Sunday, December 26, 2010

::23 weeks::

Your baby now weighs a little over one pound / 500 grams and measures about 11.4 inches/ 29 centimetres from crown to heel. Her hearing is well established and she can make out a distorted version of your voice, the beating of your heart and your stomach rumblings. Loud noises often heard in uterus, such as the barking of a dog next door or the roar of a vacuum cleaner probably won't bother your child when she hears them outside the womb. Some studies seem to indicate that the unborn prefer classical music.

In addition to advances in your baby's hearing, her lungs are developing to prepare for breathing. She's swallowing but she normally won't pass her first stool (called meconium) until after birth. If your baby were to be born now, she would have a small chance of survival (about 16 per cent) with the right care. Every day in the womb makes a difference at this stage. If she was born at 24 weeks her chance of survival would rise to 44 per cent.

As for you, you may feel clumsy now that your centre of gravity has shifted. Your gums may bleed when you brush your teeth and your belly button, once an 'innie', may now stick out. Don't worry. It'll revert to its pre-baby state soon after you give birth.

The middle months are a good time to think about a holiday. Find out all you need to know from suntans to vaccinations in our travel section.

What causes stress during pregnancy?

The sources of stress during pregnancy can be wide ranging, from concern about your baby's health and wellbeing, or the impending labour, through to how you'll manage after the birth. It could be that your journey to work is exhausting, or you're anxious about finances and how you are going to afford all the costs involved with a new baby. Whatever it is that's worrying you, there are many positive steps you can take to overcome these feelings.

1. Make time to rest

It's a simple thing, but sometimes it is so difficult to take time out for you. Not only is this good for you, but also extremely good for your baby - so don't feel guilty about 'doing nothing'.

At work, find somewhere to put your feet up and relax during your lunch break and, in the evenings, try to cut down on chores. Leave the laundry until the weekend, and forget about housework for a while. Obviously, if you have a child already it can be hard to find the time to rest, so why not get your husband, a friend or grandparents to amuse them for an afternoon, while you have a well-earned break?

2. Pregnancy yoga

Yoga during pregnancy not only helps tone your body, but the relaxation techniques that will assist you in labour can have a beneficial effect during pregnancy. If you are prone to feel the anxiety or have experienced panic attacks, practising your breathing techniques can really help. Ask the yoga instructor at your nearest gym if she knows of a reputable pregnancy yoga class in your area.

3. Talk about it

If you are worried about whether your baby is healthy or whether he will be born safely, you're certainly not alone. Talking about these concerns will really help, whether it's with your husband, mother or a friend who already has children. Other women at the same stage of pregnancy as you, perhaps at your prenatal or parent craft class will undoubtedly share your concerns. Your doctor or prenatal class instructor can also reassure you.

You should also know that the Health Ministry has statistics that show women giving birth in Malaysia are safer today than they have ever been before (30 in 100,000 die in childbirth or from related complications compared to 530 in 100,000 in 1955). In fact, our method of lowering maternal mortality rate is held up as a model for other developing countries.

4. Relaxation and complementary therapies

Massage in pregnancy is a fantastic way to de-stress. Find an experienced masseuse who is trained in pregnancy massage. If one is not available, a neck and upper back massage can still be very soothing. There are also lots of books on the market with tips and advice on how massage can help you relax.

If you are using aromatherapy or essential oils, it's important to make sure they are safe for use in pregnancy as some are not suitable for the first or third trimester. Oils safe for use after 20 weeks include most lavender oils, citrus oils and ylang ylang, but you should check with a qualified aroma therapist.

Reflexology is also a lovely way to relax, but again, make sure the therapist is qualified in working with pregnant women. 'There is no evidence of reflexology triggering miscarriage,' says Denise Tiran, principal lecturer in complementary medicine and midwifery at the University of Greenwich in London. However, she does emphasise the need to find a good, experienced and reputable reflexologist.

Meditation and positive visualisation techniques can also help. Meditation is a way of relaxing by concentrating on a mental focus, and positive visualisation is a technique for releasing anxieties by creating an inner picture of a peaceful scene. You can find books which show you how to relax in this way if you haven't tried it before. Buy some special relaxation tapes to play in the background - great for helping your mind switch off. Choose a time when you know you won't be disturbed and try to give yourself at least 30 minutes.

5. Preparing for the birth

You may be worrying about the impending labour and how you will cope with the pain, whether you will make a fool of yourself or how your husband will cope. Find out about the mechanics of labour as well as the physical and emotional aspects of each phase by signing up for prenatal classes, reading books and magazines and gathering information from BabyCenter. Being informed will help you feel more confident and in control.

It will also help to visit the labour and delivery rooms beforehand, so that you know what to expect.

For a few women, the fear of childbirth can be so overwhelming that they would rather have a caesarean section than a normal delivery. This fear is known as 'tocophobia' and is not uncommon. Tell your obstetrician about your fears. Research has shown this can be helped with the right counselling and support.

6. Relationship changes

It's perfectly understandable to worry about how having a baby will affect your relationship with your husband or how you will cope as a parent. Parenting is something you learn along the way and often there is no right or wrong way to do things, you just have to do what feels right for you. Try and spend some time with a friend who has a young baby to pick up some useful tips and ideas. Talk to your husband about the changes ahead so you will both understand each other's expectations and fears.

7. Commuting strategies

Like a lot of women these days, you may plan on working until just a few weeks before your due date because you want more time off with your baby after he's born. Commuting in our cities' traffic-choked roads is one of the major sources of stress for expectant mums and one which is made worse the more heavily pregnant you are.

Ask your employer if you can avoid rush hours, particularly if you use public transport. Perhaps starting work earlier and finishing earlier would be possible or even working from home one or two days a week.

Make sure you always sit down while travelling and if you are not offered a seat you should ask for one. Don't feel embarrassed - it's really not safe to be swinging around in a train, LRT or bus - and most people are more than willing to give up their seats, they just need to be reminded sometimes!

8. Money matters

The knock-on effect of having a baby is the dent it makes in your finances. If you are worried about how you are going to afford everything, make a list of the items you need - in order of priority - then decide which ones you could borrow from friends or family. It really isn't necessary to buy everything, particularly when some items - such as a Moses basket - are often only used for a couple of months.

Make sure you get your full entitlement of maternity leave and pay. Find out what it is from your HR department and don't be afraid to seek further help if you need more advice.

9. Diet and exercise

Eating calming nutrients can help suppress the hormones that rise at times of stress. Foods containing B vitamins, such as yeast extract, wholegrain bread and wholegrain rice, increase your levels of the anti-stress hormone serotonin. Ensuring that you eat well in pregnancy is very important.

Physical exercise also has proven benefits in terms of relieving tension, so continue with the exercise you did before you were pregnant -- so long as it is safe for you to do so. If you're in any doubt, check with your doctor. If you attend exercise classes, always inform your instructor that you are pregnant.

Swimming is the perfect exercise for pregnancy as it keeps you toned and healthy, without being too hard on your joints, although be careful with excessive breaststroke as it may cause backache. Aquarobic classes for pregnant women are also a fun way of keeping fit. Do join in if you can find a class as they are rare even in our major cities.

At work, make sure you get up and walk around regularly, especially if your job is mainly desk-bound, and pop out at lunchtime for some fresh air, even if it's only for 10 minutes.

10. Treat yourself

Laughter is one of the body's best ways of relaxing, so meet up with some friends or go to the cinema and see the latest comedy. Go on a weekend break and make the most of your time with just you and your husband, or treat yourself to a spa that offers treatments for pregnant women.

Pregnancy is also the perfect time to treat yourself to all those beauty treatments you never normally splash out on. When your bump gets too big for you to cut your toenails, enjoy regular pedicures, instead.

Be nice to yourself - you deserve it.

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