The 18th week of pregnancy is considered the fifth month and is part of the second trimester. By this week of pregnancy, the mother has adapted to the rising level of hormones and has more energy. Morning sickness and fatigue have declined, and her growing abdomen is a symbol of the life thriving inside.
At the end of the 18th week, the baby is approximately 5.5 inches long measuring crown to rump in length and weighs about 6 ounces. The fundus, which is the top portion of the uterus, can be felt approximately 2 cm below the naval. Uterine size is considered normal when felt within 2 cm below or above the corresponding week.
The baby’s sex can now be determined using ultrasound. Tiny fingernails are visible. Her eyelids and eyebrows are starting to form. The eyelids have become fused together and will re-open in the sixth month of pregnancy. She now makes respiratory efforts as she “practices” breathing in the amniotic fluid. She can also make facial expressions such as frowning and smiling. Additionally, she can hear noises such as the mother’s voice, digestive noises and the mother’s heartbeat.
Many first time mothers start feeling fetal movement around the 18th week of pregnancy. This can be felt as fluttering or as a solid movement. The mother’s nipples may get darker and a line called the linea nigra may develop down the abdomen. Both of these changes are a result of a pigmentation and will disappear after delivery.
At 18 weeks, the doctor may recommend a routine ultrasound. The purpose of the 18-week ultrasound is to scan for fetal anomalies and re-asses the estimated due date. If the baby is in a good position, the ultrasound technician may be able to distinguish the sex.
If you notice any of the following symptoms, you should contact your healthcare provider immediately: severe abdominal pain, heavy vaginal bleeding, a gush or steady leaking of fluid from the vagina, or very sudden or severe swelling of the face and eyes accompanied by a headache or visual disturbances.
This is a great time to begin looking for a childbirth education class. There are a variety of classes available such as Lamaze, Bradley and HypnoBirthing. Most classes last 6 to 8 weeks, so now is the ideal time to find one you feel comfortable with. Make sure to chose a class that meets you and your partner’s philosophy of birth and availability.