Your baby-on-the-way is close to 1 foot long, measuring from crown to rump and weighs nearly 2 pounds now! If your baby were to be born this week, he or she would have a survival rate of at least 85% with the assistance of intensive care, but would be at risk for numerous medical problems including more serious ones such as cerebral palsy. Each and every week your baby stays put, his or her survival rate significantly increases and chances of problems decrease. If your baby were born now, he or she would require a ventilator for breathing and would still need to stay in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for at least 2 months, possibly until the original due date. The lungs are developing more and more but are far from fully mature. Your baby’s liver and immune system still have a ways to go before being ready for life outside the womb, as well.
Characteristic grooves and folds have appeared on the surface of your baby’s brain and it has just as many brain cells now, as it will have full-term. Your baby’s brain is very active, even though it is still under development and is in the process of maturing. According to new research, babies who are born very prematurely have trouble with certain aspects of their brains developing as well as those who are born full-term. Researchers have found that normal maturation of the brain is compromised (compared to babies who remain in the womb until closer to their due dates) when it takes place outside the womb. It was also discovered that in very premature babies, part of the brain doesn’t show normal growth after birth and some parts of the brain don’t even change at all from the day the preemies are born until they reach their due date, particularly certain frontal regions of the brain. So, as you can see, there are many reasons for your little one to continue growing and developing inside your womb, if at all possible.
By the end of this week, you will officially be starting your third (and final) trimester of pregnancy! The top of your uterus, the fundus, is approximately halfway between your rib cage and your belly button. You can probably feel it just about 2 ½ inches above your belly button at this point. Because your uterus is growing so close to your ribcage, your lungs may begin having a little difficulty fully expanding. Since your diaphragm is being compressed, you may experience some shortness of breath. If you notice you’re having trouble taking as much air in, try improving your posture, by sitting up straight. At night, try propping yourself up with a couple pillows to lessen pressure on your diaphragm and give your lungs more room to expand. Remember to slow down and to not overexert yourself. Take it easy when climbing stairs and exercising. When your baby drops before delivery, this discomfort may lessen because some of the pressure on your diaphragm and lungs will decrease. If you experience sudden or severe shortness of breath, you should contact your doctor or midwife immediately.
Have you noticed your nails changing since you’ve become pregnant? Primarily due to pregnancy hormones, your nails (fingernails as well as toenails) may grow faster and may be stronger than pre-pregnancy. A healthier diet, daily prenatal vitamins, and increased circulation may play a role in positive nails changes, too. Unfortunately not all nail changes are positive. Some women’s nails become more brittle and softer. If you’re bothered by these types of changes, it’s best to keep them cut short for extra strength. Plus, after your little bundle arrives, you’ll most likely want to keep your nails shorter anyways, so you won’t accidentally scratch your baby’s delicate skin.
Some women may begin noticing varicose veins developing around this week or the coming weeks. Your body has quite a bit of extra blood circulating through its veins now. Because of this added blood volume, extra pressure is put on those veins, particularly the ones in your legs. Veins may become swollen and enlarge, turning dark purple, reddish or blue in color. They may even itch or hurt. Varicose veins often surface in the lower legs, on the back of the calves or the thighs, but can occur anywhere from your ankles to your groin. Hemorrhoids are also varicose veins. Here are some tips to prevent varicose veins and relieve the discomfort if you develop some: keep your blood circulating by exercising and walking each day, remember not to sit with your legs crossed, keep your legs elevated when sitting and avoid standing for extended periods of time. Also, if you keep your weight gain down to the recommended amount, it will decrease your chances of developing varicose veins. Another good tip for keeping those troublesome and unsightly veins at bay: when you’re sleeping, keep your feet elevated with pillows to keep the blood flowing properly.