Your Baby – 20 Weeks Pregnant
Your precious baby is growing quite fast as you reach the halfway mark in your pregnancy and is approximately 5 3/4 – 6 1/2 inches in length now, measuring from crown to rump. If your baby were stretched out and measured from the top of the head to tip of the toes, he or she would be exactly half the size you can expect at birth.
Your little one weighs almost 10 ounces, which is a major increase in weight since starting out as a single dividing cell, only 18 weeks ago. Your baby’s growth is taking up increasing space in the womb, but the growth rate will slow down a bit over the next few weeks.
Your baby’s heartbeat is stronger now and much easier to detect. Your doctor or midwife shouldn’t have any trouble picking it up at every prenatal visit. His or her heartbeat is normally about twice as fast as yours, anywhere from 120- 170 beats per minute (BPM). Up until now, your baby’s heartbeat may have been somewhere between 145-160 beats per minute, on average. As your baby’s heart develops, it may drop down a little to 130- 140. Your little one’s heart rate will likely change every time you have a visit with your doctor or midwife, depending on how far along you are, as well as whether or not your baby is active or is sleeping.
Some people believe that you can guess your baby’s gender by the heart rate; that girl’s heartbeats are faster than boy’s. This is based on the fact that women have a slightly higher pulse rate (because of a slightly higher metabolic rate) than men, but the truth is there is no correlation what-so-ever between the heartbeat of a baby in the womb and gender. This is just simply an old wive’s tale and therefore the heart rate is not a good predictor of gender. If you hear your baby’s heartbeat racing during your next visit (and are unsure whether you’re having a girl or a boy), don’t run out and buy pink paint for the nursery!
Your baby’s sensory development (sense of smell, taste, sight, hearing and touch) are becoming more specialized as each and every week goes by. The nervous system is still under development and your baby’s movements are a bit jerky and somewhat erratic. When you begin noticing movement, your little one may seem hyperactive because his or her muscles are becoming stronger. Trying these muscles out is fun! Flexing muscles and moving around inside the womb is still easy for your baby, since he or she isn’t too cramped yet.
You may think that your blood and your baby’s blood mix and exchange, but in actuality (under normal circumstances), it doesn’t mix at all. Your blood doesn’t flow directly into your baby and your baby’s blood never enters your bloodstream. If fetal blood and maternal blood did mix together, the mother’s body would soon make antibodies to the baby’s blood, which would lead to a miscarriage. One of the many tasks the placenta does is filter. It filters some substances (although many harmful toxins pass through, however) and keeps your blood and your baby’s blood separate. Your baby has a completely separate circulation, which is pumped by the heart at approximately 25 quarts a day, at this point in development.
Your Body – 20 Weeks Pregnant
Congratulations! You are half way to your due date. At this “halfway mark” in your pregnancy, your uterus has likely grown enough to reach your belly button. Your belly button may not have popped out, yet (some never do and well of course if you normally have an “outy”, it’s already there!) or it could very well be even with your tummy at this point. Some navels merely flatten out, while others eventually protrude from your abdomen. For some women, it can become extra sensitive. If your outy becomes bothersome, you may try putting a band-aid across it. The good news: pregnancy is definitely not a time when you have to worry about belly button lint!
You may be starting to encounter itchy and most likely dry skin, particularly across your belly. This is very common during pregnancy and is caused from the skin stretching and tightening as your baby grows inside. Unfortunately this annoyance will continue throughout the remainder of your pregnancy, possibly becoming worse as the weeks go by. There are a few things you can try to soothe your skin.
If you do experience dry skin, try your best to avoid scratching you belly; this may only make it itch more. Instead, you need to relieve the dryness by keeping the skin well-nourished and moisturized. Apply a good moisturizer often (two or three times daily). Look for a moisturizer formulated for sensitive skin or a special kind made specifically for use during pregnancy. Avoid using bar soap when showering or bathing. Try a moisturizing body wash to avoid stripping your skin of natural oils. If you experience severe itchiness, you should contact your doctor or midwife, because it could be a sign of cholestasis or possibly pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy (PUPPP), which may need to be treated with medicated topical anti-itch cream.
When you go to your next prenatal visit, your doctor or midwife will probably begin measuring fundal height, if he or she hasn’t begun already. Your doctor or midwife will continue measuring its growth at every visit from now on. The fundal height is measured using a tape measure placed across your belly, starting at the highest part of your uterus (or the “fundus”, which is the top of your uterus); ending at your pubic bone. The fundal height is the distance between these two points and is measured in centimeters. The fundal height tends to correlate with how far along you are. At 20 weeks, it should be approximately 20 centimeters. Your belly grows about 1 centimeter every week, so next week it should be close to 21 centimeters.
During the last few weeks of your pregnancy, your fundal height may actually be less than the visit before, if your baby has “dropped” into the birth canal. This measurement is done to make sure your baby is growing at a normal rate and that the growth is on target for your due date. If there is a discrepancy of more than 2 centimeters, an ultrasound may be recommended to check your baby’s size, position and fluid level.