Pregnancy week 18 – Coping with symptoms and budgeting for baby



More aches. More pains. More swelling.
Welcome to week 18. You're almost halfway through your pregnancy, and by now you might've started to feel the first signs of your baby's movement (don't worry – it's normal if you haven't yet). While your baby's been growing up a storm, your waistline's been expanding too, but what exactly is going on this week?

Well, at this point, your uterus is roughly the size of a cantaloupe, so it's probably pretty obvious that you've got a baby growing in there! But as the size of your uterus grows, so does the amount of back pain you may experience. The new weight is throwing off your body's balance, pushing your lower back forward and your abdomen out. Add in the relaxin hormone factor and you've got yourself a recipe for an aching lower back. Try to keep good posture and ask your doctor about over-the-counter pain medicine if it's really bothering you.

You might have also noticed that you're feeling hungrier lately. An increased appetite is common among many pregnant women – just make sure you're making good choices, not chowing down on empty calories! One thing that might be a real bummer after eating is heartburn. This unfortunate symptom is often persistent throughout pregnancy, but there are ways to make it less intense. Steer clear of menu items that you know tend to bring on the burn, like spicy, fried and acidic foods. Also, eat slowly, chew thoroughly and eat several small meals rather than three large ones throughout the day. Sitting upright for a few hours after eating and sleeping with your head elevated on an extra pillow can also help.

In addition, your cardiovascular system is undergoing some changes as your blood volume increases. Your blood pressure might be lower than usual, which is normal, but you may want to be careful of getting up too fast from a sitting position, which could make you feel dizzy.

Swelling of your feet, ankles and hands is also a possibility as your body accumulates fluid. These body parts tend to swell because it's easy for those fluids to pool there, so you'll want to avoid standing, sitting or leaving your arms hanging down for long periods of time. When you can, try to keep your feet elevated.

Finally, looking in the mirror, have you noticed the opposite of that pregnancy "glow" everyone's always talking about? You're not alone. Many women experience redness, eczema, acne and other weird skin issues during pregnancy. You may have to switch up your skincare regimen or call up a dermatologist to get checked out. Just be sure to mention that you're expecting, as some medications could be dangerous to your little one.


From onion to bell pepper
Your baby has been packing on the pounds lately, and he or she is only going to keep growing and fine-tuning each body part. This week, your little one is roughly 5.5 inches long and weighs around 7 ounces – about the size of a bell pepper. This may be large enough that you can finally feel him or her kicking around in there.

Around this time, a protective cover of myelin is beginning to form around your baby's nerves, which will continue for a year after he or she is born. Myelin helps to make nerve connections travel faster. Your little one's bones are also starting to harden, which is called ossification.

At this point, it's possible for doctors to tell whether you're having a boy or a girl. Her fallopian tubes will be formed and in place, while his genitals will be noticeable. However, when you go in for the ultrasound, your baby might be facing the wrong direction or hiding that area, so it's not a guarantee that you'll find out yet!


Budget for your new addition
As you can likely imagine, having a baby is a serious financial commitment, which means you may need to budget carefully during your pregnancy to figure out how to control your spending and save for the future. If you or your partner is considering staying at home for the baby instead of working, it might be smart to do a test run during the pregnancy. Try to live off of one salary for nine months, putting the other salary's earnings into a bank account. This will give you a good idea of whether your family will be able to afford having one parent stay home.

It's also a good idea to sit down and make a budget. Consider all of the things you'll need to buy for your little one, from a crib to diapers to daycare costs. This should give you a good idea of how much you'll need to save or where you can make cutbacks.

Keep in mind that a lot of the things you'll need for your baby may be given to you in the form of gifts. To avoid getting any duplicates or items that you won't find very useful, set up a gift registry. That way, people will know exactly what you want. You'll also be able to fill in the gaps once your baby is born if anything is missing.

For the big buys that you'll have to make yourself, try to spread out your spending. Instead of buying everything your nursery needs in the third trimester, start stocking up on supplies as soon as you can. This will help you avoid a huge drain in your bank account that might leave you struggling.

Finally, now is a great time to start investing in your child's education. The earlier you start a savings plan, the more time you have to help it grow. Don't be afraid to ask friends or family members to donate toward this investment on birthdays and other special occasions, either. They'll likely want the best for your child just like you do!


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