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Welcome to the second-last week of your second trimester! By now, you must be quite adept at handling your pregnancy diet, pregnancy exercise routine, pregnancy check-ups, ultrasound, etc. You're probably very good at knowing your baby’s movements and response times, too, at this point.

However, as the third trimester approaches, you’re also likely to feel more tired, slow and uncoordinated—and that’s because your baby bump is still growing as your baby keeps growing. This is the reason why most pregnant women naturally slow down a little in the tailend of the second trimester, and continue to experience this in the third trimester as well. This is absolutely normal, and you should not worry about feeling more lethargic or becoming slower as long as you’re healthy and so is your baby in the womb.

Your baby is probably quite active at this juncture, but if you observe any slowing down in his or her movements, you should call your doctor immediately. There are a number of symptoms of pregnancy that will show up around this week, like fatigue, sleep issues, indigestion and dizziness. This is another reason why you should take things a little slow. 

This apart, you should look out for infections and other complications this week. Gestational diabetes and hypertension could show up, which is why you should check your sugar and salt consumption even more than before. Make sure you also monitor your mental health and engage with other mothers-to-be, relatives, friends and your partner to keep depression during pregnancy at bay. Here’s everything you need to know about the 26th week of pregnancy.

  1. Baby size and features at 26 weeks of pregnancy
  2. Changes in your body by the 26th week of pregnancy
  3. 26th week of pregnancy symptoms
  4. Complications in the 26th week of pregnancy
  5. Things you should do in the 26th week of pregnancy
  6. Takeaways for the 26th week of pregnancy

Your baby is now about 35.6cm long from head to toe, which is roughly the size of the vegetable called marrow. The baby should weigh about 760g now, and his or her weight will continue to increase until the end of the term.

The baby developments this week might seem small and insignificant—especially when compared to the first time he or she started moving—but they will be important developments anyway.

It’s likely your baby will open his or her eyes this week, and soon be able to learn how to blink. The nerves in your baby’s ears are also developing very quickly, making it possible for the baby to hear sounds better and also respond to them better. Your baby will also continue to swallow amniotic fluid during this stage, and the lungs will continue to develop.

As your baby continues to gain weight, so will you. Do not think of this as abnormal or worry about post-pregnancy weight loss. As long as your doctor says you and your baby are both healthy, you should be fine. You should focus on sticking to a healthy pregnancy diet and an effective exercise routine now and after delivery, and any excess weight will come off in time.

You are likely to experience more bloating and leg cramps, and these can make getting enough sleep even more difficult. Foot exercises and putting your feet up can help deal with this issue. Make sure you and your doctor keep a check on your blood sugar levels and your blood pressure too, as both can shoot up around this stage of the pregnancy.

The second trimester of pregnancy might have been easier to deal with in the beginning, with symptoms being less severe. However, as you approach the third trimester, the symptoms of pregnancy are likely to get more severe in intensity. The following are some of the main symptoms you might experience during this week.

  • Sciatic nerve pain: You may be experiencing a lot of leg pain at this time. The reason could the baby's weight pushing down on the sciatic nerve which runs underneath your womb and down your legs. This can manifest in the form of pain along the path of the sciatic nerve. The pain can be constant or may occur in bouts.
  • Round ligament pain: Round ligament pain is a type of pain that pregnant women experience in the lower belly or groin area, either on one side of these areas or across them. This pain usually occurs due to the stretching of a structure called the round ligament and tends to increase on walking or moving. Though it is completely normal and nothing to worry about, it is best to talk to a doctor in case of excessive discomfort.
  • Varicose veins: A lot of women may start noticing varicose veins during pregnancy, which can be a cause of concern and discomfort. The condition is characterized by the presence of swollen veins in the legs, genitals and rectum that you can see in purple or blue colour on the skin. Haemorrhoids or piles are a type of varicose veins that occur in the rectum.
  • Braxton-Hicks contractions: These contractions usually show up in the third trimester of pregnancy, but can also show up towards the end of the second trimester. When these contractions occur, your uterus muscles can tighten for 30 or 60 seconds—the contractions might even last for up to two minutes. These contractions might be harmless, but you should definitely consult the doctor at least once about it. (Read more: Contractions during pregnancy)
  • Sleep issues: Stress and anxiety related to pregnancy and labour may cause you to lose sleep in the second trimester. Whether it’s because of all the aches and pains, the leg cramps, indigestion, trips to the bathroom, heartburn or any other symptoms of pregnancy, getting a good night’s sleep might seem like an elusive goal right now. The best way to handle this is to get enough rest during the day as well, and a nap or two if possible. 
  • Melasma: Melasma, also known as chloasma or the mask of pregnancy, basically refers to the dark patches of skin that might appear on your forehead, cheeks, and other parts of the face during pregnancy. Melasma occurs due to the hormonal changes during pregnancy, and usually goes away after delivery.
  • Fatigue: Though a lot of women experience much less fatigue during the second trimester, don’t be amazed if you feel tired. All the changes in your body, maintaining the health of a growing baby in your womb, and the myriad of symptoms you have to deal with can often make you feel quite fatigued. Resting and taking things at a slower pace are the only ways to effectively battle fatigue at this stage of your pregnancy.
  • Indigestion and heartburn: You know your digestion pretty much went for a toss once you got pregnant, but things in this department are likely to get more difficult during the third trimester and the end of the second trimester. Both indigestion and heartburn are likely to plague you, so you’ll need to tailor your diet and exercise accordingly. You might even want to ask your doctor about safe over-the-counter medications that can ease your digestive system now.

The best thing about nearing the end of the second trimester and entering the third one is that your baby is now viable. So, if there are any complications, say, due to cervical insufficiency or any other issues that lead to premature labour and birth, the chances of your baby’s survival are higher—with proper medical attention, of course.

While premature labour is far from ideal, most complications of pregnancy and their outcomes are not in your control. The best you can do is be aware of these complications and get yourself regularly screened for them. The following are some of the complications you should be aware of during the 26th week of pregnancy.

  • Stillbirth: The sudden loss of a foetus after the completion of 20 weeks of pregnancy is termed stillbirth. If stillbirth occurs between the 20th week of pregnancy and 27th week of pregnancy, it’s known as an early stillbirth. A stillbirth can obviously be heartbreaking, and the couple who experiences it should seek counselling, if possible. Regular checkups and taking good care of your health are the best bet against this complication.
  • Hypertensive diseases: Expecting moms have about 50% extra volume of blood in their body, which is why they are at risk of high blood pressure during pregnancy or gestational hypertension. High blood pressure can reduce the availability of oxygen and nutrients to the baby in the womb, and it has also been associated with placental abruption, pre-eclampsia and eclampsia. Gestational hypertension can also slow down baby development in the womb, and lead to other problems such as going into premature labour and low birth weight (under 2.5 kilograms) of the baby.
  • Subchorionic haemorrhage: The chorionic membrane is one of four fetal membranes that protect and support the baby inside the womb. The chorionic membrane helps to form the placenta. If the placenta gets even partially detached from where it got attached to the uterus in the first place, it can lead to some vaginal bleeding. Usually safe in the early stages of the first trimester, this type of bleeding should not be ignored later in the pregnancy. Your doctor may be able to diagnose this during your routine ultrasound, even if you don’t notice any bleeding. If you are diagnosed with this condition, your doctor may prescribe progesterone and bedrest to improve the outcome for you and your baby.
  • Infections: No matter how careful you are, you can’t completely avoid infections unless you live in a perpetually sanitised bubble during the nine months of your gestation. Pregnant women are developing life inside themselves, which reduces and even changes their immune response, and makes them even more susceptible to infections like bacterial vaginosis, urinary tract infection (UTI), hepatitis B, hepatitis C, genital herpes and group B streptococcus or GBS bacterial infection. If you have any of these infections, knowing about them will help your gynaecologist recommend the appropriate medicines to reduce or completely avoid their effects on your baby.
  • Obstetric cholestasis: Also known as intrahepatic cholestasis, this condition affects less than 1% of pregnant women in India, and is characterized by itchy palms and soles of the feet. Though doctors don’t yet know the exact cause of obstetric cholestasis, they have linked the condition to the effects of pregnancy hormones on the liver. There’s no treatment for this condition, and it usually becomes better on its own after delivery. In the meantime, if the itching gets to be too much, ask your doctor for salves and creams to soothe it.
  • Gestational diabetes: Gestational diabetes is likely to show up between the 24th week of pregnancy and the 28th week of pregnancy, so getting yourself screened is very important. This complication is the main reason why doctors ask pregnant women to keep a check on their sugar intake, especially if there’s a medical history of blood glucose disorders or diabetes in the family. Not only can this have an effect on the life of your baby, but the fact is that women who develop gestational diabetes also have a much higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.

Now that you’re approaching the third and final trimester of your pregnancy, it’s important to get to action stations. The following are some of the things you must get done this week:

  • If you’re a working woman, this is when you should get confirmation about your maternity leave and your partner should also apply for paternity leave at work. You’ll be pretty overwhelmed with things to do in the coming weeks, so it’s best to sort these out right now. 
  • You might think this is too early, but do get a go-bag ready with all your essentials. The bag should have anything you might need when you go to the hospital to deliver your baby. Keeping a bag ready will help take a load off your mind.
  • It’s too early to baby-proof, but you might want to think about your options and get at least some of the things you need to get done around the house before your baby arrives. 
  • Get ample rest and engage in activities that make you happy. This will help you cope better both mentally and physically.
  • Keep a check on your diet, and avoid caffeine, raw fish, undercooked meat, processed foods, sugar and rich spicy foods.
  • Engage in yoga, pelvic floor exercises and other light exercises, but avoid strenuous activities of all kinds.

At this point of your pregnancy, planning coupled with proper prenatal care is all you need to finally get to the day when you meet your little bundle of joy. Planning ahead can help you make that transition from expecting parents to actual parents smooth. Remember to keep your obstetrician in the loop, because if there’s anybody else who wants the best medical outcomes for you and your baby, it’s your doctor.

This is also the reason why you must stick to the recommendations of your doctor when it comes to medications, ultrasounds, blood tests and other issues. This apart, joining a maternity class or support group is also very effective for first-time parents-to-be. You must remember to stay positive and keep unnecessary worries away, because these can only add to your stress. Take special care of your mental health and that of your partner’s too.

References

  1. American Pregnancy Association [Internet]. Irving, Texas, USA; Pregnancy Week 26
  2. Start4Life. National Health Service [Internet]. Hertfordshire. UK; Week 26 – your second trimester
  3. Nemours Children’s Health System [Internet]. Jacksonville (FL): The Nemours Foundation; c2017. Week 26
  4. National Childbirth Trust [Internet]. London. United Kingdom; 26 weeks pregnant
  5. Kilpatrick, SJ. et al. Outcome of Infants Born at 24-26 Weeks' Gestation: I. Survival and Cost. Obstet Gynecol . 1997 Nov;90(5):803-8. PMID: 9351768
  6. Gagnon, R. et al. Patterns of Human Fetal Heart Rate Accelerations From 26 Weeks to Term. Am J Obstet Gynecol . 1987 Sep;157(3):743-8. PMID: 3631176
  7. Yu, VY. et al. Viability of Infants Born at 24 to 26 Weeks Gestation. Ann Acad Med Singapore . 1985 Oct;14(4):563-71. PMID: 2417538
  8. Jain, Deepti. Complete hydatidiform mole with a twin pregnancy at 26 weeks: a rare obstetric complication. Autops Case Rep. 2019 Oct-Dec; 9(4): e2019108. PMID: 31641655
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