20 - 24 weeks pregnant
Congratulations, you have reached the halfway point in your pregnancy! Your pregnancy might be starting to feel much more real. You may also feel like you are connecting with your baby more as their movements become stronger. Try to find a quiet moment every day where you can talk, sing or play music to your baby. Mums and dads often say that their babies recognise voices and tunes that they heard once they are born. Your bump is growing and other people around you may begin to notice that you are pregnant.
At week 20 of your pregnancy you may have had an anatomy scan and you might even know the sex of your baby. You may notice that you have some physical symptoms of pregnancy, which can include headaches, feeling faint or hot and indigestion. Remember to rest, keep well hydrated and ask your midwife or doctor about any symptoms that persist.
At week 21 of your pregnancy your baby is about 10.5 inches long and growing at a rapid rate. Many women experience changes in their skin during pregnancy such as pigmentation, dryness and itchiness. Use a good moisturiser at least once a day to keep your skin soft and supple. You may also start feeling Braxton Hicks which are mild tightenings, this is your uterus starting to tone itself ready for the labour and birth.
At week 22 of your pregnancy your baby is about the size of a coconut and is about 1 pound in weight. Your baby is able to swallow and now has fingernails and toenails.
At week 23 of your pregnancy your baby’s skin is still translucent and their organ and bones can be seen through their skin. Their lungs are not properly developed yet to be able to breathe air but they continue to practice the movements needed for breathing and will soon start to produce a substance called surfactant, which will help their lungs to inflate and deflate effectively. Remember your baby is totally supported by the placenta to receive all the oxygen and nutrients they require as well as the placenta removing the carbon dioxide and waste products.
At week 24 of your pregnancy your baby is about 30cms long and the size of a small melon. Your baby is now starting to produce a substance called surfactant in the lungs, which is vital to help lung function and breathing when they are born. The medical profession now considers a baby born at this gestation to be ‘viable’ and capable of having a chance of surviving if born prematurely (although intensive care support would be needed).
How to focus on staying healthy in pregnancy
- Although pregnancy can be a time when you may experience cravings, try to focus on healthy eating as well. Eat a balanced diet and try to include foods high in iron to help prevent anaemia and the need for iron supplements. Foods rich in iron include red meat, oily fish and eggs, as well as wholemeal bread, lentils and leafy green vegetables.
- Exercising during pregnancy will help you to stay fit and healthy as well as prepare you for labour and birth. Yoga, pilates and swimming are great for keeping the body and mind healthy, but it is generally fine to continue to exercise, as you would’ve done before you became pregnant. If you have any concerns, discuss them with your midwife or doctor.
- Resting and sleeping is important, as this is how your body’s cells regenerate, so this becomes even more important when you are pregnant and supporting another growing person. If you feel like a nap or an early night, listen to your body, after all, we all know how much better we feel when we’ve had a good night’s sleep!
- Look after your mental health. It is not unusual for mental health problems to occur during pregnancy or in the postnatal period, even if you have had no previous history. Pregnancy produces a powerful cocktail of hormones, all of which can have different impacts upon individual people. If you think you may be developing mental health problems or if you are recognising trigger warnings that this is happening, speak to your midwife as soon as possible so you can be signposted to resources that can help you.
Halfway through your pregnancy, as your baby and your body are growing can seem like a milestone. Maintaining your health and fitness levels will prepare you and your baby for the third trimester and the birth.