Pregnancy Tracker: Week 18

Pregnancy Tracker: Week 18




At 18 weeks pregnant you are in month 5 of your pregnancy – almost halfway there!

Have you noticed that your appetite has increased? If so, cash in on the urge to eat, as professionals recommend that you get an extra 340 calories per day to support your growing baby’s needs, as well as the needs of your own body.

Your baby at 18 weeks pregnant

Your baby is flexing his muscles and rolling, twisting, and flipping about as he seemingly enjoys all these aerobics!  Baby is also constantly ‘smiling’, yawning, sucking, swallowing and perhaps even hiccupping. You may still not be able to feel movement, or you could possibly confuse baby movement with gas. Either way, rest assured that your little one’s presence will make itself known soon enough!

Baby is the size of a capsicum, weighs about 190g and head-to-rump measurement is roughly 14.3cm. At this stage there is still plenty of free space in your uterus for the foetus to enjoy moving freely with little or no restrictions.

Baby’s development is fast and furious, with all vital organs and systems in place and working well. The tiny little tubes in the lungs (bronchioles) are starting to develop and respiratory sacs are beginning to appear at the ends of these tubes.

The digestive system of a foetus does not need to function fully until after birth as the baby is getting all the nutrients needed directly into the bloodstream through the umbilical cord and the placenta. But the digestive system is getting ready nevertheless, and the digestive tract has already formed the three main parts, namely the fore-, mid- and hindgut, which will eventually be:

  • Foregut – oesophagus, stomach, liver, pancreas
  • Midgut – intestines
  • Hindgut – rectum and anus

The nervous system is also rapidly maturing. A network of nerves is forming more complicated sets of connections and will continue to develop until your child is about a year old. Myelin is a fatty insulating substance that forms a protective sheath around nerves and allows impulses to be transmitted efficiently between the nerve cells.

If you had an ultrasound scan about now, you would notice that the baby’s ears and eyes have settled in the correct position, although the ears tend to stick out and not lie flat as they will do later, and the eyelids are still closed.  Tiny little lips are also visible now, and the nose is starting to take shape.

Genitals are fully formed; fallopian tubes and uterus are in place, and boy parts could possibly be seen on a scan now, or certainly within the next week or so, depending on how the baby is lying.

Your symptoms in week 18 of pregnancy

Increased appetite

This is good! Now that nausea and morning sickness are a thing of the past - or at the very least you only experience intermittent bouts of them - you can start to enjoy food again. Your body needs plenty of energy as it is working hard to support your rapidly growing baby. You are producing a higher blood volume, breasts and uterus are growing, and fat stores are being laid down, all of which need extra calories. Avoid filling up on ‘empty calories,’ and rather stick to a healthy diet, rich in fibre, protein and unsaturated fats, vitamins and minerals. Eating small, frequent meals will help to stabilise your blood sugar.


You may notice from the second trimester that the rings on your fingers are feeling tight and that your feet and ankles are swollen. This can be quite annoying but is completely normal and happens to about two-thirds of all mums-to-be. The body produces something like 50% more blood and fluids to aid the needs of your growing baby, so swelling as a result of this is to be expected. The pressure of the expanding uterus on veins can make blood flow to the heart sluggish, which can also contribute to swelling.

Occasionally, swelling in pregnancy can signal an underlying problem. If any of the following symptoms are noticed, you should speak to your healthcare provider urgently, as they may indicate a thyroid disorder, an infection, or the start of deep vein thrombosis:

  • Headache
  • Blurry vision
  • Pain in upper right side
  • Any sudden swelling
  • Severe facial swelling

Leg cramps

These can strike at any time, but most often during the night. It is not known for certain what the cause is, other than the extra weight your legs and muscles must bear. To avoid cramps starting, make sure you remain well hydrated during the day, do some calf stretching exercises and don’t sit with legs crossed. Some people maintain that taking a magnesium supplement can help, as can drinking plenty of water.

Vaginal discharge

This is normal during pregnancy as your body is producing more oestrogen than usual and is nature’s way of keeping the vagina clean and healthy and free from infection. If the discharge is milky white and not strong smelling, there is nothing to worry about. If, however, it becomes coloured or has an offensive odour, let your healthcare provider know immediately.


Having trouble sleeping during pregnancy is unfortunately quite common. Just when you want to store up some much-needed sleep, it seems to elude you! Pregnancy insomnia can happen at any stage and can be blamed on physical factors, like hormonal changes, discomfort from your bump, uncomfortable pregnancy symptoms, and needing to pee frequently during the night. Emotional reasons also play a part. You may find yourself tossing and turning, worrying about how the birth will go, how you will cope after the birth, how to furnish the nursery and so on.

Try to develop a healthy bedtime routine; don’t eat too late or drink too much just before bed; avoid using devices at night that emit ‘blue light’ as it can disrupt sleep patterns. Try to calm your mind before bed, take a cool bath or shower, and sleep with a pillow between your knees for extra comfort.

A word about exercise

Unless otherwise advised by your healthcare provider, exercise during pregnancy is excellent for your physical and mental health. The benefits are numerous and include the possibility of a shorter labour with fewer complications.

Gentle, regular exercise can help to:

  • Reduce your high blood pressure
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Reduce the severity of swollen ankles, feet, and hands
  • Reduce back pain
  • Improve overall fitness
  • Improve mood

If certain conditions are evident, exercise should be viewed with extreme caution and only undertaken after gaining advice from your doctor:

  • Heart or lung problems
  • Weakness of cervix or stitch in cervix
  • Multiple pregnancy
  • History of premature labour
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Placenta praevia
  • Pre-eclampsia
  • Diabetes
  • Thyroid disease
  • Anaemia

The best way to keep your baby healthy is to keep yourself healthy!

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