21st – Twenty-first week of pregnancy

21st week of pregnancy: you are about to finish the fifth month of your pregnancy and you are probably enjoying this period (even more), with your appetite back to normal and with the morning sickness almost gone.

However, you need not worry if you continue to experience  early pregnancy symptoms , as every pregnancy is unique, and every woman has different experiences carrying her baby.

Baby development in the 21st week of pregnancy

The development of internal organs

As we have seen from week 18, the baby’s growth slows down a bit compared to the first trimester of pregnancy.

However, his internal organs continue to mature; the child continues to practice swallowing, sucking and producing urine.

Another big change that takes place in your child’s body during this time is that his bone marrow gradually takes over from the liver and spleen in the production of blood cells such as red blood cells.

The fetus is also producing fat to stay warm: but it’s not quite as chubby as you’ll see it at birth.

Nutrient intake

Your baby is no longer swallowing the amniotic fluid just to keep his digestive system going, but he is also absorbing its essential nutrients, such as nitrogen, to boost his energy and to support his recent growth.
However, the main source of its nutrition still remains the placenta.

The development of the sensory organs

The baby now has taste buds that are fully developed and – as he practices swallowing – he can therefore taste the amniotic fluid.
The taste of the amniotic fluid changes every day in relation to the foods the mother eats.
Recent research has shown that babies tend to prefer those foods that taste the same as those they had tried while in the womb.

The outward appearance

While the fetus is soaking in the amniotic fluid, the vernix continues to protect its skin.

But it’s also helpful for the scrapes and cuts he gets himself as nails are starting to grow on his fingers.

Eyelashes and eyebrows are growing fast.

The eyelids remain closed to prevent him from putting his fingers in his eyes.

Limb development and fetal movements

By the 21st week, his arms and legs are in proportion.

The rapidly developing muscles and neuronal connections contribute to a greater coordination of the movements of the fetus.

Together with the growth in size of the baby, this makes his kicks and punches real fetal movements, rather than a simple “quickening”.

The fetal heartbeat

The heartbeat of the fetus continues to be louder and louder every day. In fact, with a regular stethoscope you can now easily hear its thunderous sound.

The weight and size of the child

The baby now measures, from the top of his head to his ankles, about 27cm, roughly the size of a carrot.

It weighs around 360 grams.

In a twin pregnancy , both babies are approximately 25 centimeters long at this stage.

The changes in the woman’s body

Also in this week the bodily changes of last week continue in the woman  : the darkening of the skin (chloasma); muscles and ligaments that stretch due to the growing uterus; the change in the center of gravity and the relaxation of the joints.

The belly continues to grow with the baby, and you may find that you have already gained a few kilograms.

It’s also completely normal to have a belly button that sticks out.

You may also notice a yellowish fluid (colostrum) coming out of your nipples as your body prepares to breastfeed.

The ultrasound at the 21st week of pregnancy

An ultrasound performed this week will help the doctor evaluate the growth and health of the baby.

In addition to discovering his gender, thanks to an ultrasound image you can see him moving his arms and legs, or while sleeping in a comfortable position.

Symptoms and disturbances at the 21st week

In this week of gestation, the woman may have the following complaints or symptoms:

  • indigestion and heartburn ;
  • bloating, bloating and constipation;
  • joint pain, pain in the hips and back;
  • Braxton-Hicks contractions, or false labor pains;
  • stretch marks;
  • swelling of hands and feet;
  • food cravings and pica: pica is an eating disorder characterized by the ingestion, continued over time, of non-nutritive substances, usually due to a lack of iron
  • mood swings and depression;
  • leg cramps;
  • sleep disturbances and insomnia;
  • frequent urination;
  • vene varicose;
  • bleeding gums;
  • linea nigra  (a dark line running vertically up the abdomen);
  • increased vaginal secretions.

Symptoms and signs to watch out for

Care should be taken in cases of

  • pain and burning when urinating, with pain in the lower back and vaginal discharge that is yellowish and gelatinous, or white and cheesy, as this could indicate the existence of complications such as urinary tract infections, kidney infections or candidiasis);
  • vaginal bleeding, even in patches accompanied by certain symptoms such as abdominal cramps, pelvic pressure or back pain, which could indicate serious complications;
  • severe itching, with no rash or other apparent reason as this may indicate cholestasis of pregnancy, a rare liver disease;
  • persistent severe headache , blurry vision, dizziness, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, upper abdominal pain and sudden swelling of the hands and feet (may indicate high blood pressure);
  • extreme tiredness with intense nausea, increased thirst, dry mouth and vision changes, conditions that could indicate the existence of gestational diabetes;
  • severe morning sickness with vomiting and/or diarrhea lasting more than 24 hours increases the risk of dehydration;
  • copious watery, straw-colored vaginal discharge (may indicate leakage of amniotic fluid).

Some tips for a peaceful pregnancy and a healthy baby

It can help you and your baby,

  • if during the day you try to rest your feet frequently (for a few minutes) in order to reduce the chances of swelling at night;
  • if you include many foods rich in calcium in your daily diet (to reduce leg cramps);
  • if you lighten yourself up a little by slightly lifting your feet every time you sit down;
  • if you follow a diet that includes plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole foods rich in protein and nutrients, combined with doctor-recommended supplements such as folic acid, calcium and vitamins C and D;
  • if you take a lukewarm bath to reduce stress and relax sore muscles;
  • if you avoid handling your cat’s litter box, as this could infect you with toxoplasmosis, a harmful parasitic disease;
  • if you read a children’s book aloud: this fact can help to keep the baby calm, but it can also help you bond with him, as this allows him to recognize your voice even after birth.;
  • if you follow a regular “routine” of prenatal yoga , or light physical exercises as advised by your doctor.

Katherine Johnson, M.D., is a board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist with clinical expertise in general obstetrics and gynecology, family planning, women’s health, and gynecology.

She is affiliated with the Obstetrics and Gynecology division at an undisclosed healthcare institution and the online platform, Maternicity.com.

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