Your baby-on-the-way is between 8 ½ and 9 inches in length, measuring from crown to rump and weighs close to 1 ¼ pounds this week. If your baby were born at the end of this week, he or she would have up to a 50% chance of survival with intensive care. The chance of mild to severe disabilities is high for babies born this premature and your baby would likely spend at least 3 months in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). The advanced medical technology available today makes this all possible. A baby born at 24 weeks thirty years ago probably would not have survived, even with the most expert medical help.
Your baby’s little lungs are still receiving oxygen through the placenta, although they are gradually developing and preparing for the task of taking in oxygen on their own, once your baby makes his or her way into the world. The lungs are gaining blood vessels and the airways are increasing in diameter. The lung structure is becoming increasingly more complex as the weeks go by.
Surfactant is developing inside the lungs, although it won’t become mature enough to work correctly for quite a while now. The biggest rise in production of surfactant occurs around 34-36 weeks. Surfactant is a complex substance which is produced to prevent the balloon-like alveoli from collapsing and sticking together. It coats the walls of the alveoli and helps your baby’s lungs to expand following delivery. If your baby were to be born this week, he or she wouldn’t be able to breathe unassisted and would need ventilation, because of underdeveloped lungs. Extremely premature babies are likely to need the assistance of a ventilator to aid their breathing artificially, often for months. In addition, your baby would be cared for in an incubator, with tubes down his or her nose and throat, along with lines attached to his or her body to monitor things like circulation, temperature and of course, oxygen levels.
The top of your uterus (or “fundus”) may have reached 1 ½ inches above your belly button and you’re really beginning to look pregnant to others. Your outer appearance is changing; no doubt about it! You’re probably becoming more and more aware of your baby’s movement patterns every week. Only movements directed towards the front of your uterus can be felt now, but within the coming months you’ll feel movements and sensations in your pelvic area, pelvic bone, ribs and even possibly your lower back when your baby is quite large. You most likely can tell when your baby is sleeping or awake, by the obvious bumps and thumps (or the lack of them off and on during the day or night).
Have you been keeping a pregnancy journal? If not, it’s not too late to create one. A pregnancy journal can help you to document special events and your thoughts during this magical time in your life. It’s a wonderful way to preserve important memories for you and your baby-on-the-way to look back on years down the road and to cherish. You can choose to keep an online journal or a written one. You can decide on a schedule when you’d like to update it, such as every day, once a week or only after prenatal appointments and special events. You can write things such as how and when you told family and friends your pregnancy news, symptoms and discomforts you’ve experienced, your weight gain, your belly measurements, your feelings about your pregnancy and the upcoming birth, dreams you’ve had about your baby, notes about your daily activities, pregnancy milestones such as feeling first movements, food cravings and aversions you‘ve had, letters and poems you’ve wrote to your baby, list of gifts you’ve received and don’t forget ultrasound pictures and photos. You can take photos of your baby’s nursery, you and your partner and most especially: belly photos!
Soon, if not already, others will be able to feel your little one move by touching their hand to your belly. What a milestone! Your partner may be caught off guard by a quick thump here or there or, if you have older children, a sibling may get an exciting bump on the hand or cheek. Often, feeling the baby move for the first time will create a closer connection between father and baby or sibling and baby. It also makes the baby more real to fathers; setting in motion the reality and excitement of the up-coming birth. Something fun to try: when your baby is being very active, lay a light object such as a paper plate or paper napkin on top of your belly, while lying down. Others will be amazed by the object’s movements as your little one shows off his or her kicking skills!