Your Baby

Your baby-on-the-way’s total length from the top of the head to the tip of the toes is approximately 18 ½ inches this week. Your little one is not so little anymore, weighing almost 4 pounds! The billions of neurons in your baby’s brain are assisting your baby with learning about his or her environment inside your uterus. Vision is developing very nicely, while the pupils of the eyes constrict and dilate. Your baby can see light and even has the ability to see dim shapes while still inside the womb. There may be just enough visual stimulation filtered through your tissues that your baby can respond when you’re in bright light. Your baby’s heart may react distinctly to flashes of light on your belly by accelerating as well. By this week, your baby is capable of tracking light horizontally and vertically. Within the next two weeks, your may will be able to track light in all directions, as abilities increase rapidly with experience. On the other hand, shining a bright light on your abdomen for extended periods of time is not advisable. It’s been discovered that overexposure to bright light before babies (in utero, as well as premature) are ready can be detrimental, possibly causing retinal damage.

The chances of premature infants surviving are extremely different from one geographical region to the next. In most developing countries, a 32-week baby has very little chance of survival, but in developed countries such as the US, survival is similar to that of a full-term baby. If your baby were born this week, he or she would have a very good chance of survival outside of your womb. The lungs and digestive tract are almost complete, but are still continuing to mature. Your baby may be able to breathe on its own now, but most still need the help of supplemental oxygen. Even though survival rates are high for 32-week babies, they still risk some of the same complications as earlier babies face, although they may not be as severe. Subtle learning and behavioral problems would be a possibly if your baby entered the world now, 8 weeks early, but he or she may not have any long term complications. The longer your baby stays inside your womb, the better. Just a few days make a big difference. On the other hand, if the environment inside your womb isn’t good, it’s a whole lot better to be outside.

Your baby is starting to develop his or her own immune system and immunity to certain mild infections now. All newborns, even babies who are born full-term, have immune systems which need time to properly mature, but very premature babies have very underdeveloped immune systems. They are not as able to fight off infections and have a higher risk of developing serious infections, particularly blood infections (sepsis), pneumonia, and infections of the membranes surrounding the brain (meningitis). Part of the reason why preemies have such a tough time fighting infections is during the last part of pregnancy, low levels of antibodies cross through the placenta from you to your baby, which offer protection from infections. If your baby were to be born now, breast milk would be extremely beneficial because of its anti-infective properties. Your breast milk has so many different kinds of disease-fighting factors which would help protect your baby as his or her own immature immune system develops.

Your Body

The top of your uterus is about 4 ½ inches above your belly button now. Your total weight gain so far could very well be in the range of 20-28 pounds. Gaining a pound every week is a pretty typical occurrence at this point. Are you starting to feel as if you’ve been pregnant forever and wonder how much bigger you can possibly get? You’re definitely not alone, if this is the case. Many women experience these normal thoughts during the last couple of months before delivery. Not every day can be upbeat; feeling a little tired of being pregnant is to be expected. Your probably getting very anxious to get your pregnancy over with so you can meet your little one face-to-face. The last couple of months can seem the longest, but try and enjoy this time, because, before you know it, pregnancy will just be a memory. Soon, you’ll be holding your baby in your arms!

You and your partner may be worried if sex is still safe now that you’re getting closer to your due date. Unless you’ve had problems and your doctor or midwife advises you otherwise, there is no reason why you shouldn’t enjoy sexual intercourse through your entire pregnancy, even during the last couple of months. On the other hand, sex can be dangerous if you‘re leaking amniotic fluid, because it can lead to infection. Sex is not going to hurt your unborn baby in any way and under normal circumstances, it won’t bring on early labor, either. Your little one is well cushioned in your womb by amniotic fluid and the walls of your uterus. Also, there is a thick barrier that keeps the penis from coming in contact with your baby. If your pregnancy is considered “high risk”, your doctor may advise increased caution or for you to avoid intercourse completely.

You may even enjoy the best sex during pregnancy, without having to worry about messing with (or remembering) birth control methods or fear of pregnancy, obviously! Also, if you’ve ever had any trouble with vaginal dryness, pregnancy may be a miracle cure for that as well. On the downside, certain positions may be awkward or uncomfortable (or no longer safe, for that matter) during the third trimester, as your belly grows larger. You and your partner may have fun experimenting with new positions, but try to avoid lying flat on your back. If you find that you have little or no interest in sex now, be assured this is completely normal. If you’re not in the mood or you’re uncomfortable, express this to your partner. It’s important to keep the lines of communication open. Intimacy can be expressed in many other ways besides intercourse, including cuddling, caressing and kissing. If you’re concerned whether sex is safe for you or if you notice anything unusual after intercourse, contact your doctor or midwife.

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