Some women already know the sex of their baby by now, but if you don't, it probably means you're going to find out at your upcoming 20-week appointment. Baby is gaining weight steadily and fine-tuning his development. Now is a great time to get rest and nest, while you continue to grow and your body adjusts.
This week is similar to the previous one, but you may have noticed the start of one more strange pregnancy symptom to add to your list: leg cramps. Although this might not initially seem like a big deal, your aching calves might disagree with you later. Basically, these spasms tighten your calves and other leg muscles in a painful, and constant, muscle contraction that often occurs at night.
As for what causes these little stinkers, no one is quite sure. Many doctors tend to blame extra pregnancy weight which compresses the blood vessels in your legs, while others think diet may play a role. Pregnancy hormones are also a likely culprit since they control (and mess with) basically everything in your body.
Not every pregnant woman gets leg cramps, but they can certainly be frustrating, so here are some solutions or ways to prevent them:
- Stretch your calf muscles regularly, especially before bed.
- Try to walk every day and promote movement in your feet and legs even when you are stationary.
- Avoid overdoing it, and take time to lie down on your side when fatigued, to improve circulation to your legs.
- Drink plenty of water--between 8-10 eight-ounce glasses a day, or as recommended by your provider.
- Avoid being stationary for long periods (sitting or standing), particularly with your legs crossed.
- Get enough calcium and magnesium in your diet with a simple yogurt banana smoothie each morning.
If you do experience a leg cramp at night, get out of bed and stand up. Try flexing your toes towards your shin bone and rolling your ankle in a circular motion. If the pain doesn't immediately let up, try heat or cold. If you are still having severe and persistent pain, it may signal something more serious, like a blood clot, so contact your provider as soon as possible.
Your baby is doing great and getting stronger than ever. Her brain is working to designate areas for the five senses, and a small crop of hair is sprouting on her scalp. In addition, the arms and legs have now reached a proportionate size to the rest of the body.
As for your baby's skin, it's now developing a waxy covering called vernix caseosa that protects the skin from getting too soggy in the amniotic fluid for the remainder of the pregnancy. This protective covering isn't to be confused with the downy soft hair covering of lanugo, which is entirely different.
Make a healthy pregnancy smoothie each morning to help you wake up and knock out some much-needed nutrients. Chia seeds, peanut butter, bananas, and yogurt are some great ingredients to start with. Even sneak some spinach in there for extra iron!