Weeks 17 to 20

At 20 weeks you’ve reached the halfway mark of your pregnancy. Your practitioner may recommend an ultrasound to check the baby’s health. During the test, you might be able find out if you’re having a boy or a girl (if you want to know).

About your baby

Illustration of baby's development weeks 17 to 20Your baby is swallowing more amniotic fluid, which is good practice for the digestive system. The umbilical cord that connects you and your baby is thickening and continues to carry blood and nutrients.

It’s about now that your baby’s sucking instinct develops and he or she may have started thumb-sucking. Your baby’s head is no longer as big compared to the rest of the body. Hair is starting to grow on the scalp and tiny eyelashes and eyebrows are appearing. Your baby also sleeps and wakes regularly.

By week 20, baby’s body fat is starting to build up. Your baby is about 8 to 10 inches long and weighs about 10 ounces. Your doctor may be able to hear your baby’s heartbeat with a stethoscope.

About you

If this is your first pregnancy, you will start to feel your fetus move between 18 and 22 weeks. These first flutters are called “quickening” and some women say they feel like gas bubbles.

Many pregnant women report an increase in nightmares as their pregnancy progresses. Don’t worry. These vivid dreams are just your mind’s way of helping you process the changes in your life.

You may also notice that you and your partner are not experiencing your pregnancy in the same way (or at the same pace). It’s important to have regular conversations about the new baby to reconnect to each other and share in your excitement for the future.

What’s normal:

  • You may begin feeling Braxton Hicks contractions, especially if this isn’t your first pregnancy. This painless tightening of muscles in the uterus is normal.
  • Notice brown patches on your face? It’s called the “mask of pregnancy” and is due to a temporary increase in estrogen. The brown patches may darken in the sun, so use sunscreen.
  • You may see a narrow, dark line (the linea nigra) running from your belly button to the top of your pubic bone. After birth, the darkened areas should lighten and then disappear.

Tips for staying healthy

  • To soothe aching legs and prevent varicose veins, elevate your legs often, don’t cross your legs when sitting down, and slip on support hose made especially for pregnant women.
  • Keep taking your prenatal vitamin supplement and eating a diet rich in nutrients.
  • Pump up your iron intake (you now need about 27 milligrams per day) to prevent iron deficiency anemia.
  • Sleep on your side. When you are lying on your back, the weight of your uterus and baby rests on a large vein in your abdomen, which can cause your blood pressure to go down and make you feel dizzy or light-headed.
  • Practice relaxation exercises to increase your energy, reduce your stress, and prepare you for relaxing during labor.

Your to-do list

  • Your practitioner may recommend an ultrasound to measure your baby’s growth, estimate your due date, screen for certain abnormalities, and rule out twins (or more).
  • Sign up for a childbirth education class. Most couples begin classes in the seventh month.
  • If you are going back to work, start to make arrangements for child care. Quality child care providers often have waiting lists.


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