Your baby’s total length from the top of the head to the tip of the toes is close to 18 inches now and he or she is weighing in at about 3 ½ pounds this week. Your baby looks just like he or she will at birth. The only difference is, your little one is still quite thin. He or she may be on the skinny side still, but definitely has good muscular strength. Your baby has a very firm hand grip now and may even grip the umbilical cord tightly at times. If your baby were to be born now, he or she would be capable of grasping onto your finger surprisingly hard. Speaking of grip strength, one interesting piece of information to consider if you’ve consumed (or are thinking about consuming) alcohol: besides the more obvious signs and symptoms of fetal alcohol exposure, poor hand grip strength is one common central nervous system abnormality. This is just one of the many consequences of drinking during pregnancy.
The second of four basic stages of your baby’s tooth development is well under way now. The first stage was occurring during the first couple of months following conception, when the basic substance of the tooth was forming. During the present stage, the hard tissue surrounding the teeth is developing, along with the enamel and crown. The development of the tooth enamel continues until after your baby is born. Front tooth enamel is usually complete about a month after birth, while enamel on the second molars is not completely developed until close to a year and a half after birth. The next stage happens when your baby’s teeth come up through the gums. Most baby teeth (also called “primary teeth” or “milk teeth“) come in between the ages of 5 and 12 months; about one per month. There are a total of 20 small baby teeth which will erupt above the gum line. Generally, the very first tooth appears between 5 and 7 months after birth in the middle of the lower jaw (the central incisor). The fourth and final stage happens when your baby loses these teeth. This usually begins around the age of 6.
Your baby has been practicing nursing for months now, by sucking his or her thumb. Did you know that your baby most likely has a preference for a particular thumb already? This preference has been shown to predict right or left-handedness later in life. Your baby may have chosen his or her favorite thumb as early as 10-12 weeks after conception, usually the thumb of the right hand. This discovery was made by using ultrasound observations and appeared to be unrelated to the baby’s position in the womb. There is evidence that thumb-sucking in utero establishes neurological pathways critical for learning such things as breastfeeding and even speech and language development. Not every baby finds a thumb, though. Ultrasounds and marks on babies’ skin tissue have shown that some babies begin sucking on other body parts such as fingers, toes and kneecaps as well. Babies that miss thumb-sucking and begin sucking on another body part may not be prepared for successful feeding. Your baby may suck his or her thumb after birth. Approximately ¼ of babies and small children suck their thumb, therefore making thumb-sucking in infants and toddlers a common occurrence. Babies who find their thumbs and suck during the first several months of life tend to cry less and be less restless.
The top of your uterus is approximately 4-4 ½ inches above your belly button at this point in your pregnancy. As your due date draws closer and your belly grows larger, you may begin to feel somewhat unattractive and self-conscious. Take this time to pamper yourself! Do activities that you enjoy, spend a day at the spa, get a massage or have your nails done. Don’t wait for your partner to bring home a bouquet of flowers for you! Instead, pick yourself a vase-full or buy some fresh-cut flowers to place around the house. Relax as much as you can and listen to soft, soothing music. A bubble bath in the evenings before bed may sound like a wonderful way to soothe your soul (just be sure the water isn‘t too warm to overheat you and your baby). Light some pleasantly-scented candles and unwind for a while. Sleep in late on the weekends and sneak in cat naps during the day whenever you have the opportunity, as your energy is most likely starting to slow now. Talk, read nursery rhymes and sing to your little one throughout the day. To lift your confidence, put on some make-up (even a little lip gloss can do wonders), fix your hair and put on a pretty maternity dress the next time you go out. You could even get your hair cut and styled in a new way!
As your pregnancy progresses towards your due date, you may develop aches, pains and even occasionally numbness in your hips. This is a normal and a fairly common complaint during the third trimester of pregnancy, as your body prepares for the upcoming birth of your baby. Hip pain typically occurs on one side or the other and occurs most often when you’re trying to sleep. Sleeping on your side (which is the position recommended during the last half of pregnancy) can be particularly painful. To help relieve the pain, turn over and keep flipping from side to side throughout the night. In addition to changing position, try placing a puffy pillow between your knees to help realign your pelvic bones. Sleeping in a semi-reclined position, rather than laying on your side with direct pressure placed upon your hips, may reduce hip pain as well. Sitting in the tub, soaking in warm water may bring some relief. Warm compresses and heating pads applied to your hurting hips are some other options which may ease pain. If your pain is persistent, talk to your doctor or midwife about possibly taking an over-the-counter pain reliever.