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18 weeks pregnant

18 weeks pregnant + energy Snack smart

Summary

In your 18th week of pregnancy, your baby’s development continues at a rapid pace. Surprisingly, your energy needs are still the same as before your pregnancy. Find out when you need to increase your daily calorie intake, and how to keep your energy levels up with healthy snacks that benefit you and your baby.

Feeling fluttery at 18 weeks

At around 18 weeks, your baby’s ears should be functioning, so they may start to react to loud noises outside the womb1. They may make kicks and rolls2 but if this is your first pregnancy, you will be less likely to notice these soft, fluttery sensations. You may even pass them off as indigestion1.

“…they may start to react to loud noises outside the womb…”

 "Your baby’s development at 18 weeks"

Inside your baby’s tiny lungs, air sacs called alveoli are starting to develop3 and it’s common for your baby to experience hiccups at this stage2, although it’s unlikely for you to feel them. You may notice their periods of sleep and active wakefulness, though. Many mums report feeling more movement after a meal or late at night3.

Between now and 20 weeks, you’re likely to have an anomaly scan. This is to check that your baby is growing and developing healthily. Your midwife or doctor will give you more information about this. The NHS offers more in-depth advice about this routine screening4.

Eating for energy

It may come as a disappointment to hear that energy requirements during pregnancy are not as high as previously thought. It’s true that energy, in the form of calories, is needed to support your baby’s growth. It is also necessary for building fat stores in preparation for breastfeeding. However, most mums-to-be reduce their level of physical activity as pregnancy progresses, which may compensate for the increased energy needs.

With this in mind, it’s worth considering the quality of what you eat rather than the quantity. For example, a few Brazil nuts can provide a greater source of nutrition than a biscuit.

“You only need to increase your calorie intake in your third trimester.”

Current recommendations from the UK Department of Health state that pregnant women need an extra 200 calories per day for their last trimester only5.

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Feeling faint?

Many women report feeling faint from time to time during pregnancy. This common symptom is mainly due to hormonal changes6. It may also be linked to the fact that your heart is working much harder than usual to support your pregnancy, pumping the increased blood volume around your body. Meanwhile, your growing baby may be putting pressure on blood vessels, which can leave you feeling lightheaded.

Take extra care with your body, standing up slowly after sitting or lying down. Eating little and often throughout the day can help to keep your blood sugar levels stable, helping to maintain steadier energy levels. Be sure to sip water regularly and choose healthy, wholesome snacks that will deliver the nutrients your baby needs, while providing a steady release of energy.

Next Steps

Try these healthy, energy-giving snacks:

  • A handful of apricots or other dried fruit
  • A small bowl of natural yogurt with fresh fruit
  • Sardines on wholegrain toast
  • Wholegrain crackers with cheese
  • A fruit smoothie
  • A wholegrain wrap with chicken and salad leaves
  • A slice of wholegrain toast with peanut butter
  • Oatcakes with pasteurised soft cheese
  • Hummus with carrot sticks

View references

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1. NHS UK. You and your baby at 17–20 weeks pregnant [Online]. 2013. Available at: www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pages/pregnancy-weeks-17-18-19-20.aspx [Accessed July 2014]

2. Murkoff H, Mazel S. What to Expect When You’re Expecting. 4th ed. London: Simon & Schuster Ltd, 2009. Curtis GB, Schuler J. Your pregnancy week by week. 7th ed. Cambridge: Fisher books, 2011.

3. NCT. Your baby’s movements in the womb [Online]. 2012. Available at: www.nct.org.uk/pregnancy/your-babys-movements-womb [Accessed April 2014]

4. NHS UK. Screening tests for abnormalities in pregnancy [Online]. 2013. Available at: www.nhs.uk/Conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pages/screening-tests-abnormality-pregnant.aspx [Accessed July 2014]

5. Department of Health. Report on Health and Social Subjects 41. Dietary Reference Values for Food Energy and Nutrients for the United Kingdom. London: TSO, 1991.

6. NHS UK. Pregnancy and baby [Online]. 2013. Available at: www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pages/common-pregnancy-problems.aspx#Faintness [Accessed July 2014]

Last reviewed: 14th July 2016

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