. If you think you’re experiencing carpal tunnel syndrome, you should let your doctor know.
3. Itching and Skin Changes
Itchy hands or feet are pretty commonplace during pregnancy. Your abdomen may also itch. To cut down on the occurrence of this symptom, avoid itchy or tight fabric as well as hot showers. A moisturizing cream that is gentle on the skin may help as well.
If you notice a dark line down your abdomen, it is nothing out of the ordinary. It is referred to as a linea nigra and is pretty benign and typically leaves after you’ve given birth.
Stretch marks are perhaps another aspect of skin changes that you cannot avoid and are known to affect up to 90% of pregnant women.
They typically start to rear their heads during your second trimester and you would just have to let them run their natural course.
These marks cannot be treated and they typically fade off over time.
Measures To Begin To Observe
At this point, you should be adhering to every instruction that your doctor gives without fail. Seeing how easy it can be to gain weight during this period, watching your eating is essential.
Only take in the recommended amount of calories and try to avoid having to increase food quantity.
If you’re having difficulty getting used to sleeping on your side, you can use pillows as a wall to support yourself. Also, it would really hurt to begin to learn a thing or two about life after childbirth.