17 weeks pregnant
Welcome to week 17. You are, according to all the text books, in the midst of The Glory Days of Pregnancy. (If you’re still not feeling it, you have our full permission to use one of those text books as a missile for the next person who asks if you’re ‘blooming’ yet.) But with a bit of luck, you are well into the swing of this growing-a-baby lark now; knee-deep in nursery furniture catalogues and baby name books.
Your baby at 17 weeks
You could still hold your baby in the palm of your hand now but he’s getting plumper by the day. The placenta is nearly as big as he is this week and it’s working hard to give him all the nutrients he needs.
This is also a very ‘productive’ week, during which he’s creating all manner of bizarre coatings, excretions and emollients. Here are some of this week’s ‘highlights’, if you can call them that…
- He’s putting down layers of fat and starting to fill out his wrinkly skin, which has looked a bit too big for his body until now.
- This week he also forms a special kind of fat – rather attractively called 'brown fat' – that will insulate him when he's born. It's found at the back of his neck and around his kidneys to protect them.
- The downside to floating in an amniotic fluid bath for nine months is gaining the distinctive look of prune. To combat this, your baby develops some protection in the form of a cheesy, white cream that covers his whole body and head. Called vernix. It's made from the baby's sebaceous glands (the ones that make oily fluid to protect our skin) and acts as a waterproof layer to protect his delicate skin from becoming chapped by the amniotic fluid. It makes it easier for your baby to get through the birth canal but does makes him slippery when he comes out, so the midwives will give him a quick rub down with a towel to remove it. You'll probably see a few remnants of it on your baby's skin straight after birth, though.
- The nerves that link his muscles to his brain now have a sophisticated new addition – a special coating called myelin, which speeds up how quickly nerves and muscles are able to communicate with each other. His nerves can send electrical impulses to his muscles fast enough for him to complete quite intricate movements now. He’s not up to figure skating yet, but it’s a definite step forward.
- And at 17 weeks he is making lots more meconium (his first bowel movement), which consists of bile salts and acids made in the liver and skin cells he has swallowed from the amniotic fluid. As if the cheesy coating and brown fat weren’t already enough of a treat!
- To counter all the gunge this week, he’s doing some pretty clever and cute stuff, too. Inside his brain the nerve cells are connecting to each other more and more quickly. His eyes are still shut but he can roll them from side to side and his retina can now react to light.
- He’s pretty energetic in there, too, doing somersaults and kicking more forcefully. He will move away from any pressure on your abdominal wall now and an ultrasound probe can make him jump – a hilarious sight if you actually get to see it on the screen.
What size is the baby at 17 weeks?
He is now about 13cm from his crown to his rump, that’s roughly the size of a turnip, and weighs about 140g.
How is your body changing at 17 weeks pregnant?
The textbooks will all promise you’ll feel more energetic now, though some women just feel heavy and cumbersome. However, the majority of women feel less sick and tired and quite enjoy this time in the middle of the second trimester. Some even gad off for a final, child-free holiday – get them!
Your heart is pumping more blood, even faster, around your body and, to avoid your blood pressure going up, your pregnant body adapts by making your blood vessels more elastic. They can then expand to take the extra blood.
You may be more aware of your heartbeat and you can feel occasional missed beats, which is normal. But if you feel that your heart is beating irregularly you should see your doctor and get checked over.
And every cloud has a silver lining – just as your waistline finally vanishes, you often find your libido returns. Pregnancy hormones can increase libido but the effect of this is often masked by suffering from pregnancy sickness and tiredness in the first trimester. Lots of women also find they just feel more confident in the buff when they have a definable ‘bump’ (as opposed to a bit of an amorphous blob around the middle).
Pregnancy symptoms in week 17
We definitely had something to say about pregnancy symptoms in week 17… What was it? It’s on the tip of our, er… thingies… Hang on. We’ll go out of the room and come back in again. It might come back to us…
Feeling fuzzy-headed and forgetful? You’re not alone, although research on whether or not baby brain is a ‘real thing’ shows conflicting results.
A study in the British Journal of Psychiatry from Australian researchers said that baby brain is not a real phenomenon. The researchers tested how quickly more than 1,200 women could think and aspects of their memory. They then repeated the tests as the women became pregnant. There was no difference in the results.
It is certainly likely that you may feel as though your brain is working differently, but actually you are just focusing on different areas of your life – such as which pushchair to buy rather than which strategy paper to read at work – and also have a lot more on your mind than usual, from filling in maternity leave forms for work, to remembering hospital appointments, to organising home renovations ready for your new arrival… It’s no wonder some everyday tasks fall off the edge of your memory.
However, other studies do show memory lapses, especially at high levels of thinking and intellectual problem-solving, and it is thought that your brain does shrink ever so slightly in pregnancy and doesn’t return to its pre-pregnant size until six months or so after birth.
Try to get as much sleep as you can as feeling exhausted never sharpens your memory, and keep a notebook on you to jot down anything likely to fly straight out of your head again the second after it’s occurred to you.
With those blood vessels becoming more elastic around now you may find you suffer from varicose veins. Around 40% of pregnant women get them at some point. They look like knotty blue lumps and usually appear in the legs but occasionally you can get them in more, ahem, intimate areas, when they are known as ‘vulval varicose veins’.
There’s not much you can do to avoid them, though ensuring your weight gain is steady will help. Try to put your feet up as much as you can – they should disappear again after birth.
Things to think about during week 17 of pregnancy
This is a great time to book a last-minute holiday. At this stage of pregnancy you should be well enough to enjoy a getaway, and not yet so big that you’re restricted to UK-only breaks due to flying regulations.
Holidaying with a bump
You don’t need to pack your entire hospital bag as hand luggage but wherever you go on holiday, take your hand-held notes with you, just in case something crops up and you need to get checked out at a local hospital.
Here are a few more things to consider when planning a holiday with a baby on board:
- Think about choosing a destination where there are good standards of food and hygiene so you can keep within the parameters of foods you need to avoid.
- We’re sorry to tell you this, but if you hadn’t yet said goodbye to your days of riding pillion on strange men’s scooters, eating out of street food markets and sleeping on the beach, now is not really time for a last hurrah. Save it for when the kids have left home. You’ll have more money then to enjoy it anyway.
- Many forms of exercise and sports are great for pregnancy but don't go scuba diving as decompression sickness is too much of a risk for your baby.
- Remember you'll get hot and tan faster than your pre-pregnant self because the amount of blood going round your body has increased and more is going to your skin and mucous membranes. You will also feel more sweaty than usual in the heat, so factor that into your choice of destination if you’re not great in hot climates generally.