The 18-week milestone is an important part of your pregnancy, and it brings about a lot of changes. Just a few weeks ago, it was probably hard for others to tell you were pregnant, but now it’s undeniable. Your baby has gone through some major changes, too…
How Big is the Baby?
Your baby will have shot up in size by now, reaching a length of almost six inches long (generally around 5.6 on average) and weighing nearly 7 ounces in total. That’s huge, almost as big as most people’s hands and multiple times its weight from about five weeks ago. A big baby brings big changes, so you’ll have both seen changes over the past few weeks.
How Has The Baby Developed?
This is a big step for your baby, since they’re starting to develop some of the more complex parts of their body. It’s no longer just a case of them growing larger – they’re also getting prepared for the outside world, and it’s only a matter of time before they’re fully-grown.
- Your baby will have a sense of hearing by now, although they’ll mostly just be able to hear your heart for now. After a while (usually around the week twenty-five), they’ll start to recognize voices, although there’s no predicting what they’ll actually do in response.
- Ultrasound scans will be able to identify the sex of the baby based on their private parts, which are now properly developing. It obviously depends on the position of the baby, so there’s no guarantee that the scan will actually be able to pick anything up if it’s facing a certain way. If this happens, you’ll have to try another ultrasound later on, or just wait until the birth.
- The nervous system will be starting to develop, too, although it’s not done yet. Each nerve is still creating its myelin insulation, and this makes a huge difference in healthy brain development and growth – you’ll want to make sure you’re taking in enough folate, choline, and iron to keep your new baby’s brain healthy, either by changing your diet or relying on special vitamins.
- The baby’s size will also have increased, obviously. This contributes to a bigger baby bump, but that’s about it for most women.
How Will My Body Change?
As with other stages of your pregnancy, you’ll be undergoing a lot of changes. You might feel a bit more energized now that the baby’s not sapping all your energy, but you’ll have to deal with other issues that can turn up over time. Not only that, but many of them are something you’ll have to adapt to yourself, rather than fixing with a certain treatment.
- The extra weight makes a huge difference. It’s not fat, at least not usually – the extra mass comes from the baby itself, but you’ll still be gaining around a pound per week. Don’t feel discouraged by this, since it’s all for the benefit of your baby, and it’s often possible to work off this weight soon after the pregnancy. Plus, once the baby is actually out of your body, you’ll feel much lighter almost instantly.
- With added weight comes a weaker balance, something that most women have to struggle to adapt to. Your center of gravity will be different, and you’ll find certain standing or sitting positions less comfortable due to the extra weight in your body. If you’re really unlucky, you might even be at a greater risk of tripping over, especially if it’s your first time walking around a lot with this added weight. You’ll adapt eventually, so just take things slowly.
- Oddly enough, many women end up with dry eyes for one reason or another. Eye drops are a quick solution, but nobody is 100% sure about how safe they are. If you wear contacts or have other eye-related issues, this can be even more annoying, so it’s worth asking a doctor about it.
- General pains and aches are also very common – you’ve probably had to deal with them earlier in the pregnancy anyway. However, once you’re near week 18, they’ll start to get more specific: round ligament pain is one of the most likely, which is an uncomfortable pain in the lower area of your abdomen caused by your growing baby. As your stomach grows, you’ll feel some nerves get pulled on or squished by the changes in your body shape – there isn’t much you can do about it, other than try to use regular stretches and treatments to coax everything back into a comfortable spot. Don’t use any medical treatments without permission from your doctor, either – it’s quite risky.
- Your blood pressure is also likely to change, and you can’t really fix this on your own either. Most pregnant women will start to suffer from low blood pressure, which is very likely to make you feel dizzy or lightheaded if you move around too quickly – this generally goes away after your baby is born, and isn’t a serious problem unless it’s a constant feeling. On the other hand, high blood pressure is much more serious – it can lead to issues with the placenta as well as your own health, so doctors will often monitor you regularly if they find that your blood pressure is too high.
Week twenty will almost be here, and that’s generally the time that you get the “anatomy scan” ultrasound – a scan that gives you a full idea of what your baby looks like, as well as its health and how well it’s developing. This will also generally be when you find out the baby’s sex if you haven’t already, as well as see it kicking or moving if you’re lucky.
This can also be the time that you find out the suggested due date. Most babies are born a few days before or after, but this estimate can help you plan ahead.
What will life be like?
Your baby is getting closer to its full size, so growth isn’t really a problem anymore. However, that doesn’t mean you should stop taking care of yourself and eating properly, especially now that you’re close to finding out the expected due date of your newest family member. In fact, it’s even more important to think about your baby’s needs and responses, since it can now hear and feel things and has the beginning of a fully-developed brain. Everything you do will affect its development somehow.
Sleep is extremely important. You’ll have to avoid sleeping on your back (or front, obviously) and you’ll need to pee much more often, but getting good rest makes a huge difference, so don’t be afraid to nap at weird times or sleep in longer than usual. As with earlier parts of the pregnancy, avoiding high-carb low-nutrition snacks is important for you and your baby’s long-term health, but now that it’s not growing as fast you can sneak in a few treats here and there. Plus, the sugar might help you stay awake a little longer if you’re trying to get something done.
As strange as it might sound, it’s worth looking into an exercise ball. You can keep yourself fit and healthy using one of these, and it doesn’t force you to strain your muscles like other workout tools might. Plus, it’s great for pelvic exercises, and they can be good exercise even after you’ve given birth. Exercise in general always matters, but you’ll want to choose your activities carefully now that you’re this far into your pregnancy – if you need to, check with a doctor and see how they feel about your exercise routine.
Still, don’t forget that you need to find a way to pass the time. You might still have a relatively small belly, but you’re not going to be in the mood for long-lasting activities or strenuous hobbies. Relax, do things at your own pace, and don’t be afraid to take advantage of your free time to binge-watch or binge-read something new. If anything, that might actually be healthier for you – the sound of a calm television show or pages turning won’t disturb them much, whereas going out to a public event with a lot of background noise might be distressful to them. You won’t notice it, but some people feel that sound makes a big difference in how a baby develops before it’s born, and loud noises are a big no-no now that it can hear things.