Week 18 – your second trimester

What a week! It's all happening now. You could feel your baby move for the first time. Plus you could see your baby in close-up if you choose to have an anomaly scan. Week by week, you're ticking off new milestones in your pregnancy. You may feel happy, sad, excited or nervous – sometimes all at once! It's an emotional roller-coaster, so hold on tight…

What's happening in my body?

You might be starting to feel a bit clumsier as your belly gets bigger. Your breasts may have gone up a size, too, particularly if it's your first pregnancy. Your blood pressure is probably a bit lower than it was, so don't leap up from the sofa, or it could make you feel dizzy.

Your baby has been moving around for the past couple of months, but you wouldn't have noticed because they were so small. Now, you might start to feel some movement – it's like a bubbling or fluttering inside your belly.

You may also notice a line down your stomach, called the linea nigra (Latin for 'black line'). This is normal skin pigmentation and nothing to worry about. It will probably vanish a few months after your baby's born.

Your anomaly scan

You'll be offered an anomaly scan at around 18 to 20 weeks. This is a scan that looks at your baby in detail to see if there is anything unusual about their development and appearance. It can pick up a range of conditions, but not all of them. You don't have to have this scan – it's up to you.

The scan won't hurt you or your baby but it could feel a bit uncomfortable as the sonographer may have to apply a bit of pressure on your stomach to get the best possible view.

Usually, the scan will show that the baby is healthy. However, sometimes the scan could pick up something you're not expecting. If this is the case, then you may be offered further tests. You can decide whether to have them or not.

Is it a boy or a girl?

The sonographer may be able to tell you at this scan – but not everyone wants to know, and it's not always the hospital policy to reveal the sex of the baby. If you don't want to know, then make this clear before you start.

Free prescriptions and dental care

Did you know that prescriptions are free during pregnancy? NHS dental treatment is also free. You'll need a Maternity Exemption Certificate or card (MatEx). Ask your midwife, GP or health visitor for the application form FW8. Your certificate will be valid for up to a year after your baby's due date or date of birth.

Second trimester pregnancy symptoms (at 18 weeks)

With any luck you're getting into the groove and can manage your symptoms as your body expands. You should never feel in agony, or unable to cope, so talk to your midwife or doctor if you find yourself struggling with your day-to-day life.

Your signs of pregnancy could include:

Tommy's, the baby charity, has a further list of common symptoms.

What does my baby look like?

Your baby, or foetus, is around 14.2cm long from head to bottom, and weighs around 190g. That's approximately the size and weight of a sweet red pepper.

Your baby's reflexes are developing this week – and on the agenda will be hearing, feeling, swallowing and sucking. They will also be doing a lot of wriggling around and moving their little arms and legs.

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Action stations

Being pregnant, working, caring for family and keeping your relationship going can feel like a juggling act, and there will be times when you'll drop the occasional ball. Try to keep everything in perspective, even though your pregnancy hormones could be telling you it's the end of the world that you've just burnt the toast!

It may help to feel ultra-organised. Here's a ready-made 'to do' list. You can probably tick off a lot already, which has got to make you feel good!

This week you could also…

You don't have to tell your employer for several more weeks, but as soon as you do, you will have maternity rights and can attend antenatal appointments during paid work time. You can also ask for a risk assessment of your work place to ensure that you're working away in a safe environment.

It’s a good time to tone up those muscles 'down under'. Gentle exercises can help to prevent leakage when you laugh, sneeze, cough or jump around on your baby's future trampoline. Get the muscles going by pretending that you're having a wee and then stop the 'urine' in midflow. Visit Tommy's for more ideas.

Ask your midwife or doctor about antenatal classes in your area, as they get booked up very quickly. You could also contact your local branch of the National Childbirth Trust. Why not ask your partner to go with you? Even if you've had children before, and been there, done that, they're still worth going to, as you can meet other parents-to-be. Also, don't expect this pregnancy to be just like your others – your baby could have other ideas.

Do your best to stop smoking, give up alcohol and go easy on the cappuccinos. We know that's easy to say but hard to do. Ask your midwife or GP for support.

During the winter, consider taking a daily dose of Vitamin D. It's recommended that you take 10 micrograms every day when you're pregnant and breastfeeding. Find out if you're entitled to free vitamins.

Get moving! It's recommended that pregnant women do 150 minutes of exercise throughout the week. You could start off with just 10 minutes every day. Perhaps take a brisk walk in the park or go for a swim. If you start any classes, make sure the instructor knows that you're pregnant. Don't overdo it though – listen to your body.

Have a fit pregnancy and sign up for a free personal activity plan.

Don't eat for two! Eat for you. You don't need any extra calories until the third trimester, which starts in week 28. Try to eat healthily, with plenty of fresh fruit and veg, and avoid processed, fatty and salty foods. You may be able to get free milk, fruit and veg through the Healthy Start scheme.

This week's treat

You're probably busting out of your usual clothes – so get yourself something 'new' that will make you look and feel good. Lots of supermarkets have maternity ranges, or try charity shops and NCT nearly new sales. If you've got a special event, then borrow something from a friend. You'll be fed up with your maternity wardrobe a few months from now, so there's no need to splash the cash!

Go back to week 17

Go to week 19

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