Welcome to Week 21! If you’re like many moms, you’re basking in the second trimester happy days and there’s no question you’re pregnant now. Yet you might be starting to experience the symptoms that will increase over the next few weeks as you head into the third trimester. And which are those? Think physical changes like varicose veins and stretch marks.
You’ve read about them no doubt, and now you might be starting to see them: stretch marks. Stretch marks are caused when the underlying layer of connective tissue beneath the skin is torn as the skin expands to make room for your baby. Right now, your uterus is still about the size of a large grapefruit, and you’ve likely only gained about 15 pounds, so it might be early to have stretch marks yet—but then again, it might not. Some women are more likely to get stretch marks than others. If your mom got stretch marks, it’s more likely that you’ll get them. Similarly, lighter skinned women are more susceptible to stretch marks than darker skinned women.
So what can you do to avoid stretch marks? Unfortunately, not much. There is no evidence that the creams and salves on the market really work to prevent stretch marks, so it’s better to save your money.
What about varicose veins? These superficial cosmetic issues occur when the valves in the blood vessels in your legs fail and allow blood to pool in the veins. Once again, not all women will get varicose veins during pregnancy, but you’re more likely to experience them if other women in your family have experienced them. You can help with varicose veins by taking frequent breaks to prop up your legs and feet and trying to minimize how much time you spend standing. It can also help to wear maternity stockings, which will encourage better blood flow in your legs. Exercise also helps.
Spider veins are also a common pregnancy symptom. These occur when the tiny veins near the surface of your skin, typically in your legs or face, look like tiny spider-bursts or webs just under the skin. Unlike varicose veins, which can cause pain, spider veins usually have no symptoms and will likely go away after the baby is born.
Your baby’s fetal age is now 19 weeks. A typical baby at this age is about 10.5–12 ounces, with a crown-to-rump of about 7.5 inches. If your baby was a banana last week, this week he or she is like a larger banana.
At this stage, your baby still has plenty of room to move around in your womb, so the gymnastics will likely continue. However, you might notice your baby finally starting to settle into a rhythm, with relatively predictable patterns of wakefulness and activity. It’s too bad many babies choose nighttime as their party time, because it only makes it harder to sleep, but it’s still exciting to feel your baby’s enthusiastic movement.
Here’s another cool thing to think about: your baby is regularly sipping on amniotic fluid now, and his or her taste buds are fully formed and functioning. Research has shown that amniotic fluid contains the flavors of the foods you eat—just like your breast milk eventually also. So if you’re eating lots of strongly flavored food, just know that your baby is also experiencing those flavors. This is a good thing— studies have shown that babies who are exposed to a wide variety of flavors in the womb are more likely to be adventurous eaters as kids, so eat up!
“If you’ve opted to skip wearing your seatbelt because you are afraid you are going to hurt your baby, think again.”
Reviewed by Dr. Jen Lincoln, November 2018
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