pregnancy fetus at 20 weeks

Your baby at 20 weeks is the size of a bell pepper. They weigh roughly 280g and measure about 16.5cm from their head to their buttocks (referred to as crown to rump). If your baby were measured from their head to their heel (crown to heel), they would be approximately 24.3cm. 

This is an exciting time. At 20 weeks pregnant you are now into your 5th month and halfway through your pregnancy. 

Your baby at 20 weeks 

pregnancy ultrasound
Image from Christin Noelle on Unsplash

The 20-week fetus starts to look more baby-like as some of their facial features begin to take shape. They still have a lot of growing to do, but they are becoming more and more active – which you’ll start to feel. 

Here are the key features of baby development at 20 weeks. 

Anatomy scan

The anatomy scan, also referred to as the mid-pregnancy scan, is usually scheduled between week 18 and 22 of pregnancy. This is when your second ultrasound will be conducted. The scan checks to make sure everything is on track with your baby’s growth and development. 

The sonographer (ultrasound technician) will look in detail at your baby’s bones, brain, face, heart, spinal cord, abdomen, and kidneys. 

Boy or girl? 

If you want to find out the sex of your baby, the ultrasound at your anatomy scan should also be able to clearly show your little one’s external genitals. 

If you’re having a girl, their uterus is now fully formed and they have millions of primitive eggs in their tiny ovaries. 20 weeks is when the number of eggs they carry is at its peak, at around seven million. This number will continue to decrease throughout their lifespan. 

If you’re carrying a boy, their testicles will start their descent soon. They are still in their abdomen waiting for the third trimester when the scrotum is finished growing. 

Taste 

By week 20, many of your baby’s taste buds are fully formed. They are able to consume molecules of the food you eat and can transmit taste signals to their brain. They may begin to recognize the strong flavors that you consume, like curry and garlic. 

Some research suggests that the food you eat during pregnancy can influence your baby’s food preference later on. 

Your body at 20 weeks pregnant 

At 5 months pregnant, you may start to notice a definite baby bump. Don’t worry if you think it’s too big or too small – every bump is different. And remember, factors like your size and shape and whether or not it’s your first pregnancy can determine how your belly grows. 

Here are some common things you might experience during pregnancy at 20 weeks. 

  • Movement from the baby. If you haven’t already felt your baby’s first movements, the 20th week of pregnancy is around the time most women meet this milestone. This often feels like small flutters, gas bubbles, or a light tap or kick. 
  • Itchy skin. You may notice areas like your belly and breasts start to become itchy. This is caused by your increased blood supply during pregnancy. Further along in your pregnancy, you may notice it more as your skin stretches to accommodate your growing baby bump. 
  • Heartburn. As your baby continues to grow it places more pressure on your digestive system. This, as well as hormonal changes, can cause heartburn during pregnancy. Certain foods, like spicy and acidic foods, can make this worse. 
  • Belly button changes. As your bump expands, so will your abdomen. You may notice your belly button starting to widen. Further along in your pregnancy, an innie belly button can flatter, or even become an outie. This won’t happen to everyone, and the change is just temporary. 
  • Edema. This is the swelling of your feet and ankles caused by water retention. It’s totally normal but tends to get worse towards the end of your pregnancy. To prevent excess swelling, try not to stand for long periods of time, avoid uncomfortable shoes and tight pants, and rest with your legs slightly elevated. 
  • Leg cramps. These uncomfortable spontaneous muscle contractions can affect your calves, feet, or both. They are most common at night and can even wake you from a deep sleep. 

The exact cause of leg cramps isn’t entirely clear, however, there are certain steps you can take to help prevent them. These include drinking plenty of water, staying active, and stretching your calf muscles before bed. 

Taking care of yourself during pregnancy week 20

pregnancy nutrition
Image from Brooke Lark on Unsplash

Focusing on your wellbeing is important during all stages of pregnancy. Here are some tips for taking care of yourself during week 20. 

  • Sleep on your sides. Week 20 of pregnancy is when health experts recommend you no longer continue to sleep on your back. This position places the entire weight of your uterus and baby on the vena cava, a major blood vessel that carries blood from your lower body to your heart. The disrupted blood flow can cause shortness of breath, dizziness, and nausea. 
  • Purchase a pregnancy pillow. If you haven’t already purchased a pregnancy pillow, now is a great time to do so. This will make sleeping on your sides more comfortable and give your growing belly support. Also, having a soft cushion between your legs will help to keep your spine aligned which in turn improves blood circulation. 
  • Plan a trip. Your 20th week of pregnancy puts you well into your second trimester. Hopefully, your morning sickness symptoms have subsided and your energy levels have increased. This is a great time to plan a babymoon. 
  • Focus on nutrition. Hopefully, by the 20-week mark, food aversions and nausea caused by morning sickness are a thing of the past. Although it’s ok to indulge a little here and there, eating well-balanced, nutritious meals is very beneficial for both mom and baby. Incorporating healthy food hacks into your daily route can also help ward off certain pregnancy symptoms. 
  • Exercise. Staying active during pregnancy comes with a whole host of benefits. It can reduce stress, increase your energy levels, and help you maintain a healthy pregnancy weight – just to name a few. 

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