You and your baby have now got through the first third of your pregnancy and you are officially in your second trimester of pregnancy.
Your baby is starting to get hair and if your baby has the gene for dark hair, the hair follicles will begin to make this pigment. He will also be growing soft, downy hair called lanugo all over his body perhaps to help keep the baby warm, perhaps to protect the newly growing skin from the amniotic fluid or perhaps because our evolutionary ancestors had hair all over their bodies.
By week 16 your baby’s nervous and muscular systems are well enough developed to allow your baby’s facial muscle movements to form a variety of expressions and her eyes will have become sensitive to light – not something they see a lot of unless it’s mid summer and you’re out in your bikini!
Heartbeat. At your pregnancy check-up visit you will probably be able to hear your baby’s heartbeat if you are happy for your LMC midwife or doctor to use a Doppler (ultrasonic) fetoscope.
Your baby is already using his diaphragm to practice breathing movements as well as drinking the amniotic fluid and emptying his bladder – (almost hourly) –much more frequently than even you! You may find that now your uterus is growing upward above your pelvis, there is less pressure on your bladder so you are making less frequent trips to the toilet.
Hearing: Your baby can now hear and react to sounds.
Your body: By now it is likely that the symptoms of nausea and vomiting will be easing and when this happens most women feel their energy return.
Pregnancy Exercise: It is a good time to organize a regular pregnancy exercise regime. It is important that you stay fit and strong throughout your pregnancy and it is often easier to ensure that you exercise regularly, if you join a class. In between classes you should still be walking or swimming etc
Minerals: Your baby’s growth continues to place demands on your energy and resources. During this period your baby’s skeleton is beginning to harden, so he will be drawing more minerals (especially calcium) from your body. Calcium absorption is reduced if you regularly take antacids and also by sugar (refined carbohydrate) intake. So keep your dietary intake of sugar to a minimum. ( Energy drinks, soft drinks and milo etc are very high in sugar.) Calcium absorption is enhanced by regular exercise. You my want to consider taking a pregnancy multivitamin and mineral supplement – talk to your LMC midwife or doctor about this.
Growth: Your baby is now getting noticeably bigger more rapidly and so are you. All this growth will mean that by now your pre-pregnancy clothes will probably no longer fit and by week 18 most of your family, friends and colleagues will have guessed that you are pregnant even if you haven’t made an announcement!
Anaemia: Your blood volume is still increasing so your need to ensure an adequate intake of iron rich foods to avoid anaemia. Iron in whole foods is the most absorbable form of iron so include lean meat and lots of coloured vegetables and fruits in your diet.
Nasal Congestion: Increased blood flow can cause congestion in your nasal tissues and the tiny vessels are very fragile making you susceptible to small nose bleeds. Some women also feel that their ears are constantly blocked.
Vaginal discharge: You may notice that you have a heavier than normal vaginal discharge. This will be a combination of a more rapid than usual growth and sloughing off of vaginal cells and a heavier than normal production vaginal and cervical mucus deigned to catch and flush out harmful bacteria that might otherwise migrate upwards into your uterus. This discharge should be thin, whitish and inoffensive smelling. If the discharge becomes more yellow, smelly or irritating, you need to contact your LMC because you may have an infection that needs treating. You can reduce the risk of vaginal infections by wearing natural fibre (cotton, bamboo etc) underwear and tights/pantyhose that have a cotton gusset that ‘breathes’. Continue to drink lots of water or clear, sugar-free fluids as this will also help prevent micro-organisms growing in your vaginal mucus.
Ultrasound Scan: At your next pregnancy check-up your LMC midwife or doctor will ask you if you want a referral for an 18 – 20 week fetal scan. This scan checks your baby’s growth, skeleton and some organs (e.g. heart, kidneys) for abnormalities and notes the position of your placenta. When you are deciding whether or not to have this scan you need to remember that only half of all major abnormalities are able to be detected by ultrasound – this scan cannot guarantee that your baby is perfectly formed. Before having this scan you also need to decide whether or not you want to know what sex your baby is because depending on how your baby is positioned, the sex of your baby can be very obvious – especially to the sonographer performing the scan. If you want to find out your baby’s sex at birth you need remind the sonographer not to tell you.
Amniocentesis: If your combined screening (Maternal Serum Blood Test and Nuchal Translucency Scan) result put you at high risk of having a baby with a genetic abnormality like Down Syndrome, you may have decided to have an amniocentesis to confirm whether or not this is the case. Women/couples also sometimes request an amniocentesis if you/they already have a child or close family member with a genetic abnormality or if an ultrasound scan has indicated the possibility of a serious genetic defect. If you have chosen to have an amniocentesis, you are usually booked for this procedure when you are 16 – 18 weeks pregnant. For more information, click here
Pelvic Floor exercises: (Also called Kegel Exercises) The muscles in your pelvic floor support your pelvic organs including the growing weight of your uterus/womb and its contents – placenta, amniotic fluid and growing baby. During pregnancy your hormones are also softening and relaxing your pelvic floor muscles in preparation for labour and birth. If your pelvic floor is not healthy and toned, you may find that you develop stress incontinence during the third trimester of pregnancy and/or after you’ve given birth. Exercising your pelvic floor muscles during pregnancy helps to keep them healthy and toned so that they, support the growing weight of your uterus and baby, stretch open effectively during labour and birth and support your pelvic organs to return to their normal positions after you have given birth. Regularly practising pelvic floor exercises can also help you to work with your body more effectively during the second stage of labour. You can keep your pelvic floor healthy and toned and regain pelvic floor strength and tone quicker after you’ve given birth, if you practice pelvic floor exercises daily. Ask your LMC for information that shows you how to do pelvic floor exercises correctly or go to www.netdoctor.co.uk/womenshealth/sui/pelvicfloor_005167.htm
Baby movements: Towards the end of this time you may notice the little abdominal flutters that you soon become aware are your baby moving around!