The brain starts to control the muscles
Week 19: Your baby is starting to think and listen
During the weeks before, of, and after your 19th week of pregnancy, your baby’s brain develops at a phenomenal rate. In addition, other systems continue to grow.
- Your baby now measures about 6 inches, or the length of a summer squash.
- When you're 19 weeks pregnant, your baby's brain develops millions of motor neurons. Neurons are nerves that help muscles in the brain communicate. This new and ongoing development means your baby can make purposeful and involuntary movements.
- Your baby's new movements might include sucking her thumb, moving her head, or making other moves that you might start to feel.
- Your baby's hearing is even more developed when you're 19 weeks pregnant. She probably can hear external sounds and conversation by this time, or will very soon. Your voice is the most pronounced. She can hear you talk, hum, and sing.
- Your baby's skin is covered in a white, waxy, protective coating called vernix.
- Under the vernix, the fine hair called lanugo continues to cover her skin.
- By your 19th week of pregnancy, your baby's kidneys function. Her urine is excreted into your amniotic sac, the bag of fluid in your uterus that contains your baby and amniotic fluid. Your placenta then removes the waste.
Your Week 19 nutrition and health
Distinguishing between good and bad fats
Fats are an essential part of your baby's growth and development during the 19th week of pregnancy. But choosing the right fats is key.
Cutting back on your saturated and trans fat intake is a good idea. To do this, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010 recommends that you cut back on foods high in solid fats (fats that are solid at room temperature, such as butter, beef fat, and shortening).
Foods high in saturated fat:
Cheese, butter, high-fat meats (such as ribs, sausage, hot dogs, and bacon), coconut oil, and palm oil
Foods high in trans fat:
Margarines, snack foods, and prepared desserts, such as cookies, cakes, pastries, and donuts.
Conversely, unsaturated fats are an important part of a healthy diet. Unsaturated fats — which include monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, as well as omega-3 fatty acids (such as DHA) — have been shown to have a beneficial effect on cardiovascular disease. Omega-3 fats are particularly important during pregnancy because they support your baby's brain development. Fats are needed to help the cell membranes and other tissues grow.
Foods containing unsaturated fats include:
- Plant-based fats (such as olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil, soy oil, safflower oil, corn oil, and cottonseed oil), nuts and seeds, low-mercury seafood, avocado
In general, you want four full servings (14 grams) or eight half servings (7 grams) of total fat per day. Avoid saturated and trans fats, and look to these good-fat foods instead.
- Walnuts: Walnuts contain alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), another healthy omega-3 fatty acid.
- Wild salmon: This type of fish contains high levels of DHA, but it's recommended that pregnant women limit their total amount of fish consumption to 12 ounces per week.
- Eggs: Eggs are fine in moderation, and now you can find DHA-enriched eggs at the store.
Remember to always talk to your physician before making changes to your diet during pregnancy.
Foods often have fats that have been changed through a process called hydrogenation to become what is commonly known as trans-fatty acids (TFAs). This type of fat raises low-density cholesterol (the unhealthy type), increases the risk of heart disease and should be avoided when possible. It is found most often in processed cookies, pastries, donuts, chips, and other snack foods.
In 2006, the FDA began requiring nutrition facts labels to list trans fats.
Keep learning about your baby's development every week
- Expert nutrition guidance for your pregnancy
- Weekly updates on how your baby is developing and growing
- Up to $329† in membership benefits