15 Weeks Pregnant
15 weeks pregnant:
earEarAlthough the small bones of the inner ear are beginning to harden now, it's still too early for your baby to interpret sounds.
blood vesselsBlood VesselsThe very thin skin shows the developing blood vessels, retinas and skeleton.
lanugoLanugoVery fine white hair is starting to grow all over the body. This hair will help to regulate your baby's body temperature until fat accumulates under the skin.
What's happening with you:
As your uterus grows (you may be able to feel it a few inches below your belly button at 15 weeks pregnant), your stomach has less room to expand, which can lead to frequent heartburn and indigestion. This can be frustrating if your morning sickness has vanished and you're eager to indulge your growing appetite. Don't deny yourself variety, but take care to eat slowly and frequently, which should help to quell your bubbling stomach acids.
On the emotional front, you're probably dealing with conflicting feelings -- excitement, apprehension, frustration and joy -- which can make you a little shaky. This can also be a tough week for your self-image, as your body might look generally plump instead of noticeably pregnant. Many women have gained around five pounds by now, and it may not be all in your abdomen. Instead of dwelling on bothersome points, try to stay positive and enjoy your newfound energy!
What's happening with your baby:
Baby's gaining weight fast! At around 1 ¾ ounces, he's nearly doubled in weight since last week, and ultrasound pictures at 15 weeks would show that he's now the size of an orange (around 4 ½ inches or 10.5 cm). His thin skin shows a web of blood vessels stretching across his body and he may be testing his recently developed reflexes by sucking his thumb. The eyes are now on the front of the face as the retinas develop under the paper thin skin, but they're still very wide apart. Lanugo, the extra fine hair that regulates your baby's body temperature, is starting to cover his body and his tiny eyebrows are becoming defined.
Inside his little body, Baby's bones are hardening and lengthening. The tiny bones of the inner ear have begun to harden, but his hearing is too rudimentary for him to understand any sound. Limbs of a 15 week old fetus are growing longer and bones are retaining more calcium, and so you would be able to see baby's skeleton with an X-ray this week!
Things to do this week:
Well, by now you've lost your waist and it's taking a substantial effort to zip up your pants. As your uterus pushes aside adjacent organs, you're probably particularly uncomfortable when you wear tight outfits, so don't torture yourself -- stay in stretchy sweats and soft dressing gowns at home and invest in a couple of pairs of maternity pants for your pregnancy wardrobe.
You may be determined to get through your pregnancy without splurging on expensive maternity wear, but it's better to accept your fate and find versatile pieces that will grow with you and work with your personal style. A few pairs of comfy, stretchy slacks or jeans will go a long way, and a handful of t-shirts and blouses made for a growing belly can help you forge several different outfits. If your pregnancy takes you through the cooler seasons, you may be tempted to buy wool or synthetic fabrics like nylon to stay warm, but your higher metabolism and sensitive skin will probably prefer a natural, breathable fabric. Dress in layers instead of heavy fabric and you'll be more comfortable.
If you're having a high-risk pregnancy or your doctors are concerned about how the fetus is growing, prenatal testing can make sure that your baby is developing as expected. The alpha-fetoprotein test (also known as the maternal serum AFP) is one procedure that can reveal a good deal about your baby's health through a simple blood analysis. The test works best between week 15 and week 17, when a high level of alpha-fetoprotein in your blood can indicate neural tube defects like spina bifida and a low level of the protein can point to a genetic defect like Down syndrome. Tests such as the triple screen, quad screen and penta screen aim to reveal a wider range of problems and may be performed instead of the AFP test, but any of these screens will be able to identify 80% of the babies with neural tube defects and up to 60% of babies with Down syndrome.
However, the test is not for everyone, and it cannot be trusted completely. An accurate gestational age is vital for accurate results: if your due date has been miscalculated or you're carrying twins without realizing it, the level of alpha-fetoprotein (or AFP) in your blood can lead you to believe that there's a serious problem when there is isn't one. In this case, even a small margin of error can be an issue. While the AFP test doesn't carry any risks to you or your baby, other tests like amniocentesis that are used to confirm the problem can be risky. The decision to have the AFP test is a personal one, so weigh the emotional and physical pros and cons before making your choice.
Tips for your partner:
Now that you're one trimester closer to having a new member of the family, an heir to the life you've built with your partner, you will need to write a will. Sure, it's not one of the most exciting parts of pregnancy, but it is one of the most important tasks in front of you, for this is a legal document that will impact your child's future. It might seem like your child should naturally inherit what you own, but if it's not in writing, it's not going to happen.
Without an updated will, your child could end up in the care of strangers and your estate could go to the government. Take the time to revisit your existing will, with your lawyer, and select a guardian for your child. But be sure to give the guardian issue careful thought: it's awful to think about, but tragedies do happen and you'll want your little one to be in good hands if something were to happen to you and your partner.
This week's FAQs:
Is it normal to feel breathless, even when I haven't been particularly active?
The hormones that have taken over your body and mind can also take the wind right out of you. Just as those hormones relax your muscles and ligaments, leading to pregnancy joint pain, they can relax the muscles of the lungs and bronchial tubes, prompting you to breathe more deeply and more often. All of this relaxing can actually lead to more stress on your body and mind, but rest assured that mild breathing changes are quite normal.
There are a few things you can do to get through these periods of breathlessness without too much discomfort. First, try to stay calm: if you get scared or anxious you could make the episode much more uncomfortable. And at this point in your pregnancy, your uterus is almost big enough to press on major veins and arteries when you're lying directly on your back, which can make it harder to breathe. Adjust your body position and use some relaxation techniques to turn those deep breaths into meditative and rejuvenating movements.
I'm not sleeping well these days. Is there anything that will help me get through the night?
Sleep and pregnancy don't always mix, and chances are you'll have to deal with some challenges to your restful routine until your delivery. The best way to overcome a restless body and mind is with balance: if you can regulate your routine and balance rest with activity, you'll find that it's easier to settle in at night. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, and avoid caffeine in the evening (since that may keep you awake for longer than usual). Be sure to create a pregnancy fitness routine that involves at least a bit of a workout each morning or afternoon, which should keep you energized in the daylight hours and sleepy when bedtime rolls around.
What you eat is tied to many pregnancy discomforts, and diet plays a big role in your sleep habits, too. Heartburn is a common culprit, as it tends to get worse when you lie down, so sleep propped up on a few pillows or pay closer attention to what foods bring on your tummy troubles. If you find that your shortness of breath is to blame, try sleeping on your left side, which may bring some relief.
I'm having powerful cravings these days. Will I gain too much weight or hurt my baby if I indulge?
Pregnancy cravings and food aversions are standard elements of pregnancy -- the vast majority of moms-to-be will experience a big shift in their tastes and eating patterns. While a sudden urge for ice cream or pickled onions is harmless whether you give into it or not, it can be annoying when those cravings begin to strike hard at all hours of the day, and it can be worrisome when they interfere with your nutritious pregnancy diet.
The keys to staying healthy and keeping your weight gain in the normal range are portion size and clever substitutions: if you can satisfy your candy craving with a bowl of watermelon, that's great, but a few bites of your favorite sweet won't hurt you or your baby either. If you're worried about how much weight you're gaining through snacking on the foods you crave, try making a list of those foods and the amount of calories in a serving of each one. Stick the list on your fridge so you know whether you can afford to splurge on a small bowl of ice cream or if you've already taken in your fair share of calories for the day.
If you're unsure about taking a prenatal screening test, you may want to speak with a genetic counselor to clarify the risks, benefits and realities of the procedure. Genetic counseling is an invaluable resource for many parents who have reason to believe their baby may be more vulnerable to birth defects, as it helps to pin down the probability, explain the disorder, describe available treatments and outline your options clearly. Pregnancy often brings dilemmas, and some decisions you face can be incredibly difficult; use the resources around you to overcome hard times and strengthen your stance on a given procedure or dilemma.