Your baby at 21 weeks is the size of a carrot. Previously, your baby was measured from the top of their head to their buttock (crown to rump). However, this week they’ve uncurled their leg enough to be measured from head to heel (crown to heel). They are about 27cm and weigh approximately 398g.
You’re officially in the second half of your pregnancy – 21 weeks down, 19 weeks to go!
Your baby at 21 weeks
Your baby is now roughly half the size it will be at birth. They are continuing to grow and prepare for life outside of the womb. Here are the key developments your 21-week fetus is going through.
Babies at 21 weeks have legs and arms in proportion to the rest of their body. The neurons between their brain and muscles are also now connected. This is why you will start to feel more movement.
In the weeks to come, what started off as occasional kicks and thumps will eventually lead to what feels like a full-out dance party in your belly.
Your baby’s eyelids are now beginning to separate. Although they are already able to “see” light, their eyelids have been sealed since around week 11. At the end of your second trimester, around week 26, your baby’s eyes will be able to open and close.
The fetus at 21 weeks is starting to develop a sleep cycle. You may not believe it with all the kicking going on, but they are getting about as many hours of sleep as a newborn baby.
Your body at 21 weeks pregnant
Most pregnant people consider the second trimester to be the most comfortable. You’re not yet feeling the full physical demands of a growing baby on your body, and hopefully, your morning sickness has subsided.
Although pregnancy at 21 weeks is different for everyone, here are some of the most common symptoms.
- Varicose veins. Another not-so-lovely pregnancy side effect is swollen blood vessels, called varicose veins. These can result from your body’s increased levels of progesterone during pregnancy. The pressure of the uterus on the inferior vena cava (the large vein that transfers blood from the lower half of your body to your heart) can also cause varicose veins to appear.
These are different from spider veins in that they make a slight purple lump just above the skin. They’re mostly harmless and should go away after giving birth.
- Baby body. At week 21 of pregnancy, you may have gained between 5 and 6 kg. You are probably also starting to notice a more pronounced baby bump.
Now is the perfect time to embrace your extra weight gain and recognise all the important purposes it’s serving. Not only are you keeping your baby alive, but you’re also ensuring they grow strong and healthy.
- Stretch marks. As your baby grows and you put on weight, you may start to notice stretch marks appearing on your body. They can pop up on your stomach, breasts, butt, hips, and thighs. There aren’t any proven ways to prevent getting them; experts believe it’s mostly down to genetics.
If your mom had stretch marks during pregnancy, you’re a likely candidate. Gaining weight too fast can also spur on stretch marks – another reason why being conscious about your health and nutrition during pregnancy is so important.
- Heartburn. It’s totally normal to experience heartburn, also called indigestion or acid reflux, during pregnancy. The valve between your stomach and esophagus becomes relaxed due to pregnancy hormones. This can cause some of your stomach acid to transfer to your esophagus.
Certain foods are known to trigger heartburn, such as citrus, caffeine, spicy foods, and greasy foods.
- Headaches. Mild headaches during pregnancy are common. They are most often caused by dehydration, stress, or hormones. Changes in your vision can also cause headaches, like switching between glasses or contact lenses throughout the day.
Taking care of yourself during week 21 of pregnancy
Focusing on your wellbeing benefits both you and your baby. Here are some tips and helpful reminders on how to best take care of yourself during pregnancy week 21.
- Pay attention to your iron levels. A common vitamin deficiency experienced by women during pregnancy is low levels of iron. Make sure you’re including plenty of iron-rich foods into your diet, like beans, lentils, spinach, dried apricots, iron-fortified cereals, and red meat. Or, take a supplement.
Pairing these foods with vitamin C also allows your body to better absorb iron. Caffeinated drinks, like coffee and tea, can inhibit the absorption of iron.
- Practice low-impact exercises. During pregnancy, you become more susceptible to injury. Factors such as weight gain, a heavier front load, and a changing body shape make you less stable. Also, the hormone relaxin causes your ligaments to loosen.
As your bump continues to grow, low-impact exercises, such as pregnancy-safe yoga, swimming, and walking are great options for keeping fit and healthy.
- Rest your feet. Spending too much time on your feet can cause pregnancy symptoms such as backaches, varicose veins, and swollen feet and legs to worsen. Try and avoid standing for long periods of time, especially if you’re wearing uncomfortable clothing or shoes.
- Nourish your body. Feeling good comes from within. A balanced diet can ward off unpleasant pregnancy symptoms and is linked to good brain development in babies. Remember that food is medicine and making the right choices now will only benefit you and your baby in the long run.
- Make time for socialising. Having a support system during pregnancy can do wonders for your wellbeing. Simple, regular interactions, like facetime calls with family members or date nights with your partner, can help promote emotional health.