26 weeks pregnant
It’s the penultimate week of the second trimester. You’re almost at the final furlong.
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.
- 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 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 just watch what he does.
- Your baby's heartbeat has now slowed to 140 to 150 beats a minute.
- 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!
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.
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 bound 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.
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.
Pregnancy symptoms in week 26
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…
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).
Things to think about during week 26 of pregnancy
With the third trimester looming, it’s time to start getting organised.
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.
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.