Week 21 of Your Pregnancy

A look at your body, your baby, and more

Welcome to week 21 of your pregnancy. You are more than halfway there and, in all likelihood, your baby moving quite a bit—and you can feel it. The kicker, so to speak: He or she is probably not on the same schedule as you. This may be the time to start talking about having a baby shower with friends and family if you are interested in one and haven’t discussed it already.

week 21 pregnancy highlights
Illustration by Verywell

Your Trimester: Second trimester

Weeks to Go: 19

You This Week

Your belly isn’t the only thing that’s growing larger this week. If you’re like most pregnant women, you may notice that your legs and feet are swollen by the end of the day. While swelling (edema) can be experienced at any point during pregnancy, it tends to intensify around this time. You may wish all of that extra fluid away, and that’s understandable. But it serves a purpose: It actually helps prepare your pelvic tissue and joints to widen for delivery.

Swelling is (mostly) due to excess fluid and blood flowing through your body, but another mid-pregnancy leg issue—varicose veins—is due to disrupted blood flow and hormonal changes. If you’re unfamiliar with varicose veins, they most commonly appear as purple or blue meandering lines on their legs and can be painless or swollen and painful. Varicose veins can also sometimes be found in the vulva or rectum; when that happens, they are better known as hemorrhoids.

Your Baby This Week

Your baby-to-be continues to get the vast majority of his or her nutrients from the placenta. But this week, baby’s intestines are now developed enough to begin absorbing nutrients from the amniotic fluid he or she now regularly swallows.

Up until this point, your baby's liver and spleen have done all of the heavy-lifting when it comes to making blood cells. But now, bone marrow is contributing as well and, come your third trimester and ever after, bone marrow will take over all blood cell production. (The spleen bows out of this job by week 30, and the liver stops production a few weeks before your baby is born.

In other news, your baby’s eyelid development is complete, and if your baby-to-be is a girl, her vagina is steadily developing now, but not finishing up until she’s closer to being born. By the end of the week, your baby will measure about 8½ inches long and weigh in at approximately 12 ounces.

At Your Doctor’s Office

If you find yourself at your physician or midwife’s office this week, you may notice that he or she is using a new term. Starting now, baby’s length is measured from crown to heel, or CHL. Previously, baby’s length was measured from the crown to rump, or CRL.

Special Considerations

If you start to experience any vaginal bleeding from here on out, contact your healthcare provider as soon as possible. Painless, later-in-pregnancy bleeding may indicate cervical insufficiency (when the cervix begins dilating and opening too early) or placenta previa, which is when the placenta has attached low within the uterus, covering some or all of the cervix.

While the majority of cases resolve with no interference, your healthcare provider will need to monitor you. (If you already had your detailed ultrasound, you would know if you are at risk.)

Upcoming Doctor’s Visits

During your future prenatal appointments, your healthcare provider will continue to take your blood pressure and test your urine sample. But now he or she will be on the lookout for specific pregnancy-induced high blood pressure issues, like preeclampsia and gestational hypertension that, if they occur, arise after week 20.

Taking Care

You can’t do anything about the extra blood flow and hormones that contribute to swelling in your legs and feet, but you can tweak your habits to lessen your discomfort:

  • Drink Up:  While it seems counterintuitive, drinking more fluids can help flush out waste that may be contributing to swelling. Opt for water as much as possible.
  • Swap Your Socks: Trade any elastic-topped types for support hose.
  • Change Position: Elevate your feet whenever possible (this helps with varicose veins, too). And when standing for a long stretch, move around and/or use a stool to prop one foot.
  • Up Your Potassium: “Swelling may also be reduced by eating foods that are high in potassium, such as bananas, lima beans, sweet potatoes, bok choy, and spinach,” says Dana Angelo White, M.S., R.D., assistant clinical professor at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut, and recipe developer for books like The Whole 9 Months.

For Partners

Pregnant women are at increased risk for urinary tract infections up until about week 24. To help her avoid any potentially dangerous infections, always shower before engaging in sexual intercourse. This will help to limit the possibility of bacteria getting inside the urinary tract, which is above the vaginal area. At the same time, encourage your partner to use the bathroom before and after sex.

Verywell Checklist

  • Continue taking prenatal vitamins.
  • Continue drinking about eight to 12 glasses of water a day.
  • If you’re experiencing swelling, increase your potassium intake.
  • Elevate your feet whenever possible.

Last Week: Week 20

Coming Up: Week 22

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