26 Weeks Pregnant

Sleep is important for you and your baby

26 weeks pregnant:

What's happening with you:

You're approaching the end of your second trimester, and your body is adapting to its new shape. By now your uterus is the size of a basketball, and although your abdomen continues to stretch, you may find that the round ligament pain you've been feeling over the past couple of months is beginning to subside. Many women will have gained between 16 and 22 pounds by 26 weeks, but don't worry too much if you're a couple pounds under or over this mark: different bodies need to gain different amounts, so aim for gradual weight gain (about a pound a week from now until your ninth month) and try not to get hung up on averages.

But while the ligaments around your uterus are adjusting to your new shape, you may be feeling some other abdominal discomfort. As it grows in size and weight, your uterus will shift your center of balance and may begin to press on your sciatic nerve, which can send a shooting pain down your lower back, buttocks and legs, particularly down the right side of your body. If your baby is sitting towards your back, you may feel this more often, but applying heat or cold can help relieve the pain. If that doesn't work, try changing your position or reclining in a comfy chair for a little while. Unfortunately, back pain will probably linger until the end of pregnancy, so explore some relaxation techniques and try to take frequent breaks if you're standing, walking and sitting for long periods.

What's happening with your baby:

A 26 week old fetus weighs almost 2 pounds and typically measures around 9 ΒΌ inches (or 23 cm) long. Her spine is strengthening, she can inhale and exhale and she's starting to put on a layer of fat under her thin skin. Baby is also making her presence known nowadays -- she may react to the sound of your voice or your partner's, and your friends and family might be able to hear her little heartbeat when they put an ear to your belly.

Have you noticed that your baby tends to move more at certain times of the day? Some believe that the foods you eat will influence the activity of a fetus, and others find that drinking a glass of water or playing certain music will provoke a kick or two. One thing's for sure -- your baby is developing a sleep and waking cycle at this point and in just a couple of weeks he'll begin to experience REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. Don't fret if your little one's activity is higher when you're sleeping, since that doesn't necessarily mean that he'll be up all night after he's born.


Things to do this week:

As your belly grows, there will be fewer comfortable positions for you. Leg cramps, itchy skin and swelling will only make it more difficult to rest easy, so you'll need to find some tools to help you cope. If getting a good night's sleep has become a problem now that you have to lie on your side, invest in a pregnancy pillow to help relieve the pressure on your joints. A humidifier in your bedroom will help combat sinus troubles and light cotton sheets will keep you cool if you find that you're sweating more lately. Is your back pain acting up at work? If your job demands that your stand or walk a lot, consider a belly sling to take a load off your lower back; a small footrest and a cushion for the small of your back can keep your posture perfect if you sit at a desk all day.

The bathroom can pose a particular challenge in pregnancy at 26 weeks, thanks to your extra weight and shifting center of gravity. However, you don't need to swear off baths until your child arrives if you use a waterproof bathtub pillow for your head and neck, and it's a good idea to throw in a thermometer to ensure the water temperature is not too warm (controlling your body temperature is one of the first tenets of pregnancy safety). If you'd rather stick to showers, pick up a bathtub mat with good traction or opt for individual treads that you can stick onto the floor of the tub to keep you from slipping.


Medical musts:

As with your previous prenatal appointments, this month's visit will include some routine blood and urine tests to check for certain conditions that may have gone unnoticed. Severe fatigue could signal anemia and you will be tested for gestational diabetes, which doesn't always bring symptoms, between week 24 and week 28 to ensure your body is metabolizing glucose properly.

On the other hand, there are second trimester conditions that bring very alarming symptoms, and these should be investigated right away. After week 20, preeclampsia can hit you suddenly and jeopardize your healthy pregnancy by raising your blood pressure to dangerous levels. While some swelling in your hands and feet is perfectly normal, sudden swelling or weight gain can spell trouble. Frequent headaches, blurred vision, dizziness and severe upper abdominal pain are other warning signs, so you should call your doctor right away if you experience any of them.

Like gestational diabetes, preeclampsia only occurs in pregnancy and the condition typically vanishes after the birth. Unlike gestational diabetes, it's often very difficult to control the effects of preeclampsia during pregnancy, so doctors will induce labor if the fetus is mature enough to have a good chance of survival outside the womb (usually after the 28 week mark). Bed rest and certain medications are used if delivery is impossible, but treatment must be swift to prevent eclampsia, a serious condition that could lead to seizures or even a coma.

Tips for your partner:

Now that your baby can hear and react to sounds outside her mother's body, make a regular effort to bond with her. True, the bond between a baby and the mom-to-be is hard to beat, but there's no reason for you to sit on the sidelines until you can hold your little one in your arms. If you don't hear the heartbeat when you put an ear to your partner's belly, keep trying: your baby is getting stronger by the day in every way, and soon you should be able to detect that muffled Morse code signaling there's a life inside. And by now you'll be able to feel your baby move around -- maybe even locate a little fist or foot -- so take advantage of Baby's active time in the evenings and lay a hand on your partner's tummy for a little while.

It may seem strange the first time you do it, but talking, singing, laughing and reading to your baby can really help you connect. The voices she hears most often during her time in the womb will be the most familiar and therefore the most comforting when she arrives, so try to speak to your baby regularly. Take an active role in the pregnancy not just for your partner's sake or for your sake, but also for the sake of your budding relationship with your baby-to-be.

This week's FAQs:

  • Between the pins and needles in my hands and the varicose veins in my legs, my circulation seems worse than ever. How can I make sure enough blood, oxygen and nutrients are getting to my baby?

    Your hormones and the pressure of your uterus can affect how your blood flows through your body, and your extremities tend to suffer the most. However, as long as you avoid certain positions and you stick with a healthy pregnancy routine, there's no reason to be concerned about your baby's safety.

    After week 16, your uterus is big enough to press on your vena cava, a major vein that runs down your body, when you lay on your back. This means that you should be very careful about how you sleep and exercise: try to sleep on your left side to promote circulation and don't do any mat exercises that require you to lie directly on your back. Keeping your arms elevated while you sleep and your hands below your elbows when you type should minimize numbness in your wrist and hands. Finally, be sure to balance rest and activity to make sure your circulatory system isn't overworked and your veins are not compressed for too long.

  • How do I prevent hemorrhoids and relieve the discomfort?

    Although hemorrhoids will affect up to 50% of expectant moms, they're not a necessary part of pregnancy. These little varicose veins occur in or on the rectum, and can itch, bleed and ache; it's no wonder that pregnant women are willing to do whatever they can to avoid them. But if you do get them, there are some tried-and-true tips for quick relief.

    First, make hydration your number one concern. Constipation can lead to hemorrhoids or inflame them, and plenty of water will help prevent constipation. Include a minimum of eight glasses of water in your daily diet, go to the bathroom when you need to rather than waiting for a more convenient time and do your Kegel exercises to improve circulation in the pelvic region.

    If you didn't manage to prevent them, impeccable self care will help to control hemorrhoids in pregnancy. Regular baths, a good cleaning routine and applying an ice pack to the areas are all good ways to fight the pain and itch. Also, be sure that you're not standing or sitting for very long periods of time, which can aggravate the discomfort. And while medicated ointments should only be used with your doctor's permission, witch hazel is a natural topical remedy that you can use for poor circulation and inflammation.

  • I'm worried about labor -- will the pain and effort be too much to handle?

    It's natural to be concerned about the big event that lies ahead, especially if you've never been through it before. From the terrible pain that you hear about to the fatigue and loss of control over your body and mind, there sure are a number of things to worry about. On the other hand, you can take comfort in the fact that your body was built for this purpose -- you have the strength and will to get through it, but you can reduce the strain with the help of a good system of support.

    First, forget about the terms "normal" and "average" when thinking about childbirth. There is no universally normal experience. You may find yourself crying softly through the whole stretch of labor while the woman in the next room is doling out curses to everyone around her. Don't model your birth experience on what others have had, since your body and your circumstances are unique. You're not a failure if you need to have a c section and you shouldn't be embarrassed if you lose control of your body or your emotions in the delivery room. Of course, you should take advantage of the resources around you and prepare as well as you can for labor so there will be fewer surprises: childbirth classes, a birth plan and a doula will prove very helpful in the lead up to labor and during your delivery.

Helpful hint:

Your muscles and organs have been shifting to accommodate your growing baby, but did you know that your bones can move around, too? Expect your ribcage to get a few inches bigger as your pregnancy progresses, which will help your body handle its changing dimensions: as the uterus moves further up your abdomen and pushes against your diaphragm to leave you breathless, your expanding ribs allow some more room for your lungs to inflate and deflate. Your ribs won't move too much, but there's a good chance that those slight changes are permanent.

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