26 weeks pregnant

At 26 weeks, your'e nearing the end of your sixth month and are in the penultimate week of the second trimester. You're almost at the final furlong, and between the pregnancy brain and insomnia, chances are you're quite glad about that.

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Your baby at 26 weeks

Your baby is gaining weight quickly and steadily now and really beginning to respond to the world around her.

  • At 26 weeks her hands are developed and have miniature fingernails.
  • By now, she'll have developed eyelashes and will start to open her eyes, though her vision has not fully developed just yet.
  • Her nostrils will begin to open
  • She still looks quite red and wrinkly but is quickly laying down fat under her skin, which really changes the way she looks.
  • The surface of her skin still has its vernix, or waxy coating, to prevent her emerging on B-Day looking like a prune. This will stay (at least partially) until she is born.
  • She has now developed the startle reflex, which means she will 'jump' when scared.
  • As well as being able to hear your voice she may move in response to it now. In fact, experts think that at this age, it is possible to teach babies to respond to various sounds.

A team of researchers stimulated babies to kick by making a loud noise. After the babies got used to kicking in response to a loud noise, the researchers placed a vibrating probe on the mother's abdomen immediately following the noise. The babies soon learnt to kick when they felt the vibration – they didn't need the loud noise first to stimulate them.

Sadly, there's no evidence you can train your baby to be a professional footballer before they're born using the vibration method, though if you ever have the good fortune to meet David Beckham, maybe set your phone to vibrate and watch what he does.

  • Your baby's heartbeat has now slowed to 140 to 150 beats a minute.
  • She will start to breathe this week, too, though she'll be breathing amniotic fluid rather than air. While it's essential for lung development in the womb, it's all good practise for the big day.
  • As she swallows amniotic fluid, she opens and closes her mouth. At 26 weeks she is the proud owner of half a litre of the stuff and can swallow and spit it out. Her pool of fluid is changed or recirculated every three hours – which you'd want it to be considering she’s basically drinking it and weeing it out again – bleurrgh.

Your bump at 26 weeks

Prepare for expansion, because your pregnant belly is about to grow at a rate of about half an inch a week from here on out. You may have noticed a pattern when it comes to periods of activity in there, too, and are able to anticipate when, or in which position, you're likely to feel a few more jabs and kicks than usual.

REd cabbage

What size is the baby at 26 weeks?

This week, your baby is 35.6cm long and, still curled up, she’s about the size of a red cabbage.

26 weeks pregnant symptoms

A few symptoms you might be heartily sick of this week are:

  • Pregnancy brain
  • Bloating
  • Clumsiness caused by the loosening of your joints
  • Blurred vision
  • Round ligament pain
  • Heartburn

With all the changes going on and so much to think about you might feel as though your head is spinning… Or perhaps it really is…

Dizziness

This is a common pregnancy symptom at this stage because so much of your blood volume (around a quarter) is shunted to your baby and uterus to deliver oxygen and nutrients. Lots of blood is pooling in your large veins, which have relaxed to accommodate the extra blood currently in circulation.

When you stand up, your circulation isn't always ready for you and, until the blood in your pelvis gets a move on and reaches your brain, you might feel light-headed. This is worse in hot weather because the blood pools in your legs even more to keep you cool.

Here are a few ways you can help with dizziness:

  • Get up gradually in order to let your blood flow adjust
  • Take particular care when getting out of the bath and take it slowly. The heat can make you feel woozy and if you feel light-headed in a slippery area, you can do yourself a nasty injury.
  • If you do feel faint, sit with your head between your knees. If your bump makes that an impossible feat, just lie down and lift your legs up above the level of your heart so your blood flow gets a helping hand in redistributing itself
  • Don't worry about your baby, she will be fine, although try to remember to avoid lying flat on your back for long periods as the uterus presses on the large veins in your body (a rare design fault).

How is your body changing at 26 weeks pregnant?

At week 26, your shape is changing quickly as your baby grows and gains weight, and this can have an impact on how you get about.

You're almost guaranteed to get some lower back pain at some point in the middle or towards the end of your pregnancy. This is partly because the big lump you are carrying throws you off balance and your lower back tilts backwards.

26 weeks pregnant

If you have been pregnant before, or even if this is your first time, your abdominal muscles may not be strong enough to compensate for the backwards tilt. Back pain isn't curable in pregnancy, once you've got it tends to only go one way. What you can do is try to avoid making it worse – by developing good posture, not lifting anything without bending your knees and ensuring you get plenty of rest.

When resting you may want to lie down on your side – with a pillow between your knees – to take the pressure off your back. Try these tips to help, too:

  • Don't wear stilettos as they push your pelvis further forward.
  • Try swimming – it relaxes the muscles in the back and is great anyway for making you feel weightless and giving you a gentle workout, which will benefit both you and the baby.
  • If you have to stand for long periods of time, hold your shoulders back and keep your legs apart, but really you’re better off simply not standing still for too long.
  • If you have a toddler to lift, bend your knees and lift and use your muscles in your legs to lift them up.

Things to think about during week 26 of pregnancy

With the third trimester looming, it’s time to start getting organised.

Maternity allowance

If you don’t qualify for maternity pay, you may be eligible to receive maternity allowance instead, and you can claim that from week 26 of pregnancy. You can find out more about what you’re eligible for and how to claim on the government’s website.

Antenatal classes

If you haven’t already, you might want to sign up for antenatal classes, such as NCT, around now. They don’t tend to start until nearer your due date but they tend to get very booked up in some areas so it’s worth putting your name down as soon as possible.

It’s also a nice idea to make contact with others online who are at the same stage of pregnancy as you and might like to chat. Try the Mumsnet antenatal clubs.

What Mumsnetters say

I've download a foetal sleep tracker app which lets you log every time you feel a movement. Over a few days, it starts to show you a pattern. I like it and it's reassuring.

I've found that kneeling on all fours, bum in the air often encourages movement!

I had a midwife appointment yesterday and she was listening to the heartbeat. We could also hear the swooshing sounds of the baby moving and only once in about ten swooshes did I actually feel movement.