19 Weeks Pregnant
19 weeks pregnant:
nervesNervesThe nerves are being coated with myelin, a substance that will help them coordinate body movement quickly and smoothly.
vernix caseoaVernix CaseoaThe thick, white coating that's starting to cover the body will stay for most of the pregnancy. Premature babies will have a good deal of this substance on their skin, while post-term babies have almost none.
digestive organsDigestive OrgansThe stomach is producing gastric juices for digestion and the kidneys produce urine. Any waste products are either brought back to the mother through the placenta or harmlessly passed into the amniotic fluid.
What's happening with you:
Now that your body is circulating more blood more efficiently, you may notice a glowing complexion, strong nails and thick, lustrous hair. Then again, those skin and hair changes can go into overdrive for some women: the surge in estrogen can produce brown patches over the forehead and face (known as the mask of pregnancy), and you may find thick, lustrous hair arriving in areas that used to be bare. Whichever camp you're in, skin and hair changes will likely stick around until your hormones level out after delivery.
By now most women have gained between 8 and 14 pounds (a little less or more is fine, too), although your baby only counts for a fraction of that pregnancy weight gain! But don't let that get you down -- your body needs the extra fluids, blood and padding to grow and support a healthy baby for nine months. Unfortunately, the backaches and abdominal strain you may be feeling now are just part of the package.
What's happening with your baby:
This week your baby is between 5 ½ and 6 inches (14 to 15 cm) long from crown to rump (about the size of an artichoke). Pictures of a 19 week fetus would reveal defined facial features and a miniature human form, but although your baby is recognizably human now, she still has a long way to grow. Her little 7 ounce body, now covered in lanugo, is secreting a white greasy substance called vernix caseosa that forms a waterproof layer to protect baby's skin from the amniotic fluid. This coating will stay with your baby through most of the pregnancy, beginning to dissipate as delivery approaches.
A 19 week fetus is producing an important coating inside her body, too. A substance called myelin is beginning to cover the nerves, which will help them exchange information quickly to coordinate body movement. Newborns tend to move with jerks and uncoordinated reflexes, but the increasing amount of myelin will help to refine their reactions and control muscle movements as they grow. All of baby's senses are maturing now, and her body is producing fluids like gastric juices and urine, which are harmlessly excreted into the amniotic fluid.
Things to do this week:
If you have more energy these days, why not channel some of it into the nursery? While baby's arrival is still a few months away, you will likely feel less proactive and less energetic in your third trimester, so hit the shops for some nursery staples while you still have that second-trimester bounce in your step.
You'll probably have a baby shower in a little while, and like other types of gift registries, your wish list will contain all the little accessories to make your life easier. However, when it comes to big ticket items, you may have a very specific version in mind that you'd like to purchase yourself. This may be a good time to look for the perfect crib for the nursery, including any baby bedding or padding that will set the tone for the design. Browse around for a while, keeping in mind that there's still plenty of time to decide -- let your shopping time be a fun way to de-stress rather than another task to add to your to-do list.
If you've thought about expanding your pregnancy support network to include a doula, now is a great time to start looking for the perfect person. While doulas are sometimes grouped together with obstetricians and midwives, they're not exactly medical professionals. Instead, they're trained to provide emotional and physical support, helping you to stay focused, confident and in control. Their influence on labor and delivery can be astounding: from shorter labor to fewer requests for epidurals, doulas have become prized for their ability to facilitate a natural childbirth.
Generally, doulas are present through labor and delivery, but many will also arrange a few prenatal meetings and happily meet with you after your baby is born. If you decide you want to work with a doula, don't wait to start interviewing. Like many services, your choices become more limited as time goes by, and you want to be able to choose your doula rather than settle for someone who might not fit with your birth plan. One of the nicest things about working with a doula is developing a meaningful connection and a sense of trust, and these things rest on a good personality match.
Be sure to have a list of questions ready for the doula when you arrange to meet, covering everything from her experience to her fee to her personal childbirth philosophy. Remember that those who surround you during your labor and delivery will color your overall experience, so take your time and learn from those who are familiar with the benefits (or drawbacks) of a doula.
Tips for your partner:
During pregnancy, dreams become vivid and can reverberate through your waking life. For the mother-to-be, wild dreams are probably rooted in hormones, but many partners will also experience intense journeys into their subconscious. Whether it stems from your anxiety, excitement or yearning for something during the pregnancy, an especially dramatic dream is nothing to worry about. Sex is a common theme in dreams during pregnancy, and could point to your changing sexual relationship over the past few months. One thing to keep in mind is that this is your subconscious talking, the part of your mind that expresses raw emotion and concern through the images it's able to summon, and there's no reason to take anything literally.
Since both you and mom-to-be will have strange dreams regularly, make an effort to regularly tell each other about them. This will be particularly comforting when she has one of those painfully frightening dreams about losing the baby or when you wake with concerns about the future of your family. Talking through these things can help you bond through honest communication and reassurance, just make sure you don't judge dreams as if they were real situations.
This week's FAQs:
Which exercises are best for my body now?
Brisk walking, prenatal yoga and even light jogging are still good options for your pregnancy workouts, but you'll want to add another exercise to your daily routine. Kegel exercises are localized muscle contractions that will help fend off discomfort during pregnancy and help you regain your form and function after delivery. Best of all, you can do them any time and in any place without interrupting your day.
To do Kegels correctly, simply clench your pelvic floor muscles (those are the muscles around your vagina and anus) for 8 to 10 seconds, relax and repeat. A few sets of 10 Kegels each day will make the muscles noticeably stronger before you know it. And since you can do them whenever you want, why not perform a few during intercourse? You may find these concentrated contractions make sex even better for both you and your partner, and since they will certainly help your body, there's no harm in trying.
I'm starting to get backaches and they tend to interfere with my normal activities. What can I do to relieve them?
Right around this point in pregnancy, your abdomen has grown enough and your joints have loosened enough to spark back pain when you are on your feet for a while or when you let your posture slip. While your belly will get quite a bit bigger and the hormones that cause pregnancy joint pain aren't going anywhere fast, there are some ways to beat the discomfort without turning to medication.
First, take a look at how you stand. Do you tend to push your belly out and pull your shoulders back? You could be arching your body right into backache, so try to tilt the bottom of your pelvis forward slightly, which will help to push out your lower back and take some pressure off. And when you sit, are you resting in the chair properly? Sitting may seem pretty straightforward, but modifying your position by crossing your legs, sinking back into a hunch or leaning to one side can aggravate your backache. Try to keep your feet slightly elevated on a stool or footrest, and take regular standing breaks (as you would take regular sitting breaks when standing for a long time).
There are plenty of accessories to help you maintain a comfortable posture, like a pregnancy sling to support your belly (especially helpful if you're carrying twins) or a pregnancy pillow to relieve pressure on your joints when you sleep. If all else fails, a visit to a physiotherapist or massage therapist may do the trick.
Should I be worried that I haven't felt my baby move yet?
When you're reading everything you can about what to expect in pregnancy, you may start thinking about what you should be feeling rather than what you are feeling. This is dangerous terrain because there are very few cases where "normal" and "abnormal" are clear-cut categories; there's a good possibility that you're right on track even if you're not experiencing common symptoms. Feeling (or not feeling) your baby move is a perfect example of this misplaced worry.
While some seasoned moms and exceptionally thin women may feel the first flutters around week 16, it's not at all unusual to go a few more weeks without feeling the quickening sensation. Your uterus itself doesn't have any sensory receptors, so when Baby kicks you're actually feeling your uterus pressing against another organ. This means that the baby has to kick hard enough and in the right place for you to detect the pressure. Many women will feel something between 18 and 20 weeks, but if your baby is on the lighter end of the scale or your placenta lines the front of your uterus instead of the back, you may not notice a thing until week 24 or so.
Are you getting worried about all of the tasks that lay ahead? It's never too early to start planning for your delivery, bringing home your baby or even your baby's first year. Try not to get too swept up in the list-making, but don't be afraid to scope out prenatal classes, breastfeeding support groups or newborn swimming classes now. Sometimes a little inspired forethought can give your tired mind a break from your current worries and discomforts. Focus on things that you can control, and you'll find new energy and confidence to get through the upcoming months in high spirits.