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21 weeks pregnant

When you are 21 weeks pregnant, your baby will be able to hear your voice and distinguish it from others. Your bump may be growing as the baby gains weight too.

Week by week stages of pregnancy: week 21

You are now 21 weeks pregnant and  both your bump and your baby are getting bigger.  Your baby is continuing to grow and is gradually putting on weight – they will start laying down more fat a little later in pregnancy. They will be getting longer – by a centimetre or two a week. Your bump will also be visibly bigger which can feel quite exciting.  From now on your bump will be measured at your antenatal appointments to see if it is in line with the dates.

In week 21 of pregnancy your baby is developing their senses as their sense of taste starts to form. The baby’s hearing is developed well enough to recognise your voice so make sure you and your partner talk to them regularly as they will recognise your voices when they're born. They may also start responding to noises outside the uterus, such as music, conversations and even noise from the television so you may want to try playing music or reading to them.

If you are in employment, around 21 weeks into your pregnancy can be a good time to start planning your maternity leave in more detail. Legally you have to inform your employer 15 weeks before the week you are expecting your baby, which is roughly during week 24 of pregnancy (please check your exact date). At this time you must tell your employer when you wish to start your maternity leave (this can be anything from 11 weeks before your due date up until the birth) and when you intend to return to work.

If you are an employee you are entitled to 52 weeks maternity leave, regardless of length of service or the number of hours worked. This is split into two parts, the first 26 weeks are known as Ordinary Maternity Leave and this is the standard amount of time you can have off. 

If you decide to stay off work longer than this, this is called Additional Maternity Leave and can continue for another 26 weeks. Partners will also need to consider their paternity leave options.

Your options for maternity leave and working after your maternity leave can vary. What works for you will depend on your career ambitions, your family finances, availability of childcare and your health. Working out some possible options now will help to build a working pattern that will achieve the goals and balance you want in life.

With such big issues to address, now would be a good time to have a practical discussion with your partner or family about the financial considerations.  Remember that having a baby will mean more cost and less income so tackling these issues now, may be more reassuring when the baby is here. 

Further help and information

NCT's helpline offers practical and emotional support in all areas of pregnancy, birth and early parenthood: 0300 330 0700. We also offer antenatal courses which are a great way to find out more about birth, labour and life with a new baby.

Join in with NCT on Facebook and Twitter - it's a great way to make new friends and stay in touch with old ones. Or joint our community for new parents on Google+ where you can connect with other parents online who are experiencing similar things.