You’ve reached the halfway point of your pregnancy journey! At 21 weeks, your baby is starting to develop more complex senses and skills. Read on to find out what changes are happening with your baby, your body, and what you should plan for this week.
Key Takeaways at 21 Weeks Pregnant:
- Baby is developing taste buds and can swallow amniotic fluid
- You may start to feel the baby move more
- Your uterus is about the size of a soccer ball
- Back pain, leg cramps, and other aches and pains are common
- You’ll likely have another ultrasound around 20-22 weeks
- Discuss your birth plan and options with your provider
- Plan to take childbirth and breastfeeding classes
- Experiencing symptoms like stretch marks, varicose veins, and round ligament pain are normal
Your Baby at 21 Weeks
Your baby has reached the size of a large banana at 21 weeks! They are over 10 inches long from head to toe and weigh around 12 ounces.
Here’s what’s happening with your baby this week:
- Developing taste buds: Your baby’s taste buds are forming on their tongue this week. They will soon be able to detect simple tastes like sweet, sour, bitter, and salty from the amniotic fluid they swallow.
- Fingernails and toenails: Your baby’s fingernails and toenails are growing in. Their skin is also becoming less transparent and wrinkly as they gain more fat underneath.
- Improved senses: As your baby’s nervous system matures, their senses are becoming more heightened. Their hearing continues to improve and they may even respond to loud noises or your voice.
- Swallowing amniotic fluid: Your baby is gulping down several ounces of amniotic fluid per day as practice for eating and digesting breastmilk or formula after birth. The fluid also helps their digestive system develop.
- Stronger movements: You’ll notice your baby’s movements are getting much stronger now. You may feel them twist, stretch, or even get the hiccups. Their limbs are more developed so their kicks and jabs will become more prominent.
- Sleep cycles: Your baby is starting to develop sleep cycles where they alternate between rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and quiet sleep stages. Their sleep schedule at this point is irregular though.
- Responding to stimuli: Your baby’s senses are quickly developing. They may now react to sounds, light, and touch. If you gently poke your belly, your baby may wiggle in response!
Changes to Your Body at 21 Weeks
Along with your growing baby bump, you may experience various physical changes and symptoms at 21 weeks:
- Bigger belly: Your uterus is now about the size of a soccer ball. As it expands upwards, you’ll really pop out. Strangers will likely be able to easily tell you are expecting now.
- Stretch marks: Many women get stretch marks on their belly, breasts, hips, and thighs during pregnancy. Using lotions and staying hydrated can minimize them.
- Darkening areolas: The area around your nipples may appear darker and broader. This helps provide a visual target for your newborn to latch on after birth.
- Varicose veins: Increased blood flow and pressure from your uterus can cause varicose veins to appear, usually on your legs.Elevating your legs often helps.
- Round ligament pain: As your uterus grows, it can put pressure on the large ligaments supporting it. This can cause periodic sharp, stabbing pains in your lower abdomen.
- Increased vaginal discharge: You may notice more clear, white, or pale yellow vaginal discharge called leukorrhea. It’s caused by increased estrogen and helps prevent infection.
- Gum sensitivity: Hormonal changes can increase inflammation and sensitivity in your gums. Gentle brushing and flossing daily helps keep your gums healthy.
- Nasal congestion: Increased estrogen and blood flow can stuff up your nose during pregnancy. Keeping hydrated and using a humidifier can provide relief.
- Backaches: The weight of your growing belly shifts your center of gravity, strains your back, and causes aches and pains. Anatomic pillows and heating pads can help.
- **Leg cramps:**Your expanding uterus presses on the veins returning blood from your legs causing leg cramps, especially at night. Stretching before bed helps.
Your Checkup at 21 Weeks
- Fundal height: Your provider will measure from your pubic bone to the top of your uterus to check your baby’s growth. About 21 cm is average at this stage.
- Baby’s heart rate: Your provider will check your baby’s heart rate with a fetal Doppler. The average heart rate is 110 to 160 beats per minute.
- Ultrasound: Most providers will recommend an anatomy scan ultrasound around 18-22 weeks. This checks baby’s growth and development of organs and limbs.
- Glucose screening: Your provider may recommend a glucose screening test between 24-28 weeks to check for gestational diabetes.
- Rh factor: If you are Rh negative blood type, you’ll get a RhoGAM shot at week 28 and again within 72 hours of delivery to prevent complications.
- Birth plan: Discuss your preferences for labor, delivery, pain relief, and postpartum care with your provider to create a birth plan.
- Preterm labor risks: Your provider will discuss any risk factors you may have for preterm labor and ways to monitor and prevent early delivery.
- Next visit: Your next prenatal visit will likely be in 2-3 weeks. Request to have your glucose screening scheduled.
Lifestyle Changes and Planning at 21 Weeks
Here are some things to focus on in your 21st week of pregnancy:
- Take birthing classes: Look into taking childbirth education classes at your hospital or birth center. Classes typically run for 4-8 weeks.
- Learn breastfeeding techniques: Enroll in a breastfeeding basics class to better prepare for nursing your newborn after delivery. Many hospitals offer a 1-2 hour course.
- Shop for a pediatrician: Interview and find a trusted pediatrician for your baby. Tour their office and ask about after-hours care.
- Childproof your home: Start evaluating your home’s safety. Put away cleaning products and medications. Install safety gates and outlet covers.
- Interview nannies or caregivers: If you plan to return to work, begin the process of finding a nanny, babysitter, or daycare for your baby after your maternity leave ends.
- Pack your hospital bag: Start gathering items to pack for your hospital stay like toiletries, robes, socks, and an outfit and blanket for baby to come home in.
- Assess your mood: Notice if you are experiencing increased depression, anxiety, or irritability. Reach out right away if mood changes are impacting your functioning.
- Stay active: Continue exercising like walking, swimming, or prenatal yoga for at least 30 minutes per day. This prepares your body for labor and delivery.
FAQs for 21 Weeks Pregnant
Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about your 21st week of pregnancy:
What tests will happen at my next prenatal visit?
At your next visit, your provider will check your weight, blood pressure, urine for protein and glucose, baby’s heart rate, and measure your belly. You’ll discuss results from any screening or ultrasound tests done. RH negative mothers may get an RH antibody test.
Why am I out of breath so easily?
Breathlessness is very common in pregnancy due to increased blood volume and elevated progesterone levels. Try pursed lip breathing by inhaling through your nose and exhaling slowly through tightly closed lips. Drink plenty of fluids, rest often, and avoid positions that compress your lungs.
How can I ease leg and foot swelling?
Elevate your legs above your heart level whenever possible. Do foot exercises like pointing and flexing your feet and ankles or rolling a tennis ball under your feet. Limit time standing, wear supportive shoes, and prop your feet up to reduce swelling. Stay hydrated and cut back on sodium.
What causes nosebleeds during pregnancy?
Increased blood volume and hormonal shifts lead to swelling of the nasal passages. Dry air, allergies, blowing or picking your nose can also irritate it and cause bleeding. Use a humidifier, saline nasal spray, and moisturize inside your nose gently with a cotton swab to ease symptoms.
Is it normal for my areolas to be different sizes?
Many women find their areolas develop asymmetrically during pregnancy. This is very common and nothing to worry about. The difference will be far less noticeable as your breasts enlarge. After delivery and weaning, asymmetry should diminish. Discuss any concerns with your provider.
Entering Week 22
You’re in the home stretch! As you head into your 22nd week, you can look forward to feeling more consistent kicks and movements from your active baby. Take time to relax and enjoy the remainder of your pregnancy journey. Stay connected with your support system, keep up self-care, and don’t hesitate to call your provider if you have any unusual symptoms concerning you. You’ve made it halfway – congratulations!