18 Weeks Pregnant
Are the symptoms all in your head?
18 weeks pregnant:
lungsLungsTiny air sacs called alveoli are forming to prepare for breathing air.
placentaPlacentaAt this point, the placenta is mature enough to take over as the main support system and the site of your hormone production. It is responsible for bringing oxygen and nourishment to your baby, then taking away waste products.
reproductive organsReproductive OrgansA baby boy's prostate gland is forming, as are a baby girl's uterus and ovaries.
What's happening with you:
At 18 weeks pregnant, your uterus is growing, your energy is climbing and your estrogen levels are soaring -- you're probably feeling better than you have felt in a while, though you may be noticing that you're forgetting things here and there. You're almost certainly showing a baby bump by now, as your womb is around the size of a cantaloupe and your doctor will easily be able to measure the size and shape at this month's prenatal visit. The top, or fundus, should be slightly below your belly button and will feel firm to the touch. If you haven't had a second trimester ultrasound yet, your doctor may order an 18 week ultrasound to check on baby's development and determine whether any prenatal tests should be conducted.
High estrogen levels can be blamed for some pregnancy discomforts like skin changes and bleeding gums, but it can also bring, well, happier effects. You may find that you're more interested in sex these days, since that extra estrogen is moving more blood to the pelvic region to stimulate your libido and make for quick arousal. And hey, if you're in the mood, there's no reason to fight it: sex during the second trimester is perfectly safe for most women, and this may be just the right time to reconnect with your partner if the excitement and worry of early pregnancy has put your intimate life on hold.
What's happening with your baby:
An 18 week fetus measures between 5 and 5¾ inches (12.5 to 14 cm)long and weighs around 5 ¼ ounces, which makes your baby about the size of a red onion. Bones are strengthening and hardening, fat is accumulating under the skin and the muscles are working well. Your placenta is now fully functional, and provides all of the nutrients and oxygen that your baby needs.
Although baby's rapid growth phase has come to an end, his most active phase in the womb has just begun. Baby's somersaults and stretching help him to build motor skills, and together with his developing sense of hearing, will also help him begin to understand his environment. While kicks, grabs and acrobatics make up a good part of his day, plenty of energy is still devoted to his development: tiny air sacs called alveoli are forming in the lungs, and if your baby is a boy, his prostate gland is also forming. If your baby is a girl, her uterus and ovaries have already formed. On the outside, the pads of the fingers and toes are beginning to show your baby's unique fingerprint pattern.
Things to do this week:
By now you've probably come up with a great fitness routine to use through most of your pregnancy, but if you haven't, it's not too late to begin. Prenatal yoga is a good place to start: the soothing stretching and gentle strengthening may be enough to coax you off the couch. Then again, few exercise regimes can compete with a comfy bed when you're dealing with pregnancy discomforts, so you'll want to make sure that you do everything in your power to keep yourself comfortable and committed in your workout routine. Pregnancy fitness clothing will help you look forward to your next walk, jog or yoga class.
By now you've learned that a pregnant body refuses to be restrained. Fitted pants and tight belts have left your wardrobe for the time being, and you've reacquainted yourself with that remarkably comfortable creation, the oversized cotton t-shirt. Yet when it comes to exercise, those loose sweats and swaths of fabric will probably hinder your movements, hold your sweat and basically work against your will to finish your workout.
On the other hand, maternity fitness clothing (whether it's a supportive tank, swimsuit or a pair of yoga pants) is designed to stretch easily but recover its original shape, and often the straps and seams are softer and more comfortable than regular workout wear. Look for moisture-wicking fabric with panels in the front or seams to the sides of the belly, since these styles will more likely stretch where you need them to, but support and control your shape at the same time.
As your pregnancy rolls along, you may find that a good deal of your discomfort is in your pelvic region. There are a number of reasons for your pelvic troubles, but whether it's stretching tissue and ligaments or pressure on the organs, it can be difficult to find relief. Luckily, most of the aches and pains are nothing to be concerned about, and they will pass in time. However, you should learn to look out for certain abdominal and pelvic conditions that could have a serious impact on your health and the health of your baby.
One thing you can count on in pregnancy is your close connection to the bathroom. If it's not morning sickness, it's your overactive bladder, and that can be frustrating and distracting throughout your nine months. Your uterus is getting pretty big now, and it tends to sit right on your bladder; when it applies enough pressure to block the tubes that connect your bladder to your kidneys, you could contract a urinary tract infection.
A UTI brings some unmistakable symptoms, including pain when you urinate, frequent urination and even blood in the urine. If the UTI goes untreated, the risk of delivering a child with developmental problems and low birth weight rises. In a small amount of cases, a urinary tract infection can lead to even more severe conditions, so it's very important to see your doctor and begin treatment as soon as you can.
Tips for your partner:
Pregnancy is not only a time to express your love to your partner, it's also a time to show her just what kind of parent you intend to be. You may assume that, since she knows you so well, mom-to-be won't doubt your competency or compassion for a second, but that may not be the case. Being 18 weeks pregnant can bring confusion, fear and worry for the future, so you should use every opportunity you can to show your compassion, your commitment to your family, your unconditional love and your remarkable strength.
Comfort should be your mantra (and hers) at this point of pregnancy, because it has an enormous power over emotional and physical distress. Comfortable clothing, comfortable words and comfortable situations can help you overcome all kinds of obstacles on your way through the pregnancy, and your comforting response is just what she needs when her emotions get the best of her. Moreover, your ability to comfort your partner will reassure her that you'll be able to handle difficult situations well when you're raising your child.
This week's FAQs:
Is it normal to feel dizzy or lightheaded when I stand up?
Since low blood pressure is a common symptom of pregnancy, so is dizziness. A sudden dizzy spell can hit you when your uterus puts pressure on your aorta and vena cava, pinching blood flow to your brain, or you may find that you get lightheaded when you sit or stand quickly, as gravity will move blood away from your brain. Overheating is another common cause, so avoid hot and stuffy spaces if they're triggers for you. Finally, like many pregnancy symptoms, your diet can have a major impact on your body, and in this case, low blood sugar can lead to dizziness.
In most cases, lying on your side, standing up slowly and eating frequently can keep your lightheadedness under control, but dizzy spells can be a sign of trouble in some cases. If preventative measures don't help or if your dizziness is severe, you could be suffering from anemia. While fainting probably won't hurt you or your baby, you should call your doctor as soon as possible if you do faint, and mention your concerns about your dizziness so your practitioner can test your blood to rule out any underlying conditions.
I'm constantly forgetting simple things these days, and that's not like me. Could something be wrong with my mind?
There can be scary moments in pregnancy, but forgetting a task, name or date shouldn't be one of them. This phenomenon is known as pregnancy brain, and it can catch you off guard when you're mid-conversation, sabotage your important schedule or make you feel just plain dumb. The fact that many women experience this forgetfulness may bring you little comfort, but rest assured that it's likely only another temporary side effect of your pregnancy hormones.
Whether or not your lapse of memory is caused by hormones or some other distraction, one thing is for sure: getting bent out of shape over the episode won't help. If you want to regain control over your memory, stay calm and mentally retrace your steps to find your answer. To prepare for any future lapses, tote around a small notepad with which you can record facts and reminders, and be sure to plug all the phone numbers of friends and family into your cell phone.
My vision is getting worse and dryness is really becoming a problem. What's going on with my eyes?
This may be hard to believe, but your eyeballs actually change shape during pregnancy. Fluid retention changes the curvature of the eye and can bring on temporary near-sightedness. Additionally, the hormones that brought you skin changes and mood swings will also limit tear-production. In turn, many women find that contact lenses won't fit as well or work as well as they did before pregnancy. Instead of trying new contacts, you may find that switching to glasses for the remainder of your pregnancy is the best way to stay comfortable and see clearly.
Slight and gradual vision changes are nothing to worry about, but sudden blurriness, dimming vision or double vision can signal a serious problem. Waiting for these symptoms to pass can be a big mistake -- pay attention to sudden, severe vision changes and any other symptoms that come along with them, as they could indicate a stroke.
At 18 weeks pregnant, you may find that your head is taking the biggest brunt of the discomfort, and it can be both uncomfortable and frightening to feel as though you're losing control of your senses and your consciousness. However, since so many of your pregnancy discomforts are caused by blood pressure changes, learning how to manipulate your blood flow can help calm your mind and restore your comfort.
If you feel a headache coming on, apply an ice pack to your forehead as soon as possible to contract those blood vessels and fight off the pain. Alternatively, you can put a hot pack (or water bottle) on your feet, which will dilate those blood vessels and draw more blood away from your head. If a dizzy spell strikes, you should immediately sit down to relax and either drop your head between your knees or put your feet up and recline back a bit to help return the blood to your brain. Soon you'll be able to spot the onset of common blood pressure discomforts and counteract them with these simple maneuvers.