WEEK TWENTY ONE
Your baby is the size of a Pomegranate. (seven inches in length and almost 11 ounces in weight).
With all that kicking and stretching your baby does all day, it’s hard to believe your baby gets any sleep at all. But believe it or not, your fetus sleeps as much as a newborn, perhaps 12 to 14 hours per day!
Speaking of bananas, if you eat one this week, there’s a good chance your baby will get a taste, too. That’s because your baby swallows a bit of amniotic fluid each day — not only for nutrition and hydration, but also to practice swallowing and digesting, skills your baby will need as soon as he or she arrives in your arms. And keep this in mind: The taste of the amniotic fluid differs from day to day depending on what you’ve eaten (spicy panner tikka one day, sweet carrots another). And that smorgasbord of tastes won’t be lost on your baby. That’s because your little one has very developed taste buds already. In fact, researchers have noted that babies who were exposed to certain tastes in utero via the amniotic fluid were more eager to eat foods with that same taste after birth. Want your baby to eat his or her broccoli later? Eat yours now!
Your baby might be starting to leave his or her mark — in the form of stretch marks, that is — all over your belly, butt, thighs, hips and breasts. These pink, red or purple streaks appear as your body expands and your belly and breasts just keep on growing; the supporting tissue under your skin tears as the skin stretches. Only about one in two women gets them, though you’re a likely candidate if your mom had stretch marks during her pregnancy. Darker-skinned women are less likely to get them (plus, they’re not as visible on dark skin), but fair-skinned ladies are usually less lucky. Rapid weight gain can also predispose you to getting stretch marks — another good reason to add your pounds slowly and steadily (at an average of about a pound a week these days).
Unfortunately, there’s no proven way to prevent stretch marks from zigzagging their way across your skin (though there’s no harm in applying moisturizers, such as cocoa butter, to your skin; if nothing else, it will prevent the dryness and itching associated with pregnancy-stretched skin). The good news: They won’t stay so vividly hued forever. After delivery, they usually fade to a less noticeable silvery-gray.
TIPS & TO-DOS
- You should keep the exercise regime going – but keep it easy and low impact.
- Feeling Anxious? Talk your feelings over with your friends who’ve had babies — they’ll reassure you that they experienced the same kind of thoughts. Most importantly, discuss your fears with your partner, who’s probably just as much in need of a good heart-to-heart.
- You’re more susceptible to injury right now thanks to ligament-loosening relaxin in your body.
- Because your body has about 50% more blood and fluid than it did pre-baby, your feet may swell. So be sure to clock in a few sit-and-elevate sessions throughout the day.
- Fetal Movement: By now you should be feeling your baby twisting, turning and kicking in the womb. Don’t mistake this for gas. Enjoy these first gentle taps — soon enough your growing baby’s kicks will get more aggressive.
- Increased Appetite: Are you always in the mood… to eat? Carry healthy snacks with you (such as nuts, raisins or granola bars) so that you’ll have nutritious fuel to keep you and your baby-to-be nourished even when you’re on the go.
- Bloating & Gas: The increasing pressure your uterus is placing on your rectum can mean that you’re having a hard time containing yourself (your gas, that is). Drink plenty of water and eat fiber-rich foods to avoid becoming constipated, which can make gassiness worse.
- Varicose Veins
- Not only is your center of gravity shifting and putting extra strain on your back, but the hormone relaxin is also causing your ligaments and joints to stretch and loosen, which means additional aches in your back. If you can, splurge on a prenatal massage from a trained professional.
- Bleeding Gums
- Fast-Growing Nails
WEEK TWENTY TWO
Your baby is the size of a Papaya.
Your baby’s got well formed eyelashes and eyebrows— and even more hair is sprouting atop that cute little head. You’d be quite surprised, though, if you could see your little one up close and in colour. Hair at this stage of fetal development has no pigment, so it’s bright white.
This week, your baby is making more sense of the world as it develops the sense of touch. In fact, your little one’s grip is quite developed — and since there’s nothing else to grab in utero, the umblical cord becomes the target to hold tight onto. (Don’t worry — it’s tough enough to handle your baby’s grip.) The sense of sight is also getting more developed. Your fetus can now perceive light and dark much better than before (even with those fused eyelids). But remember — unless you’re shining a flashlight over your belly (which you can do, by the way), it’ll be mostly dark for your baby inside that cosy womb of yours. You baby can also hear your voice, your heartbeat, your gurgling stomach and the whoosh-whoosh of blood circulating through your body.
Your uterus is now about an inch above your belly button — growing by leaps and bounds. But your belly’s not the only thing that’s growing these days. Have you looked down at your feet? Quick, look now — before you get too big to see them. If you’re like many expectant women, you’ll discover that feet grow too. Perfect time to revamp your shoe collection!
While some foot growth can be attributed to pregnancy swelling (edema), there’s another reason that feet increase in size during pregnancy (and usually don’t shrink back after). Remember relaxin — that pregnancy hormone that loosens the ligaments and joints around your pelvis so your baby can fit through (and the hormone that’s also likely to make you especially clumsy during pregnancy)? Well, it doesn’t discriminate between the ligaments you’d want loosened up (like those pelvic ones) and those you’d rather they’d just leave alone (like those on your feet). The result: When the ligaments in the feet are loosened, the bones under them tend to spread slightly, resulting, for many women, in a half or whole shoe-size increase. And tootsies that feel suddenly uncomfortably tight. If you do find yourself running to the mall for a new pair of shoes (no need to be barefoot and pregnant, after all!), buy ones that are comfortable and roomy — and for now, with no more than a sensibly chunky two-inch heel (skip the stilettos — you’ll have trouble enough keeping your balance as your belly balloons).
TIPS & TO-DOS
- Is your uterus practising for delivery? If you feel an irregular, painless, squeezing sensation in your abdomen, it is. Those are Braxton Hicks and they’re not dangerous.
- At risk of preterm labor? The doc may check for fetal fibronectin, a protein gluing the amniotic sac to the uterus. If there, you may get medication to help prevent problems.
- If you have sudden leg cramps or restless legs, you may be low on potassium. Add potassium-rich foods like white beans, yoghurt and bananas to your diet.
- Heartburn or Indigestion: It’s perfectly normal to find yourself wanting to devour the contents of your kitchen cabinets and fridge (you have a growing baby to feed!). So try to stock your home with healthy snacks such as fruit, cut-up veggies, nuts and whole-wheat crackers.
- Constipation: That growing uterus is also putting pressure on your bowels, making it harder to move waste out of your system. Give things a jump-start by exercising regularly, which encourages bowel movements.
- Increased Vaginal Discharge: If you’re finding your vaginal discharge to be heavy these days, remember to keep clean and dry (if you like, use a panty liner), which will help prevent the odours that sometimes accompany this pregnancy symptom.
- Faintness or Dizziness: Your ever-expanding uterus can put pressure on your blood vessels, which can reduce blood flow to your brain and cause light-headedness. Help keep your blood pumping through your circulatory system by drinking at least eight glasses of water a day (more if it’s hot or you’re working out).
- Leg Cramps: Some experts theorize that leg cramps during pregnancy may be caused by a shortage of calcium or magnesium in the diet. Reduce the frequency of these painful spasms by taking your prenatal vitamin daily.
- Stretch Marks: Noticing stretch marks not just on your belly but on your hips, thighs and breasts as well? Go ahead and rub moisturiser all over your body — it may not be a miracle cure, but it’s worth a shot and will help ease dryness and itchiness.
WEEK TWENTY THREE
Your baby is the size of a Grapefruit
This week marks the beginning of some serious weight gain for your baby. At already eight inches and slightly over a pound – your baby should double in weight over the next four weeks alone (and you may feel as though you do, too). The skin is a bit saggy since it grows a lot faster than fat, but soon your baby’s body takes proper shape as fat deposits fill things out. By the time your baby is born, he or she will be pleasantly plump and filled out, from chubby cheeks to chubby toes. And although at 23 weeks pregnant your baby’s organs and bones are visible through the skin (which has a red hue due to developing veins and arteries beneath), they become less visible once those fat deposits settle in.
You’ve probably heard your developing baby’s heartbeat through a Doppler a number of times already (though you never get tired of hearing it), but by now you can also hear it through a standard stethoscope.
Your mind is forgetful and your feet swollen. Well you’ve probably noticed that pregnancy affects you head to toe (and pretty much everywhere in between). The palms of your hands and soles of your feet might be red and you might be more prone to heat rash and skin tags. Stretch marks are blooming in vibrant shades of pink, grey and purple on pretty much every available surface of skin and… wait! What’s that funky dark line running down the center of your belly?
Believe it or not, it’s called the ‘dark line’, or linea nigra, as your practitioner likes to call it. A common emblem of pregnancy (more noticeable in darker skinned women), the linea nigra, which runs between your belly button and your pubic area, is caused by the same pregnancy hormones that cause all the skin discolorations you might be noticing. Like the darker shade of your Areolas, and the deeper tone of the freckles on your arms and legs. Some women (again, more often darker-skinned ones) notice discoloration on the face too, especially in the area around the nose, forehead, cheeks and eyes. It’s called the mask of pregnancy (or chloasma) because it appears as a mask-like configuration on the face. Rest assured, you won’t be playing masquerade for much longer. All these skin discolorations will fade within a few months after delivery. In the meantime, bring on the concealer (though not the bleaching creams, which won’t work anyway).
TIPS & TO-DOS
- Wondering how to overcome pregnancy insomnia? Try sliding a pillow between your legs and resting with your knees bent.
- Keep a bottle of water by your side at all times. Staying hydrated helps maintain your additional blood volume, renews amniotic fluid, bolsters milk production and more.
- Is your growing bundle of joy making you a quivering bundle of nerves? Breathe, baby, breathe! Now’s a great time to learn some soothing relaxation techniques — not just because they can help you cope with pregnancy worries (and, soon, with labor contractions), but because they’ll come in handy in your life as a new mom (for the times when the baby’s on a crying marathon, your spouse is working late, you just burned the last clean pot and your mother’s on the phone…again).Ten to 20 minutes should do the trick, though even a minute or two is better than nothing.
- Fetal Activity: You may be getting used to feeling your baby’s movements in the womb. Cherish these light kicks now before they get more powerful, pronounced and sometimes painful (before you feel a kick in your ribs or cervix)
- Hearty Appetite: It’s perfectly normal to find yourself wanting to devour the contents of your kitchen cabinets and fridge (you have a growing baby to feed!). So try to stock your home with healthy snacks such as fruit, cut-up veggies, nuts and whole-wheat crackers.
- Bloating: If you can’t seem to shake that ate-too-much feeling, you’re experiencing the effects of progesterone. The hormone causes the gastrointestinal tract to relax and slow down digestion, so nutrients have more time to enter your bloodstream and reach your baby. Drink more water to help keep things moving.
- Snoring: This fairly common (and annoying) pregnancy symptom can disrupt your sleep, and your partner’s. Partly due to nasal congestion caused by extra weight and swollen mucous membranes in your nose. You can alleviate the night time nasal noises by wearing a nasal strip at bedtime and running a warm-mist humidifier in your bedroom.
- Pregnancy Brain: Are you forgetting your keys, appointments and where you parked the car? “Pregnancy brain” is likely caused by those pregnancy hormones — and since it’s completely normal (and temporary), try to laugh it off and refrain from being too hard on yourself.
- Bleeding Gums: Reduce irritation to your gums (which are swelling more than usual these days due to hormones) by avoiding chewy sweets, brushing and flossing regularly and visiting the dentist at least once while you’re expecting.
- Tingling Hands: Swelling during pregnancy can put pressure on nerves in the wrists and cause the aching and tingling associated with carpal tunnel syndrome. If you work at a computer, take frequent hand-stretching breaks and make sure your wrists are straight and elbows aren’t higher than your hands when you’re at your desk.
WEEK TWENTY FOUR
Your baby is the size of a cantaloupe
Wondering what (and whom) your baby will look like? If you had a baby cam at 24 weeks pregnant, you’d almost be able to tell by now. That beautiful face (though still tiny) is almost fully formed, complete with eyelashes, eyebrows and hair.
What’s been playing on your little rocker’s stereo system these days? All kinds of sounds can be heard by your baby in your womb: air exhaling from your lungs (deep breath now), those gastric gurgles produced by your stomach and intestines, your voice and your partner’s (which your baby will be able to recognize at birth), and even very loud sounds such as honking horns, barking dogs or a wailing fire truck.
- If your former innie is now an outie, welcome to the club. Almost every expectant mom’s pregnant belly button pops at some point as her swelling uterus pushes on everything in its path. Things should return to normal after delivery, though your navel (and some other parts of your body) might look a bit, well, stretched. Just think of it as one more badge of honour that only moms get to wear.
- Numb wrists and fingers? Chances are it’s carpal tunnel syndrome. The uncomfortable tingling and numbness you notice in your wrists and fingers is usually associated with work that requires repetitive motion (such as typing) — but carpal tunnel strikes pregnant women for a different reason (though repetitive motion can definitely contribute). The swelling that’s so common during pregnancy causes fluids to accumulate in your lower extremities during the day, which are redistributed to the rest of your body (including your hands) when you’re lying down — putting pressure on the nerve that runs through your wrist. That causes numbness, tingling, pain or a dull ache in the fingers, hand or wrist. Get relief by avoiding sleeping on your hands and propping your arms up with a pillow at night. Shaking your hands and wrists might also help. Be sure, too, that if you are doing repetitive motions such as piano playing or typing (which can aggravate your symptoms), take frequent hand-stretching breaks. If you’re in a lot of pain, a wrist brace might just be the ticket to comfort. Luckily when the regular swelling of pregnancy resolves after delivery, the carpal tunnel symptoms will diminish, too.
TIPS & TO-DOS
- Your doc will give you a glucose test between 24-28 weeks. Your blood sugar levels may show you have gestational diabetes, a temporary condition that must be treated.
- Red, Itchy Palms: Consult your doctor in case this continues for a long period. There’s a chance it could indicate a rare pregnancy complication called Cholestasis.
- Thinking about a babymoon? Don’t hesitate! As long as there are no concerns about your pregnancy, you can travel throughout. And you can fly until month 8.
- Leg Cramps
- Swollen Feet & Ankles
- Lower Abdominal Aches: As your uterus continues to expand, the ligaments that support it stretch, which may cause some pain. Occasional lower abdominal aches are normal, but if the discomfort is accompanied by symptoms such as fever, chills or bleeding, see your doctor.
- Blurred Vision: Are your contact lenses bothering you lately — or is your vision sometimes blurry? Pregnancy hormones can decrease tear production (causing eye irritation) and increase fluid buildup in the eye, temporarily altering your vision. This should pass shortly after delivery, so don’t go out and get any new eyeglass or contact-lens prescriptions while you’re expecting.
Information Credit: Whattoexpect.com