Monday, June 18, 2007


Your Body: Heartburn
Only ten more weeks to go! And what an interesting ten weeks it'll be. Many of the early pregnancy symptoms you thought you'd put behind you are coming back to haunt you: like the need to pee all the time (because your baby's head is now pressing on your bladder), along with the tender breasts (as they gear up for milk production), the fatigue, and the heartburn. And no one — not even a regular at the corner greasy spoon — does heartburn like a third-trimester pregnant woman (except, of course, a pregnant woman who's a regular at the corner greasy spoon). During pregnancy, the muscle at the top of the stomach that usually prevents digestive acids from splashing up into the esophagus relaxes (like all those other muscles in your digestive tract), allowing digestive juices to back up. That's the burning sensation you feel when heartburn strikes. Add to that your now gigantic uterus, which has taken over your abdominal cavity, forcing your stomach to practically reach your throat, and you've got good reason to be feeling the burn. So how do you spell relief for pregnancy heartburn? Among other things, avoid foods that can cause digestive discomfort (spicy foods, fatty or fried foods, chocolate), eat smaller meals, and don't lie down while eating or right after eating. And, of course, keep a supply of Tums or Rolaids (which also give you a healthy bonus of calcium while they ease the burn) at popping distance. Fortunately, once your baby is born, heartburn will be a thing of the past (at least until you try to gobble dinner during a colic marathon).

BABY: Making Headway
Your baby's height and weight haven't changed much in the past week, but the big news is your baby's brain gain. Until now, the surface of your baby's brain was smooth. Now, your fetus's brain is taking on those characteristic grooves and indentations. The reason for this change in appearance? Those wrinkles allow for an increased amount of brain tissue — a necessary change as your baby prepares for life outside your womb, and the street smarts he or she will need. Another big change this week: Your baby's bone marrow has taken over production of red blood cells (before, tissue groups and then the spleen took care of producing the blood cells). This is an important step for your baby, because it means he or she is better able to thrive on his or her own once born (with a little TLC from you, of course). So it's in with the new (brain cells, red blood cells) and out with the old (lanugo). Much of the lanugo — the soft, downy hair covering your baby's body — is beginning to disappear now because both fat and the brain are regulating your baby's body temperature (so no need for that furry coat anymore). But you may see a few leftover strands of fur on your newborn's back and shoulders.

Looking Good: That's Just Swell!
Do your legs look like tree trunks? Swollen feet and ankles may not be sexy, but it's what most pregnant women are wearing in any given season (especially in summer). To reduce that puffy look — which gets puffier when you're overheated, or when you've been sitting or standing for a long time — try to take a five-minute walk around your house or office at least once an hour. (A quick dance works, too, and may take your mind off your fat feet, so crank up the tunes, Mama!) When it's time to put your feet up, really put them up (as in, elevate them as much as you can when you're sitting down — even at the office). Drinking plenty of water will also, paradoxically, ease the fluid retention — but if it seems excessive or suddenly gets worse, check with your practitioner.

Extra: Banking Baby's Blood
The big day is coming, so here's a big question: What is cord blood, and should you consider banking or donating your baby's? First, a definition: Cord blood is what remains in the umbilical cord and placenta following birth. So why is this blood so important? Because cord blood contains stem cells that can be used to treat certain diseases, such as cancers. This safe and painless procedure is performed just after the baby is born (all it takes is about five minutes). More and more parents are saving their baby's cord blood, either for donation to a public facility so the cells can be used by others in need, or for private storage so it's available should the need arise within their own family. Whichever you choose (and it's okay if you choose not to at all), you should talk to your practitioner about it now, so all the necessary prep work can be done.

For DAD: The Last Ten Weeks
You both have that delivery date on your mind (and marked in your calendar in red), but don't forget she's got a much more intimidating experience in her future than you do. Anytime there's an opportunity, take her mind off her worries by indulging her and helping her relax. Get her talking about how exciting the next months will be. Impress her by washing and putting away all the baby clothes people have been giving you. Or impress her by putting the crib together. Want to really impress her? Bring home a few new items for the layette. (If you don't know what that is by now, you haven't been paying attention.)

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