Week 18: Quickening

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This is your Pea in the Podcast for week 18 of your pregnancy. I'm Bonnie Petrie joined by Dr. Laurie Swaim, an obstetrician with Houston Women's Care Associates in Houston, Texas.

This week you might feel a flutter or something that feels like a muscle twinge; but it's not, it's your baby, "The term used to describe the first feeling of movement is called 'quickening' and that used to be used also for dating because once again the earliest possible time someone would feel quickening would be somewhere around 16 or 18 weeks. And it is still used, like I said, sometimes people don't show up for prenatal care until they're 24, 25 weeks and we say 'hey when did you first feel the baby move?' can give you some idea. You might say 'why don't you just use ultrasound?' Well you can use ultrasound to corroborate but a third trimester ultrasound is only accurate within a few weeks." You can finally feel your little bean who's been dancing for weeks now because he or she is finally big enough and strong enough to make their presence known and their bones are hardening too making their little taps more insistent. Now if you don't feel anything yet, do not worry, your body weight, the baby's position, the location of the placenta will all influence when you feel the baby. You probably will feel something over the next month or so though so be patient. If this is your second baby you may have already felt that hello tap from your passenger.

So what does that person kicking you look like now? Dr. Swaim says it looks a lot like a tiny little person, "All its organs are there, they're all in the place that they're supposed to be and it's just getting bigger and the organs are getting more mature but they're not even really that small, they're 12 or 13 centimeters long and they look like babies. You know, their skin is transparent, their heads are a little bit of a funny shape, they have lanugo, that's right, they have that little hair." Now lanugo is that fine, soft hair that covers your baby's entire body. Your baby will also soon be coated with a substance called vernix. "When the nurses call the vernix, they call it cold cream." It's a greasy, white substance that will coat the baby until it is born. "The vernix is around forever. Lanugo is too but it gets thinner and thinner as the baby gets older. All of that is to protect the baby's developing skin while it's floating in water." Lanugo also helps regulate your baby's body temperature now while it has very little body fat. Underneath that hair and cold cream, your baby has two distinct layers of skin: the epidermis and the dermis this week. Your baby is also swallowing and taste buds are forming on their tongue that will allow them to differentiate between bitter and sweet in your amniotic fluid. If your baby's a boy his prostate is beginning to develop this week and your little girl will have developed a uterus and vaginal canal by the end of this week.

We haven't really talked much about your newest organ, yes the placenta, it's technically an organ and it has a lot to do, "It's responsible for gas exchange, brings the baby oxygen, takes away the carbon dioxide and for nutrients, glucose, etc. The baby's kidneys don't function well, our kidneys filter our blood and take out byproducts of things that we digest and metabolize and the baby's kidneys don't work well so the placenta does it for the baby. So the placenta is one big filter." But it's not a foolproof filter, you'll hear about things crossing the placenta meaning, for whatever reason, a substance doesn't get filtered out and reaches your baby. That's why pregnant women are advised to steer clear of things like alcohol, drugs and cigarette smoke. Communication with your doctor or midwife will help you steer clear of anything that might be dangerous to your little one in that way. Now some time at around 18 weeks your placenta can cause you some worry, you may find it covers your cervix, your baby's exit from the womb. "It's not uncommon on an ultrasound, women will be told that the placenta is low lying or even a placenta previa and they get kind of wigged out about it but the fact is that the vast majority of these will not be an issue or a problem as the pregnancy progresses. The placenta does not pick up and move but what we think happens is the lower segment of the uterus develops thus making it look like the placenta moved up. So if you have a placenta previa, especially if it's partial in the second trimester, don't worry about it. You have like an 85% or 90% chance it will be gone by term. But if your placenta remains over your cervix when it's time for your baby to come, you will likely have a C-section, this is because there might be severe bleeding if the baby were to pass through the placenta on delivery. Now a woman with placenta previa might also experience some bleeding throughout her pregnancy. Dr. Swaim says whenever you experience bleeding, call your doctor.

So what else is going on with you? Well of course you might be feeling the baby this week and if it feels like something that's like a series of jumps or jerky movements well you may be feeling your baby's hiccups. You may be feeling a little short of breath yourself as your upward migrating uterus pushes on your diaphragm, also right now your heart is working 40% to 50% harder to pump the additional blood you have during pregnancy and all that extra blood volume means lower blood pressure for you so if you get up too quickly you may feel a little dizzy. So don't get up too quickly. But that light headedness, it's normal. So this is a big week, from here on out your baby will be communicating with you through kicks and flips that you'll feel more strongly until you can feel them from the outside and then your partner can feel them and anybody else too. And then you'll finally be able to see them as time goes on. This is exciting stuff in week 18 and it just keeps getting better. You have just 22 weeks until week 40.

That's your Pea in the Podcast for week 18 of your pregnancy. Dr. Swaim and I look forward to talking to you again next week. Enjoy this week and for a transcript of any of our Pea and the Podcasts go to our website peainthepodcast.com. For Pea in the Podcast, I'm Bonnie Petrie, thanks for listening.