Your little bundle’s total length from the top of the head to the tip of the toes is about 19 inches now and he or she weighs approximately 4 1/3 pounds. Even though your baby’s bones have been steadily ossifying (turning from cartilage to harder bone), not all of his or her bones are completely ossified at birth. Your baby’s skull has firmed up, but is still flexible and soft enough so he or she can come through the narrow, tight space of the birth canal with relative ease. Your baby’s skull was perfectly designed to withstand passage through such a squashed space while being born. Fortunately, the bones of the skull are able to mold into different positions for delivery. These bones are kind-of similar to big puzzle pieces, fitting together, but not attached too firmly. The bones of the skull don’t fuse completely until your baby is almost 2 years old, although the rear ones close much earlier than the front ones. Your baby has soft spots between the unfused skull bones which are called “fontanels”. These spots give your baby’s brain the room it needs to grow after birth, as it will grow approximately 40% during the first 2 years of life.
Don’t be shocked if your baby’s head appears pointy or even slightly lopsided when he or she is placed on your chest after delivery. Many newborns’ heads look this way because of the tight squeeze coming into the world, but this “molding” will resolve itself within the first week or two, becoming rounded once again. If your baby is born via c-section, then he or she may have a perfectly rounded head from the beginning, although that’s not always the case. Some babies hang upside down in the pelvis for quite a while during the last few weeks of pregnancy, causing the head to take on a cone shape.
The amniotic fluid that surrounds your little one has been increasing up until around this week. Generally, the amniotic fluid level peaks around the 34th week, stays about the same amount until about the 37th or 38th week and then slowly starts to decline until the baby is born. As your baby grows bigger, there is will be less fluid to float around in and more baby. Sometimes women have conditions which cause too little amniotic fluid (called “oligohydramnios“) or too much amniotic fluid (called “polyhydramnios“). Low amniotic fluid is more common when women go past their due date because the fluid level decreases by close to half by the 42nd week, but it can also be associated with fetal abnormalities and birth defects if low fluid is detected during the first or second trimesters. Generally, though, in the majority of cases when women are diagnosed with having oligohydramnios, they go on to have healthy babies. Too much amniotic fluid may be suspected if you measure bigger than you should for how far along you are. Most cases no cause is found, but too much fluid can put you at risk for premature rupture of membranes (or “PROM”) because of the added pressure from the extra fluid as well as other possible complications. Diagnosis of either oligohydramnios or polyhydramnios can be made by an ultrasound exam called an amniotic fluid index (or “AFI”), where the doctor measures the fluid pockets.
The top of your growing uterus is at least 5 inches above your belly button. Have you been waking during the night to run (well, not literally) to the bathroom? You may feel like you’re continuously having to pee, much like during the first trimester of your pregnancy, although now it could be worse. You may feel the need for a bathroom trip every half hour, especially if you’re drinking the recommended 6-8 glasses of water each day. As your uterus continues to expand, it’s putting more and more pressure on your bladder, making you have to urinate much more often, both day and night. In addition to your bladder’s capacity to hold urine being smaller, there’s more fluids including blood, circulating throughout your body which can contribute to your urinary frequency. Some women feel the need to limit their fluid intake, particularly before bed, but this isn’t a good idea. Adequate amounts of water during pregnancy is very important for many reasons. Not enough fluid intake can increase your chance of developing a urinary tract infection (UTI) and may even trigger uterine contractions.
Did you know that you are in control of the health and development of your baby’s teeth long before his or her first tooth pops up through the gum? Your baby’s tooth enamel has been forming already. You can help ensure a proper start on your little one’s oral health by maintaining good nutrition. Wise food choices can help avoid a condition called “enamel hypoplasia“, which is basically a lack of enamel on the outside of the teeth. Premature babies are much more likely to develop this condition (as well as other dental conditions such as tooth discoloration and delayed tooth eruption) than full-term babies. You should consume adequate amounts of calcium, vitamins A, C and D, as well as phosphorus to make sure your baby‘s teeth develop correctly. Prenatal vitamins taken daily will help you get the nutrition you need, but in addition to supplements, eating properly is the best course of action to take care of your baby’s teeth before birth.
After your baby is born, you will need to establish a healthy oral environment for him or her by creating a simple daily routine of wiping the gums once or twice a day. You can use clean gauze or a soft, clean cloth to gently wipe plaque accumulation away. After the first tooth makes its appearance, you should use a soft, wet toothbrush (or special rubber trainer brush specially designed for babies) to begin brushing. You don’t even have to use toothpaste at this point, unless you want to use a pea-sized amount of special baby toothpaste. Never use fluoride toothpaste for your baby unless you get your dentist’s (or doctor’s) approval.