21 weeks pregnant
Now you’re into the second half of your pregnancy, you’re an old hand at all this. There’s lots changing with your baby this week but you and your body should hopefully be settling into the swing of things.
Your baby at 21 weeks
At 21 weeks your baby is becoming quite a sophisticated individual with his own tastes and preferences and even the basis for a memory of his own.
- The food you eat changes the flavour of the amniotic fluid that he is swallowing on a regular basis – so if you eat a bar of chocolate now he will taste it in a few hours’ time. An absolute bargain and an excellent reason to buy a Galaxy Caramel, we think.
Some research suggests what you eat now will influence your baby’s food preferences after birth. But you should be guided by what you want to eat – don't feel you have to educate your baby's palate with a selection of foods from around the world each week – it may never pay off.
- He is starting to absorb small amounts of sugar from the amniotic fluid that he is gulping down. But this is just his digestive system practising; he still relies completely on the nutrients he receives from the blood in the placenta.
- This week your baby starts making red blood cells in his bone marrow (taking over from his liver). How sophisticated is that?
- At 21 weeks your baby's memory is also beginning to develop. He won't remember being in your uterus (it’s a pretty unmemorable location with very few landmarks, let’s be honest) but he will find music familiar that he heard in utero once he’s born and will also be comforted by the sound of your voice, which he’ll recognise from his days spent hanging out just below your vocal cords.
What size is the baby at 21 weeks?
At 21 weeks, your baby measures 27cm from head to heel, and is the size of a large banana.
How is your body changing at 21 weeks pregnant?
Despite the swelling, sweatiness and sensitive skin, all that extra blood volume and raised hormone levels do have one plus side – the famous 'pregnancy bloom'. If you’re feeling less blooming and more bloody awful, try not to feel too murderous about it.
Some women look fabulous with the extra blood flow giving them plumped-out, rosy cheeks and extra hair growth bringing a gloriously thick and shiny mane. Others just seethe (and sweat a bit more than usual). If you’re lucky you’ll get the Timotei hair, healthy complexion of a shepherdess and be feeling sprightly and full of beans at all times… or at least until 9pm.
You may find this is the point that shoes stop fitting you. The softening of ligaments in the feet and extra weight you’re carrying can mean your feet ‘spread’ and many women find that they go up a shoe size during pregnancy. As with your ribcage, your feet often don’t shrink back to their pre-pregnancy size after the birth. So you might find you need a whole new shoe wardrobe.
Your burgeoning bump will start to threaten to eclipse the moon at some stage in the next few weeks. On the plus side, this means you won’t be able to see your thighs until after the birth. On a less glamorous note, it makes cutting your toenails and wiping your own bottom a bit of a challenge. On the toenail front we advise you to get a nice pedicure. On the other front, well…. Just do your best. Or get a bidet.
Pregnancy symptoms in week 21
Changes to hormone levels and also the amount of blood flowing around your body can make your skin more sensitive around this time.
Hormones, particularly oestrogens can give you itchy skin in pregnancy. This can be most irritating across your bump where the skin is more stretched than usual. Your palms and soles of your feet may be red and itchy, too, as they can get hot due to your higher body temperature and increased blood flow.
Something that cools the skin, like a cold, wet flannel, or an unperfumed emollient cream can help. Or you can always try putting a handful of porridge oats in an old stocking and hanging it from the tap while you run your bath. An oat bath is really soothing for itchy skin.
Itching is a pretty common pregnancy symptom but if you feel itchy all over your body it can be due to an unusual condition called obstetric cholestasis, which is a problem affecting the liver that can lead to high bile salts being deposited in your skin, making it itchy. The condition can harm your baby so you need to tell your antenatal team if you have itching that is severe, particularly if it’s in the hands and feet.
Things to think about during week 21 of pregnancy
A few things to think about (or perhaps just forget about) this week.
You may wonder if you have the 'right feelings' at this stage in your pregnancy. Do you want this baby enough? Are you relieved that your last scan was fine or has it made it so real that you feel anxious? Mumsnet has lots of posts from women who feel just like you, so head to the pregnancy Talk boards or your Mumsnet antenatal club and seek reassurance.
It's normal to feel unsure, anxious and unready as well as excited. If you feel sad for prolonged periods of time, however, or hopeless about the future, then you should tell your antenatal team. Depression can often come on during pregnancy and midwife teams and GPs are trained to spot it and help you deal with it, so don’t be afraid to ask for help.