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16 weeks pregnant

Foetus at 16 weeks pregnantYour baby at 16 weeks 

If this isn't your first baby you may feel her first movements any time now.

If she is your first baby, at 16 weeks it's unlikely you will feel anything for a few weeks. These slight movements are called quickening. They're like fluttering movements, as though something is bubbling lightly and occasionally in your abdomen.

  • Your baby is practising her facial expressions, holding her head straighter, yawning and even sucking her thumb.
  • Her nervous system is making connections to her muscles to help her to move more strongly and purposefully. Her bones are getting hard as more calcium is deposited in them.
  • She has started grabbing for things that touch her rather than jerking away. So her fingers curl round the umbilical cord or grab her other hand.
  • The increasing connections between her nervous system and muscles means that she has reflexes. Already she will turn her mouth towards anything that brushes near it, in readiness for rooting for your breast.
  • The nerves that link her muscles to her brain now have a sophisticated addition - a special coating called myelin that speeds up how quickly nerves and muscles communicate. Her nerves can send electrical impulses to her muscles fast enough for her to do intricate movements.

 

Your body at 16 weeks pregnant

  • Sleep You may be sleeping just fine, but more likely you're finding your old positions less comfortable. Now is the time to start sleeping on your side and women often find the left side best. If you sleep on your back it puts pressure on two big blood vessels - your aorta (a large artery) and the inferior vena cava (a large vein). This can affect the blood supply to both you and your baby, and can make you feel breathless. You may find it more comfortable to sleep on your side with a pillow between your legs to take the pressure off your back. Banana-shaped pregnancy pillows are good at supporting your back but they aren't as cheap as a couple of ordinary pillows.
  • How to do pelvic floor exercises

    • Empty your bladder
    • Tighten and relax the muscles round your urethra first (these are hardest to really feel you're tightening), then the vagina and finally your anus.
    •  Hold them tight together for 10 seconds. You should feel you are really lifting these muscles up. Repeat 10 times and get faster as you do them.
    • Do them up to the birth and afterwards (ideally forever afterwards).
  • Your pelvic floor Your pelvic floor is a hammock of muscles slung around your bladder, vagina, urethra and rectum. It supports them fantastically well, but carrying a baby ruins the whole system. The weight of your baby and giving birth itself weakens these muscles. You may find you leak urine if you laugh or run. You can sometimes leak faeces as well. The good news is that doing regular pelvic floor exercises makes a difference.
  • Your uterus Your uterus is manoeuvring other organs out of the way and you may feel some pain in your lower abdomen. This is round ligament pain, caused by pregnancy hormones which encourage your uterus and the ligaments supporting it to stretch. The discomfort is commonly felt on getting up from your bed or chair, climbing out of the bath, coughing or sneezing. It's always best to mention any pain or discomfort to your midwife or doctor. 

 

The Day by Day Pregnancy Book coverIllustrations taken from the bestselling book The Day-by-Day Pregnancy Book, £25, published by DK.

Disclaimer: The information in the pregnancy calendar is for general information and is not intended as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or antenatal team. Not all babies develop at the same time and in the same way, so this week-by-week guide may not always match your own experience. If you have any worries, consult your antenatal team or GP.

Last updated: 21-Jan-2013 at 10:37 AM