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21 Weeks Pregnant

21-weeks-baby

Image: Fetal Development At 21 Weeks

Our baby’s digestive system is now fully formed and the placenta is almost as big as she is! She may be swallowing little bits of amniotic fluid and hiccupping. This swallowing of fluid helps prepare her for life outside the womb, and some babies consume as much as 17 ounces in 24 hours.

At this point, strangers can tell that you are pregnant. During the second half of your pregnancy, baby will be growing a lot in size and in the next ten weeks you are likely to gain half the overall extra weight needed for your pregnancy.

You’ll probably find yourself hungrier, because you need about 500 extra calories a day for your hardworking metabolism. It may be difficult if you’re getting some strange cravings, but try to avoid processed foods, or those high in fat and sugar.

If you notice you’re craving something particularly unhealthy you should get in touch with your doctor. Some women have even been known to crave alcohol, cigarette ash and even charcoal. This is known as pica.

You may find your feet and legs swelling a little bit. It’s wise to take a load off and prop your feet up every so often, but if you notice a lot of swelling, get in touch with your healthcare professional.

Have you spotted any leaking from your breasts? This is called colostrum – your breasts’ first milk! You might find you’re experiencing some hot flushes at the moment! This is when it’s definitely best to find some comfortable maternity wear in natural fabrics.
 
I’m starting to notice a few stretch marks now. Is there anything I can do about them?
About 9 in every 10 pregnant women are affected by stretch marks. They are caused by tearing of the dermis (a middle layer of the skin) in rapid growth, weight gain and weight loss, such as in pregnancy. For pregnant women, hormonal changes can also be a contributing factor.

When stretch marks first appear they can appear thick and reddish in colour, which can be alarming for a mum-to-be. Rubbing your skin every day with a good moisturiser and a massage glove can help and prevent more appearing, improving your circulation and encouraging new tissue growth. There are creams available too, though there’s a lack of evidence to show that they rid your skin of stretch marks when they’ve already developed.

You may be able to help minimise stretch marks by keeping your pregnancy weight gain steady – you only need about 500 extra calories per day (approximately 2500 in total). Keep to a balanced diet full of vitamins and minerals – especially vitamins C and E, and the minerals silicon and zinc. These all help nurture your skin.

Sadly, stretch marks don’t disappear completely after birth, however the skin will shrink back and the marks will fade to thin, silvery lines – often only visible close-up. The most effective way to treat stretch marks is through laser treatment or cosmetic surgery, and even then, results aren’t guaranteed.

It’s a good job your little bundle of joy is such a big reward – the work is sometimes a head-ache! Just remember that soon you will be the proud new mum of an adorable little baby – even if he has deprived you of your skinny jeans for the time being!

Possible Scan at Week 21
Sometimes known as a 20 Week Scan, an Anomaly Scan is your baby’s anatomy is examined in detail. Measurements will be made of the head, brain, abdomen and legs. These will be plotted on a chart. Then your baby’s heart, brain, spine, bowel and limbs are checked to detect any abnormalities. This can never completely guarantee that the baby will be normal, but it gives very strong reassurance. The placenta, amniotic fluid and the umbilical cord are also all checked. If you wish, you can find out the sex of your baby from this scan.

An Anomaly Scan can be performed from 18 weeks but some doctors advise scans between 22-24 weeks. This is because often at that time the images of the baby are clearer. However, it’s not advisable to schedule this scan beyond 24 weeks because after that time the baby is more likely to adopt a position that is unfavourable for clear views.

You’ll be given a few pictures of your baby to keep. Some clinics also offer you a chance to get a glimpse of your baby in 4D (moving film), but this is in addition to the Anomaly Scan and charged accordingly.

Possible Scan at Week 21
A Sexing Scan (also sometimes called a Gender Identification Scan) can be performed to find out the sex of your baby at this stage.

The baby will also be measured and your medical professional will assess his or her wellbeing. Sexing scans are highly reliable but can be more difficult if a woman is very overweight, or if the baby is in an unfavourable position.

Gender Scan or Sexing Scan

Gender Scan (Boy) Picture (Click image to enlarge)

Generally, if a healthcare professional is unsure about the sex of your baby they won’t guess. But thankfully it’s very unusual to be unable to determine the sex of the baby.

Possible Scan at Week 21
A Reassurance Scan can be performed anywhere from 14-22 weeks. It’s not usually necessary but might be advisable if you have had bleeding or have been unwell.

The baby’s head, abdomen, and leg length will be measured. The placenta can be located and the amniotic fluid and umbilical cord assessed. The measurements will be plotted on a graph which you will be given.

Reassurance Scan

Reassurance Scan Picture (Click image to enlarge)

The scan is performed through the tummy (a trans-abdominal scan), and usually takes 15-20 minutes. You don’t need to have a full bladder and no special preparation is needed. You’ll have a few pictures of the baby to take away with you.