If this is your first pregnancy, you will probably be aware of your baby’s movements by now. If you’ve been pregnant before, it is possible to feel movements or “quickening” from around 14 weeks.
This should be an exciting week for you. You’ve probably already found that every new twinge and symptom brings with it a reminder that you are really going to have a baby. But of all the pregnancy signs, there is none more convincing than when you become aware of your baby moving! This is commonly around the 18th week for first-time mothers and a little earlier for those who’ve had a baby before.
Until now, the amniotic fluid has been acting as a buffer for your baby’s activity and the nerve endings in the wall of your womb have not been directly in contact with the baby, as it was too small. Now that your baby is large enough to be stimulating those nerve pathways, your brain will register that there is something moving around in there.
Is that my baby I can feel?
It’s hard to describe exactly how your baby’s first movements will feel to you. Many women say it is like the lightest of flutters, or a small bubble of excitement in their belly. Others say it feels like wind moving, though less painful. There are all sorts of ways to describe it – a tickle, a whisper or something similar to the sensation of being in an elevator when your heart is in your mouth, just lower down, and many more.
You will probably find that you become more conscious of your baby’s movements when you are lying down or sitting still and not distracted by other things. It is impossible to not smile when you first become aware of them; it’s just one of those life-affirming moments.
Remember though, every baby will develop their own pattern of movements and every mother will have her own unique experience of her baby’s movements. It is very common to be unsure in the early days of feeling movements and you may question if it is all in your imagination. Try to be patient as you wait and see. You will soon be left in no doubt that what you are feeling is your baby.
Your physical changes this week
At 18 weeks pregnant, you should be able to feel the top of your womb half-way between your pubic bone and your navel. It will feel like a firm, muscular ridge, which doesn’t yield when you press down gently. When you go for your antenatal appointments, the size of your womb will be checked by your midwife or doctor every time. This is because it provides an ideal way to measure the growth of your baby and compare its size against your dates.
Your womb is about the size of a melon, so it’s no wonder that you are feeling a dense, heavy feeling in your pelvis. Pick one up next time you’re at the fruit shop and feel the weight of it. You’re entitled to feeling a little worn out by the end of the day.
If you’ve put on a fair amount of weight, you may be starting to get stretch marks. Most women do develop these during pregnancy and not a lot can be done to avoid them. Excess weight gain is one risk factor, as is a family history and maternal age. Rub some soothing cream into your tummy each day, but avoid spending a lot of money on creams that claim to stop them from developing.
Think that noisy snorer is your partner? You may want to reconsider. This is the time a lot of pregnant women start snoring, much to their horror. Blame those congested mucous membranes and your nasal stuffiness. Sleeping on a couple of pillows can help, as can lying on your side. For some women, saline nasal sprays are useful. They help to liquefy nasal secretions and moisturise the nasal passages if dryness if a problem.
Where’s the food? This week you could really find your appetite increasing. Until now, the baby has been growing quickly, though for the next couple of weeks its growth will plateau slightly. Stock the fridge and pantry with lots of healthy foods to support you both. Look for low GI (Glycaemic Index) foods, which take longer to digest and will satisfy your hunger for longer periods of time.
Your heart is working extra hard to pump your blood. Your total circulating blood volume has increased so much that your heart needs to work almost 50% harder in pumping blood around your body. If you are still smoking at this point, do yourself and your baby a big favour and give up!
Your emotional changes this week
If you’ve been feeling a little indifferent about the pregnancy so far, you may start feeling a bit brighter this week. You are likely to be feeling the first of many of your baby’s movements and have a sense that your pregnancy is all very real.
You may feel as if you just want to keep the news of the baby’s movements all to yourself for a while. A lot of women feel some silent, secret connection with their baby, which they want to keep private. This is fine, though you may want to let your partner know too, just to be fair.
If the thought of childbirth has seemed like some way-off event, this week it may not appear to be so distant. Your expanding tummy and the baby’s movements combine to provide a constant and niggling reminder that at some stage, your baby will need to come out. Do allow yourself some time to think about how you want your labour to proceed and what you can do to feel actively involved in its planning.
Your baby’s changes this week
Room is getting a little tight in your womb. It now has to fit in your baby, the amniotic fluid, the placenta and its membranes, as well as the umbilical cord. Not to mention the extra space your baby takes up when it is rolling and kicking, stretching and turning. Fortunately your womb is a uniquely designed muscle, which is able to expand and grow many times bigger than its original size and shape.
This week your baby could be sucking its thumb. Ultrasounds taken at 18 weeks have shown lots of babies have found their little thumbs by this stage and don’t want to let go. Some babies are born with blisters on their fingers and thumbs, from months of latching on and going for it.
Your baby’s bones are ossifying, meaning they’re getting stronger and are less like cartilage. Watch your calcium intake and make sure you’re getting enough dairy in your diet. Even if you’re not a milk drinker, get into some cheese, yoghurt, custard, ice cream, fish with edible bones and even almonds. Green leafy vegetables also contain calcium.
Hints for the week
Still enjoying a little drink? For the sake of your own health and your baby, give up. There is no guaranteed, safe level of alcohol for pregnant women to drink and the only 100% safe level is through abstaining altogether. Rather drink some fruit juice, mineral or soda water, soft drinks or just plain water with a squeeze of lemon.
If you haven’t done so already, book in for your screening ultrasound. Most women have this between weeks 18 and 20 of pregnancy. Make it at a time when your partner can come as well so you’re not on your own. Check when you book if you need to bring in your own CD to record the visuals – you don’t want to be caught off guard!
Start a list if you’ve got questions for your midwife or doctor. Pregnancy amnesia can make your memory – well… a distant memory. Keep a notebook for jotting down any queries or worries you may have. All you have to do then is remember to take it with you to your appointments or tell your partner where it is – he has no excuse to forget it when you go.
Stay tuned for week 19.
The 40 weeks leading up to the birth of your baby are full of fascinating milestones, physical transformations that will amaze you, and a sense of anticipation that grows as the big day approaches.