Welcome to week 22 of your pregnancy. This is a good week to love your bump. Talk to it. Sing to it. Caress it with moisturiser and you might even feel a little flutter in response. It's all part of bonding with your unborn baby who, as you can probably tell, is getting bigger and bigger by the day…
Many women are excited to see their bump grow – but less happy when they notice that it's covered in red and purple streaks. These are stretch marks, caused by your pregnancy hormones and the rapid stretching of your skin. They might look scary, but they're harmless to you and the baby. There's not a lot that you can do to either prevent them or make them vanish, but you could try gently massaging your bump with a non-perfumed moisturiser. After the birth, the marks will probably fade to silver. If you can see them at all, they'll be your pregnancy badge of honour.
You might also notice that your breasts are becoming a bit leaky. This is their way of prepping for the birth. Use breast pads to stop your clothes getting stained – you might as well stock up, as you'll probably need a stack after the birth.
Piles are, quite literally, a pain in the bottom. Also known as haemorrhoids, they're swellings inside or around your anus and rectum. You could feel itchy and in pain when you poo. You may also see spots of blood or mucus.
Anyone can get piles, but they're more likely to pop up in pregnancy. That's because the pregnancy hormone, progesterone, relaxes the walls of your blood vessels and causes them to swell up. It's double trouble when your baby's weight pushes down on them.
You can help to avoid piles by drinking lots of water and choosing high-fibre foods such as, wholemeal bread, fruit and veg.
If you're in pain then…
Get help to quit smoking
If you're a smoker, you've probably tried to quit already. If it didn't work, have another go. We know it's not easy, but if you give up at any point in your pregnancy, the benefits for you and the baby are enormous. Each cigarette starves your baby of oxygen and increases the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth and cot death. You're at a crucial stage now, as your baby's tiny lungs are developing.
Aches and pains are very common in pregnancy, but sometimes it's hard to know what's serious and what's not. Your best bet is to talk to your midwife or doctor, or call NHS 111. If you're in severe pain, or start bleeding from your vagina, then get immediate help.
This week, your signs of pregnancy could include:
Tommy's, the baby charity, has produced a pregnancy guide with a further list of symptoms.
Your baby, or foetus, is around 27.8cm long from head to toe, and weighs about 430g. That's approximately the size of a papaya and the weight of five tangerines.
The lungs are developing and your little one will be doing some breathing practice in your womb. Your baby is now swallowing small amounts of the amniotic fluid. This will usually stay in the bowels and then come out after the birth as a dark, sticky poo ('meconium').
Your baby's taste buds are developing and could be influenced by what you eat. Don't turn your baby into a junk food junkie – try and eat healthily and tuck into lots of fresh fruit and veg.
This could be a good week to make a fuss of your partner. Partners can get a bit overlooked sometimes – to be fair, they're not lugging a baby around in their belly, but they may be feeling nervous and not sure how they fit into the picture. Could you go on a date night or cook a special meal? Here are some tasty recipes you could try.
This week you could also...
You don't have to tell your employer for several more weeks, but as soon as you do, you will have maternity rights and can attend antenatal appointments during paid work time. You can also ask for a risk assessment of your work place. If you want to wait, then the latest you can leave it is 15 weeks before the baby is due, which is around week 25. It will probably be rather obvious by then anyway!
It's a good time to tone up those muscles 'down under'. Gentle exercises can help to prevent leakage when you laugh, sneeze, cough or jump around on your future baby's trampoline. Get the muscles going by pretending that you're having a wee and then stopping the 'urine' midflow. Visit Tommy's for more ideas
Ask your midwife or doctor about antenatal classes in your area, as they get booked up very quickly. You could also contact your local branch of the National Childbirth Trust. Why not ask your partner to go with you? Even if you've had children before, and been there, done that, they're still worth going to, as you can meet other parents-to-be. Also, don't expect this pregnancy to be just like your others – your baby could have other ideas.
Get moving! It's recommended that pregnant women do 150 minutes of exercise throughout the week. Perhaps take a brisk walk in the park, or go for a swim. If you start any classes, make sure the instructor knows that you're pregnant. Don't overdo it though – listen to your body.
Have a fit pregnancy and sign up for a free personal activity plan.
Don't eat for two! Eat for you. You don't need any extra calories until the third trimester, which starts in week 28. Try and eat healthily, with plenty of fresh fruit and veg, and avoid processed, fatty and salty foods. You may be able to get free milk, fruit and veg through the Healthy Start scheme.
Relax in a lovely warm bath (not hot, you don't want to overheat). Take the time to focus on the fluttering in your belly. Get to know your baby's movements. Do you think that's a kick or a punch or a hiccup? Enjoy every wriggle!
Tip: Choose non-scented bath products to help avoid thrush.