BABY: A Breath of Fresh Air — Sort Of!
At nine inches and more than a pound and a half in weight, your baby is taller than two juice boxes stacked one on top of the other, and almost as heavy as four of those little boxes (an analogy you'll find particularly apropos in a few years, when those juice boxes start taking over your refrigerator, your pantry, your car.…). Don't look now (as if you could), but your baby's skin is turning pinker. No, not because he or she's getting overheated (in fact, the amniotic fluid is perfectly climate controlled, keeping your baby at an always comfortable temperature), but because small blood vessels, called capillaries, are forming under the skin and filling with blood. Later this week, blood vessels will also develop in your baby's lungs, bringing them one step closer to full maturity — and one step closer to taking that first breath of fresh air. But those lungs are still very much works in progress. Though they are already beginning to develop surfactant, a substance that will help the lungs expand after the baby is born, the lungs are still too undeveloped to sufficiently send oxygen to the bloodstream and release carbon dioxide when he or she exhales. The lungs aren't the only system that's gearing up for air intake. Your baby's nostrils, which have been plugged up until now, are starting to open this week. This actually allows your little one to begin taking practice breaths. (Of course since there's no air in there, your baby is really only "breathing" amniotic fluid, but it's the practice that counts, right?)
MOMs BODY: Hemorrhoids
Your ever-growing uterus has now reached the size of a soccer ball. (Hey, look at that — you're already a soccer mom, and you didn't even have to buy the minivan yet!) But while you're probably enjoying your cute soccer ball tummy up in front (and getting to know your growing little midfielder through all those practice kicks), chances are you're not enjoying what's going on in your backside: hemorrhoids. Sure, no one likes to talk about it (especially at cocktail parties), but more than half of all pregnant women experience it. Pressure from your enlarging uterus, plus increased blood flow to the pelvic area, can cause the veins in the rectal wall to swell, bulge, and itch. Hemorrhoids, which are actually a form of varicose veins, can also be downright painful and may even cause rectal bleeding, especially when you're bearing down during a bowel movement. Constipation can aggravate, or even cause, hemorrhoids, so your best prevention is to avoid constipation in the first place (by increasing your fluid and fiber intake, as well as doing Kegel exercises). To soothe the sting of hemorrhoids, try witch hazel pads or ice packs. A warm bath might reduce discomfort, too. Hemorrhoids, which are uncomfortable (they definitely make sitting a pain) but not dangerous, can also develop postpartum as a result of pushing during labor. They usually go away after delivery.
LOOKING GOOD: Expectant Mom Mantra
Repeat after me: I am not fat, I am growing a baby. After a lifetime of watching your weight, it can be unnerving (and sometimes depressing) to watch it go up, up, up. Whenever you feel bummed about your expanding girth (and your expanding bum), remind yourself that there's a beautiful reason your body is changing. To fuel that baby growth, you need to keep your growth going, too, so dieting's never an option when you're expecting. Instead, eat as healthy as you can (remember, you share every bite with your baby), and eat as much as you need to in order to gain at the right rate. (One more time, with feeling: I am not fat, I am growing a baby!)
NEWS: Floss for a Longer Pregnancy
Want to keep your baby safely inside you until term? Put your dental floss where your mouth is. Surprisingly, research links good oral hygiene with longer pregnancies. Sounds crazy — doesn't it? Crazy, but true. Something as simple as brushing your teeth at least twice a day and flossing regularly can reduce the risk of gingivitis — a common condition in which your gums become inflamed, red, and even begin to bleed. Untreated gingivitis (that's where the regular dental checkups come in) can progress to periodontitis — a more serious infection of the teeth — which has been linked to premature birth and even an increased risk of preeclampsia. Keep on top of your teeth, and that old (untrue) wives' tale — the one that claims that a woman loses a tooth with each pregnancy — can finally be put to rest.
DAD: Do You Hear What I Hear?
You've probably been hearing your baby's heartbeat with a Doppler at those doctor or midwife visits. But now you can hear that thump-thump in the comfort and privacy of your own home. If the room is very quiet, and you both are very still, you may be able to hear a very faint heartbeat when you gently press your ear against her stomach. If not, try again tomorrow. You're getting closer — plus, this gets you closer to her, too.
EATING WELL: Not Gaining Enough Weight?
For most women, weight gain comes all too easily during pregnancy (make that, during their entire lives). But a few (they'd be called the lucky few during any other time — however, during pregnancy there's nothing lucky about being unable to put on weight) struggle to keep the scale on that vital upward swing. Sometimes it's pregnancy symptoms that prevent the pounds from accumulating (the morning sickness that limited first trimester eating to crackers and watermelon, the exhaustion that makes meal prep feel too much like hard work…and let's not get started on the gas and heartburn). Sometimes it's a body image issue at work (it's not easy to watch your body morph from lithe to lumbering in nine months). Sometimes it's just a matter of a metabolism (the word lucky comes to mind again) that makes gaining a true effort. Not gaining your fair share of weight during pregnancy (a total of 25 to 35 pounds for most women, though your practitioner may have advised you differently), or gaining too slowly (by now you should be gaining an average of a pound a week), can have hefty consequences. Inadequate weight gain can increase your risk of preterm delivery, delivering a low birth weight baby, and a host of other pregnancy complications. So how little is too little when it comes to weight gain? That all depends. When you first got pregnant, your practitioner probably gave you a target weight gain (based on a number of factors, including how close to ideal your prepregnancy weight was). Since then, he or she has likely been monitoring your gain at every visit and letting you know how you're doing. If you've been told to gain the standard 25-to-35-pound total in your pregnancy, by this week you should have put on anywhere from 13 to 19 of those pounds. If you're falling short of that number, or are within that range but it's less than your practitioner has recommended, you'll want to kick your weight gain efforts into high gear. What You Can Do: 1)Eat more calories. It sounds like a duh, but it's a duh worth repeating (and making your mantra). Add quality calories instead — calories that come in small packages. Good options include foods high in healthy fats, such as avocados, nuts, and hard cheeses, as well as higher calorie grains and legumes (denser whole-grain breads, heartier cereals, pasta, beans, dried peas). 2) Eat early, late, and often. Schedule snack breaks at least three times daily — morning, noon, and night — and make them count. Trail mix, granola, cheese, whole-grain muffins, guacamole or hummus with pita chips, bagels with peanut or almond butter, and baked sweet potato fries are good choices. 3) Slow down. Have a vigorous exercise routine? Take it down a few notches If it's your busy schedule that's keeping you on the run (and keeping you from eating enough and often enough), slow that down too.