Pregnancy Week 18
At 18 weeks, your baby is getting stronger and moving more and you may well be able to feel them from this point. Don’t worry if you haven’t felt your baby yet, as women who are pregnant for the first time sometimes don’t feel movements until after 20 weeks.
Your baby now weighs about 190g and is about 14cm long – this is a similar size of a bell pepper. There is a lot going on in their body right now. Their bones are continuing to harden from cartilage to solid bone, their muscles are developing and their body is producing myelin a protective coating which covers their nerve cells.
Myelin allows the electrical impulses to travel quickly along nerve cells – vital for sending messages to and from the brain. Your baby will continue to produce myelin every day now right up until they are a year old.
How can I expect to feel at 18 weeks pregnant?
You may be noticing some more aches and pains, especially around your back and pelvis. This is caused by your muscles and ligaments relaxing due to hormones and your growing size.
Avoid lifting anything heavy and crossing your legs. If the pain is difficult to cope with, speak to your doctor and ask to be referred to a physiotherapist.
You may also experience some swelling, especially around the hands and feet. This is normal but shouldn’t be excessive so if you are really struggling, mention this to your midwife.
Your changing body may make you feel a little clumsier than usual and you may need to get a bigger bra as it is normal for your breasts to go up a size, especially during a first pregnancy. Your blood pressure is likely to be lower than usual so take it steady and don’t leap up from the sofa as this can make you feel dizzy and light-headed.
Some women develop a line down their stomach at around this point. Known as the linea nigra, which is Latin for black line, this is nothing to worry about and is just normal skin pigmentation caused by hormones. Extending from your belly button down to your pubic area, this line will usually disappear gradually after your baby has been born, although this can take a few months.
You will be going for an ultrasound scan, known as an anomaly scan, either this week or in the next couple of weeks. The scan, carried out between 18 and 20 weeks, will examine your baby in detail to check they are growing and developing as expected.
This is a great opportunity for you to get another look at your little one and you may even be able to find out if you are expecting a boy or a girl (if you want to). The scan can pick up a number of medical conditions and issues but it cannot detect everything. If the sonographer does find anything concerning, they will let you know or ask a doctor to come and speak to you.
If you don’t yet have your Maternity Exemption Certificate (MatEx), remember to ask your midwife or GP for the form, which is known as FW8. Once you fill the form in, you will be sent the MatEx which will allow you to benefit from free prescriptions and dental care during your pregnancy and for a year after your baby’s due date or date of birth.