By week 26 of pregnancy the fetus weighs approximately 900g and measures around 36cm from crown to heel. This week sees the start of another growth spurt that will involve an increase in body fat as well as intensive brain, nervous system and sensory development. Sensory development continues throughout this week and the eyes, which have previously been developing under fused eyelids, are now starting to open, making fetal response to light more consistent. The same is true of response to sounds as the neural network connecting the brain and ears is now complete.
Ensuring a healthy, balanced diet is important throughout your pregnancy, but it is more important than ever at this stage as good nutrition will help your baby through the massive growth spurt and surge in brain development that is taking place now, and over the coming weeks. You should try to ensure that your diet contains foods that are high in fibre and also includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, grains and pulses. Your midwife will be able to provide you with information on pregnancy-related nutrition if you are unsure of which foods to eat or avoid.
Many women find that having a good night’s sleep is problematic at this stage of pregnancy. Women often find it difficult to get comfortable, suffer from indigestion and suffer with leg cramps at night. Although there aren’t any ways to eliminate these problems, it may be helpful to take daily exercise, or at least try to get some fresh air each day. Round ligament pains (abdominal achiness) is also common at this time. Although it is a normal part of pregnancy, caused by the expanding uterus stretching the surrounding ligaments, it can be uncomfortable. Taking warm baths or showers can help and also ensuring plenty of rest can be beneficial. You should also try to avoid making sudden movements that might aggravate the pain.
If you suffer from migraines, you may find that you have them more frequently during pregnancy, although some women report having fewer. If you usually take medication for your migraines, you should check with your Doctor before taking it whilst pregnant. Many women find that, if their medication is not suitable for use during pregnancy, complementary therapies such as acupuncture are helpful. Practicing meditation or yoga can also help, particularly if your migraines are stress-related. If you are taking antenatal classes, they are likely to be starting around now.
These classes are designed to give clear and accurate information about the birthing process and what to expect after the baby is born.
Symptoms to watch out for
Although rare at this stage pre eclampsia is a potentially very serious condition. It is characterized by headaches, swelling of the legs and particularly the face, flashing lights or little black floaters in the eyes. When severe there can be pain below the ribs. There should be no vaginal bleeding or change in vaginal discharge at this stage. Fetal movements should in general be well established.
What is routinely offered on NHS
You will have a midwife check about this time. She will ask you questions about how you are feeling. She will check your blood pressure and urine for signs of pre eclampsia. She will feel your tummy and may use a tape measure to measure it. From this stage your tummy will increase in size from the top of the lump to the bottom by one centimetre per week. If she finds this is not the case you will be referred for a scan. The midwife will start to discuss antenatal preparation classes which are usually run locally.
What other care is available
You can be seen in a private clinic without a referral letter. You can see a midwife or a specialist to discuss any concerns you may have. You may like to book a Fetal Well Being Scan to ensure your baby is growing in line with expectations. You can have a short-notice appointment with a private midwife, which will give you plenty of time for a thorough check-up of your health and that of your baby. You can see a nutritionist for detailed advice tailored to your pregnancy needs. In a private clinic there should be more time, often better equipment and access to highly skilled expertise.
You can book private antenatal classes with an experienced midwife trained in relaxation techniques for labour.