Women's Healthcare Topics
James Brann, MD. Ob/Gyn

18 Weeks Pregnant

Pregnant Belly Changes

At last, you are 18 weeks pregnant! By now, you are probably anxious to feel your baby's first movements. This is called "quickening," and it is common for first-time moms to feel these movements between 18 and 22 weeks pregnant. Experienced moms may feel these flutters sooner.

Quickening might feel like you have little butterflies in your stomach, or someone is tapping on your uterus. You may mistake it for gas bubbles at first, but soon it will become obvious that it's your baby!

If you place your husband or partner's hand on your belly, it may be too early to feel anything. As your second trimester progresses and your baby's kicks get stronger, your significant other will soon get to enjoy feeling your little one's jabs along with you.

You may want to bond with your partner and listen to your unborn baby's heartbeat. There are several prenatal heart listeners available on the market, which allow you to do this now!

You're probably feeling pretty good this week. Your pregnancy symptoms at 18 weeks pregnant are usually mild, and not too bothersome. Your energy levels are higher than they were in the first trimester, and you may have also noticed an increased in libido.

An increase in appetite is also common. Since you're no longer nauseous at this point in your pregnancy, it's normal for you to be hungrier than normal. Be sure that you choose foods and snacks that are healthy and rich in the vitamins and nutrients that your little bundle of joy needs. Although it may be tempting to eat potato chips and candy, try to satisfy your sweet tooth with healthy alternatives.

Forgetfulnessis also a normal pregnancy symptom to expect. You may find that you forget appointments, meetings, and even important tasks. The absentmindedness you're experiencing is sometimes referred to as "pregnancy brain." Although annoying, it's a common experience in the second and third trimesters. To help you cope with being so forgetful, make sure that you write everything down to help you remember better. Setting alerts on your phone may also help.

Dizziness may also occur. You may find that you experience dizziness or lightheadedness when you get up from your chair too quickly. You can blame this pregnancy symptom with cardiovascular system changes (you have double the amount of blood you normally do), paired with the fact that your blood pressure is likely to be lower in pregnancy.

Back pain and discomfort might start now. You should expect to feel back pain as you continue your pregnancy. Your heavy uterus, paired with your shifting center of gravity, can strain your back muscles, leading to back discomfort. You can get relief from back pain by applying hot or cold to the sore muscles and getting a back massage.

Vivid, crazy dreams are also normal now and throughout the second and third trimesters. Your dreams may be so vivid that they appear real once you first wake up.

Weight Gain

In the second trimester, many women start gaining roughly one pound a week. If you follow your pregnancy week by week closely, you may find pregnancy weight gain varies 1/2 a pound or more. You may have gained as much as ten pounds or more by 18 weeks pregnant.

Where Does that Pregnancy Weight Gain Come From?
Keep in mind that not all your pregnancy weight gain is from your baby. The extra weight also comes from the weight of your placenta, amniotic fluid, increased blood volume, expanding uterus, fluid retention, larger-sized breasts, and fat stores for breastfeeding after delivery. Most women also gain roughly 7 pounds of extra fat during pregnancy to help insulate their baby and this extra fat helps provide them with the energy they need to breastfeed after delivery.

Weight gain during pregnancy is different for different women. You may gain more in the first pregnancy, and less in the next.

What is the Recommended Weight Gain in Pregnancy?
Your recommended pregnancy weight gain is calculated depending on your pre-pregnancy size. For an average weight woman, she should aim to gain between 25 to 35 pounds during pregnancy. If you're underweight, try to gain between 28 and 40 pounds. Overweight women only need to gain 15 to 25 pounds. You will need to gain more weight if you are pregnant with twins or multiples.

Women who are overweight or underweight face certain pregnancy complications, so it's important to try to gain the recommended amount of weight. Underweight women are at risk of delivering a premature baby, or a smaller than normal size baby. Overweight women are at higher risk for developing gestational diabetes and high blood pressure.

Nutrition and Pregnancy Weight Gain
To achieve the ideal pregnancy weight gain, you should eat a healthy and balanced diet. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) suggests that you should eat the following every day:

  • 6 ounces of grains, such as bread, cereal, rice, and pasta.

  • 2.5 cups of vegetables.

  • 1 to 2 cups of fruit

  • 5 to 5.5 ounces of meat and beans

  • 3 cups of milk and milk products

Food Cravings at 18 Weeks Pregnant
Although an increased appetite is common at now, especially since you're feeling better in the second trimester, don't go overboard and eat everything you crave. You only need to add an extra 300 calories to your diet.

Even if you are craving sweets big time, try to get your "sweet tooth" cravings with healthy fruit alternatives. Junk food will not give your baby the nutrients and vitamins that he or she needs to grow into a healthy full-term baby!

If you have concerns about your weight gain during pregnancy, discuss your worries with your doctor. He or she will keep a close eye on your pregnancy weight gain.

Baby Section

Growth and Development of Baby

At 18 weeks pregnant, your baby is now 5.6 inches long from crown to rump. This is comparable to the length of a medium-sized banana pepper. Your little bundle of joy now weighs almost 7 ounces. Can you believe how big your baby is getting? Until this point in your pregnancy, the placenta was larger than your baby's body. This is no longer the case. Your baby has outgrown the placenta, and he or she will continue to get larger. The placenta still grows, but not as rapidly as it did earlier in your pregnancy.

Your baby's heart has developed enough to show signs of defects. Ultrasound can be used to help detect any structural abnormalities that might exist in the heart. Fortunately, most babies will be born without any congenital abnormalities (birth defects). If an early ultrasound does detect something abnormal, you can plan ahead for any interventions or surgeries that may be necessary to support your newborn baby after birth.

Your little one is starting to produce a protective covering along the nerves, called myelin. This substance will be continuously produced through the ninth month.

Your baby's genitals should be distinguishable. You should be able to find out if it's a boy or a girl now.

Your baby's skin is still soft and smooth at this point. But in the next few weeks, your little one will develop his or her first fingerprint and toe print patterns! This is quite an exciting development, because no two individuals (not even identical twins) have fingerprints that are exactly the same.

Your baby's lungs continue to develop. Although the lungs remain immature and won't be fully developed until your baby is full-term, the trachea (or windpipe) has branched into two main bronchi (airways). From this week until 28 weeks pregnant, each of the two bronchi will branch even further into smaller bronchioles.

The outer ear is well developed and your baby can already pick up sounds from outside the womb. For this reason, don't be shocked if your baby suddenly kicks you at the sound of a loud car horn or vacuum cleaner. Your baby's inner ears continue to develop, but they won't be completely mature until the end of your second trimester.

Ossification, or the hardening of your baby's bones, continues this week. Throughout your baby's body, calcium continues to strengthen the bones. Your little one's tooth buds continue to harden, and the jaw is continuing to grow.

With each week that passes, the umbilical cord is getting stronger and thicker than ever. It continues to grow to transport the blood and nutrients that your growing baby needs.

Pregnancy Health Section

Is it a Boy or a Girl?

Determining Your Baby's Gender.

Should you find out what you’re having ahead of time? Most parents are split on this issue. Some can't wait to find out the gender of their baby, while others prefer to be surprised at birth. The decision you make should be yours entirely.

Keep in mind that while typically very accurate, ultrasound can sometimes be misleading. There is a small chance that your technician might believe your baby is a girl, when in reality your baby is a boy! More than one parent has been surprised in the past by a slightly inaccurate ultrasound. However, by this point in time, most ultrasounds are more than 99 percent accurate.

Just be sure you don't decorate the nursery entirely if your technician isn't 100 percent sure of the gender of your baby.

There are some fun old wives tales for determining the gender of your baby. Some people, for example, believe that you can predict the gender of the baby based on the way you are carrying. Others believe that you can predict the gender of the baby based on their heart rate. By and large, most of these methods are fun, but they are not any more accurate than simply guessing.

Consider Taking a Prenatal Class

At 18 weeks pregnant, you may want to start thinking about signing up for prenatal classes. Prenatal classes are a wonderful source of education, and they're also great places to make new friends.

If you're anxious abosut the arrival of your baby, prenatal classes will help you prepare for labor and delivery. You will learn about breathing and relaxation techniques, pain relief options, medical interventions that may occur during delivery, and even basics on how to care for your newborn baby.

Although pregnant women often start taking these classes in their sixth or seventh month of pregnancy, classes fill up fast and you don't want to miss out!

Almost all hospitals offer prenatal classes. Call the hospital where you plan to deliver and see what they offer. You may also want to check out Lamaze and the Bradley Method; they are the two most popular natural child birthing classes in the United States. (next week)


Doctor's Corner

Pregnancy Week by Week - Women's Healthcare Topics