What to Expect When You Are 18 Weeks Pregnant

If you’re 18 weeks pregnant, you’ve reached an exciting milestone! Your pregnancy is nearly halfway over as you approach the midpoint of your second trimester.

At 18 weeks, your baby is developing rapidly. Let’s look at what’s going on with your baby, common pregnancy symptoms you may experience, tips for safe and healthy pregnancy, and what to expect at your 18-week prenatal checkup.

Key Takeaways at 18 Weeks Pregnant

  • Your baby is around 5.5 inches long and 5 ounces in weight. They can hear sounds and their organs are developing.
  • Common symptoms include back pain, trouble sleeping, dizziness, leg cramps, and heartburn.
  • Stay hydrated, eat nutritious foods, exercise moderately, and get plenty of rest.
  • Learn the signs of preterm labor and call your doctor right away if you experience any.
  • At your 18-week appointment, your doctor will check your weight and blood pressure, measure your belly, and listen to the baby’s heartbeat.
  • You may be able to find out the sex at this ultrasound if you want to know.

Your Baby’s Development at 18 Weeks

At 18 weeks, your baby is about the size of a bell pepper, measuring around 5 1⁄2 inches long from head to rump and weighing approximately 5 ounces.

Here are some of the major developmental milestones your baby is reaching at 18 weeks:

  • Hearing: Their ears are fully formed now. They can hear noises like your heartbeat, breathing, and stomach rumbling. Your baby may startle or jump when they hear a loud sound.
  • Sensory development: Touch receptors are developing on your baby’s skin. If you gently poke your belly, they may squirm or wriggle in response!
  • Organs: Your baby’s organs are maturing and starting to function. Their kidneys are producing urine. The blood vessels, bones, and muscles are continuing to develop.
  • Swallowing: Your baby is gulping down several ounces of amniotic fluid each day and their digestive system is practicing contraction movements.
  • Sleep patterns: Your baby is starting to develop sleep cycles, with periods of sleep and wake time. You may notice them kicking more at certain times of day.
  • Lanugo hair: Fine, downy hair called lanugo is covering your baby’s entire body for warmth. It will mostly shed off before birth.
  • Sex organs: Your baby’s genitals are more clearly formed. At your ultrasound, you may be able to find out if you’re having a boy or girl!

Your Baby’s Size and Appearance

At 18 weeks pregnant, your baby is starting to look more like a newborn. Though still small at just 5 1⁄2 inches long, their body is filling out and they have proportional arms and legs.

Your baby’s facial features continue developing. Their ears are in their final position and their eyes can blink and perceive light. Fat deposits are forming underneath their thin translucent skin.

Your baby’s umbilical cord is growing thicker and stronger as it delivers oxygen and nutrients. The whorls on the tips of their fingers are forming their unique fingerprint.

If you attend an ultrasound, you may be able to see your baby sucking their thumb, yawning, kicking, or rolling over inside your womb. Make sure to get copies of the ultrasound photos to cherish!

Common Pregnancy Symptoms at 18 Weeks

Along with the exciting growth of your baby, you may experience some uncomfortable symptoms as your body adapts to pregnancy. Here are some common symptoms during your 18th week:

  • Back pain: As your belly grows, you may feel aches in your lower back from shifting posture and weight. Try stretches, massage, or heating pads for relief.
  • Trouble sleeping: Discomfort plus increased bathroom trips can disrupt your sleep. Take naps, sleep propped up with pillows, and practice good sleep habits.
  • Dizziness: Your blood vessels are dilating and blood pressure may drop, potentially causing lightheadedness or dizziness if you change positions too quickly. Carefully get up from sitting or lying down. Stay hydrated and be cautious when standing for long periods.
  • Leg cramps: Muscle cramps may strike, especially at night. Stretch your calves before bed, massage cramped muscles, or take magnesium supplements if approved by your doctor.
  • Heartburn: Hormonal changes slow digestion, leading to acid reflux and burning discomfort. Avoid trigger foods, eat smaller meals, don’t lie down after eating, and ask your doctor about antacids.
  • Shortness of breath: Your growing uterus presses on your lungs. Take rests between activities, use proper posture, and practice deep breathing exercises.
  • Bleeding gums: Swollen or bleeding gums are common due to hormonal fluctuations. Brush and floss gently twice a day and see your dentist.
  • Constipation: Progesterone relaxes muscles and slows digestion, frequently leading to constipation. Drink lots of water, eat high fiber foods, and stay active.
  • Food aversions/cravings: Your appetite and tastes may change significantly at this stage due to pregnancy hormones. Give in to harmless cravings in moderation and find alternatives if foods trigger aversion.

Always check with your doctor if symptoms persist or you have any concerns. But take comfort that most issues are temporary effects of pregnancy and will improve over time.

Healthy Lifestyle Tips for 18 Weeks Pregnant

Focusing on healthy lifestyle habits can help relieve pregnancy symptoms, avoid complications, and support your baby’s development during your 18th week and beyond:

  • Stay hydrated: Drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water daily. Signs of dehydration include dark urine, dry mouth, headache, and dizziness.
  • Eat nutritious foods: Focus on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, lentils, eggs, fish, lean meats, and dairy. Take your prenatal vitamin to get important nutrients like folic acid.
  • Exercise: Get at least 30 minutes per day of moderate activity like brisk walking. This prepares your body for labor, eases aches and pains, boosts mood, and controls weight gain. Check with your doctor before starting any new exercise routine.
  • Get plenty of rest: Growing a baby is hard work! Nap during the day if needed and aim for 8-9 hours of sleep per night. Try sleeping on your left side, which improves blood flow.
  • Manage stress: Make time to relax and do activities you enjoy. Try prenatal yoga, meditation, or massages. Talk with supportive loved ones about your worries and feelings.
  • Limit caffeine: Caffeine crosses the placenta and can affect your baby’s heart rate and sleep pattern. Limit to 200 mg per day or less.
  • Avoid harmful substances: Do not smoke, vape, drink alcohol, or use any recreational or unprescribed drugs, which can harm your baby’s development.

Remember to listen to your body. Slow down when you feel tired and don’t push yourself too hard. Take it easy and be kind to yourself!

Warning Signs to Watch For at 18 Weeks

While most pregnancies proceed smoothly, it’s important to know potential warning signs. Call your doctor right away if you experience:

  • Bleeding: Any vaginal bleeding, with or without abdominal cramping, could indicate problems like placental abruption. Bleeding is always a reason for concern.
  • Decreased fetal movement: Slowed or absent baby movement after you’ve felt regular, consistent motion could signal problems.
  • Contractions: More than 4-6 contractions/hour, particularly if they don’t fade with rest and hydration, may be preterm labor.
  • Severe abdominal pain: Stomach pain that comes and goes could be premature contractions or other issues.
  • Rupture of membranes: If you think your water has broken, fluid continues to leak, and it’s green, brown, or has a foul odor, see your doctor.
  • Fever or chills: A temperature over 100.4°F could indicate infection and needs to be examined, especially with flu-like symptoms.
  • Swelling: Sudden swelling of hands, feet or face along with headache and vision changes can be a sign of preeclampsia.
  • Vaginal discharge/itching: Yellow, green, or foul-smelling discharge or vaginal itching or pain may signal infection and require treatment.

Contact your doctor right away if anything feels off or you have any concerns. It’s always better to be safe and get checked out.

What to Expect at Your 18-Week Prenatal Appointment

Around 18 weeks, you’ll have another routine prenatal checkup. Here’s what you can expect:

  • Weight and blood pressure: Your doctor will check your weight and blood pressure to ensure you’re gaining weight at a healthy rate and don’t show signs of preeclampsia.
  • Urine test: A urine sample is tested for protein, glucose, and other factors to screen for preeclampsia, gestational diabetes or infections.
  • Measuring your belly: The fundal height, or distance from your pubic bone to the top of your uterus, is measured with a tape measure and should roughly match the number of weeks pregnant you are.
  • Baby’s heart rate: Doppler device or fetoscope on your belly lets you hear your baby’s heartbeat. A normal heart rate is 120-160 bpm.
  • Ask questions: Discuss any pregnancy symptoms or concerns with your provider. Bring up genetic screening options if desired.
  • Ultrasound: You may get another ultrasound around 18-20 weeks, where you can see your baby in detail and potentially find out their sex.

Be sure to notify your doctor of any worrying symptoms you’ve had. This appointment helps ensure both you and your baby are thriving at the halfway point!

Tips for Bonding with Your Baby at 18 Weeks

Here are some fun ways to connect with your growing baby at 18 weeks:

  • Talk, read, or sing to your bump – your baby can hear you now!
  • Play music and see if your baby reacts with kicks.
  • Rub your belly with lotion after showering for soothing skin-to-skin contact.
  • Take weekly bump photos to document the pregnancy journey.
  • Spend time visualizing meeting your baby for the first time.
  • Have your partner chat with or gently rub your belly so the baby knows their voice.
  • Start a journal or write letters to your baby about your thoughts, dreams, and experience being pregnant.

Nurturing this early bond helps prepare you for the amazing job of parenting that lies ahead!

18 Weeks Pregnant FAQs

Can I travel when 18 weeks pregnant?

Most routine travel is fine until late in the third trimester when flying is restricted. For car trips, make frequent stops and walk around to prevent blood clots. Drink lots of water and avoid foods that cause gas or bloating. Consider bringing pillows for support and comfort. Always check with your doctor before traveling.

What if I’m not feeling the baby move at 18 weeks?

It’s common not to feel movement consistently yet, especially in a first pregnancy when you don’t know what to expect. Before 28 weeks, kicks can be very light. Pay attention to patterns of active and quiet times. Call your doctor if you ever notice a major slowdown in movement after initially feeling regular motion.

Should I announce my pregnancy publicly at 18 weeks?

The risk of miscarriage drops considerably after the first trimester. Announcing anytime between 12-20 weeks is common once genetic screening results are back, you’ve shared the news with close family/friends, and you are ready to make it public. Do what feels comfortable for you!

How much weight should I gain by 18 weeks?

It varies, but average weight gain by 18 weeks is around 5-10 pounds. You should gain 25-35 pounds total if you started pregnancy at a normal BMI. Focus on eating healthy rather than rigidly tracking pounds. Discuss your weight gain pattern with your doctor.

The Takeaway

Congratulations on reaching 18 exciting weeks pregnant! Your baby is developing new abilities weekly and your body is doing the incredible work of nurturing new life. Continue prioritizing your health, getting good prenatal care, and bonding with your little one. The halfway point is here and you’ve got this!