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2nd trimester: Week 18

Your Baby

Your baby's about eight inches long and weighs a little more than five ounces. Although she's enveloped by the familiar sound of your beating heart and rushing blood, she's conscious of noises from the outside world, too. They filter through the bones forming in her ear and to her developing brain. Her sense of sight is evolving as well; the retinas are more sensitive to light, and if you bask under a hot sun, she'll perceive a red glow. Other skills she's showing off: yawning, swallowing, sucking, hiccuping and making faces.

Your Body

Now comparable in size to a cantaloupe, your uterus lies just south of your navel. As it grows and shifts your center of gravity, you may feel slightly off balance. The hormone relaxin also loosens your joints, which can tweak your posture and take a toll on your lower back.

Do's and Don'ts

Don't be alarmed if you feel sharp pains running from the top of your uterus down to your pubic bone. Ligaments are stretching to support the growing weight of your womb. The feeling will pass if you lie on your side with a pillow supporting your belly. 

Health

Cook seafood thoroughly to zap parasites or bacteria that could compromise your growing baby's health, and stay away from raw fish like sushi or oysters on the half shell. Shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish are off-limits for now, since they've been found to have high levels of methyl mercury that could hamper brain development. Experts also suggest you limit canned Albacore tuna to six ounces per week.

Mom to Mom

"With my first child, I stopped working two weeks before she was due. But that whole time, all I did was worry and waitand then she was two weeks late. When I was expecting my second and third, I worked until the day I delivered." -Stephanie Adams, Lexington, KY

Shopping

You may be able to hold off on buying maternity clothes for a few more weeks by borrowing from your partner's closet. Oversize T-shirts, shirts, sweaters and drawstring shorts may give you more breathing room than anything in your own wardrobe. 

Exercise

If you aren't already working out, it isn't too late to start. Exercise will pep you up, curb stress, and tone your abdominal muscles. Check first with your doctor or midwife before you hit the gym, though. Low-impact activities that are easy on the joints, such as walking, swimming and prenatal yoga, may be your best bet.

Relationships

Don't let financial fears drive a wedge between you and your partner. Having a baby can stress your budget, but if you strategize now for the future, you'll feel much more secure and can start working toward your goals together.

Siblings

Does your family know kids who are big sisters or big brothers? Encourage them to talk with your child about what it's like to have a younger sibling. If you're an older sister yourself, share your own stories about growing up with a baby around. 

Twins

Know what to expect by reading books like The Parent's Guide to Raising Twins by Elizabeth Friedrich and Cherry Rowland and Raising Twins by Eileen M. Pearlman and Jill Alison Ganon. Check bookstores and online for other titles.