Thursday, August 17, 2006

Week 33

How your baby's growing: This week your baby weighs a little over 4 pounds and measures 17.2 inches from the top of his head to his heels. His skin is becoming less red and wrinkled, and while most of his bones are hardening, his skull is quite pliable and not completely joined. This will help him ease out of your relatively narrow birth canal.
• Note: Experts say every baby develops differently — even in the womb. This developmental information is designed to give you a general idea of how your baby is growing.How your life's changing: You may be feeling some aches and even numbness in your fingers, wrists, and hands. Like many other tissues in your body, those in your wrist can swell, which can increase pressure in the carpal tunnel, a bony canal in your wrist. Nerves that run through this "tunnel" end up pinched, creating numbness, tingling, shooting or burning pain, or a dull ache. Try wearing a brace or propping your arm up with a pillow when you sleep. If your work requires repetitive hand movements (at a keyboard or assembly line, for example), remember to stretch your hands when you take breaks.If you're having trouble sleeping at night, try wedging a pillow between your legs and behind your back. If that doesn't help, try sleeping in a semi-upright position, with several pillows behind your head (or sleep in a recliner!). If frequent trips to the bathroom are robbing you of your zz's, cut back on fluids by late afternoon or evening.Still feeling sexy? You may need to make some adjustments, but for most women, sex during pregnancy is fine right up until their water breaks.Pregnancy Tip: Bored with pregnancy? Try this! "Every time I start to get bored with my pregnancy, I lie down and rub my belly. Sure enough, my baby starts to kick, and I think about how wonderful it will be when I'm able to hold him." — Barbara

Week 32

How your baby's growing: By now, your baby probably weighs almost 4 pounds and is almost 17 inches long, taking up a lot of space in your uterus. She has tiny toenails now, and her fingernails have grown in, too. Some babies have a head of hair already; others have only peach fuzz.
• Note: Experts say every baby develops differently — even in the womb. This developmental information is designed to give you a general idea of how your baby is growing.How your life's changing: Your blood volume (the plasma plus red blood cells) is now about 40 to 50 percent greater than before you became pregnant to accommodate the needs of you and your baby. (This extra amount also helps make up for any blood you'll lose when giving birth.) You're also gaining a pound a week now, and roughly half of that goes right to your baby. With your uterus pushing up near your diaphragm and adding pressure on your abdomen, you may be dealing with heartburn more often or feeling a little short of breath. To help with shortness of breath, try eating smaller quantities more often (rather than three daily feasts) and sleeping propped up. Those smaller meals should help with the heartburn, too.As your baby grows, the increasing concentration of weight in your growing belly causes a change in your posture and a shift in your center of gravity. Plus, your abdominal muscles are stretching, hormones are making your ligaments more lax, and your growing uterus may even press on some nerves. All of this can contribute to low back pain and possibly to some pain in your buttocks and thighs as well. Let your caregiver know if you have severe pain or feel numbness or tingling in your legs.Pregnancy Tip: Calming early contractions "I had Braxton Hicks contractions in spades starting at about 26 weeks. My doctor advised that when they started, I should get up, go to the bathroom, and drink water. This helped tremendously. I now get only one or two a day, and they are much more manageable." — Sandy

Week 31

How your baby's growing: This week, your baby measures about 16 inches long. He weighs a little over 3 pounds and is headed for a growth spurt. He can turn his head from side to side, and he's beginning to accumulate a layer of fat underneath his skin in preparation for life as a newborn. As a result, his arms, legs, and body are filling out.
• Note: Experts say every baby develops differently — even in the womb. This developmental information is designed to give you a general idea of how your baby is growing.How your life's changing: You may have noticed some leaking of colostrum, or "premilk," from your breasts lately. Some expectant moms experience this leaking, others don't; either way, it's perfectly normal and you can rest assured that your body is doing what it's meant to do. If you're leaking, you may want to tuck some nursing pads in your bra to protect your clothes. And if you plan to breastfeed, you might also want to pick up a nursing bra. If your current bra is too snug, go ahead and wear the nursing bra now. (When shopping, choose a nursing bra at least one cup size bigger than you need now to accommodate the swelling that will take place when your milk comes in.)Have you noticed the muscles in your uterus tightening now and then? Some women feel these random contractions — called Braxton Hicks contractions — in the second half of pregnancy. Lasting from 30 to 60 seconds, they're nonrhythmic and irregular and, at this point in your pregnancy, they should be infrequent and not painful. (When you're within a few weeks of your due date, it's normal for Braxton Hicks contractions to become more frequent and even somewhat painful; in fact, they're often called "false labor" because sometimes it can be hard to tell them from the real thing.) Until 37 weeks, though, your baby is still premature. So if you're getting frequent contractions (even if they don't hurt), it may be a sign of preterm labor. Call your practitioner immediately if you have an increase or change in vaginal discharge (especially if it's watery, mucus-like, or pink or tinged with blood), abdominal pain or menstrual-like cramping, more than four contractions in an hour, an increase in pressure in the pelvic area, or low back pain, especially if you didn't have it before.If you're having a boy, you and your partner will want to take some time to think about whether or not to have your baby circumcised. Find out what the procedure involves.Pregnancy Tip: Choosing a focal point "I'm 31 weeks along, and at my childbirth classes they've been telling us to concentrate on a focal point during labor. Anything from a picture to a crack in the wall or ceiling can work, so long as it helps Nom relax and distracts him from the pain." — Anonymous

Week 30

How your baby's growing: Your baby's a bit more than 15 1/2 inches long now, and she weighs almost 3 pounds. A pint and a half of amniotic fluid surrounds her, but that volume will decrease as she gets bigger and fills out your uterus. Her eyes open and close, she's able to distinguish between light and dark, and she can even follow a light source back and forth. Once she's born, she'll keep her eyes closed for a good part of the day. When she does open them, she'll respond to changes in light but will have a visual acuity of only 20/400 — which means she can only make out objects a few inches from her face. ("Normal" vision in adults is 20/20.)
• Note: Experts say every baby develops differently — even in the womb. This developmental information is designed to give you a general idea of how your baby is growing.How your life's changing: You may be feeling a little tired these days, especially if you're having any trouble sleeping. You might also feel clumsy, which is perfectly understandable. Not only are you heavier, your balance is off and your joints are loosened, thanks to pregnancy hormones. Those loose joints can actually cause your feet to grow a shoe size --permanently.Remember those mood swings you had earlier in pregnancy? The combination of uncomfortable symptoms and your hormones may result in a revisit of those ups and downs you felt in the first few months. It's normal to worry about what your labor will be like or whether you'll be a good parent, but if you can't shake the blues or feel increasingly anxious or irritable, talk to your doctor or midwife. You may be among the 10 percent of expectant women who battle mild to moderate depression during their pregnancies.And if you think you might like some kind of pain relief for labor and delivery, now's a good time to look into your options.Pregnancy Tip: Searching for a pediatrician "I realized that finding a good pediatrician would be at least as important as finding a good doctor or midwife, so I started my search early. I asked my midwife and her assistant, the workers, administrators and mothers at two daycare centers, and my local hospital's referral center for recommendations. The two practitioners whose names came up most often were the ones I interviewed." — Anonymous

Week 29

How your baby's growing Your baby now weighs about 2 1/2 pounds and is a tad over 15 inches long from head to heel. His muscles and lungs are continuing to mature, and his head is growing bigger to accommodate his brain — which is busy developing billions of neurons. With this rapid growth, it's no surprise that your baby's nutritional needs reach their peak during this trimester. To keep yourself and him well nourished, you'll need plenty of protein, vitamin C, folic acid, iron, and calcium. (About 200 milligrams of calcium is deposited in your baby's skeleton — which is now hardening — every day.)° Note: Experts say every baby develops differently — even in utero. This developmental information is designed to give you a general idea of how your baby grows in your womb.How your life's changing You should be able to feel your baby's movements strongly now. Pay attention to the kicks and nudges, and let your practitioner know if you ever notice a decrease in activity. She may ask you to do fetal kick counts to make sure everything's okay.Some old friends — heartburn and constipation — may take center stage again. The pregnancy hormone progesterone relaxes smooth muscle tissue throughout your body, including your gastrointestinal tract. This relaxation, coupled with the crowding in your abdomen, slows your digestive process, which can cause gas, especially after a big meal. Another problem you can credit to your growing uterus (and constipation) is hemorrhoids. Hemorrhoids — which are simply swollen blood vessels in your rectal area — are very common during pregnancy and usually clear up soon after delivery. If they're itchy or painful, try soaking in a sitz bath and applying a hot pad or cold compresses medicated with a little witch hazel to the affected area. Also avoid sitting or standing for long stretches. Talk with your practitioner before using any over-the counter remedies during pregnancy, and let her know if you have any rectal bleeding. To prevent constipation, eat a high-fiber diet, drink plenty of water, and get some regular exercise.A small number of women get something called "supine hypotensive syndrome" during pregnancy. When they lie on their backs, they get a change in heart rate and blood pressure that makes them feel dizzy until they change position. You might note that you get dizzy if you stand up too quickly, too. To avoid getting the spins, move slowly as you go from lying down to sitting and then standing.Pregnancy Tip: Enjoy your freedom "Shake the pregnancy blahs by enjoying your last weeks of pre-baby freedom. Do all the things you may not have time for — movies, facials, romantic dinners with your mate — once your little one is here." --Bethany B.

Week 28

How your baby's growing: By this week, your baby weighs a little over 2 pounds and measures about 14.8 inches from the top of her head to her heels. She can open her eyes — which now sport lashes — and she'll turn her head toward a continuous, bright light from the outside. Her fat layers are beginning to form, too, as she gets ready for life outside the womb.
• Note: Experts say every baby develops differently — even in the womb. This developmental information is designed to give you a general idea of how your baby is growing.How your life's changing:Do your legs feel creepy-crawly at night? Tingling in your lower legs and an irresistible urge to move them is known as restless legs syndrome (RLS), and it can make it hard to relax when you're settling in. No one knows what causes RLS, but it's common among pregnant women. Try cutting down on caffeine, which can make the symptoms worse, and massage your calves when they feel tense. Some studies also show that taking iron supplements helps ease your discomfort.At this point, you may visit your doctor or midwife every two weeks; then, at 36 weeks, you'll switch to weekly visits. Depending upon your risk factors, your practitioner may recommend repeating blood tests for HIV and syphilis, plus cultures for chlamydia and gonorrhea during your third trimester, to be certain of your status before delivery. (Identifying and treating these infections is crucial for your health and your baby's.) And if the blood work done at your first prenatal visit showed that you're Rh negative, you'll receive an injection of Rh immunoglobulin to prevent your body from developing antibodies that could attack your baby's blood. If your baby's biological father is also Rh negative, the shot isn't necessary, but most practitioners will do it routinely rather than test the father. (You'll receive another shot of Rh immunoglobulin after you give birth if your baby is Rh positive.)Many dads worry about watching childbirth. "We don't like childbirth," writer Rick Epstein says. "It's spooky and iffy and it takes too long. Also it hurts, and we don't like to see that."Pregnancy Tip: Sleep easier "Now that it's later in my pregnancy, I find that if I sleep on either side with a pillow tucked underneath my stomach, I can make it through the night." --Venece

Week 27

How your baby's growing: Your baby is really starting to fill up your uterus. This week he weighs almost 2 pounds and is about 14.4 inches long with his legs extended. He can now open and close his eyes, and he sleeps and wakes at regular intervals. He may suck his fingers, and although his lungs are still immature, they would be capable of functioning — with assistance — if he were to be born prematurely. Chalk up any rhythmic movement you may be feeling to a case of baby hiccups, which may be common from now on. Each episode usually lasts only a few moments, and isn't bothersome to him, so enjoy the tickle. With more brain tissue developing, your baby's brain is very active now. Wonder what he's thinking?
• Note: Experts say every baby develops differently — even in the womb. This developmental information is designed to give you a general idea of how your baby is growing.How your life's changing: Your body is gearing up for the final lap, so you may start noticing some new symptoms. Along with an aching back, for example, you may find that your leg muscles cramp up now and then. They're carrying extra weight, after all, and your uterus is putting extra demands on your circulation. (As your uterus expands, it puts pressure on the blood vessels that return blood from your legs to your heart and on the nerves leading from your trunk to your legs.) Unfortunately, the cramps are likely to get worse as your pregnancy progresses. Leg cramps are more common at night but can also happen during the day. Flexing your foot (by pointing your toes forward and then flexing them back toward your shins) stretches the calf and should give you some relief. Walking for a few minutes or massaging your calf sometimes helps, too.It may be the furthest thing from your mind right now, but it's not too soon to think about family planning. You'll want to have made some decisions before your baby arrives. And in some states, if you're considering a tubal ligation during your hospital stay, laws require that you sign a consent form at least a month before delivery day. (You can still change your mind later.)Pregnancy Tip: Beyond orange juice "Need more vitamin C? Try red bell peppers! They have nearly twice the vitamin C of a navel orange, and a half cup is one of the five servings of fruits and vegetables you need each day." — Kayla B.

Week 26

How your baby's growing: Your baby now weighs a little under 2 pounds and measures about 14 inches, from head to heel. The nerve pathways in her ears are developing, which means her response to sounds is growing more consistent. Her lungs are developing now, too, as she continues to take small breaths of amniotic fluid — good practice for when she's born and takes that first breath of air. If you're having a boy, his testicles are beginning to descend into his scrotum — a trip that will take about two to three days.
• Note: Experts say every baby develops differently — even in the womb. This developmental information is designed to give you a general idea of how your baby is growing.How your life's changing: Around this time, your blood pressure may be increasing slightly as it returns to its normal pre-pregnancy range. (It was at a low from 22 to 24 weeks.) Though preeclampsia most often occurs in the last trimester, this is a good time to be aware of the warning signs of this dangerous condition that occurs in about 3 to 7 percent of all pregnancies. Signs you should be alert for include swelling of the hands and face, sudden weight gain (due to water retention), blurry vision, seeing spots before your eyes, sudden severe or persistent headaches, or upper abdominal pain. By checking for high blood pressure and protein in your urine, your caregiver will monitor you for preeclampsia at your routine prenatal visits, but call her immediately if you have any of these symptoms before your next appointment. Early identification of preeclampsia is essential for the health of you and your baby.If your back seems a little achy lately, you can thank pregnancy hormones (which are loosening up your joints and ligaments) and your shifting center of gravity. Walking, standing, or sitting for long periods, bending and lifting can all put a strain on your back. A warm bath — or cool compress — might bring relief. Or you may want to schedule a prenatal massage by a trained therapist. Use a pregnancy wedge when sleeping, to support your back and abdomen. Try to maintain good posture, which will help reduce the strain on your back, and always take care when bending and lifting. If you experience severe pain or numbness in any area of your body, call your practitioner.Pregnancy Tip: Soothing sore feet "To help yourself relax, immerse your feet in a basin filled with warm water. Add a few drops of scented oil and enjoy." — Anonymous

Week 25

How your baby's growing: Head to heels, your baby now measures about 13 1/2 inches. His weight — a pound and a half — doesn't sound like much, but he's beginning to exchange his long, lean look for some baby fat. As he does, his wrinkled skin will begin to smooth out and he'll start to look more and more like a newborn. His hair is probably recognizable now (in color and texture), although both may change after he's born.
• Note: Experts say every baby develops differently — even in the womb. This developmental information is designed to give you a general idea of how your baby is growing.How your life's changing: Your baby's not the only one with more hair — your locks may look more full and lustrous than ever. It's not that you're growing more hair, but the hair you'd normally shed is sticking around longer than usual. You may also notice darker or thicker body hair. It will return to normal in the weeks after you give birth. You probably can't move around as gracefully as before. It's fine to continue to exercise, but use your common sense: Don't work out when you're feeling overly tired, and stop if you feel any pain or when you begin to feel at all fatigued, dizzy, or short of breath. Don't lie on your back too long or do any exercise where you're apt to lose your balance. Be sure to drink plenty of water, and make time for both warm-up and cool-down periods.When you have your glucose-screening test at 24 to 28 weeks, your practitioner may take a second tube of blood at the same time to check for anemia. Although your blood volume increases dramatically during pregnancy, the total amount of your red blood cells becomes diluted — a problem sometimes called physiologic anemia that's common in the second and third trimesters of pregnancy. If your blood tests show that you have anemia, your caregiver will likely recommend that you take a supplement.Have you started thinking about baby names yet? Choosing a name is an important decision, but it should be a fun one, too. Look to family history (Great Grandpa Zeb), favorite locations (Venice, where you honeymooned), or cherished literary or film characters (Greta, Meg, or Rhett, for example). Check out a couple of baby-name books to help you brainstorm, too.Pregnancy Tip: Constipation cure "To ease constipation, add oat or wheat bran to anything you can think of — such as cereal, yogurt, smoothies, or even spaghetti sauce." — Kristin

Week 24



How your baby's growing: Your baby's growing steadily, gaining about a quarter of a pound since last week, when she was just over a pound. Since she's almost a foot long, that makes a pretty lean figure, but her body is filling out proportionally and she'll soon put on more baby fat. Your baby's skin is thin, translucent, and wrinkled, her brain is growing rapidly, and her taste buds are developing. Her lungs are developing "branches" of the respiratory "tree" and cells that produce surfactant, a substance that helps the air sacs inflate easily.

• Note: Experts say every baby develops differently — even in the womb. This developmental information is designed to give you a general idea of how your baby is growing.

How your life's changing: The top of your uterus is now an inch or so above your belly button, which means it's about the size of a soccer ball. With the skin on your abdomen and breasts stretching, you may feel a little itchy now and then. If your skin is dry, keeping it well moisturized may help. Also, your eyes may be sensitive to light and feel gritty and dry. This is a perfectly normal pregnancy symptom known as dry-eye. To ease your discomfort, use an artificial tears solution to add moisture.

Most women will have a glucose screening test (also called a glucose challenge test or GCT) between 24 and 28 weeks. This test checks for gestational diabetes, a high-blood-sugar condition during pregnancy. Untreated, high blood sugar increases your risk for having a difficult vaginal delivery or needing a cesarean section because it causes your baby to grow overly fat, especially in his upper body. It also increases your baby's risk for complications like low blood sugar at birth. A positive result on your GCT test doesn't mean you have gestational diabetes, but it does mean that you should have the more involved glucose tolerance test (GTT) to find out.

It's also a good idea to be aware of the signs of preterm labor. Contact your caregiver immediately if you notice an increase in vaginal discharge that is watery, mucus-like, or pink or blood-tinged; any vaginal bleeding or spotting; abdominal pain or menstrual-like cramping or more than four contractions in an hour; an increase in pelvic pressure; or low back pain that you haven't had before.

Pregnancy Tip: Relief for finger pain "To relieve finger pain and numbness, I keep an ice pack in the freezer. I apply it to my hands and wrists several times a day." — Julie