Your baby will have a growth spurt this month and her limbs will get longer and stronger and although she is still very skinny, she will be starting to put on a layer of fat under her skin. By the end of this month she will be approximately 35cm long and will weigh 1 – 1.5kg.
Up until about week 28 your baby’s eyelids have been sealed shut to allow her retina to develop but her eyelids can open (not that there’s much to see!). She can now see, hear (and will be beginning to recgonise her mother’s voice), smell and taste (she will be drinking amniotic fluid).
You’ll probably notice that your baby often moves in response to touch and sound. Your baby’s brain and nervous system are undergoing rapid growth and development. Her brain is developing the characteristic “wrinkles” of the human brain (called gyri and sulci) and her nerve fibres are growing the myelin sheaths that enable nerve impulses to travel faster to and from the brain.
Your baby has now developed her unique fingerprints and footprints.
Around this time you may notice that your baby has periods of activity at roughly the same time of the day or night each day indicating that your baby is now having more distinct periods of sleeping and waking.
Her swallowing and sucking reflexes are developing and her practice breathing movements will be developing a rhythm.
Your baby’s lungs, liver, immune and digestive systems are still quite immature, but if she was born during this time she would have 80-90% chance of survival with the support of neonatal intensive care.
Carseat: Unless you plan to give birth at home you will need to put your baby into a carseat within days (if not hours) of being born. Now is the time to check out local options for hiring or buying a carseat that is designed for babies from birth and will fit easily into your car. If you decide to hire a carseat you will probably need to book one by the time you are 28-30 weeks pregnant.
Your body: The top of your uterus/womb now reaches about midway between your belly button and your breasts. Your lung capacity is continuing to increase to allow you to transport more oxygen to your blood and excrete more carbon dioxide. This usually makes you breathe a little faster and can mean that you more easily get short of breath when exercising etc. If you are frequently experiencing shortness of breath you should ask your LMC to check your blood pressure and the iron levels in your blood.
Heartburn, constipation and urinary tract infections can occur can occur at this stage of your pregnancy as a result of pregnancy hormones that slow the movement of food through your digestive tract and the flow of urine from your kidneys to your bladder. Continue to eat frequent, small meals and drink unsweetened fluids in between your meals to help avoid these problems.
Heartburn: Do not drink with meals or just before bedtime. Avoid high fat foods (i.e. most fast foods), as well as having almost no nutritive value, they take much longer to digest so sit in your stomach for much longer and require your body to produce more acid to break them down than unprocessed, low fat foods. Tea, coffee, caffeinated sports drinks, sugary soft drinks etc also make your stomach contents more acidic. Try to find solutions to heartburn other than taking antacids as these neutralize your stomach acid inhibiting the extraction of vital nutrients from your food.
Constipation is often caused by the relaxing effect that your increased progesterone levels have on your intestine. This is exacerbated by the weight and pressure of your growing uterus and also by lack of exercise or a diet lacking in folic acid, fibre and fluid. To reduce your chances of becoming constipated you should continue to exercise regularly, keep up your intake of sugar free fluids, eat a green salad and some raw fruit each day and eat wholegrain bread, pasta etc instead of baked goods made from refined white flour. Start the day with raw muesli (that you have soaked in water for at least an hour, if not overnight) and sprinkle a dessertspoon of LSA* (ground linseeds, sunflowers seeds and almonds. *Buy this product from a shop fridge and keep in the fridge.) on top. Ripe kiwifruit (or kiwifruit juice) is an excellent natural laxative as are stewed prunes. Avoid using laxatives unless you are unable to remedy constipation through dietary changes and exercise. Laxatives will reduce your body’s absorption of essential nutrients.
Urinary Tract Infections: Do not be tempted to reduce your fluid intake in the hope that you can reduce the number of trips to the toilet. Keeping your fluid intake up will help minimize the chances of getting a urinary tract infection (UTI). Reducing sugary foods in your diet will also help to prevent UTIs. Cranberries and unsweetened cranberry juice can effectively prevent and cure UTIs. If you suspect you have a urinary tract infection (UTI) (symptoms = pain on urination, fever & strong smelling urine) – contact your LMC midwife or doctor immediately. An untreated UTI can trigger preterm labour.
Gestational Diabetes: At your pregnancy check-up visit this month, your LMC midwife or doctor will probably recommend that you take a test to see if you have developed gestational diabetes. Go to Testing for Gestational Diabetes (GDM) for more information about gestational diabetes and the screening tests that are available.
Practice Contractions: Your uterus will be contracting occasionally to keep it in tone for the work of labour. If this is your first pregnancy you may not feel these practice contractions till much later in pregnancy, if at all, however, if you have already had a baby you may have started to notice these practice contractions (Braxton-Hicks contractions). These practice contractions are generally painless, although they may be uncomfortable because an increasingly large muscle in the middle of your body (your uterus), is becoming tight and hard for up to 20 seconds at a time. Practice contractions are felt abdominally – if you notice lower pelvic cramping at the same time you should contact your LMC.
Lower back pain: Your centre of gravity has moved to enable you to maintain your balance as your uterus/womb grows out front. The hormones that allow your body to stretch to accommodate the growth of your baby have also started to soften your pelvic joints. These changes make it more likely that you will experience back pain – particularly if you continue to wear high-heeled shoes or spend long periods of time sitting or standing. You need to pay attention to your sitting and standing posture, make sure your body is upright and aligned so that you do not put extra pressure on your softening joints and avoid sitting with your legs crossed because this tilts your pelvis causing one set of sacro-iliac joints in your lower back to gape and possibility trap nerves when you straighten up again. Once again, one of the best ways to minimize back pain is to continue to exercise regularly.
Sleeping position: By this stage of pregnancy many women are having difficulties finding a comfortable sleeping position. The softening of all your joints can make finding comfortable sleeping positions difficult from now on. You may need to use pillows to help keep the pressure of your joints. If you have habitually slept on your back, it is a good idea to start practising sleeping on your side. (Before too long the weight of your uterus and its contents will put so much pressure on the major vessels leading to and from your heart that your circulation and the supply of oxygenated blood to your placenta will be compromised.)
Colostrum, your baby’s first food will have started to form in your breasts. You may find that you leak some of this golden liquid from time to time, especially at night if your sleeping position puts pressure on one or other of your breasts.
Twins: If you are carrying twins your uterus will now be nearly as large as that of a woman carrying one baby at 40 weeks!