Your Baby

Your baby’s total length from the top of the head to the tip of the toes is between 15 ½ -17 inches now. We’re no longer measuring your baby from crown-to-rump starting this week. Your baby is really putting on the weight rapidly, weighing in at an average of 2 ¾ pounds. Did you know that girls tend to weigh less than boys, even in utero? So, if you’re having a girl, she may weigh a little less than 2 ¾ pounds at this point. Another interesting fact about fetal weight is that birth weights tends to increase with the number of pregnancies you have. That means if this is your third or fourth baby, he or she may actually weigh a little more than 2 ¾ pounds now. As your baby bulks up, he or she is gripping stronger and moving more forcefully, due partly to improved muscle tone. There is still a little room in your womb to allow your baby to move freely, but it is starting to become more and more crowded as he or she grows; filling up the space inside. Space will get even tighter for your little one in the weeks to come!

If your little one were to enter the world by the end of this week, he or she would have a survival rate of between 90-95% and would have a relatively good chance of growing up completely normal. That said, there would still be a chance of your premature baby having some mild to moderate medical problems including possible learning disabilities and hearing and vision problems. If your baby stayed in the womb another week or two, he or she would do even better. The more mature your baby is at birth, the less likely he or she is to have health problems. Your baby’s lungs are capable of breathing air, but he or she would likely still need the assistance of a ventilator and would be in for quite a lengthy hospital stay.

From now on at your prenatal check-ups, your doctor or midwife may be able to tell you what your baby’s presenting position is: head first, feet first, bottom first or crossways. If your baby is positioned feet or bottom first (or both), this is referred to as “breech” position. If your baby is breech right now, he or she still has plenty of time to change position and most likely will, possibly numerous times. Your uterus is still roomy enough to allow your baby to turn quite easily. During the last three or four weeks of your pregnancy, the position of your baby in the womb will become more important, as space becomes more and more restricted and he or she settles. If you feel your baby’s head pushing against your cervix and the most kicks and movement near the top of your uterus, your baby is probably not breech, but in the head-first position. If kicks are all down low and you feel your baby‘s head moving under your rib cage (or you feel something like a hard knot up under your ribs), your baby may be breech. The breech position is more common in preterm labor, because the baby may not have had a chance to settle in the head-down position. As many as one fourth of all babies are breech at this point, but in a few short weeks, most are head-down.

Your Body

The top of your uterus can be felt approximately 3 ½ -4 inches above your belly button by the end of this week. What an exciting milestone when you’re able to see some of your baby’s movements on the outside of your belly! As your baby grows bigger and becomes stronger, you’ll be able to clearly see ripples across your stomach as he or she turns, kicks and stretches. As your abdomen moves about, you may even see shapes of your baby’s body parts poking out, such as a foot or your baby’s bottom. Soon, you may be able to identify certain body parts with ease! Your baby is getting more and more active and really declaring his or her presence now. Your doctor or midwife can identify body parts and is able to tell if your baby is head down by observing your belly and by placing a hand or two on it, even without an ultrasound exam. A simple abdominal exam is sufficient during the third trimester.

By placing hands at certain areas of your abdomen, your doctor or midwife may be able to tell what position your baby is in. By feeling your baby from the outside of your belly, your doctor or midwife may be able to feel your baby’s head, back and even bottom. Your baby’s head will feel round and hard and may feel like it moves separately from the back, while the bottom can also feel fairly hard. Closer to your due date, if your doctor or midwife isn’t sure which way your baby is presenting, he or she may decide on an ultrasound, which will definitively show if your baby is head-first or breech. Sometimes, your doctor or midwife can tell by vaginal examination later in pregnancy if your baby is breech or not. Also, the location of your baby’s heartbeat can be a tell-tail sign of your little one’s position. If the heartbeat is heard above your belly button, rather than in your lower abdomen, your baby may very well be breech. Sometimes, if a baby is feet or bottom-first, the mother’s uterus may measure larger than expected for how far along she is, as well.
Remember, your baby still has a good amount of space to turn and flip. If your baby is breech now, there is a very good chance he or she will turn and settle in a head-down position by your due date. If your baby is still breech in the last weeks of pregnancy, your doctor or midwife may suggest walking to help encourage your baby to turn. If your baby still hasn’t changed position, your doctor or midwife may try to turn your baby. This is done using a procedure called external cephalic version (ECV), in which your doctor or midwife places his or her hands on your abdomen and gently tries to shift your baby to the head-down position. Version is done using ultrasound guidance and sometimes medication is used to relax the uterus beforehand. More than half of attempts are successful, but sometimes even then, babies shift back into the breech position. Cesarean delivery poses less risk than vaginal delivery for breech babies and may be the best option.

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