Baby Growth at 18 Weeks Pregnant
Congratulations mommy-to-be, you have entered week 18 of your pregnancy! You’re in month 5 and now only have 4 short months to go. At this point, your little one is approximately 5.59 inches and 6.0 ounces, about the size of a cucumber. Many changes are happening and you and baby are continuing to grow.
Myelin, a protective insulating layer, is starting to form around your baby’s nerves. This will continue to develop throughout the rest of the pregnancy and even up until their first birthday.
Other important developments are also taking place. Baby can hear now so feel free to talk to them anytime you like. Your baby’s cartilage is turning to bone, and they are starting to gain more fat. Brain development is continuing to occur and the most important brain growth will start at about this time.
A stronger umbilical cord is developing and your baby is starting to gain the ability of essential movements such as stretching, kicking, sucking, swallowing, and yawning. The digestive system has started working and the eyes are now facing forward. Fingerprints and toe prints have been formed, eyelids are opening, and eyebrows and eyelashes are visible.
Your 20 week ultrasound will be coming up soon and many of the baby's features will look more recognizable compared to your last ultrasound. Reproductive organs are continuing to develop and if you haven’t already found out your baby’s sex, it should be identifiable on the next ultrasound as well, if you want to know.
You and Your Body at 18 Weeks Pregnant
You’re likely feeling more and more pregnant as the days go by. Luckily, some of the first trimester symptoms have dissipated at this point and your energy levels are hopefully increasing. The coming weeks will lend to more direct connection with your little one. You will start to feel them move and possibly react to the outside world. It’s starting to really feel like you have a little human in there!
It’s time to start jamming out to your favorite songs because baby actually has the ability to hear now. Movement will begin to increase and you may start to feel some of those flutters known as quickening. These are the first felt movements before you experience full-on kicks. Since your little one can now begin to hear sounds, there is also the possibility of them reacting to noises in the outside world. This can make for a fun activity with you and your partner. Try placing headphones on the belly or just play your favorite music. You can also try reading and talking to your little one so they become familiar with your voice. Be sure to take note if you happen to feel some movement after hearing loud noises; that is likely your baby reacting.
Typical Symptoms at Pregnancy 18 Weeks
Symptoms may begin to change day by day. At this point in the pregnancy, although you may be feeling less physically ill than the first trimester, some new symptoms are likely arising. By now, morning sickness symptoms have diminished or completely stopped. This is due to a shift in hormone levels.
The cardiovascular system can be affected at this time, causing low blood pressure. It is common to feel dizziness due to this change so both standing and sitting slowly is important. Take note of any abnormal feelings and ask for help if needed.
Some additional symptoms around this time may include:
- Increased bodily fluids such as a milky white colored vaginal discharge known as leukorrhea
- Strange dreams
- Itchy breasts and stomach
- Stretch marks
- Increased appetite
- Swollen hands or feet
- Leg cramps
- Varicose veins
Many women note that difficulty sleeping begins around this time. This can be due to your baby’s increased movements, your growing figure and the increased frequency to urinate during the night.
Pregnancy Week 18 Tips and Advice
With all the changes happening and the second trimester flying by, it is essential to not get overwhelmed. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health so planning ahead now can help alleviate stress further down the line.
Be sure to take some time for yourself and dedicate parts of your day for self-care. Warm baths and meditation can help. Although strenuous exercising may not be recommended, practicing prenatal yoga can help with the muscle and ligament pain you may be experiencing. You can also try a heating pad.
Find a soothing moisturizer to help with the itchy skin and stretch marks. Restless legs? You can also try adding or increasing your magnesium intake, as long as it’s okay with your doctor. Magnesium rich foods include seeds, greens, nuts, beans and whole grains. If a supplement is preferred, be sure to discuss with your healthcare provider first before taking it and consider a more bioavailable form of magnesium, called magnesium glycinate, to avoid loose stools. Magnesium in addition to drinking extra fluids is helpful for cramping, relaxing muscles and calming those restless legs you may be feeling.
If you haven’t already done so, be sure to reach out to your human resources department and plan your maternity leave. If your partner receives leave as well, ensure that they are also beginning that process with their employer.
Your next doctor's visit will be coming up soon and you will want to be prepared. Start having discussions to decide if you and your partner will want to find out your baby’s gender. You will likely also be asked about genetic testing if it hasn't already been completed. A good tip is to reach out to your insurance company to have a clearer idea of what services will or will not be covered. Sometimes your doctor’s office is not able to answer all the insurance questions you may have, so going directly to the source will help to avoid any surprises.
It is also a great time to start thinking about your birth plan. You can research your options on your own so that you are prepared to discuss any questions you may have with your doctor at your next visit.