Mama’s boy? Or Daddy’s Girl? If you’ve been guessing all along, you can now stop doing so. An ultrasound at 18 weeks will determine whether you’re carrying a boy or girl. This is not the only development. There are many more.
The size of the baby is 5 ½ inches measuring from head to rump and weighs almost 7 ounces.
Ossification (hardening of the bones) continues. The baby’s skeleton hardens. The bones of the inner ear also harden. Your baby at this age starts hearing sounds – the sounds of your heartbeat and the sounds of your digestive tract. He is also able to hear sounds from outside the womb if they are quite loud.
The skin is still soft, thin and translucent. You can see the thin blood vessels underneath. More teeth buds emerge while those already in place harden. The movements continue and get more prominent. It is called quickening. The uterus still allows ample space for him or her to practice various moves and flex the muscles.
The genitals start developing two to three weeks in advance. However, in the initial stages of development, the genitals in both a boy and girl look similar. Therefore, it becomes difficult to identify. However, in the 18th week the genitals are fully developed and easily distinguishable. A sonogram will confirm the sex of the unborn baby if you want to know. The fallopian tubes and the uterus are in place for a girl while the genitals are clearly visible in a boy.
The lungs are developing too. They branch out and will continue to spread until the 28th week. The umbilical cord supplies the fetus with the necessary nutrients and blood. It gets thicker and stronger each day. Your little one at this stage also develops a thin protective covering around the nerves. It is called myelin. The formation of myelin extends up to 1 year after birth.
Changes to your body
There’s no stopping the aches and pains. You might experience pain in the back especially along the tailbone, in the legs and other muscles of the body. Severe leg cramps are in some cases a sign of dehydration. To relieve leg cramps, drink plenty of water.
During this week of the second trimester, the blood pressure may dip lower than normal. You will feel dizzy and faint.
Increased appetite is a common symptom in the 18th week of pregnancy. The other not-so nice symptoms include nosebleeds, varicose veins, nasal congestion and swollen hands and feet. The discomfort caused by your belly may deprive you of sound sleep. Also, your body is working a double shift to support your little one’s growth.
Some women also complain of forgetfulness. This absent-mindedness during pregnancy is called “Pregnancy Brain”. It is normal. And finally the pregnancy symptom you detest the most – weight gain. By the 18th week, you can expect the pounds to creep in.
How should you prepare
This is the best time to get an ultrasound done. The heart is sufficiently developed to show signs of structural abnormalities. A very small percent of babies develop such abnormalities. However, getting an ultrasound done will help you take timely decisions regarding any medical procedures needed to support the health of your baby during gestation and immediately after birth.
The doctor will measure other vitals such as your weight, height, fundal length etc. You should speak to your doctor about any movements you have felt. Based on the size and growth of the baby, the doctor will reconfirm the fetal age and the due date. At this stage, you will also be able to detect if you are carrying multiple fetuses.
Among the other things you should do is sleep on your side. This will really help in the following weeks when the growing baby and uterus press down on the veins situated at the back of your abdomen. Place a pillow under the hip and between your legs for support.
If you are a career woman with a hectic schedule, make sure that you take short breaks to relax. Long hours of activity can stress you out both physically and mentally.
Your waistline is expanding. So buy a few bigger and comfortable clothes. Snack on nutritious food. Avoid junk food; those with empty calories. Do not get up too quickly from a sitting or lying position. Take afternoon naps to make up for no sleep at night.
Don’t forget to get a print of the ultrasound picture.