How your baby's growing:
The network of nerves in your baby's ears is better developed and more sensitive than before. He may now be able to hear both your voice and your partner's as you chat with each other. He's inhaling and exhaling small amounts of amniotic fluid, which is essential for the development of his lungs. These so-called breathing movements are also good practice for when he's born and takes that first gulp of air. And he's continuing to put on baby fat. He now weighs about a pound and two-thirds and measures 14 inches (an English hothouse cucumber) from head to heel. 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: Every baby develops a little differently - even in the womb. Our information is designed to give you a general idea of your baby's development.
How your life's changing:
Are you rushing around trying to get to childbirth classes and prepare your baby's room while still taking care of all your other daily tasks? Make sure that you also continue to eat well and get plenty of rest. Around this time, your blood pressure may be increasing slightly, although it's probably still lower than it was before you got pregnant. (Typically, blood pressure falls toward the end of the first trimester, and it tends to reach a low at about 22 to 24 weeks.)
Preeclampsia - a serious disorder characterized by high blood pressure and protein in your urine - most often shows up after 37 weeks, but it can happen earlier so it's important to be aware of the warning signs of this condition. Call your caregiver if you have swelling in your face or puffiness around your eyes, more than slight swelling of your hands, excessive or sudden swelling of your feet or ankles, or rapid weight gain (more than 4 pounds in a week). With more severe preeclampsia, you may experience other symptoms. Let your caregiver know immediately if you have a severe or persistent headache, vision changes (including double or blurred vision, seeing spots or flashing lights, sensitivity to light, or temporary loss of vision), intense pain or tenderness in your upper abdomen, or vomiting.
If your lower back seems a little achy lately, you can thank both your growing uterus - which shifts your center of gravity, stretches out and weakens your abdominal muscles, and may be pressing on a nerve - as well as hormonal changes that loosen your joints and ligaments. Plus, the extra weight you're carrying means more work for your muscles and increased stress on your joints, which is why you may feel worse at the end of the day. Walking, standing, or sitting for long periods, as well as bending and lifting can all put a strain on your back. A warm bath or hot compress might bring relief. (Some women, though, find cool compresses more comforting.) Try to maintain good posture during the day, avoid activities that require bending and twisting at the same time, take frequent breaks when sitting or standing, and sleep on your side with one or both knees bent with a pillow between your legs, using another pillow (or wedge) to support your abdomen.
Decision Guide: Should you create a birth plan?
Writing a birth plan can give you an opportunity to think about - and discuss with your partner and caregiver - how you'd ideally like your delivery to be handled. The process of creating a birth plan can be a terrific way to learn more about labor and your own preferences for care. But keep in mind that labor is inherently unpredictable, and you'll need to stay flexible in case things come up that require you and your birth team to veer from the plan.
So is it worth doing?
If you use the birth plan as an educational tool to learn more about your options during labor and delivery and as a point of departure for talking to your caregiver and communicating your wishes, you can't go wrong.
In a recent BabyCenter poll about birth plans, 54 percent of those who responded said their plan was irrelevant once actual labor started. "My birth plan pretty much went out the window once I got to the hospital. But not sticking to the plan didn't take away from my birth experience at all," said one respondent. On the other hand, 46 percent said their birth plans did help them create the birth experience they wanted. Said one new mom: "I was amazed. My midwife and the nurses followed my birth plan like an instruction manual. I was so worried because I had heard all these awful stories about how the hospital staff really doesn't care about birth plans. I got everything I wanted out of my daughter's birth."
If you decide you want to try making a birth plan, it can be as long or short as you like. Some women simply write down their birth philosophy and a general sense of how they'd like things to go. For instance, "I'd like to have as natural a birth as possible. Please don't offer me pain relief medication or do any interventions unless necessary." Or "I'd like my labor to be relatively pain-free and want an epidural as early as possible."
Some issues to consider when creating a birth plan:
- Do you want a drug-free labor or are you banking on an epidural? If you're not sure, it's okay to make a note of that.
- Do you want your delivery to be a private affair (just the attending medical team and your partner)? Would you like other family members or friends in the room for support? Is it okay if medical students or residents are present during your birth?
- Do you want a mirror brought in so you can see your baby crowning?
- Would you like to have the room as quiet as possible? Have special music playing? The lights dimmed? A video camera rolling?
- After your baby's born, do you want your partner to cut the cord? Would you or your partner like to stay with your baby during any procedures or exams?
- Do you plan to breastfeed?
- Do you want your baby to stay with you around-the-clock?
- Are you willing to pay extra for a private room if one's available?
This Week's Activity:
Discuss some personal issues. Would you like to have your son circumcised? If so, do you want it done in the hospital? Will you have a religious ceremony after your baby's born? Would you like to stay home with your baby full- or part-time? These are just a few of the big decisions you and your partner should discuss now. Even if you think you both agree, it's best to share your opinions openly to avoid misunderstandings and hurt feelings.