Monday, July 30, 2007

WEEK 36... and two days...

Here's the penguin showing off the belly... Enjoy!

(info from

BODY: Pregnant Walk or Waddle
Welcome to your last month of pregnancy! By now, you're definitely looking the part of a nearly full-term pregnant women (wide load, coming through), but are you walking the part? Do you have that telltale stride, the penguin waddle that many third-trimester moms-to-be seem to affect? The pregnant waddle is not in your imagination, it's in your connective tissue. Those persistent pregnancy hormones (when will they leave you alone?) cause the connective tissue in your body to soften and loosen. And that's particularly important now that you're nearing D-day (delivery day). Your baby — who's grown quite large by this point — needs to squeeze through your pelvic bones, so it's a good thing that they're more flexible now. The downside to all this joint flexibility (besides the resemblance you now bear to your feathered friends up north) is discomfort in your pelvis and hip. Add the pressure from your baby's head (burrowing deeper and deeper into your pelvis now) and your heavier uterus weighing you down, and it's no wonder it's a pain to walk around these days. To relieve the pain, relax with your hips elevated, do some pelvic exercises, take warm baths, apply warm compresses, get a massage, or try some complementary and alternative therapies. A belly sling may be helpful, too. There is a happy upshot to all this pelvic discomfort, believe it or not. As your baby drops into your pelvic cavity (and keep in mind that not all babies drop before labor begins), the upward pressure of the uterus on your diaphragm is relieved. Once this "lightening" (as it's known in the pregnancy business) strikes, you'll be able to take bigger and deeper breaths. Your stomach also won't be so squished anymore, making eating a full meal more comfortable.

BABY: Skulls and Bones
Your baby's skull isn't the only soft structure in his or her little body. Most of your baby's bones and cartilage are quite soft as well (they'll harden over the first few years of life) — allowing for an easier journey as your baby squeezes through the birth canal at delivery (and less prodding and poking for Mom along the way). The skull bones are also not fused together yet so that the head can easily (well, relatively easily) maneuver through the birth canal. So your little bruiser (who you've now learned won't be bruising you all that much with those soft bones) is now about six pounds in weight and measures slightly more than 20 inches in length. Growth will experience a slowdown now, both so your baby will be able to fit the narrow passageway to the outside and also so he or she can store up all the energy needed for delivery. By now, many of your baby's systems are pretty mature, at least in baby terms — and just about ready for life on the outside. Blood circulation, for instance, has been perfected and your baby's immune system has matured enough to protect him or her from infections outside the womb. Other systems, however, still need a few finishing touches. Once such notable example: digestion — which actually won't be fully mature until sometime after birth. Why's that? Inside his or her little gestational cocoon, your baby has relied on the umbilical cord for nutrition, meaning that the digestive system — though developed — hasn't been operational. So your baby will take the first year or two to bring that system up to speed.

EXTRA: Ten Ways to Banish the Heartburn
It's that last stretch of pregnancy, when you can almost see the finish line — and it seems like your heartburn wants to stay with you every step of the way. Nearly half of your expectant running mates have also been feeling your pain — probably for most of their pregnancies — and with good reason. Among the smooth muscles that are loosening and relaxing under the strict orders of your hormonal regime is that ring of muscle that separates the esophagus from the stomach. When this muscle loosens, the harsh digestive juices from your tummy back up into your esophagus. The stomach acids irritate the sensitive esophageal lining (right around where your heart is, though it has nothing to do with your heart), creating that searing pain. Luckily, there are some steps you can take to put the fire out:
1. Sit up and take notice. Make sure to sit upright while eating — and stay that way for a couple of hours after you eat. Lying down, slouching, slumping, and stooping will do you in. And when you have to bend, do it with your knees instead of at your waist (or you'll send all that acid for a repeat ride up your esophagus).
2. Chew it over. Do your body a favor and eat slowly. Chewing is the first step in the digestive process, but the one that's most often neglected when eating's done on the run. The more you chew, the less work your stomach has to do. Another chew that's good for you: Chewing sugarless gum will increase saliva, which can help neutralize acid in the esophagus. And while you're at it, leave stress off the menu — anxious eating compounds digestive distresses of all kinds, including heartburn.
3. Catch the early bird special. Not to save money — but to save yourself heartburn. Whether you're eating at home or out, take your last big meal at least two hours before bedtime so your stomach can get started on digestion before you lie down for the night. (A before-bed snack is fine, so long as it's light and easy to digest.)
4. Break it up. Better still, skip those big meals altogether — six small meals are the pregnancy solution to just about whatever ails you, from heartburn to bloating to lagging energy level, you name it.
5. Think loose and flowing. No matter how voluptuous your upper curves make you feel, if you have heartburn, now is not the time to wear anything that Pamela Anderson might favor — tight clothes just fuel the burn.
6. Don't play with matches. Some things are sure to light your heartburn fire. Just say no to highly seasoned spicy food, caffeine (this also relaxes the esophageal valve), alcohol (which is off the menu anyway), greasy foods of all kinds, and too much citrus. (If OJ gives you trouble, water it down a bit — or buy a low acid variety.) Peppermint turns up the burn in some women, but not all.
7. Hold your head up. Sleeping with your head elevated about six inches can keep the burn from waking you up.
8. Keep it down. Extra pounds can make heartburn extra worse. Try to stay within the 25-to-35-pound recommended weight gain.
9. Raise your hand. Ask your practitioner whether he or she has a preference for an over-the-counter antacid or whether you need prescription strength. As you've probably already figured out, taking Tums or Rolaids is a great way to ban the burn while boosting your calcium intake.
10. Feel like a natural woman. If you want to avoid over-the-counter antacids, you can try the following popular folk remedies: Papaya (fresh or dried, you can also ask your practitioner about the safety of using chewable papaya enzymes. You can find these in health-food stores.) Almonds (Good for calcium as well as being a stomach settler) A tablespoon of honey in warm milk (Yummy and relaxing. Some say all dairy helps, and others say the opposite. At the very least you'll get in your calcium.)

LOOKING GOOD: Hair's the Truth
Has pregnancy weight found its way to your face? Of course it has. A great way to achieve that elusive illusion of slimness is to start with your hair. Up-dos create a slimming effect by giving you instant height, so pull your hair into a high ponytail or simply twist your locks into a high knot and fasten with a barrette. Another way to add height to your look — while subtracting width from your face: Use a volumizing gel at the roots of your hair and then blowdry, lifting the roots with a brush as you go. Avoid middle parts, which round your face even more, opt for a side part instead — and steer clear of blunt bangs (have them cut into wispy lengths or angled for a slimmer look).

EXTRA: Breathe Easy
Chances are you'll never have to use this skill, but knowing how to perform CPR on your newborn — and later as he or she grows into a risk-taking toddler — is just plain smart. There are plenty of classes out there, including low- or no-cost options at your YMCA, hospital, community center, or local chapters of the American Red Cross or American Heart Association. (Your childbirth education class might even include baby CPR in its curriculum.) Another option — and a potentially fun one at that: Throw a CPR party at home, which allows you to share childcare resources (and appetizers) with other new parents. Whichever class you choose, make sure you find a certified instructor (ask your practitioner for a referral) who comes equipped with her own "bogus babies."

DAD: Stay In Touch
Keep your cell phone and/or pager charged up and turned on at all times. At the gym, keep it nearby on a towel or on top of your kit bag — you might not hear it ring if it's buried under your sweat socks. Alert your buddies and co-workers to the fact that you need to know if your phone rings when you're in the john. Start thinking ahead to D-day, and plan your work schedule with it in mind. Let your boss know that you'll need to stick close to home during this last month — just in case. And speaking of planning your work schedule — if you haven't put in for some post-delivery time off yet, now's the time. down on all fours to practice those first-aid breaths with your belly in the way!)

DAD: Location, Location, Location
By now it's crossed your mind that your baby's birth could be one of those dramatic roadside deliveries in the backseat, attended by a traffic cop, covered by the 11 o'clock news. Prepare for that possibility (as remote as it is), but also prepare so that it doesn't happen. Make sure there's gas in the car and that you're familiar with the best, easiest routes to the hospital or birthing center, given the vagaries of traffic flow at different times of day. Have some alternatives in mind. And just in case, it wouldn't be a bad idea to keep a blanket in the backseat, a gallon of bottled water, and some towels.

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