Your baby’s total length from the top of the head to the tip of the toes is close to 19 ½ inches this week and he or she weighs just about 5 pounds. The rate of your baby’s weight gain will increase faster than his or her length during the following weeks until birth. More and more fat layers are gradually building up underneath your baby’s skin. As a result, your baby is starting to fill out and take on a chubbier appearance, looking quite a bit like a full-term newborn. He or she will get much more plump by the time your due date rolls around, though. Your baby has less space to move freely now as he or she takes up most of the available space inside your uterus. Your little one is likely curled up, with bent knees, arms and legs crossed and chin touching his or her chest. Your baby’s close quarters will become even more cramped by the time he or she is ready to enter the outside world!
Your baby is storing iron, from your blood, in his or her liver now. Iron also is needed to help your baby (as well as you) to make new red blood cells. Iron storage appears to be nature’s way of providing your baby with adequate iron for the first 4-6 months of his or her life following birth. After that time, the iron-stores and the iron absorbed by breastfeeding (that, is if you breastfeed) gets used up, but solid foods begin getting introduced. Full-term babies come into the world with a large reserve of iron, but premature babies need extra iron because they haven’t spent enough time in the womb to develop sufficient iron stores of their own. Also, if your baby will be bottle-fed, he or she should receive iron-fortified formula beginning at birth up until one-year-old (or as long as your baby’s doctor recommends). Breastfed babies rarely need iron supplements. It was once thought that babies being breastfed needed iron supplements because human milk is low in iron, but it’s been discovered that the iron in breast milk is very well absorbed. Even though breast milk contains small levels of iron, at 4-6 months after birth, breastfed babies have higher hemoglobin than babies who were fed iron-fortified formula. Babies can use more than 50% of the iron in breast milk compared to less than 12% of the iron in formula.
Are you still singing nursery rhymes and talking to your little one? Your baby is hearing more and more of what’s going on outside of your womb. Hearing is probably the most developed of all the senses before birth. It’s been discovered that babies are born with a distinctive preference for at least two sounds in particular: the sound of their mother’s voice and her heartbeat. In one study, newborns gained weight faster while listening to heartbeat sounds in the hospital. Breathing was more regular and deeper among the babies who listened to heartbeat noises, as well. It appears that uterine sounds form a “sound carpet” over most noises, making them muffled, but mommy’s voice is very distinct and so different from the sounds within and around the womb. Newborn babies prefer the sound of their mother’s voice to the sound of other women. Did you know that when a mother’s voice is altered electronically to sound as it did in the womb (filtered through amniotic fluid rather than air), her newborn prefers it even more? Babies find comfort and reassurance in the familiar, including mom‘s soothing voice. If you sing or hum the same songs to your baby after birth, they will have a familiar ring to them and your baby will really feel at home. Researchers have found that babies also prefer when mom speaks in her native language to someone else speaking in a foreign tongue. Babies learn patterns and frequencies of their native language.
The top of your uterus has grown up past your belly button about 5 ½ inches or so. Your approximate weight gain is likely to be between 22- 30 pounds by this week in your pregnancy. Have your nesting instincts kicked in yet? It’s not uncommon to feel more energetic off and on during the last several weeks of pregnancy. Sometimes it hits just before labor begins. Nesting usually comes in spurts of wanting to get things ready for your baby by cleaning, finishing up the nursery, shopping for baby items, washing up new baby clothes or other preparations which have been put off. You just might wake up one morning and feel an intense need to scrub walls or mop floors! Or one night, you may not be able to fall asleep and instead, you decide to happily dust or vacuum the entire house from top to bottom! If you feel a desire to paint the nursery (or anything else inside your home), you might want to leave that job for someone else because of the harmful fumes. Also, if you decide to rearrange furniture, make sure you enlist the help of your partner for the heavy lifting.
Did you know that by consuming an adequate amount of iron, you can help protect your unborn baby (as well as yourself) from lead? When exposed to lead early in pregnancy, it can put you at a higher risk of having a miscarriage. Later in pregnancy, lead can affect your baby’s weight and brain development and even his or her nervous system. Adequate iron intake is also very important during pregnancy to keep you from becoming anemic. Iron requirements double during pregnancy, particularly during the third trimester when your baby is storing iron for the first several months of life, your blood volume is at its highest level and your body is getting ready for the blood loss which will occur during delivery. Good sources of iron include meats, fish, clams, lentils, beans, peas, green leafy vegetables, whole grain breads, some cereals and dried fruits (such as raisins). Make sure you’re still continuing to take a daily prenatal vitamin to help meet your iron requirements.
You may not be too interested in exercising now, especially if you’re feeling downright exhausted most of the time, but have you tried swimming? Being in the water lets you feel weightless when you may normally feel like you weigh a ton! Swimming can be relaxing and very beneficial during the third trimester, as well as throughout the entire 9 months of pregnancy. Water is much easier on your joints, while exercising and it also allows movements to be less jerky. Swimming is, no doubt, one of the safest forms of exercise for expectant moms. If you’d rather just float and take it easy while in the water, just make sure you steer clear of hot tubs, which can lead to overheating. Squeezing into a swimming suit may not sound too appealing at this point, but rest assured; there are a wide variety of maternity swimwear available. You can easily find countless styles and prints at your local maternity boutique, ranging from sexy, strapless two-piece suits to more conservative one-piece varieties with a skirt at the bottom for thigh coverage. Whatever makes you feel the most comfortable! Before you begin swimming, check with your doctor or midwife to ensure it’s the right form of exercise for you.