Mom: Varicose Veins
Your belly is probably large enough now that you can't see your legs anymore when you're standing. And that could be a good thing if you're like the nearly 40 percent of pregnant women who develop varicose veins sometime during their pregnancy. Who wants to see that, anyway? Varicose veins, swollen veins that can either develop or worsen in pregnancy, are rarely cause for concern — perhaps just cause for putting away the miniskirts for a couple months. They pop up because of the increased blood volume during pregnancy, because your growing uterus puts pressure on the pelvic veins, and because of the relaxation of the veins due to pregnancy hormones. Varicose veins can also occur in your rectum (hemorrhoids) or even your vulva (isn't that a pretty thought?) — fortunately, two other places you'll be hard-pressed to see them. (Don't confuse varicose veins with those less than attractive purplish-red spider veins, which resemble — you guessed it — spiders. Spider veins result from hormone changes and usually fade after delivery.) Some pregnant women find varicose veins painful, while others have no discomfort at all. Like stretch marks, they're passed on from unhappy generation to unhappy generation (so if your mother had varicose veins during pregnancy, chances are you'll have them, too). Fortunately, there are ways to prevent or minimize varicose veins. Your best bet is to keep your circulation going by avoiding standing or sitting for a long time and by being sure to get in some daily exercise. Special support hose can also be helpful. Most of the time, varicose veins will recede within a few months after delivery.
Baby: Putting on the Pounds and the Padding
Your baby is almost 17 inches tall now (nearly as tall as he or she will be at birth), and close to three pounds (a weight that will likely more than double — and may even come close to tripling — by delivery time). His or her wrinkled skin is smoothing out as more fat is deposited under the skin surface. This fat, called white fat, is different from the earlier brown fat that your baby accumulated. Brown fat is necessary for body temperature regulation while white fat (the fat you have, Mom) actually serves as an energy source. Which explains why your energizer baby feels so…well…energized! Space in your baby's living quarters is now at a premium, so you'll be feeling jabs and pokes from elbows and knees mostly. But those kicks will be more vigorous than before (and also less erratic) because your baby is stronger and excitedly responding to all sorts of stimuli — movement, sounds, light, and that candy bar you ate half an hour ago. Luckily, your baby doesn't have teeth yet that would need a brushing after that sugary treat, but it won't be long before you'll need to buy that first baby toothbrush! You'll recall that your baby's baby-teeth buds formed weeks ago, but now the buds for permanent teeth are forming in his or her gums as well. And back to those kicks, who's counting? Actually, you should be. Now's a good time to start doing a kick count twice a day to make sure baby's doing just fine (plus, it's a good excuse for a rest). Lie down (preferably after a snack) and keep track of your baby's movements. You're looking for at least ten movements in an hour's time (don't forget to count movements of any kind — kicks, flutters, swishes, rolls, and so on).
Every Kick Counts
Have you gotten your kicks today? Once you've passed week 28, you should be getting them every day. To make sure that you do — and to make sure that everything's A-OK in your belly — make a habit of counting your baby's kicks twice a day, once in the morning and once at night. Best to do your counting lying down (since babies are more likely to kick up when Mom's lying down — a pattern they tend to continue after they're born). If you can't lie down, sit. Count any and all movements (even swishes and rolls) until you hit ten. If you haven't reached ten within an hour (your little Rockette may just be on her break right now), have a light snack and try again — that blood-sugar rush is likely to get baby on the move again. Just remember that fewer than ten movements within two hours warrants a call to your practitioner. Chances are everything's fine, but it's always better to be safe than sorry.
DAD: Attitude Adjustment
Have you been staying up all night thinking about all the things you won't be able to do once the baby arrives — seeing the world, taking up exotic hobbies, getting that golf handicap down, or even just going out at night whenever the urge hits? Time for an attitude adjustment. Instead of thinking of what you won't have in your life any more (or won't have as much opportunity for), start thinking of what you will have in your life: A very special little person to share it with. Will your life be different (your favorite hobby becomes blowing raspberries on that chubby little belly; your late nights involve rocking instead of dancing)? Absolutely. Will it be better? Immeasurably.