At 18th week of pregnancy, the baby is similar to the size of a sweet potato. This article provides* an overview on the fetal development, maternal changes, signs and symptoms and some interesting facts about the 18th week of pregnancy.
The major fetal development at 18th weeks of pregnancy is the production of myelin sheath, a protective covering for the nerve cells.
Height of the baby: 5.5 inches
Weight of the baby: 7 ounces
What Happens to the Baby?
During the 18th week of pregnancy, the skeleton of the baby continues to harden including the inner ear and leg bones which are considerably the first ones to ossify. Mothers can also feel their babies starting to move which medically referred to as quickening. Perhaps, the biggest development at this period is the formation of myelin sheath that surrounds the nerve cells of the baby in which such process continues even after the baby’s birth. The teeth are forming at this stage, and the baby plays around the womb and changes positions frequently, and does kicking, rolling and punching.
When a pregnant mother undergoes a sonogram or ultrasound at 18th week, the body parts are clearly visible especially the arms, legs, heart and genitalia. This is also the best time to ask for the gender of the baby and the location of the placenta. If the baby is a girl, the uterus as well as the fallopian tubes is already developed at this point. On the other hand, penis (for baby boy) may be forming but unlikely noticeable during ultrasound.
What Happens to Your Body?
The biggest challenge of pregnant mothers at 18th week of pregnancy is the increasing* appetite that can potentially lead to excessive gain weight. While the waistline is growing and the clothes become ill-fitting, pregnancy is still not the best time for dieting. Choose meals carefully by avoiding foods with empty calories like cake, ice cream, chips and French fries, and allot time for physical activity and exercise.
Apart from weight changes, pregnant mothers are also undergoing changes in their vascular systems. Their blood pressure is lower than usual; thus explains orthostatic hypotension episodes. To avoid whirling sensation, do not stand too fast from sitting or lying. When rising from bed, dangle legs first, sit, then stand slowly. Also, avoid lying flat on the back since it can compress the vena cava resulting in decreased* blood return to the heart.
At 18 weeks of pregnancy, moms-to-be might be experiencing swollen feet and hands, some backaches and leg cramps and sleepless nights.
Nutrition and Exercise @ 18 Weeks of Pregnancy
The following are 5 most basic and most essential reminders for mothers during pregnancy:
- Select healthy and nutritious foods. Your everyday meal plan should consist of green, leafy vegetables and dark-colored fruits. Eat lots of protein and fiber too.
- Drink plenty of water. Avoid too much intake of coffee and soda drinks.
- Do physical activity. Get active by swimming and brisk walking.
- Take supplements. The most essential vitamin pregnant mothers should take is folic acid which is utmost essential for the prevention of birth defects.
- Follow prenatal checkups. Generally speaking, a pregnant mother has between 10 and 15 prenatal visits.
Additional Information: How to Prevent Birth Defects
In a statistical report released by the Centers of Disease and Control*, 1 in 33 babies suffer birth defects. In nearly all cases, birth defects occur just before mothers know they are pregnant. One information worth-mentioning here is that not all birth defects can be deterred or avoided. But there are some ways to lessen the risk of developing these physical and biochemical abnormalities. Find out how.
- Daily Intake of 400 mcg of Folic Acid: Folic acid is a B vitamin that is mainly responsible for brain and spine development. Taking folic acid on a regular basis can prevent spina bifida (a portion of the spinal cord remain unfused or not fully formed) and anencephaly (a baby without brain and skull) up to 70%.
- Avoid Alcohol: While some studies claim* that moderate alcohol drinking is safe during pregnancy, the Centers for Disease and Control* (CDC) argue that there is so no such thing as safe amount of alcohol to drink. Alcohol can result in fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), stillbirth and miscarriage. Subtle effects of alcohol drinking during pregnancy can lead to poor memory and learning disabilities.
- Never Smoke: Smoking is a bad and unhealthy habit. In pregnancy, it can lead to cleft lip/palate and premature death.
- Shun From The Use of Illegal Drugs: Besides low birth weight, street drugs can also cause premature birth and defects of the heart and urinary system. Illicit drugs can be passed on to babies through breast milk and maternal blood stream.
- Prevent Infection: One of the major culprits of birth defects is congenital infection that is when a mother contracts an infection during early pregnancy. Congenital infections include rubella, toxoplasmosis, chickenpox and cytomegalovirus which can cause mental retardation and hearing loss in babies.