Your baby is between 9 ½ and 10 ½ inches in length, measuring from crown to rump and weighs about 1 ½ pounds now. Your baby’s beautiful eyes have been fused shut until around this week. Now the thin membrane that has kept the eyelids sealed is separating, allowing the eyes to open and close. As the eyelids part, your baby is able to look around inside the womb and blink. Your baby’s eyes open during awake periods and close during sleep periods, just as newborn’s eyes do. The retinas have developed all the different layers they will have at birth and their color has already been established, although the color may very well change within the first several months following delivery. This is particularly true if your baby’s eyes are blue or gray-blue at birth because the irises don‘t display their final color right away. If a bright light were shined on your belly, your baby may actually move toward it and may even shield his or her eyes from it.
This week, your little one’s nostrils have opened up. The nasal passages have been plugged until now. Since the nose plugs have fallen away, your baby can inhale and exhale amniotic fluid. These practice breaths allow your baby to use his or her muscles and lungs. Now your baby can also smell, according to researchers. Odors are dissolved in the amniotic fluid and, even though babies in the womb can’t decipher what the smells are, they become accustomed to certain odors. It’s been discovered that newborns can recall smells from the womb. In a recent study, two pads were offered to 3-day-old babies. One was saturated with amniotic fluid from their own mothers, the other from another baby’s amniotic fluid. The babies’ behavior indicated they preferred the familiar scent. Familiar odors have a soothing and relaxing effect on babies, which makes sense since they first identify their mothers by smell.
Your baby’s heartbeat may be heard now, using a stethoscope, rather than a Doppler alone. Listening with a stethoscope gives a different sound than you might be used to hearing at your prenatal appointments because the sound isn’t loud, in fact it may be quite difficult to hear. It gets easier as your baby grows bigger. Your baby’s heartbeat sounds more similar to a swishing sound, rather than an actual beating sound and is quite a bit faster than your own. If you hear a beating sound and it‘s under 120 beats per minute, it may very well be your own heartbeat. Soon, it may also be possible for your partner to hear your baby’s heart beating by placing his ear directly to your belly. Your partner can even try using a cardboard toilet paper roll to magnify the sound a bit.
Your little one is definitely declaring his or her presence to others, by the looks of your bulging belly and changing body shape. The top of your uterus may have reached 2 inches above your belly button by the end of this week and you may have gained approximately 15-22 pounds at this point in your pregnancy. You’re probably gaining close to a pound every week, but now is not the time to worry about the numbers on the scale. If you’re concerned about the amount you are gaining (too much or too little), don’t hesitate to discuss it with your doctor or midwife.
Typically, sometime between 24 and 28 weeks along, a glucose tolerance test (or glucose screening) is performed at your doctor’s office to determine whether you have gestational diabetes. For this important prenatal test, you will be given 50 grams of a sugary glucose drink, which you should consume quickly. Most often, you can choose from orange or lemon-lime flavor. The sweet solution may taste similar to flat soda. Then, an hour later you will have your blood drawn. Normally, blood-glucose levels peak within an hour and begin to fall. If your blood sugar levels are abnormal, you may have gestational diabetes. If the levels are normal, you’re presumed not to have gestational diabetes. If your levels are high, you will need to have a 3-hour glucose tolerance test done. If this longer test shows your levels are high, that means you have gestational diabetes, which will need to be controlled by a strict diet and sometimes daily insulin for the remainder of your pregnancy.
To decrease stress and improve relaxation, you may want to consider prenatal massage, if your pregnancy is low-risk. Massage during pregnancy can be very therapeutic, can reduce fatigue, help poor circulation, relieve aches and stiffness and even alleviate joint pain caused by the added weight you’re carrying. The second trimester is the perfect time to begin. Once a week may be very beneficial now, then twice a week during the third trimester may help reduce some of the third trimester discomforts. Make sure to check with your doctor or midwife before having a massage. Gentle pressure is best, particularly on the abdomen and lower back. Sometimes those areas need to be avoided completely because of complications, when recommended by your doctor or midwife. In that case, your feet, arms, hands and face can be massaged instead. Also, avoid lying flat on your back during the massage. Use body pillows for side-lying positions.