Your baby: By the end of week 24 your baby will be about 35cm long and weigh about 750gm. If he is born at this time he would have about a 50:50 chance of surviving although he may have developmental problems and impaired vision.
Brain and nervous system maturation continues during this time, including the brain cells needed for conscious thought, meaning that your baby will soon be capable of learning and remembering.
Your baby’s senses are developing through these weeks. Taste buds are starting to form on his tongue, his brain can now process the sensation of touch and his inner ear is developing so by the end of week 24 your baby will register that his head is sometimes up and sometimes down etc.
His reproductive organs are continuing to develop with his testes are beginning to descend from his abdomen. If your baby is a girl, her uterus and ovaries are now formed and her ovaries have already produced all the eggs (ova) she’ll ever have!
His lungs are growing and developing in preparation for breathing. The lungs produce a substance called surfactant that lines the air sacs allowing them to inflate easily and stops them sticking together when they deflate. Your baby practises breathing all through pregnancy by “inhaling” and “exhaling” amniotic fluid. There will not be air in his lungs until just after he is born.
Your body: During these weeks you will probably grow visibly – the top of your uterus will reach your belly button and for most women, the pregnancy hormones make your hair lustrous and your skin glow. You are getting big enough to be obviously pregnant but no so big that you are uncomfortable. Your baby’s movements will probably become reassuringly noticeable.
Continue to eat regularly – lots of fresh wholefoods – letting your blood sugar levels drop could still lead to nausea. Drink lots of clear fluids to help maintain kidney and bladder health. Exercise regularly so that your strength and stamina keeps up with your baby’s growth.
Breast changes: There is enormous variability in the way women’s breasts change during pregnancy. Some women have a growth spurt right a the beginning of pregnancy then not much happens till near the end or even in the first few days after the baby is born. Other women experience growth at intervals throughout pregnancy. What almost all women will notice by this time, is a darkening in the pigment in the nipples, areolae (the darker circle on your breasts surrounding the nipples) and around their genitals. Most women experience breast and/or nipple tenderness/tingling early in pregnancy but for some women this breast and/or nipple sensitivity continues throughout pregnancy especially in response to cold weather etc. You may also notice that your breasts leak a little colostrum (the gold coloured, antibody-rich, first breastmilk) if you squash them while sleeping etc.
Back Pain: Now that your uterus is getting bigger the ligaments that support it and you abdomen are continuing stretch and your lower spine is curving more to compensate for the extra weight and bulk out front. In addition, the hormones of pregnancy are softening all your joints and their supporting ligaments so your body is working harder to maintain its physical balance and centre of gravity. All these changes can cause back pain. You need to pay attention to your posture whether you’re sitting or standing – sit and stand tall and straight. Continue to exercise to keep your body as healthy and strong as possible and hopefully avoid continual back pain and tiredness.
Pregnancy Hormones: The hormones that support your pregnancy affect your whole body and some of the changes are more welcome than others – oestrogen and progesterone stimulate all your pigment producing cells often causing more freckles and moles (and sometimes a change in hair colour) more hair growth and less hair loss.
Hair: Most women notice that they have more hair than usual. This is because the hormonal changes in your body slow the rate at which your hair falls out. (A lot of women get worried about their hair loss after they’ve given birth – although you may seem brush out excessive amounts of hair during the first few months after you’ve given birth, it’s usually just the hair that didn’t fall out during pregnancy falling out once the pregnancy hormones have disappeared.) During pregnancy dry hair can become oilier and vice versa and some women notice that their hair is curlier or frizzier. Some women also notice that they start to grow hair or more hair on their face, abdomen and other parts of their bodies – plucking and waxing unwanted hair is fine but it is not a good idea to use chemical hair removers or bleaches.
Skin Tags, Moles & Freckles: Lots of pregnant women notice that they are growing little tags of skin anywhere the skin folds e.g. under the breasts, under the arms, in the creases of the neck etc. Your skin cells are rapidly proliferating to accommodate the growth of your abdomen etc and sometimes the cells near the surface of the skin become hyperactive and form these little tags. Most will disappear spontaneously after pregnancy – if they bother you can ask your doctor, a dermatologist or a beauty therapist to freeze the skin tags off with liquid nitrogen. Women who have or have had freckles and/or moles may notice that they are getting more and darker freckles and moles. Your freckles will almost certainly fade again after you’ve given birth and most new moles will disappear too.
Linea Nigra: Sometime soon, most women who have dark hair and/or skin will have noticed that a line of darkly pigmented skin has developed that runs from their belly button to the top of the pubic hair line and sometimes upwards towards the sternum as well. Some women will also notice random patches of pigmented skin on their faces (called chloasma) and sometimes other parts of their bodies too. Neither of these phenomena are preventable and both will fade away after you have given birth.