As their muscles develop, the grip of their fingers is growing stronger, and they may hold on to the umbilical cord.
This feature is part of a series of articles on pregnancy. Find out what you are likely to be experiencing at this time, what is happening to your baby, and which screening tests you can expect.
In this article, we also offer some tips for traveling while pregnant.
Take a look at the other articles in the series:
Braxton Hicks contractions can start from week 16.
Your bump will likely be showing now, and you may also be experiencing:
- heartburn and indigestion
- increased hunger
- constipation and hemorrhoids
- increased vaginal discharge
- faintness and dizziness
- leg cramps
- back pain
- stretch marks starting to appear
- protruding navel
- Braxton Hicks contractions
Braxton Hicks contractions
Braxton Hicks are a type of contraction that may start around now, or as early as 16 weeks. The muscles of the womb tighten, and you can feel your bump become harder. They may happen once or twice in an hour, a few times a day, or you might not feel them at all.
These are not labor pains.
They are different from labor pains in that:
- They are not regular or frequent, and they do not increase in frequency.
- They last less than a minute and do not increase in duration or intensity.
- They may stop if you change activity, for example, if you lay down and rest.
- They are not increasing in pain level.
If you are unsure whether you are having labor pains or Braxton Hicks contractions, call your doctor. It is always better to be on the safe side and make sure.
Throughout pregnancy, there will be variations in certain hormones, and these bring about changes in your body.
Effect on sex drive
The fluctuations in hormones can mean a higher sex drive for some women, from the end of the first and into the second trimester.
Reasons for this include the following:
- the breasts are more sensitive
- there is increased blood flow to the genital area and the clitoris
- vaginal lubrication is better
These changes makes arousal easier and sex more enjoyable.
A higher libido often occurs from late in trimester one to the end of trimester two. The sickness of the early weeks has gone away, and the discomfort of the last trimester has not yet begun.
Speaking to your partner about how you feel may ease tensions that can arise from a low sex drive.
Your health provider can clarify the risk of infection or early delivery, but generally, if your pregnancy is uncomplicated, having sex does not put your baby at risk.
Many changes are taking place around now. Your baby is around the size of a small doll or a spaghetti squash and looks more like a newborn, but smaller. They will be moving around more, and their movements will be stronger.
They now measure almost 10 inches or 25 centimeters (cm) in length and weigh around 14 ounces, or 0.4 kilograms (kg).
Other developments that are taking place include the following:
- The first bowel movement occurs in the intestinal tract, known as meconium.
- Muscles are developing, leading to increased activity.
- The baby's heartbeat is audible with a stethoscope.
- Nails grow to the end of the fingers.
- Eyebrows and lashes are appearing.
- The eyes are fully formed, but the irises still lack color.
- The lips are forming.
- The pancreas is formed and continues to mature.
- A type of hair, known as lanugo, now covers the body.
Lanugo is a fine, soft hair that covers the baby's body. It starts to appear on the head around week 14 to 16, it grows to cover the body, and it normally disappears in weeks 31 to 34, before delivery.
It is not clear why this happens, but it may help keep the baby at the correct temperature.
Babies that are born preterm may still have their lanugo. Some babies keep some or quite a lot of it for a week or two after they are born, or longer if they were born preterm.
Things to do
By this time, you should have already completed or be completing genetic testing.
Fetal fibronectin (fFN)test
If your doctor is concerned that you are at risk of preterm labor, you may have a test to check for a protein, fetal fibronectin (fFN), which is present in the membranes surrounding the baby. If the protein is absent, the risk of delivering in the next 2 weeks is low.
Check any requirements and travel advice before taking a trip while pregnant.
The second trimester is usually the most comfortable time during pregnancy.
If you are planning a trip before your baby is born, now could be the time to do it.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommend planning any travel between weeks 14 and 28 of pregnancy.
Here are some important points to consider before you book your trip.
How late can I travel?
You can travel by air up to 36 weeks, as long as you and your baby are healthy. If you have preeclampsia or a risk of ruptured membrane or preterm delivery, you should not travel.
Some airlines may require a doctor's certificate after a certain stage of pregnancy.
This may be one month before delivery for domestic flights, or from 28 weeks for some international flights.
Where can I go?
You should try to avoid traveling to locations where you may be exposed to an infection that is risky during pregnancy and which you have not yet been vaccinated against. Current advice includes not traveling to places where the zika virus is present.
Take care to ensure that all your food is well cooked. In some places, you should drink only bottled water. Ask your health provider before you travel what you can take if you have diarrhea while away.
Check the climate of the place you are visiting and make sure you can cope with any extreme temperatures before you book your trip.
What should I take?
Take supplies of any necessary vitamins, over-the-counter, and prescribed medications you may be taking. Check that your vaccinations are up-to-date, and if you cannot be vaccinated against a disease, such as rubella, during pregnancy, avoid traveling to places where this disease is present.
What medical information do I need?
You should check with your health provider before undergoing a trip and schedule a visit before you leave.
Keep with you a record of your due date, your doctor's contact details, and any important notes about your pregnancy, just in case. You may need a doctor's certificate for flying after 28 weeks.
What ticket and insurance should I have?
Make sure you have travel insurance and that it covers you for pregnancy. Choose a refundable or alterable ticket in case you need to change your travel plans before or during the trip.
How can I travel in comfort and safety?
Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing. Choose the fastest route.
To reduce the risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT):
- opt for a seat with extra legroom
- get up and move around every couple of hours during the journey
- drink plenty of fluids
- wear compression stockings
Compression stockings can be purchased online.
There are different grades, so check first with your health provider to find out which grade they recommend.
Can I wear a safety belt?
Whatever your means of transport, always keep your safety belt fastened, if there is one.
If you are traveling by car, buckle the seat belt below your belly and pass the diagonal belt between your breasts and down the side of your belly.
When traveling by air, keep your seat belt fastened.
Can I go on a cruise?
When planning a cruise:
- Make sure there will be a doctor or nurse on the ship.
- Ask your doctor for advice if you are likely to be seasick, or else plan another type of trip.
- Follow strict handwashing and hygiene when on board to reduce the risk of getting a norovirus. You can check here to see if your ship has been inspected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
- Opt for a cruise that stops in places with appropriate medical facilities.
- Avoid locations that are not recommended during pregnancy, based on advice from the CDC.
When should I see a doctor while I am away?
If you experience any of the symptoms that would cause concern at home while you are away, see a doctor.
- vaginal bleeding
- unusual pain or contractions
- severe diarrhea or vomiting
- high blood pressure, swelling of hands or feet, headache, and changes in eyesight, which could indicate preeclampsia
- signs that labor is starting, for example, the waters breaking
Pregnancy increases the risk of a urinary tract infection. If you think you may have symptoms of an infection, speak with a health care provider.
If you are concerned at any time about your pregnancy, be sure to contact your health care provider.
Research news on pregnancy from MNT
Excessive weight gain before or during pregnancy is a known risk factor for gestational diabetes and high blood pressure. However, research suggests that women who are of a healthy weight during their first pregnancy, but who gain even a moderate amount of weight between their first and second pregnancies, have increased risks of their baby dying during its first year of life.