You are now officially at the halfway mark of the typical 40-week pregnancy— congratulations!
Things have hopefully settled into a comfortable groove now with your pregnancy. If you’re getting exercise, taking your prenatal vitamins, and eating lots of small, healthy meals—as well as keeping all of your monthly check-ups—you’re doing a lot of things right.
Many women in the middle of their second trimester notice that their hair and skin have a definite “pregnancy glow.” In fact, your skin might look better than it ever has before, and your hair and nails are likely better than they ever have been. Aside from the appreciation you might be getting from your partner, why is this exactly? Where does the pregnancy glow come from?
Actually, it’s the same place that many of the more obnoxious symptoms of pregnancy come from: pregnancy hormones and increased blood volume. Regarding your skin, your body is producing extra loads of progesterone right now, and your extra blood volume means that the veins closest to the surface are plumped all the time. The progesterone helps discourage acne, while the extra blood gives many women a rosy flush. And your hair? During pregnancy, the normal cycle of hair growth and loss is disrupted—you continue to grow new hair, but the normal rate of hair loss dramatically decreases or even stops altogether. The result is long, thick, and shiny locks. Will it last? Unfortunately, no. After birth, both your skin and hair will return to whatever state they were in before.
What other symptoms are you experiencing? Don’t be surprised if you’re experiencing strange skin symptoms elsewhere on your body. Your palms might be darker, and you might have exaggerated dark pigmentation spots on your body. Once again, these can be traced back to increased blood flow and pregnancy hormones messing with your pigmentation system. You might also notice a hard ridge running down your stomach just under the skin (it might not be visible). This is caused by the separation of your abdominal muscles to make room for the uterus as it expands. The good news is they will close up again after delivery—the bad news is they might never go all the way back to their pre-pregnancy state.
Your baby’s fetal age is now 18 weeks. Although it varies, your baby is probably somewhere around 9–10 ounces, with a crown-to-rump length of 6.5 inches or so. Your baby has elongated now, so is about the size of a banana.
Your uterus is continuing to expand to create room for your growing baby, so your healthcare provider will be keeping track of your uterine growth. If your uterine growth is either far smaller or larger than expected, your provider will probably order an ultrasound to check on a few things: how big your baby is measuring; how much amniotic fluid is around him or her; and if there are more than one baby in there (if this hasn’t been determined already!).
Your baby’s development to this point has been all about the big stuff: creating organ systems, including sexual organs; making a skeleton from bone; and linking the nervous system to the brain. From now on, the rate of that “large scale” development will slow down. It might be hard to believe, but your baby is about a month away from being “viable,” meaning it could live outside the womb with the right intensive medical intervention.
Babies at 20 weeks already have fully functioning digestive systems. They swallow amniotic fluid and create a thickish, black waste product called meconium. You’ll get to see what meconium looks like firsthand soon enough: the first bowel movements are meconium.
“Sometimes you may need to see other specialists during your pregnancy, like a maternal fetal medicine specialist or a pediatric heart doctor, to fully understand how your baby is developing.”
Reviewed by Dr. Jen Lincoln, November 2018