16 Weeks Pregnant

Reality sets in

16 weeks pregnant:

What's happening with you:

This is an exciting week for your body. You're into your second trimester, so you'll likely feel more energy and less discomfort, plus you may have a recognizable baby bump instead of the extra padding that has left you feeling just plain fat over recent weeks. Sure, you've gained 5 or 10 pounds, but that's no spare tire below your belly button, that's the top of your uterus! However, what's happening inside your body is even more exciting than the variations in your appearance.

Over the past few months, you've come to expect all kinds of changes, but this one can send you into entirely new emotional territory. This is the week when you may begin to feel a fluttering in your tummy, and it can catch you off guard. This is called quickening, and what you're feeling is your baby moving around, stretching its arms and legs.

For many, this movement is the most significant change in their pregnancy to date. That's not just a little lump in your tummy, it's a little person, and you may be overcome with the reality of your pregnancy and what lies ahead. Snap a 16 week pregnancy picture to remember that fateful day, and tuck it into a photo album. Of course, all pregnancies are different, and if you're not feeling any fluttering yet, don't fear -- your baby's likely doing fine and will begin to move around when she's ready. In fact, some women (especially those who are pregnant for the first time) won't experience the quickening sensation until the third trimester.

What's happening with your baby:

Your baby weighs about 3 ounces and measures around 4.5 inches (11 cm) from crown to rump. Although baby is still pretty small, some big physical changes are underway: fine hair called lanugo covers the head and body now, the fingernails have formed, the ears have moved to the head and the kidneys and stomach are beginning to function. Your baby can now open and close her mouth, suck her thumb and move around. All of her muscles are gaining strength, so she's starting to make facial expressions, too. Essentially, this is the point of independent movement, a big step on the path to development and the most obvious reminder of how fast a new life is growing inside of you.


Things to do this week:

Become more aware of your posture and positions. You can continue to relieve the increasing soreness in your back and abdomen with frequent rest and exercise, but remember to lie on your side if you lay down for a nap or a gentle workout. Lying or sleeping flat on your back at this point of your pregnancy will restrict the major blood vessels that bring nutrients and oxygen to your baby, so invest in a pregnancy pillow to help you find a stable, comfortable position on your side.

Self care in pregnancy is the best way to fight both the mental and physical stresses that can lead to discomfort and complications with your pregnancy. Since rest, relaxation and a good diet will also help you to calm the effects of those surging hormones, "small and frequent" should become your motto. Several small meals a day will keep the nutrients flowing to your baby, and short intervals of gentle exercise and stretching here and there will keep your muscles limber and relaxed.


Medical musts:

When the reality of pregnancy sinks in, other realities come with it. One is the possibility that things aren't going quite as smoothly as you had hoped. At this point in your pregnancy, prenatal testing is typically conducted to detect the presence of Down syndrome and other serious birth defects. The blood test will check your alpha-fetoprotein level, as well as your hCG and unconjugated estriol; high or low levels of one or more of these three pregnancy hormones can indicate conditions such as Down syndrome, spina bifida or organ defects.

Keep in mind that these tests will only signal possible problems, and there are several other factors that can produce a false positive. If any levels do turn out to be abnormal, a diagnostic test called amniocentesis will be conducted sometime within the next two weeks to investigate further. The amniocentesis test begins with an ultrasound of your uterus, which will help the doctor to carefully insert a very thin needle through the abdomen and take some amniotic fluid from the uterus. The fetal cells in the amniotic fluid are then tested for about 40 genetic and chromosomal abnormalities, including Down syndrome, muscular dystrophy, skeletal diseases and central-nervous-system diseases.

While this test may seem like a good idea, it can be difficult to decide whether it's worth taking. Invasive procedures bring risks, and any chance of damaging the baby, winding up with an infection or experiencing a miscarriage is simply too high for some. The good news is that, in most cases, the risk of complications is extremely small. If you're faced with this decision, take enough time to sort out your feelings, weighing the pros and cons before moving ahead.

Tips for your partner:

Since this is the week when things begin to get "real", it can bring frustration, anxiety and worry. If her unmistakable baby bump hasn't yet made its appearance, she may feel fat (and assume everyone else thinks she looks fat, too). If an amniocentesis test is looming in the near future, she's quite possibly freaking out about the worst case scenario. Hormones are high and it's natural to be hit with a feeling of immense responsibility along with a sense that you're losing control. As a caring partner, the best thing to do is be right beside her in every way. In some cases, stay a step ahead.

This is when you may not only need to indulge a sudden emotion or conviction, but also be proactive in ways that you haven't been before. For instance, sex during the second trimester is often more passionate and frequent, but surprising romantic gestures and creative positions are also more important now. When it comes to major tests in the doctor's office, stay right beside her and do whatever it takes to remain strong and collected. Also, her self-image may be suffering in this post-weight gain, pre-baby bump stage, so initiate an afternoon of closet reorganizing and shopping (while keeping a smile on your face).

This week's FAQs:

  • What symptoms should I be feeling now?

    At 16 weeks pregnant, some of your discomfort might wane while new symptoms begin to pop up. Many women welcome higher energy levels, an end to morning sickness, and less breast tenderness. On the other hand, you may be starting to experience food cravings, and if you still have some nausea you should tread carefully. Stick to small meals and snacks that are rich in protein, and don't be afraid to indulge enough to alleviate the desire as long as the vast majority of your diet is healthy and nutritious.

    On the emotional front, you may feel frustrated if you haven't begun to show or apprehensive if you have. In fact, this can be a pretty emotional week, so don't be surprised if you're feeling irritable or weepy. You may also notice that you're a little scatterbrained or forgetful these days, but these symptoms are perfectly normal when your hormones are elevated and your mind is racing through emotions.

  • Should I have an amniocentesis test done?

    This test does carry some risks, and only those who fall into a high-risk category will need to consider having it done. Age is a big factor here -- women over the age of 35 have a higher risk of having a baby with Down syndrome (about 1 in 400), and some healthcare professionals will suggest an amniocentesis to rule it out. Family history plays a role as well, and any "soft markers" that were spotted in previous tests (limbs or body parts that seem out of proportion, positive nuchal fold test or an abnormal heart beat) will lead many doctors to suggest an amniocentesis.

    Remember that a 16 week ultrasound can be hard to read and so results may be inaccurate. Instead of thinking about all the things that could be wrong, try to take a step back and examine your previous test results, the chances of inaccuracy and the statistics that apply to your specific situation to help you decide if the test is right for you.

  • Should I be gaining this much weight?

    Weight gain is an important part of prenatal care and maternity, but it can begin to feel excessive if you haven't experienced pregnancy before. A 16 week fetus accounts for just a few grams, while your increased blood volume and the water you're retaining will contribute significantly to the number on the scale. In general, you should aim to gain between 25 and 35 pounds over the course of your three trimesters; if you've already put on over 15, you may want to take a closer look at your pregnancy lifestyle.

    There are things you can do to safely control your weight gain during pregnancy, but some things should be avoided at all costs. For one, don't even consider going on a low-calorie diet or skipping meals, since you could wind up starving yourself and your baby at this very important time. Instead, concentrate on whole foods (which will keep you feeling full longer) and snacks that include protein to keep you satisfied. Also, many women don't realize that they're drinking such a large portion of their calories -- abandon the juice for water with lemon or certain herbal teas (after you've been given the OK from your doctor), which are flavorful treats without calories.

Helpful Hint:

Age isn't everything. While some risks are slightly higher, mothers-to-be who are in their 30s can actually have smoother, healthier and more enjoyable pregnancies than their younger counterparts. Fitness level will have a greater impact than age, so if you exercise regularly you may find that you'll have an easier time and milder symptoms than you had expected.

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