At just past halfway through your pregnancy, the days are passing quickly as you begin to think more about your baby’s arrival. By now you should have had your most thorough ultrasound and if you wanted to know the sex of your baby, you probably have your answer by now. If you haven’t been watching your weight, now is the time to get on board with a diet and exercise plan that you can stick to both now and after delivery. Light exercise is best if you weren’t exercising before you became pregnant—think walking or prenatal yoga. If you were very active before you became pregnant talk with your doctor about what exercises you may continue. The majority are fine until your center of gravity is altered—then you may need to make some adjustments.
By exercising, you are improving blood flow and strengthening muscles that will support you during your last weeks as well as during labor. Women who gain a healthy amount of weight (around the 30 pound mark) and stay active, tend to have easier labors overall.
At ¾ of a pound in weight and 10 ½ inches long, your baby is about the length of a regular size carrot. You may also notice changes in your baby’s activity as he or she gains strength and what once felt like tiny flutters or nudges have turned into some very noticeable kicks. All these belly acrobatics have a reason—your baby is developing and building muscles while learning to stretch and move in their happy home.
In week 21, the baby’s digestive system will continue to develop and grow. The baby’s intestines can now relax and contract. Baby’s eyebrows and eyelids are 100% developed, and the vagina is forming in girls
Changes With Your Body
At this week in pregnancy, you should be on target for 10 to 15 pounds of weight gain. You may be a bit over or maybe a bit under right now, but thanks to your new found appetite and loss of nausea, you are ready to eat. Just remember that you aren’t really eating for two, and your body only needs about 500 extra calories per day—that’s a half a peanut butter sandwich extra. So don’t overdo it, or your weight will too.
One of the best parts of your second trimester is your belly. Big enough to show but not so big that you are uncomfortable. You should be able to feel your uterus—firm and round, just above your belly button now.
Thanks to changing hormone levels you may be experiencing more leg cramps and varicose veins. As hormones cause blood vessels in the legs to relax, blood pools in the lower portions of the legs resulting in varicose veins which may be painful. Don’t panic, this is normal in many women and there is a higher chance of developing varicosities if they run in your family.
To take some pressure off your legs, try to not stand in one place for a long period of time. If you wear high heels, this is a good time to find something more comfortable for the coming months. Sneakers or shoes with low heels are best to help with any swelling or discomfort. If you notice swelling in your feet and legs, especially at the end of a long day, there are a few steps that you can take to help ease your symptoms. For some women, standing in one place for long periods of time can increase pain and swelling in the feet and legs. If possible, try to find a chair and elevate your feet for ten or fifteen minutes a few times a day, or try wearing support stockings or hose to increase blood flow.
What To Expect
If you haven’t noticed by now, your appetite has increased and it may feel great to indulge in every food that sounds good. Remember though that you should aim for 500 extra calories every day and do your best to steer clear of high-calorie foods. Instead, fresh fruits and veggies, lean meats and low-fat dairy are going to supply you and your growing baby with the nutrients necessary to keep everyone healthy. The occasional craving may come, and you can feel free to have something you love, but just keep the portions small.
Take these weeks of high energy and positive attitude to prepare for your baby’s delivery through a healthy diet and exercise. Pregnancy can weaken your immune system, so remember to practice good hand hygiene and get a flu shot if recommended by your doctor, and stay away from others who have fever, or coughs that could spread germs.