Your baby’s development
In week 26, your baby’s nostrils are opening up: they can now take their first “breaths”, and will be working hard on this skill until they’re born. At this stage, they’re breathing in the amniotic fluid by sucking it through their nostrils and, once they’re outside the womb, they’ll do exactly the same with the air around them.
This week is also when your baby’s eyesight develops. Their eyes are now connected to the areas of the brain responsible for processing visual stimuli, so they can distinguish between brightness and darkness and between different shapes.
If a large amount of light shines on your belly, e.g. direct sunlight during summer, your baby will either recoil in fear, wake up or respond by communicating with you in their own gentle way.
The differences between the times when your baby is awake and when they’re resting will become increasingly clear: when they’re awake and active, you’ll feel them moving around and, when they’re sleeping, your belly will be nice and quiet and you’ll have several hours without feeling any movements. You’ll notice these longer resting periods even if you’re expecting twins, as twins tend to do the same things in the womb and copy each other’s behaviour.
What it’s like for the mum-to-be in week 26
Pregnancy bumps can vary in size. If this is your second pregnancy, you’ll notice that your bump has grown more quickly than it did in your first pregnancy – this is because your tissue has already been stretched. Other factors affecting the size of your bump include the position of your baby and the amount of amniotic fluid, but ultimately it’s simply about different body types: for instance, some women naturally have more flexible tissue than others, so their bump will expand more quickly.
Whatever size your bump is, it grows so fast from around week 26 that the hollow in your lower back may increase. Although this is a common occurrence, the back pain it causes can be avoided by adopting the right posture as much as possible and by doing certain exercises.
‘A pregnancy support band can help. It supports and holds up your belly.’ Dorothee Kutz, midwife
Common signs and symptoms
The pressure the uterus puts on the surrounding organs makes it increasingly likely that you’ll suffer gastrointestinal problems. Feeling full after a meal may well be accompanied by heartburn and nausea, as your stomach is now smaller and can’t process the same amount of food as before.
The immune system in pregnant women is also less effective, as their body is having to deal with the additional challenges of pregnancy. So make sure you eat as much fresh food as possible (remembering which foods are “forbidden”) and prepare meals hygienically in order to avoid infections.
Ultimately, there’s no way to fully avoid stretch marks – your connective tissue is stretched during pregnancy like never before and never again in your life. Your genes, the size of your bump and the amount of pressure on your skin will influence the extent to which you get stretch marks and tears in your skin tissue.
One thing you can do is regular massages with oil or skincare lotion, which will boost the elasticity of your skin. This will be most effective if you do it every day – establishing a routine will boost your wellbeing and avoid itchy skin and stretch marks.
Questions you may want to ask your doctor or midwife
It’s completely normal to have all sorts of questions, worries and fears during pregnancy – after all, you’re in unfamiliar territory. Your first pregnancy in particular is a brand new experience, something you’ve never known before that takes quite a bit of getting used to.
So don’t be shy about asking your trusted doctor or midwife questions, and remember that you can also benefit from the experiences of other mums.
How much should my baby be moving around?
If you’re unsure whether your child is moving around as much and as intensively as they should be, ask your midwife. She can explain what you’ve been observing and can also check your baby’s vital signs. Generally speaking, you can rely on your gut feeling – your intuition as a mum is already there, so listen to it!
It may help to note down the movements you feel over the course of a day if you’re worried. Babies will usually be quiet for one day, and very active the next. Only if you feel no movements at all (or very few movements) for longer than 24 hours should you get your doctor or midwife to check that everything’s OK with your baby.
‘If you don’t feel any movements for several hours, drink two big glasses of water, eat something or do a few squats. The noise made by your intestine and/or the exercise will usually wake your baby up.’ Dorothee Kutz, midwife
Checking your vital signs
Talk to your doctor again about your current Hb (haemoglobin) levels, which indicate how much iron you have in your bloodstream. It’s not good for you or your baby if your Hb levels fall below a certain value.
Stable, balanced blood sugar levels are also important in order to avoid problems during pregnancy and for your child, so make sure you don’t eat too many sugary foods.
Information about the author:
Juliane Jacke-Gerlitz is a registered nurse. She has been working in the field of mother and breastfeeding counselling for more than ten years. Currently she is working as a medical writer and psychological consultant. Juliane Jacke-Gerlitz has been married for 22 years, is a mother of eight children and lives with her family in Halle.