At about 17 weeks your baby is about 11cm long and the size of a pear. Her fingerprints will be beginning to form and sweat glands will be developing.
At 18 weeks a protective white substance called Vernix is starting to form on her skin. If your baby is born early she will still be covered in this. If she is born full term, you may just see a few traces of it.
By 19 weeks it will be very clear to see if you are having a boy or a girl as its genitals are well formed. Vocal chords are also fully formed and she is already accumulating her first poo- meconium!
By 20 weeks nerve cells will be developing in the brain and your baby will be able to hear noises and music outside of the womb. She will be almost 15 cm long.
Half Way Through!
You are now about half way through your pregnancy. This can be both an alarming and simultaneously exciting prospect!
You should have a midwife appointment around your 16th week.
You will probably be starting to feel the baby really move by the end of your 20th week. You may also be experiencing Braxton Hicks more frequently. (for explanation and discussion- see 12-16 weeks)
You may start to experience some slight changes to your skin in the form of increased pigmentation and perhaps skin tags. Your nipples may start to darken in colour and your Linea Nigra (a dark vertical line that often stretches from your belly button to your pubic area) may also start to appear. Some women do not develop a Linea Nigra or get darker nipples until the last weeks of their pregnancy and some never experience these changes, but most of these pigmentation changes are reversible and will fade after the birth of the baby. Some women who happen to investigate down below report a darkening of their labia – this can be an alarming thing to see, but it normally reverts to the original colour after the birth.
You may also develop the odd red blotch, or skin tag, most obviously on your face or chest. Again, these will fade after the baby is born.
Some women may experience more extreme skin pigmentation changes on their face as a result of exposure to the sun. This is called Chloasma or Melasma but is often referred to as the Mask of Pregnancy. Patches are most common on the forehead, upper cheek, nose and lips. Wearing a very high SPF cream on your face can help to reduce the likelihood of this happening. The pigmentation should start to fade after the baby is born, but if it does not, it can be worth consulting your doctor who may refer you to a dermatologist who can advise you on how to treat any pigmentation that is not fading.
You may feel some discomfort on the inside as well as the outside as your body stretches to accommodate the baby. You may feel stretching pains almost in the groin as the uterus begins to grow quite rapidly. This is sometimes called round ligament pain.
As your weight starts to increase and pressure increases on various bits of your body the inevitable results can be varicose veins and hemorrhoids. For a more detailed look at this, see our sections on Bottoms and Bowels.
You may start to experience indigestion, or existing indigestion may start to get worse. (see our section on Indigestion)
Apart from the above, this should generally be a comfortable time in your pregnancy as you are not likely to be too big and any real aches and pains will hopefully not yet have kicked in.