You’ve made it to the 26th week of your pregnancy – over 6 months along! As you approach the third trimester, there are some new developments and changes happening with your baby and your body. This article will walk you through exactly what to expect during week 26 of pregnancy.
Key Takeaways When You Are 26 Weeks Pregnant:
- Your baby’s brain and lungs are still developing
- You may start experiencing Braxton Hicks contractions
- Stretch marks may start appearing
- Backaches and leg cramps are common
- You should start planning for maternity leave
- Swelling in the hands and feet can occur
- Skin may change due to hormonal fluctuations
Your Baby’s Development in Week 26
At 26 weeks, your baby is about the size of a head of lettuce, measuring 14 inches long and weighing around 1.5 to 2 pounds.
Some major developments are happening in these final months of pregnancy:
- The brain is developing rapidly, forming intricate connections and building specialized areas that will regulate everything from breathing to heart rate after birth.
- The lungs are continuing to mature in preparation for breathing air. The air sacs are developing and starting to produce surfactant, which will prevent the lungs from sticking together when they inflate.
- Fat is building up under your baby’s skin, helping with temperature regulation, nourishment, and cushioning.
- Your baby is sleeping and waking on a regular schedule now. Their eyes can open and close, sense light coming through the womb, and detect the difference between day and night.
- Hair is sprouting on your baby’s head, and they may even have eyebrows and eyelashes at this point.
Changes in Your Body at 26 Weeks
As your pregnancy progresses into the third trimester, you will experience many physical changes and symptoms:
Braxton Hicks Contractions
By 26 weeks, many women start to notice Braxton Hicks contractions, also known as false labor. These are sporadic tightening of the uterus that act as warm-ups for true labor. They are usually intermittent, relatively mild, and nothing to worry about. Stay hydrated and shift positions or walk around to ease discomfort. If the contractions become very regular or painful, contact your doctor to rule out preterm labor.
Your expanding belly and breasts may cause the skin over these areas to stretch rapidly, resulting in reddish or purplish stretch marks. Moisturizing daily, drinking plenty of water, and eating collagen-rich foods can minimize stretch marks. However, there is no way to completely prevent them since they are largely genetic.
The weight you’ve gained in the abdomen shifts your center of gravity, strains muscles, and puts stress on your lower back. A growing uterus and shifting hormones also contribute to backache in the second and third trimesters. Use heat or cold therapy, massage, and exercise to relieve discomfort.
It’s common to experience swollen or puffy hands, feet, ankles and face around this stage of pregnancy due to extra fluid retention. Elevating your feet, wearing compression socks, avoiding salty foods, exercising, and drinking plenty of water can all help reduce swelling.
Leg cramps are very common, especially at night. Stretching your calf muscles before bedtime, staying hydrated, getting optimal magnesium and calcium, and avoiding standing for long periods can help prevent painful charley horses.
Pregnancy hormones lead to an increased production of melanin, which can cause darker areolas, nipples, and a dark line down the middle of the belly called the linea negra. Your complexion may also change, becoming drier or oilier and more prone to breakouts.
Hormone fluctuations and increased blood production can lead to pregnancy rhinitis – a stuffy or runny nose without other cold symptoms. Using saline nose drops, humidifiers, and nasal strips can provide relief.
Lifestyle Tips for Week 26
Here are some tips to keep you comfortable and help you prepare as you enter the final trimester of pregnancy:
- Stay active with low-impact exercise like walking, swimming, or prenatal yoga to ease aches and pains. Check with your provider before starting any new workout routine.
- Consume extra protein – about 70-100g per day – for your baby’s growth and development. Good sources include eggs, Greek yogurt, beans, nuts, lean meats, and pea protein powder.
- Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. Carry a bottle with you to ensure you’re getting enough. Dehydration can cause cramps and false contractions.
- Get enough calcium and vitamin D through supplements, milk, yogurt, leafy greens, and other dietary sources to support your baby’s bone growth.
- Start planning for maternity leave if you work, including saving vacation days, understanding FMLA and company policies, and making arrangements for work coverage while you’re out.
- Tour your hospital’s maternity ward to become familiar with the facilities ahead of time.
- Interview pediatricians if you haven’t yet to ensure your baby’s medical care is established after birth.
When to Call the Doctor at 26 Weeks Pregnant
Contact your healthcare provider right away if you experience any of the following:
- Intense or frequent contractions before 37 weeks
- Severe or persistent headaches
- Changes in vision, including blurriness
- Heavy vaginal bleeding or fluid leaking
- Decreased fetal movement
- Extreme fatigue or exhaustion
- Severe abdominal pain
- A high fever over 100.4° F
Routine prenatal visits continue every two weeks until 28 weeks, then switch to every week through delivery. Make sure to keep all appointments so your doctor can monitor you and your baby’s health.
Are pregnancy stretch marks permanent?
For many women, stretch marks from pregnancy do tend to become permanent. Their appearance may improve overtime, becoming lighter and less noticeable. However, they rarely disappear completely without cosmetic procedures. Staying hydrated, building collagen, and using moisturizers can minimize stretch marks.
What causes swelling during pregnancy?
Swelling, also called edema, happens when extra fluid gets retained in the tissues. The volume of blood in your body increases during pregnancy, and some of this fluid leaks into surrounding tissues. Pressure from your growing uterus, and hormones that cause fluid retention and increase blood flow to the kidneys also contribute to swelling.
When do most women go on maternity leave?
Most women take maternity leave around 1-4 weeks prior to their due date. Many work until 36-38 weeks pregnant and give themselves 4-6 weeks of leave before delivery. Taking leave earlier is recommended for high-risk pregnancies or labor-intensive jobs. The timing depends on company policy, job duties, and health factors.
Why do pregnant women get leg cramps?
Leg cramps are very common in pregnancy due to the uterus compressing nerves and blood vessels, fluid retention compressing calves, and low magnesium and calcium levels from increased fetal demand. Dehydration and muscle fatigue from carrying extra pregnancy weight can also trigger leg cramps at night.
When do Braxton Hicks contractions start and end?
Braxton Hicks contractions, or false labor, often start around 26-28 weeks into pregnancy but can begin earlier. They tend to peak around 34 weeks then decrease until labor begins. Each contraction lasts about 30-60 seconds. True labor produces longer, more intense, and regular contractions that get closer together and do not go away.
The 26th week marks a major milestone as you enter the final trimester. Your baby is developing more complex functions like breathing while your body adjusts to the demands of late pregnancy. Make sure to take care of both your physical and emotional needs during this period. Stay in touch with your doctor about any concerning symptoms, and get ready for your little one’s arrival in just a few more weeks!