22 Weeks Pregnant
Enjoy the journey
22 weeks pregnant:
genitaliaGenitaliaThe genitals are more distinct: a baby boy's testes have begun to descend into the scrotum, and a baby girl's ovaries and vagina have already formed. In fact, an ultrasound could reveal the gender of your baby this week.
brainBrainNerve centers are becoming distinct, marking the start of an important state of mental development.
amniotic sacAmniotic SacThe membranes that will cushion and protect your baby in the womb are forming and filling with amniotic fluid.
What's happening with you:
Although the top of your uterus now reaches above your bellybutton, your tummy isn't so big that you're having trouble standing up or bending over. In fact, this is a nice transition period when you'll draw the attention of fawning friends and the chivalry of strangers without having to endure much fatigue or discomfort. Enjoy your glowing skin, hearty appetite and growing abdomen; you can beat little discomforts like round ligament pain, itchy skin and pregnancy brain with a positive attitude, some preventative measures and a balanced lifestyle.
Your abdomen isn't the only area that's more pronounced these days. You'll likely notice some major changes in the feeling and appearance of your breasts by now, including darkening areolas and even the first drops of colostrum, the concentrated milk that will serve as your baby's first meal outside of the womb. Breast changes during pregnancy come in varying degrees for different women, but you can count on going up at least one cup size by week 22. Be sure to invest in comfortable and supportive maternity bras to wear in the day and at night, as sleeping in your bra will help to relieve and protect your tender breasts.
What's happening with your baby:
All of Baby's organs have been fully formed for some time, but they're continuing to grow in complexity. The kidneys and pancreas of a 22 week old fetus are functioning, the skin is less transparent and, if your baby is a boy, the testes have begun to descend into the scrotum (a baby girl's ovaries and vagina have formed by now, too). But one of the most impressive developments is taking place in the brain, where the germinal matrix is rapidly manufacturing brain cells, bringing your baby's senses to life and forming the foundation of his personality.
Your 22 week fetus weighs just under a pound and is about 7 ½ inches from crown to rump, or 11 inches from crown to heel. As your baby grows longer, your caregiver may begin to measure him from the top of his head to the bottom of his feet, but keep in mind that ultrasounds and physical manipulation are not exact sciences, and it can be tough to determine just how long your baby is before he makes his first live appearance. If you did have a window into your baby's underwater world, you would be able to see that his lips, eyelids and eyebrows are more pronounced this week, and his tiny fingernails are complete. His skin has a fair amount of wrinkles, as his slim figure is just beginning to accumulate some fat under the thin skin.
Things to do this week:
You're in the middle of your pregnancy, so this is a good time to look back at what you've gone through and ahead to what's waiting around the bend. Your first trimester discomforts are (hopefully) long gone, third trimester challenges are still a few weeks off and you have some time left before late-night feedings and diaper changes consume your attention. Did nausea and fatigue distract you for the majority of those first few months? Have you been focusing solely on your baby? Maybe this is a good time to catch up with your partner and show that you appreciate everything they have done for you. Also, you'll want to take full advantage of any adult time while it's still available!
Plan some one-on-one time to enjoy grown-up things like a candlelit dinner at a nice restaurant, a concert or a leisurely shopping trip without a stroller and diaper bag in tow. In fact, this may be the perfect time to discuss your ideas for the nursery and pick out some baby gear together -- after all, if your partner has a chance to choose the carrier or diaper bag, there's a better chance that they will want to lug it around!
While your chances of having a miscarriage have plummeted, any aches, pains and changes in your vaginal discharge could still cause you some worry. Preterm labor concerns are understandable; even though cramping or mild contractions are generally nothing to fear, it is possible that you could go into labor well before your due date.
If you know that your risk of delivering a preterm baby is low, you'll be able to stay calm and enjoy your pregnancy more. On the other hand, if you discover that you're at a greater risk for delivering a premature baby, you can modify your routine to reduce your chances of going into labor prematurely. Fortunately, your doctor can test for a protein called fetal fibronectin between week 22 and week 35 to determine your risk. The test is performed like a Pap smear: a swab of your vaginal secretions is taken from behind your cervix, and if there is any fetal fibronectin (or fFN) present, your chances of going into premature labor are higher than normal.
Keep in mind that a positive result is considered inconclusive -- you may go into labor sooner than expected, or you could make it right to your due date without any problems. If the test comes back negative, there's a 95% chance that you will not go into labor in the next two weeks. If you've experienced symptoms that worry you, speak to your caregiver about taking this test. If it turns out that you are at an increased risk, the fFN test can be repeated weekly without any danger to you or your baby, as a way of monitoring your pregnancy.
Tips for your partner:
If you're worried about how you'll juggle work and parenthood, you're not alone. Many parents have concerns about bending their schedule around the demands of a newborn, especially when they're just as concerned about being a "good" father or mother. You've probably already had a taste of schedule shuffling, with prenatal appointments and baby preparations popping up more regularly now. Take this time before your baby arrives to adjust your routine so you'll be comfortable with a well-balanced lifestyle when you welcome your infant into the family.
Working late on a regular basis may be possible now, but it will certainly interfere with your life and relationships once your newborn arrives. Start to leave the office at a reasonable time every day and don't bring your work home with you. Keep in mind that the month or two leading up to the birth can be exciting, stressful and eventful for mom-to-be, so plan to be around as much as possible. Of course, work trips cannot always be avoided so be alongside her in spirit when you can't physically be there: call frequently to check in and arrange a good support network for her to call on when you're absent.
As labor and delivery approaches, consider arranging a short leave of absence or plan to take your vacation time for the weeks following the birth of your baby. In many places, maternity leave has given way to parental leave: parents may be able to divide up the available time between them instead of mom-to-be taking the whole stretch of time off. Look into your company's policy now or consider taking advantage of the Family and Medical Leave Act to ensure you'll be there for your baby's early days.
This week's FAQs:
When should I ask my boss about maternity leave, and when should I plan to take my time?
If you didn't mention your pregnancy to your boss in the early stages, you could be in a precarious position now. Not everyone is happy to accommodate a pregnant worker, especially when she has kept the secret for a long time. On the other hand, some companies are particularly family-friendly and will welcome the news of your baby-to-be with a generous offer of paid leave or extended unpaid leave. In the least you are entitled to use a combination of sick leave, personal days, vacation days and unpaid family leave (if the Family and Medical Leave Act covers your company) for your maternity leave.
Once you've come to an agreement about how much leave you will take, there's still the question of when to take it. This is a personal decision, and there are certainly pros and cons for taking it earlier and for taking it later. While it's definitely helpful to have a good amount of time following the birth to concentrate on your recovery and to care for your newborn, you may also want to take some time off before the baby arrives to spend with your other children or to get the house ready for your newest family member.
Your pregnancy itself is another factor to consider. You may discover later in your pregnancy that you have a complication requiring bed rest or that you need to be induced before your due date, leaving you no choice but to take your leave earlier than expected. The bottom line is that you should put a good deal of thought into your maternity leave, but try to stay flexible so that you aren't too upset if plans need to change. Regardless of your specific plan, be sure to familiarize yourself with your state's maternity leave benefits, as legislation on the matter can vary widely depending on where you live.
I'm concerned that the new baby will affect our family dynamic for the worse. How do I prepare my first child for a new sibling?
This is never an easy question to answer, since age, personality and comprehension all play a role in how your child will react during and after your pregnancy. It can be especially difficult to prepare a toddler, since you'll be struggling to put the idea of pregnancy and family relationships into terms they will understand. Begin by fielding any questions with a positive attitude and allow your child to get involved if they're interested: tagging along to a prenatal visit or helping you with nursery preparations can leave them excited about their sibling-to-be rather than concerned about losing your attention.
Generally, the more contact your child has with babies and baby things, the more familiar and accepting he'll be of your newborn. Visit friends and family who have infants, let your child touch them gently and teach him about what babies can and can't do. Keep sibling rivalry at bay, at least in the early stages of their relationship, by making big brother or big sister the baby's protector and the family's PR representative. They can be in charge of introducing visitors to the new baby, making sure everyone washes their hands before holding the newborn and keeping hazards away from the baby. Of course, there's no universal method to smooth the way for a changing household, so be patient and try some different approaches until you find a way to connect with and motivate your older child.
My itchy abdomen is getting to be a nuisance. How can I relieve the discomfort?
At this point in your pregnancy, your skin stretches fairly quickly to keep up with your expanding belly, which leads to dryness and irritation -- the perfect recipe for an itchy abdomen. In many cases, the itching is a precursor to stretch marks, another extremely common effect of pregnancy. The first step to relieving the irritation (and fighting stretch marks) is to stay hydrated inside and out: make sure you're drinking plenty of water and use a quality moisturizer that contains vitamin e, cocoa butter or another hydrating heavyweight.
If the itch is really distracting, experiment with some natural treatments: a mild anti-itching cream like calamine lotion or a formula that contains menthol might help, and an oatmeal bath can be both relaxing and relieving. Those who suffer from particularly severe itching may need to visit their doctor for a steroid cream or some antihistamines. Whatever you do, try your best to leave it alone, as scratching the itch can make it considerably worse. If you can't keep those fingernails still, try scratching a stuffed animal to relieve your psychological urge and keep applying a cooling cream to quell the skin irritation.
Between planning your maternity leave, choosing a childbirth class and starting a baby registry you'll probably wind up with a bunch of lists and plenty of clear ideas about how things will go. While it's always good to think ahead, remember that flexibility is a virtue during your pregnancy. Too much strict planning can lead to undue stress and anxiety, especially when the plans change (and they probably will). Keep an open mind through your nine months, taking in any sage advice and considering all sides of an issue before putting your foot down. Every pregnancy and birth is different, so no book is going to give you all the information you need. If you can change your strategy and alter expectations as needed, you will feel better physically and emotionally now and after your baby arrives.