If you consider 40 weeks to be full term, this is the week which will mark the mid-point of your journey. The 20th week arrives with a realization that you really are halfway there and in a matter of 20 more weeks, you will be able to meet the tiny being inside your womb that is growing by leaps and bounds. Your body and your baby are making rapid developments to ensure that all the milestones are reached on time. Till this week, your baby will be measured in terms of Crown Rump Length but from the next week onwards, he will be measured from head to toe. This is primarily because till 20 weeks, the baby keeps its legs curled up against the torso which makes it difficult to measure from head to toe. Now that he will be more erect and your uterus will grow even more to give him ample amount of space to stretch out, it will be easier to measure him from top to bottom.
Your Baby At 20 Weeks
Weighing around 10 ounces and measuring six and a half inches from crown to rump, your baby is growing bigger and you will most probably feel the movements often by now. If you haven’t felt them by now, in the coming weeks, you are sure to feel the flutters. A lot of new mums cannot differentiate between a proper movement and gas bubbles, which is a normal phenomenon in pregnancy. Most second time mums would know the difference but if your placenta is low-lying, you might find it difficult to identify what is what. Your baby is now almost the size of a cantaloupe and although he is growing rapidly, there is quite a lot of room around him to twist and turn till you reach the third trimester when it will get really crowded inside the womb.
Finding Out The Gender
Now that you know how the myths and games around the gender of the baby make no real sense, you would turn to information backed by evidence. A baby’s gender can only be detected by following the genital structure of the baby while an ultrasound is being carried out. Till last week, it would have been quite a task for your doctor to find out the baby’s gender because he would keep his legs curled up against him inside the womb. Now that there is more movement and more space for your baby to throw around his limbs, your doctor will be able to find out the gender.
There is no denying the fact that your baby’s genitals will continue to grow throughout the pregnancy and there are many more developmental milestones to cover but by this week, it will be more evident as to what the gender of your baby really is. An ultrasound examination will be able to detect the gender more precisely. If your baby is a girl, her vaginal passage is developing and her uterus is completely formed. She has around 7 million eggs in her ovaries now that will come down to about 2 million when she is about to be born. If you are having a boy, his testicles are gearing up to make their descent although they will remain enclosed inside the scrotum to develop fully before descending.
Your baby’s digestive system is gradually developing and he is also swallowing a lot more this week, thus adding to this development. All newborns pass meconium1 at birth. It is the first stool of the baby and the accumulation of this sticky and gooey substance has already begun inside the intestines. At birth, this will be excreted in the form of the first stool of the baby.
Your Body At 20 Weeks
If you have already gained around 10 pounds by now, consider yourself absolutely normal. Halfway through the pregnancy, the top part of your uterus is at the same level as that of your belly button. You will continue to amaze people on the streets, especially if they knew nothing about the pregnancy. You are showing up quite a bit this week and nobody will think of belly fat anymore; you would be visibly pregnant. In order to ensure that your pregnancy is thriving and you are getting enough nutrients from your meals it is important to incorporate healthy eating habits early so that continuing the same through pregnancy is easier.
The most important mineral that you need to keep an eye on is iron and you should always be aware whether your diet consists of enough iron or not. Your body needs adequate amount of iron to make hemoglobin that carries oxygen to different parts of your body. In the absence of enough iron, your baby will keep depleting your iron stores and you might become anemic. Anemia is common in the second trimester of pregnancy and is one of the primary reasons for symptoms like light-headedness, dizziness, unexplained lethargy, breathlessness and a general sense of discomfort. If you feel any of these symptoms, you must let your doctor know so that he or she can rule out anemia with a blood test. If you are diagnosed with low levels of iron, you might either be recommended food fortified with iron or supplements, depending on the level of your deficiency.
You might wonder why your body needs more iron during pregnancy. In pregnancy, your blood volume is expanding, your baby is growing and the placenta is developing; all at the same time. These conditions demand more iron to keep up with the work of carrying more oxygen as and when needed by the body. Even if you haven’t felt any of the symptoms of anemia, you could start stocking up on iron rich food beforehand because once the deficiency sets in; you will have to rely on supplements. It has been seen that iron is best absorbed by the body when you are on a diet that contains animal protein. If you happen to be a vegetarian, plant-based sources of iron are adequate but will need to be boosted by Vitamin C for optimal absorption of iron by the body. Red meat and poultry are considered as excellent sources of iron for pregnant women. Plant-based sources2 are peanuts, legumes, raisins, apricots, figs, spinach, kale and if you can have them with a glass of freshly made orange juice or lemonade, you are ensuring that you get the maximum amount of iron from these sources.
What Else Is Growing This Week?
Apart from your baby bump, there are other things that might add to your appearance; both in pleasant and unpleasant ways. If you have always been an ardent admirer of long and beautiful nails, this is the time to sport them because your forever brittle nails might be the strongest ever by this week. Along with that, you might also notice that your hair has become more lustrous and voluminous. Owing to the pregnancy hormones and the elevated blood volume, there is better circulation and hence more nutrients reach your scalp and hair tips. This results in bouncy, shiny and thick hair that you might as well fall in love with. However, post partum hair fall is for real and when your baby is around 3-4 months old, you can expect a considerable amount of hair fall. It might seem to you that you could turn bald in a couple of months but this too passes and even if you might not get back the volume and the shine, you will have enough hair left for your little one to play with.
While some women feel that their nails are now stronger and more beautiful, some others find their nails turning dry and brittle. While hair turns thick and voluminous, you will also tend to grow hair everywhere else on your body. You might find waxing too rough for your sensitive skin but if your skin can tolerate it, waxing is the safest mode of hair removal in pregnancy. Shaving could give your razor bumps and the last thing you want to deal with at this point in time is itchy and scratchy skin. Hair removal creams could trigger allergic reactions, especially if you have never used them before. If you must use a hair removal cream, ensure that you take the patch test to rule out reactive tendencies.
Swollen Feet And Ankles
There is a possibility that your feet and ankles continue to look swollen this week because water retention is a common issue with most pregnant women. You might also experience some sort of pain and discomfort, especially when you get up after long periods of sitting around in the same posture. This is known as edema and affects quite a number of women in their second and third trimesters. You can avoid the occurrence of edema by not wearing tight stockings or shoes that tend to enhance the blood clots and swelling. Edema is not restricted to your ankles and feet. You might also notice some amount of added fat on and around your fingers that will make you wince if you try to take your wedding ring off. It is recommended that you either get your rings re-adjusted or don’t wear any ring till your fat distribution is sorted.
Edema is normally harmless but if you notice that the swelling persists and keeps increasing, you should consider getting it checked by a doctor who will rule out pre-eclampsia. Pre-eclampsia has symptoms like swollen feet and ankles, high blood pressure and rapid weight gain. While not every symptom of edema could signify pre-eclampsia, you can never be careful enough because the latter could lead to low birth weight babies and premature labor. Your prenatal visits will include checking your blood pressure and your urine sample for protein.
Are You Feeling Dizzy Too Often?
If you thought that the second trimester was supposed to make you feel hale and hearty all through, think again. A lot of new symptoms crop up by Week 20 and you need to know ways of dealing with them before you fall a prey to any of them. You could be one of those women who feel dizzy and light-headed often during the second trimester and here you were hoping that you will be full of bustling energy to take on the world like your typical parenting group talks about.
If you have been feeling rather disoriented and unsteady lately, there is no need to panic because it is a very common symptom. What you need to be careful about is avoiding accidental falls. Your circulatory system is rapidly expanding and your body is still in the process of producing enough volume to fill it up. Also, the blood flow to your brain might be reduced at times that is also responsible for this dizziness.
Yet another reason to feel dizzy is the fact that your blood sugar keeps spiking up and down which could potentially take away your balance. You should also know that if you are not having enough water or are sweating way too much, you could feel off-balance. Your body is making a baby and you are already always feeling sweaty and uncomfortable. Try sticking to clothes made of natural fabric so that you don’t sweat as much. Very tight clothes will only add to your problems.
Are You Sleeping Enough?
You are nowhere near delivery but are you already losing sleep over a number of concerns that keep you from enjoying a good night’s rest? If this is happening to you, you are not alone in this because a lot of women find unwinding at the end of the day quite difficult to deal with. It is also more difficult to sleep through the night because of problems like leg cramps, backaches, reflux3 and such. However, it is important that you start stocking up on sleep now because once you reach your third trimester, sleep would keep eluding you. Furthermore, when you have a baby, all that you would think of is to sleep but that would be a distant reality till your baby is developmentally ready to sleep through the night.
This is what brings us to a pertinent question, “How will I manage to sleep well?” Listed below are some effective ways to put yourself to sleep and stay asleep for longer stretches:
- If you have been struggling to avoid the loud snores lately, stop being embarrassed about them, to begin with. Snoring is usual in pregnancy because the hormone estrogen makes the mucus membranes in your nose swell up and that is when you start snoring. No amount of medication or other methods will help solve this but there is one way in which you can reduce the impact. Never sleep on your back because that tends to enhance the snoring. Always sleep on your side and keep your head propped up. This will effectively reduce the impact of snoring.
- Reflux could potentially keep you up all night. Heartburn and indigestion will keep you from feeling comfortable. Always have an early dinner. Give your digestive system three hours to do its work effectively. It is recommended that you prop up your pillows before sleeping so that the acid does not seep up into your throat at night. Have a dinner that does not consist of reflux triggers. Everybody has different triggers for reflux and if you can identify them, it will be easier for you to avoid them altogether.
- The most annoying and painful thing that can wake you up instantly is a leg cramp. You might have two episodes on the same night as well as no episode ever in your pregnancy but it is important to know what to do if it haunts you in the middle of the night. Try straightening your legs first and then flex your toes backwards till you feel comfortable. Walking around for some time would help the joints and the muscles loosen up.
- If your back has been giving you trouble, never be embarrassed about taking more pillows to bed. Your body is expanding way more than it is used to and this is probably why you feel more aches and pains than ever before. Maternity pillows4 come in handy as they provide much-needed support to the body while also keeping your body in an ergonomic position.
- Expect your body temperature to change frequently. You will mostly wake up feeling hot and sweaty and because of the changes in your metabolism, your hormones and your body weight. Try and strip down to your basics and keep the room well-ventilated.
- Simply getting in and out of bed is a Herculean task because you are lugging around added weight now. This entire process of getting up and then going back to bed could wake you in the middle of the night and going back to sleep could be very difficult. How would you tackle this situation? Always turn to one of your sides while getting up. This is to ensure that you don’t need to place any pressure on your growing bump. Your feet should touch the ground completely and only after that should you get up and stand. If you feel dizzy or faint, sit down immediately or call for help.
- Reading has been known to help with pregnancy induced insomnia. If you have been too nervous or excited to sleep, you can start writing down your feelings at the end of the day. Or else, you can start reading parenting books that will prepare you to some extent about a number of things that crop up after your baby is born.
Are You Having Cramps After Sex?
You might want to have sex or you might not but if you are having issues like cramps or bleeding after orgasms, you could talk to your doctor about it. A certain amount of cramping is normal in pregnancy because your uterus contracts after an orgasm but it will not harm your baby in any way. Your baby is securely enveloped in the amniotic sac and will probably only feel a tiny bit of rhythmic movements that may either wake him or her up from sleep or lull him to sleep. If you notice spotting or bleeding or if the cramps are so severe or close together that you cannot carry out your normal day to day activities, rush to your doctor immediately.
Try These Simple Ways To Get Your Partner To Interact With Your Baby
You might feel annoyed with your partner sometimes because he is probably not feeling anything all through pregnancy but believe in this that he is an essential part of the pregnancy and will be the father of your baby. This is why he will have a quintessential role to play in parenting. Here are a few ways he can feel involved in this pregnancy.
Always take him along for your prenatal visits. He will be able to feel more affectionate towards the baby. When you are choosing colors for the crib or the nursery, always involve him in the discussion.
The best way to make him feel closer to the baby is to let him feel the kicks. This will immediately add a touch of realism to this pregnancy. You will need to understand that this man is doing everything in his capacity to hold your hand through the pregnancy and you will need to make him feel closer to you as well as your baby.
You can also invite him to play songs for the little one because if you remember, your baby can hear sounds from outside the womb. This will not only be a wonderful way to help your partner to connect to the baby but will also ensure that there is a song your baby might want to hear her father play after she is born.
The journey of pregnancy is for both of you to undertake together so ensure that you do that beautifully!