Pregnancy
20 weeks and 5 days pregnant

The skin is less translucent now as your baby is starting to lay down fat stores, which after the birth will help with temperature control and provide an energy reservoir for your baby to call upon when necessary.

Your developing baby is becoming more responsive and aware every day as his nervous system begins to work more effectively.

By this stage, your baby can already detect a number of tastes and in a few weeks he’ll start recognizing and responding to sounds. However, the nerve pathways that carry information about pain, temperature, and touch are only just starting to develop at around 20 weeks, and it will be some time before these sensations can be recognized on a conscious level.

Your baby does have reflexes from an early stage – for example, from about 10 weeks he’ll close his fingers if they are touched. However, reflexes only require a nerve connection to the spinal cord and do not involve the brain. For information about pain, temperature, and touch to be recognized, it must travel from your baby’s body to his spinal cord and then on to the thalamus, which lies in the centre of the brain. The thalamus then sends signals to the cortex, the outer surface of your baby’s brain, where the stimuli can be recognized and also evoke an emotional response. These connections are thought to function after 26 weeks of pregnancy, but it may be several weeks later before their electrical activity can be detected on an electroencephalogram (EEG). Many of these nerves require insulation around them to conduct signals effectively, and these do not develop until much later.

This is my second baby – is it worth going to antenatal classes again?

I think so. There were three years between my pregnancies and it helped to have a refresher course; I even found that some of the advice had changed in that time. My partner found it helpful, too.

One reason to go is to meet some pregnant mums again; it’s always useful to share the experience with others and, as with your first pregnancy, you’ll probably find you make some great friends.

You probably can’t imagine wearing maternity stockings, but they have their uses. They work by promoting circulation and the return of blood back to the heart and may be recommended to prevent vein-related problems, particularly if you suffer from varicose veins or spider veins.

They also help to relieve aching feet and mild swelling in the feet, ankles, and legs, as well as fluid retention. They may be particularly helpful if your work means that you must be on your feet for long periods of time.

Thankfully, an element of fashion has been introduced and many brands are sheer and pretty. There is a variety available: some are thigh- or knee-high and others cover the whole leg. You’ll find lighter stockings for summer wear, when the hot weather can lead to further swelling. You can also buy maternity tights that provide support for your baby and uterus, taking the pressure off your back.

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