23 Weeks Pregnant
23 weeks pregnant:
legsLegsAlthough you won't be able to feel them quite yet, the baby's legs can push and kick in reaction to the sounds and movement outside your belly.
skinSkinThe thin skin will still show bones, organs and blood vessels fairly clearly. It's still covered in lanugo and a thick, white vernix coating.
What's happening with you:
You're probably still feeling some of the symptoms that hit you a few weeks ago: heartburn, indigestion, round ligament pain and skin itching tends to occur when your uterus begins to push around your other organs. But if you're not suffering from aches, gas or itch, don't fret! Different women can have very different second trimester experiences, and some will breeze through the weeks leading up to their third trimester. Of course, if you're one of the unlucky ones who can check off everything from backache to varicose veins on your list of symptoms, time may be moving more slowly for you. In either case, your belly is growing fast and the extra weight will start to shift your center of balance, forcing you to step more carefully from here on in!
You may be surprised at how big you are these days, as your uterus continues to grow up and out at an impressive pace. By now, it's about 1 ½ inches above your belly button and close to the size of a volleyball. There's also quite a bit of room for your baby to float around, which means that you'll feel her little kicks and somersaults regularly and you may even notice small jolts as she battles with hiccups. Communicating with your little one can help you bond, but expect more of a reaction later in the evening, when fetal activity typically increases.
Between your expanding abdomen and frequent spurts of fetal activity, you'll have a hard time focusing on anything other than the life inside of you, but try not to get too anxious about what lies ahead. Instead, enjoy the moment and gather information from as many sources as you can to quell your fears and prepare yourself and your family for Baby's arrival.
What's happening with your baby:
Your baby has reached an important stage of development, for now there's a chance (albeit a small chance) that she could survive outside the womb if you were to deliver prematurely. At 8 ½ inches long and weighing around one pound, baby's thin skin still reveals her bones, organs and blood vessels, but everything is working in tandem to help her grow in size and complexity. She continues to get most of her nutrition from your placenta, but the amniotic fluid that she's been breathing and swallowing may also give her some of the nutrients she needs. There is still very little fat under her wrinkled skin and her organs are just beginning to practice for life outside the womb, which is why a 23 week old fetus has only a 35% chance of survival.
Not all premature babies have the same odds, though. Gestational age, weight, gender, the presence of infection and whether or not your membranes have ruptured all play a role in calculating a premature infant's chances of survival. Also, those chances will increase with each day your baby stays in your uterus past 23 weeks, and by week 27 the survival rate skyrockets to between 80% and 90%. While your baby can grab, kick, sense sounds and react to her environment by now, her little lungs need a few more weeks to mature enough for her to breathe air.
Things to do this week:
Even if you've been given some gifts already or you plan to borrow much of your baby gear, there are a few reasons to put some time and thought into a baby registry. First, certain things like car seats should be purchased new to ensure they're up to current safety standards. Secondly, people will want to give gifts for the baby, and you might as well steer them in the right direction!
You may be reluctant to register for big, expensive items, but keep in mind that some friends and family may prefer to pitch in for a big but necessary gift for you. A registry is the perfect tool to point out the models of cribs, changing tables and baby strollers you like best; be sure to do your research before you throw your wish list together so you'll get the perfect items for your lifestyle. Also, it's better to be over-prepared than under-prepared when it comes to everyday items, so pile on the receiving blankets, bottle inserts and socks (which tend to vanish when you look away for an instant). Once your baby arrives, you'll soon discover that practicality reigns over anything luxurious or simply cute.
All of the rearranging in your abdomen can trigger a variety of harmless symptoms, but there are times when abdominal pain during pregnancy can point to a more serious condition. As your uterus pushes the surrounding organs up and against each other, your compressed stomach can work with your stretching ligaments to spark some harmless round ligament pain in one side of your belly, but preterm labor can bring similar aches. Swelling is a natural aspect of pregnancy, but abnormal swelling is one of the first preeclampsia symptoms. And then there are some emergencies that can hit whether you're pregnant or not: as your appendix is pushed higher into your abdomen, you may mistake the nausea and vomiting of appendicitis for a bad meal or lingering morning sickness.
Basically, pain and tenderness travels as your belly grows. Pain in the appendix, the liver or the uterus may occur in a different area of your abdomen now, so you might pass it off as nothing serious or chalk it up to general pregnancy pain. One key to spotting a potentially hazardous pregnancy complication is to familiarize yourself with the dimensions of your uterus as it grows, and keep an eye out for sudden changes in size. If you have any regular discomfort, sudden swelling or your nausea comes back without warning, see your doctor. The good news is that, in many cases, serious conditions can be treated and resolved when they're detected early, which could save your health and your pregnancy.
Tips for your partner:
As the novelty of her pregnant belly wears off, a mom-to-be can start to feel less desirable. A gaze in the mirror may bring out a sigh instead of a smile, and you may find her gloomily pinching her extra flesh more often. Of course, these are normal and necessary effects of pregnancy, and there's a good chance that she'll get her old body back within baby's first year. However, it's difficult to focus on a fit future when you're feeling trapped in a pregnant present. This is the time when flattery goes a very long way.
Remember, you're not trying to brainwash your partner into a false belief, but rather assuring her that you're still attracted to her in every way. Mention how beautiful her glowing skin looks and how her curvy form is actually quite appealing. Exercise along with her if working out makes her feel better about her body, and don't feed her lies to lift her spirits. A woman often knows when she's looking particularly good or particularly bad, and your sincerity will be more appreciated than stock compliments. Actions tend to speak louder than words, so an unexpected kiss or soulful gaze can do a lot to restore her self-image.
This week's FAQs:
I sometimes feel a tingling sensation or an aching pain in my hands and feet. Should I be concerned?
During pregnancy, the hands and feet can suffer more than other body parts, mostly due to fluid retention. Your increased blood volume and other bodily fluids tend to swell tissues which then press on certain nerves, causing your extremities to go numb or tingle with pins and needles. These sensations are quite normal, and they'll often vanish with a change in body position. However, when the tingling gives way to sharp or dull pain, you may be dealing with a slightly less common and more uncomfortable condition.
Carpal tunnel syndrome in pregnancy isn't all that rare, since the carpal tunnel in the wrist is just as vulnerable to swelling as the other tissues in your body. You're probably suffering from this condition if the numbness is concentrated in your thumb, forefinger and middle finger, with pain that shoots up your wrist or even up to your shoulder. A pinched nerve in the wrist is to blame, and the discomfort typically clears up soon after delivery. In the meantime, keep your hands elevated when you sleep and talk to your doctor if it's interfering with your daily routine.
When swelling, numbness and pain occur in the legs and feet, you could be facing something more serious than a pinched nerve. A blood clot in a major vein or artery, also known as deep vein thrombosis, can bring sudden throbbing pain and redness or warmth to the skin over the affected area. While a small clot in a superficial vein is usually nothing to worry about, a clot in a deep vein could break off and travel to your lung, where it can cause a life-threatening pulmonary embolism. If the pain is sudden, constant and accompanies noticeable swelling, see your doctor immediately to have it checked out.
Is it normal to be scared about delivery and feel nervous about becoming a mother?
In a word, yes! The path through pregnancy and into motherhood is unlike any other you've travelled, and it's natural to be afraid of unfamiliar territory. Now that you can feel your baby move around in your uterus, you may wonder how difficult and painful it will be to get him out. Childbirth is a notoriously uncomfortable event, but good preparation and realistic expectations can go a long way to easing the mental and physical trauma.
When it comes to parenting, it's common to expect a lot of yourself. Whether you're worried you won't measure up to your parents or you're worried that you'll be just like them, thinking about raising a child will almost certainly lead to some anxiety. Parental love comes naturally but parental skills need to be learned, so get some practice with newborns to boost your confidence for those first days of motherhood. One of the best ways to get hands-on experience and find answers to your questions is to join a prenatal course that covers a range of pregnancy and parenting topics over the course of several weeks. If labor and delivery concern you more than parenting, you might want to stick with a specific childbirth class instead.
How do I choose the childbirth class that will be best for me?
Begin by asking yourself a few basic questions about labor and delivery. Are you committed to a natural delivery and totally opposed to taking drugs for the pain? Who do you want beside you in the delivery room, and how involved should they be in the birth? Does a spiritual approach appeal to you more than physical training for labor? Consider your personal preferences very closely to choose a technique that will be as comfortable for you as it is effective.
Whatever type of class you choose, you can expect to learn about the signs of labor, the progress of labor, pain management techniques, what role your partner will play and when you need to call your caregiver. Some classes focus on breathing or visualization techniques, while others stress the importance of physical training in the weeks or months leading up to delivery. But despite their effort and commitment, some women find that the childbirth classes didn't do much for them when delivery day rolled around. In most cases, a childbirth class is a great idea; you really won't know exactly what to expect when labor hits, so it's best to be prepared with good information, even if you don't wind up using it during your own labor experience.
Trying to relieve the swelling by cutting down on your fluids? Well, you could be sabotaging yourself, since the more fluids (especially water) that you drink, the better your circulation and the less water you will retain. Swelling is a natural part of pregnancy, and the extra fluids that you're carrying in your body will account for about 25% of your total pregnancy weight gain.
Of course, certain things will lead to greater water retention, and that's the last thing you want right now. Salt is a common culprit, but think twice before cutting it out of your diet: if your body doesn't get enough salt, it tries to conserve the sodium it has and you will wind up with worse swelling than before! Stick to about 2,300 mg of sodium a day coupled with several glasses of water and you'll keep your body's fluids in balance.