Week 21 of Your Pregnancy
Your little one has no time to lose! By week 21, it has a pretty long to-do list: taste, swallow, digest, suck its thumb, and practice Muay Thai. Here’s more on what’s your baby up to this week, and how you can meet your growing baby’s needs with a nutritious diet.
You may be surprised to learn that your baby will be swimming in and drinking its own pee! Eww, sounds gross, right? But don’t worry, swallowing amniotic fluid can help develop your baby’s digestive system3. Amniotic fluid may be mainly water, but it is naturally sweet since it takes on the subtle flavours of the food you eat2. Thanks to its increasingly sensitive taste buds4, your baby will get to taste this and enjoy its time in your womb!
You increasingly feel the kicks of your baby. Don't worry, your baby is well protected by the amniotic fluid. The height was previously measured from the skull to rump, but the length is now measured from the skull to the heel. Your baby is now as tall as a banana! The cartilage in your baby's body will start hardening into bones, giving its limbs and joints more substance and strength. If you look closely at your ultrasound, you can spot your baby sucking its thumb!
Through this increasingly relaxed stomach valve and also the increasing pressure of the baby on your intestines, stomach acid can get into your oesophagus and cause heartburn.
To minimize heartburn, you should adhere to the following rules:
- Have several smaller meals instead of three full meals.
- Take small bites and chew your food thoroughly.
- Wear clothing that does not press on the stomach area.
Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fats
Omega 3 and omega 6 are two groups of fatty acids known as long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, or LCPs. One of the omega-3 LCPs is called docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA for short. During pregnancy, DHA contributes to your baby’s brain and eye development, and it is thought to contribute to normal visual development even after birth5. Taking extra DHA during pregnancy also reduces the risk of preterm delivery and increases the birth weight of babies6,7.
A Daily Dose of Healthy Fats During Pregnancy
Try to include an extra 200mg of DHA in your diet every day to support your baby’s brain and eye development5! This is because your body doesn’t naturally produce this fat. (Forbes)
The best sources of DHA are oily fish like mackerel, sardines and salmon. However, since these fish contain toxins and pollutants, don’t eat more than 2 portions of these a week! Other sources of omega-3 fats include nuts, seeds, dark green vegetables, rapeseed oil, wholegrain cereals and soya products8.
Consider adding these Omega 3-rich snacks to your menu:
- Mackerel on a slice of wholegrain bread
- Grilled salmon with steamed vegetables
- Salmon fishcakes
- A handful of nuts and seeds
- A bowl of wholegrain cereal
Supplements are also available but first, check in with your doctor if this is a good idea.
1. NHS UK. You and your baby at 21-24 weeks pregnant [Online]. 2013. Available at: www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pages/pregnancy-weeks-21-22-23-24.aspx [Accessed July 2014]
2. Murkoff H, Mazel S. What to Expect When You’re Expecting. 4th ed. London: Simon & Schuster Ltd, 2009. p. 231.
3. Curtis, GB, Schuler, J. Your pregnancy week by week. Cambridge: Fisher books, 2011. p. 297.
4. Deans A. Your New Pregnancy Bible, The experts’ guide to pregnancy and early parenthood. 4th ed. London: Carroll & Brown Publishers Limited, 2013. p. 40.
5. European Union. Commission Regulation (EU) No 440/2011 of 6 May 2011 on the authorisation and refusal of authorisation of certain health claims made on foods and referring to children’s development and health. OJ L 119 2011;4-9.
6. Carlson SE et al. DHA supplementation and pregnancy outcomes. Am J Clin Nutr 2013;97(4):808-15.
7. Imhoff-Kunsch B et al. Effect of n-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid intake during pregnancy on maternal, infant, and child health outcomes: a systematic review. Paediatric and perinatal epidemiology 2012;26(1):91-107.
8. Gandy J (ed). Manual of Dietetic Practice. 5th ed. Oxford: Wiley Blackwell. 2014. p. 759.
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