Sunday, January 2, 2011

Pregnancy Week 24

Your baby is now so fully formed that he would be capable of living outside the womb if an emergency arose. His lungs, though still very immature, could breathe air if need be. Though the brain is much more formed now, the cerebral cortex--the place in the brain responsible for the most sophisticated mental activity (thoughts, consciousness, memory, and language)--is not yet functional. The complex human brain, which makes us so different from other primates and mammals, takes much longer to come out of the embryonic stage than any other part of the foetus. In fact, a baby's brain will not be fully formed until after cooking for nine months in the womb and living outside the womb for about a year, during which time it will nearly triple in size!

All About You

Don't panic if you're having some strange belly activity this week. Since he still has some room left, Baby is at peak activity. He may be moving so much that you can see rippling across your belly. You may also occasionally be feeling a deeper, more internal movement of your uterus practicing contractions. Though this particular joy of pregnancy may be still several weeks off, these practice contractions (which used to be called "false labour") are referred to as "Braxton Hicks" and are thought to help your uterus tone up for the big event. Even if you feel strong and confident about your pregnancy, you may be experiencing some challenging symptoms this week: heartburn that gets worse when you lie down, difficulty sleeping, those ubiquitous haemorrhoids, and perhaps a touch of back pain.

Are you exercising? Eating well? Don't forget to drink lots of water during pregnancy. It can prevent some early labour symptoms, help you stay energized, give your skin a healthy glow, and nourish your baby. Speaking of skin ... you may begin getting stretch marks and forming a linea negra, the dark line between your belly button and pubic bone. (The linea negra will disappear and the stretch marks will eventually fade.)

You may find tying your shoes and bending over are more difficult as your baby bump grows bigger. Your unborn baby's growth spurt means you may have itchiness and soreness as the skin stretches to make room. Your joints will loosen as pregnancy hormones soften them to accommodate your baby and to prepare your body for labor.

Prenatal Exercise

You may be discouraged to see the scale inching (or jumping!) upwards. Pregnancy is not the right time to try to lose weight or begin a rigorous exercise regime, but regular exercise can be beneficial and ease some of your pregnancy pains.

Benefits of Prenatal Exercise:

Backaches: Walking and prenatal yoga can improve your posture, which has probably been suffering under the weight of your expanding belly.

Edema (swelling): Exercise can boost your circulation explains Dr. William Camann, MD, director of obstetric anesthesia at the Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, and coauthor of Easy Labor Better circulation can prevent or at least ease some of your swelling.

Stress reliever: Nothing clears your head and energizes like a brisk walk around the block.

Labour preparer: Regular exercise strengthens your muscles for delivery day. "Exercising can help you feel more confident about labour," says Dr. Camann. And if you've kept yourself in reasonable shape, chances are losing weights post-pregnancy will be that much easier.

How to Get Started

Always talk to your healthcare provider before beginning an exercise program (even if you were a star athlete pre-pregnancy).

Your healthcare provider may be able to recommend a prenatal class in your area. Many hospitals and health clubs offer prenatal exercise classes. Exercising with other women in similar circumstances will help keep you from becoming discouraged about weight gain and provide support. Many hospitals and health clubs offer prenatal exercise class, such as yoga and swimming.

If you haven't been exercising walking is a great way to begin during pregnancy, suggest Dr. Camann. Try walking 20 minutes several times a week to keep yourself in labour-ready condition.

Exercises to Avoid

"There are several exercises that you should avoid while pregnant," advises Dr. Camann. "Any hard contact sports like skiing, tennis, or sports that require you to make rapid changes, like in high-impact aerobics can be harmful." If you have any questions about a particular sport, ask your healthcare provider. Dr. Camann says that over his many years in practice he's seen it all—"No, you shouldn't be jumping on a trampoline when you're pregnant!"

Remember, your goal is not to lose weight but to stay fit. After all, your body won't respond to exercise in the same way while you're pregnant. Along with the added weight (25 to 35 pounds total), your heart is working harder to pump twice the blood through your system, and many of your organs—your lungs included—have less room.

All About Baby

In your 24th week of pregnancy, your baby is filling out. Part of your weight gain goes straight to helping him gain weight, too. Since he's still on the scrawny side, his skin wrinkles on his body, but he looks like a miniature version of what you'll see on delivery day. His face has formed, ears are in place, and eyes are complete (although his lids are still closed). He has eyelashes, fingernails, and may be growing hair. Rapid eye movements (REM) are beginning, too.

How Big Is Baby?

This week your baby weighs around 1 1/2 pounds and measures almost 11 to 12 inches (crown to heel).

Linea negra (or linea nigra) literally means "black line" in Latin. This line is a dark, thin, and straight verticle streak that may appear sometime in the second trimester. It runs from just above the pubic bone, through your belly button, and can go as high as your lowest rib (though for many women it stops right around the belly button). The linea negra is usually about one centimeter wide (a little less than one-half inch).

Some women may notice linea alba (a white line) surface before the darkening occurs. The line usually appears more brownish than black, but can be quite dark for some women. This darkening is as a result of the increase in a skin pigment called melanin. Darker skinned women will be more likely to have linea negra than fair skinned woman.

Generally several months after delivering your baby the line should fade and disappear (although for some women it may fade, but not disappear). If you're feeling self conscious of this line, you're not alone. But keep in mind in many parts of the world; this line is worn as a proud badge of motherhood!

In order to minimize the darkening, some women try the following:

Avoiding exposure to the sun (which may further darken it)

Increase folic acid intake

Use make-up concealer to cover it up

Keeping Your Body Healthy

As you continue to grow, it might seem easy to eat healthy simply because you can't manage to ingest more than 500 calories a day (there's just no room!). But the truth is, it's important to consciously care for yourself for the remainder of your pregnancy so that you enter mommyhood as strong as possible.

Continue to eat healthy. Many obstetricians suggest five to six small meals throughout the day as opposed to three main meals. Smaller meals are easier to digest and will keep your blood sugar at a more even level throughout the day.

Continue to walk or swim if your doctor permits it to reduce edema and maintain your energy level.

Moisturize your skin— especially around your belly—not only to reduce stretch marks but to prevent your skin from itching as it stretches (which it will do a lot with twins!).

Spend time in the evening (and afternoon if your lifestyle permits it) with your feet up to reduce swelling. Keeping your feet elevated also helps if you are battling varicose veins.

Don't neglect your emotional health during this time. Keep life as stress-free as you can. If allowed by your doctor, get outside each day or in the evening after dinner. Weather permitting, indulging in some fresh air while moving your body will feel wonderful. When you feel yourself getting anxious, play soothing music.

Begin to line up support in terms of housework and errands, if possible. Have fun preparing your home for the arrival of your babies. They will be here before you know it!

For Your Partner

Your Body, Yourself

As crazy as it sounds, many guys experience sympathetic pregnancy aches and pains right along with their partners (this is called Couvade's syndrome). This empathetic experience may include, among other things, a hearty weight gain. And often after the birth of Baby, parents experience even more weight gain, in part because they are sleeping less, are stressed out, and subsequently don't eat and exercise as healthfully or regularly.

Remember, pregnancy lasts for nine months—you've got time to get prepared. Before your life becomes too hectic, begin eating and living healthier in preparation for your baby's arrival. Establishing healthy lifestyle habits now will give you a better chance of maintaining some of those habits after Baby come. For instance, you can take a walk with your partner, a stroll through the neighborhood after dinner. Not only will that be good exercise for you both, but it will be nice time where you can catch up on all that is going on with each of you, building your connection even stronger for when Baby arrives. If you haven't historically helped with meals, this is a good time to begin to participate more by making sure more vegetables and other healthy food make their way onto the table. This will be invaluable when things get a little crazy after your baby is born.

Because, of course, your partner's health is vital; she's carrying and supporting your baby, but your own health is crucial, too! You need your strength just like she does. Think of this as your own Spring Training: You need to practice now so when Baby comes you will be in great shape for the real thing.

Fun Fact

During pregnancy all of your body's organs are working harder. For example, your lungs have to work to provide you with enough oxygen. According to the Mayo Clinic, you use 20 percent more oxygen while pregnant!

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