Welcome to week 26
This is the week you could wave goodbye to your toes as your bump grows bigger. If night time trips to the toilet are disturbing your sleep pattern and leaving you feeling tired, try not to drink too much in the last two hours before bedtime, and avoid diuretic drinks containing caffeine, such as tea, coffee and cola. This will help, but the pressure of your uterus on your bladder will probably mean midnight toilet trips won't stop altogether. If you're prone to leg cramps or 'restless' legs, try giving your legs a good massage and stretch in the couple of hours before bedtime: this will keep the muscles supple and less susceptible to going into spasm. A warm bath before bed will help too.
Your baby now weighs around 900g (about 2lb). Crown-to-rump length is around 23cm (9.2in) and the skin is becoming less transparent, although a network of veins is still visible below the surface. Male testicles will descend into the scrotum during this week. The network of nerves in your baby's ears is developing well and the sense of hearing is becoming more sophisticated. Your baby is likely to be aware of your voice and you might notice more movements when you're talking. Breathing movements are taking place, during which your baby inhales and exhales small amounts of amniotic fluid. The heart is growing and becoming stronger and the heartbeat will be audible through a standard stethoscope, although not all mums master hearing it this way. Your baby's heartbeat will continue to be monitored at each antenatal visit using the Doppler ultrasound device.
On the outside
Your midwife will be able to feel the top of your uterus around 6.5cm (about 2 .5in) above your belly button. This distance will increase by about 1cm a week throughout the rest of your pregnancy. Most of your pregnancy weight is gained in the last 20 weeks of pregnancy, with most women gaining between 10kg and 12.5kg (22-28lb), so don't be surprised if you find you've gained quite a bit in the past six weeks or so. The extra weight may mean your lower back starts to feel the strain, so do take extra care of yourself. Some mums-to-be find a bump support helpful: this elasticated sling hugs your bump, providing extra support to the lower back and abdomen.
For good back health, support your lower back with a small cushion when you're sitting; maintaining good posture; treat yourself to a pregnancy massage or acupuncture with a therapist trained in and using a gentle heat pack to ease pain in your lower back.
Things to think about
You might like to consider using complementary therapies in labour: some women bring a practitioner into the labour room with them (birth unit permitting), as well as their chosen birth partner.
Reflexology – this involves manipulation of the feet to treat different organs in the body
Acupuncture – effective as pain relief and for relaxation
Meditation and visualization – can aid pain-relief and be practised with or without a therapist
Hypnosis – helps to distance the labouring mum from her pain.
If you're interested in a water birth start making plans. Check your local hospital and birthing unit has a birthing pool. Some units are happy for you to bring your own hired pool; others don't have strong enough floors to support the weight. If you're determined to have a water birth this might influence your choice of where to give birth. If you have sufficient space at home you might opt for a home water birth.
You can legitimately give birth wherever you choose, and change your mind right up until the moment you're in labour – although this is not ideal. Recent changes to the law mean that although you have a perfect right to give birth at home, your health authority doesn't have a responsibility to provide a midwifery service. You are entitled to emergency care, whether from a midwife, doctor or by ambulance transfer to hospital – and, in reality, most health authorities will provide you with a midwife for a home birth unless they are completely unable to do so.
See previous week: 25 weeks pregnant
See next week: 27 weeks pregnant