Pregancy Week by Week (Weeks 17-20)

Week 17

You may get breathless and sweaty as your metabolism soars and your heart needs to work at twice its usual rate, pumping around all that extra blood.

Your baby
Hair is now growing quickly – eyelashes and eyebrows define his face, and he has hair on his head too. Sometimes, though, this newborn head-hair will fall out after the birth. So hair colour may not be as obvious as you thought!

You may be blooming and bursting with energy, but don’t overdo it. If you work too hard and become stressed, it’s not good for your baby, as research shows stressed out mums tend to have stressy babies.

At home:
• ask your partner to help with the chores.
• set aside some quiet time each day where you sit, eyes closed, breathing deeply.
• go to bed at a reasonable time (earlier than you used to) and take naps at the weekend.

At work:
• ask if you can alter your hours so you’re not travelling at rush hour.
• learn to prioritise – do the important things first and don’t sweat about the small stuff. Learn to delegate instead.

Finance savvy
It may sound gloomy, but as you and your partner are going to become parents, it’s a good idea to make sure you have life assurance in place and possibly some sort of cover in case one of you is made redundant. That way, you can be sure your baby won’t suffer financially.

MOTHERCARE TIP Tender breasts stopping you sleeping at night? A sleep bra will help.

Week 18

As your bump swells, backache may set in – especially around the lower back where your pelvis and spine are joined. This pain happens because those pregnancy hormones have softened your ligaments.

Your baby
Teeny fingernails and toenails are growing quickly (they may need cutting at birth and can look rather tatty on perfect newborn babes!). As hand-control improves, he often grips tightly onto the umbilical cord.

Back tracking
If you’re having problems with your back, be very careful with lifting. When picking something up from the floor, always bend your knees, and then come up with a straight back. Tightening the muscles around your lower back and pelvis when you get up or get out of bed should help reduce pain. If you’re having lots of problems, tell your midwife who may advise that you see an antenatal physiotherapist.

What to wear?
You’ll probably need some maternity clothes by now. To make sure they grow with your bump and fit throughout pregnancy, choose skirts and trousers with all sorts of clever tricks:
• Front or side panels in stretchy jersey
• Adjustable-button side panels
• Extendable waists
• Deep stretch waistbands

Then think about tops. Because the seasons will change as your bump gets bigger, go for layers that you can shed in the summer or pile on in the colder months.

MOTHERCARE TIP… Invest in some great accessories. They can either disguise or emphasise your new shape – and you’ll still be able to wear them after the baby’s born. For more fashion tips see our feature on pregnancy style.

Week 19

Because your blood pressure is lower than usual and your blood vessels are more lax, you may feel dizzy if you get up quickly. If so, sit down until you feel fine, then get up slowly.

Your baby
Your baby is super-active now, as he is small enough to swim and twist within the womb, yet strong enough for more vigorous movement. He has yet to put on fat so his still-closed eyes look bulbous.

Do it now!
• Read all the big books you want – once your baby’s born you’ll be reduced to odd snippets from trashy mags.
• See all the movies you can before you need a babysitter.
• Book up those theatre tickets before broken nights mean you fall asleep in the middle of Act II.
• Treat yourself to that expensive restaurant. Soon it’ll cost more as you’ll have to factor in the babysitter – and her cab home.
• Make the most of those lie-ins.

Little and often
If low blood sugar is exacerbating your dizziness, keep a supply of low-GI snacks handy to nibble on. Try:
• Dried apricots
• Pears
• Yogurt
• Malt loaf
• Carrot sticks and humus
• Flapjack

ONE MUM SAYS… ‘On the way to work on the underground I almost missed my stop and jumped up to get off the tube. I reached the platform but felt so woozy I passed out. I came round with London commuters just stepping over me! Finally, another pregnant woman stopped to help.’

Week 20

You may feel the very first movements from your baby (often called ‘quickening’), which some mums describe as a feeling of bubbles popping, butterflies fluttering inside them – or even wind! Second-time mums may feel this earlier as they know what to look out for. Whenever you feel it, it’s a magical moment – and Dad can now put his hand on you belly and finally feel his baby.

Your baby
At this halfway point, your baby is about 25cm (10in) long – think large honeydew melon. This is approximately half his birth length. Many mums have a scan now to check for possible problems.

The 20-week scan
At about this time you’ll be offered one of the major scans – often called an anomaly scan. This looks for abnormalities in your baby and includes detailed checks on all organs and your baby’s structure.

In most cases, the baby is fine. But if anything is discovered, you may be offered further, more-invasive, testing to check whether a problem actually does exist. Remember that, as with all testing, you have a right to refuse both the scan and any follow-up tests.

If something is wrong…
Ask to see a genetic counselor who can take you through all the possible scenarios and the likelihood of each. Sometimes, just talking to an informed, neutral person can help you see more clearly.

MOTHERCARE TIP A scan will also reveal the sex of the baby, although in some areas hospitals won’t tell you. And if you want to keep it a surprise, tell the scan operator so they don’t drop a hint inadvertently.

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