Your unborn child is now between 11 and 12 centimetres in size, which is about the size of a pear. They weigh 100 grams, which is about half the weight of an average pear. In week 17, the main developments are your baby’s length, their facial features, and their reflexes and senses. They’ll soon start to put on weight in the form of subcutaneous fat, which will be crucial for surviving outside the womb.
Your heart and kidneys are working harder now, pumping lots of extra blood around to bring nourishment and oxygen to your baby. Your digestive system has quite a bit less space than it used to, however, so it might become more sluggish, resulting in heartburn, indigestion or constipation.
The best way to steer clear of these problems is to drink plenty of caffeine-free fluids – at least eight 8-ounce glasses a day - and eat lots of fibre-rich foods, like fruit, veg and wholegrain carbs. Organic fruits and vegetables are a great choice, with lots of fibre and no harmful pesticide residues.
During your pregnancy, your immune system is also under extra pressure. If you do become unwell, try to avoid taking any unnecessary medication; if you're not sure whether something is safe to take, ask your doctor or pharmacist for advice.
It's also a good idea to avoid contact with children who have chickenpox (if you haven’t had it yourself) and measles (if you haven’t been immunised). If you do come into contact with either virus, it's a good idea to let your GP know.
What it’s like for the mum-to-be in week 17
Week 17 is a time of varying feelings for pregnant women, similar to the emotional rollercoaster of puberty. It’s only natural that you’ll be worried about any number of things – this is a brand new challenge for you after all, and you’ll be focusing both on your baby’s health and wellbeing and on how you as a family will cope with everything when they’re born.
Women looking forward to meeting their child and planning their family life will also be experiencing moments of indescribable happiness. Week 17 is also when many mums-to-be notice their “nesting” instinct kicking in: you’ll start working hard to prepare for life as a mum, planning ahead and starting to buy things you need to get your home ready for your new baby.
You're making a cup of tea, and then you’re interrupted by the phone ringing. When you hang up, you’ve forgotten where you left the tea. Does this sound familiar? If so, don’t worry about it: it’s what people call pregnancy brain, the forgetfulness that mums-to-be often experience. It happens because you’re being overworked. In week 17, there are so many new sensations, feelings and information having an effect on you that you can’t easily process it all. There’s no need to be embarrassed about this temporary symptom – you’ll be able to laugh about it later!
Feeling your baby’s movements
If this is your second pregnancy, you’ll just about be able to feel your baby moving as of week 17. If it’s your first child, you’ll have to wait a bit longer. What will it feel like when it actually happens? It’s best described as a kind of tickle or tingle, which gradually gets stronger and stronger. Feeling their baby move is a moment of elation for most pregnant women.
Your womb gets bigger and bigger
As your womb grows, you may well feel the ligaments that support it as they stretch, causing a kind of grinding and pulling sensation. It’s nothing to worry about as long as there aren’t any other symptoms. If you experience rhythmic pains, bleeding or vaginal discharge, however, you should visit your doctor immediately as your child may be in danger.
There are exercises that you can do to lessen the pain caused by your growing uterus, strengthen your pelvic floor and relax those ligaments. Even just getting out and about will do you and your baby the world of good, as it will help you (and them) get more oxygen.
Varicose veins on your legs
At times you may notice small veins on your legs, known either as varicose veins or spider veins. This is completely normal and is no reason to worry: your body has a lot of work to do and is processing a larger amount of blood (another symptom of this is minor nosebleeds). We recommend that you wear compression tights.
Your bump becomes rounder
In week 17, people you meet will be able to tell that you’re expecting a baby. The combination of your larger breasts, wider hips and bigger baby bump means that by now you’ll have your pregnancy figure. It’s a reflection of your happiness and will benefit you when your baby is born and you’re breastfeeding them.