Your Body's Changes and Baby's Growth: 21 - 24 weeks

Baby

Your baby's skin is pink to reddish in color and wrinkled. Although the baby is thin, his/her movements are becoming stronger. The baby's eyes are closed, however he is capable of crying. The brain is undergoing rapid growth.

By 24 weeks of gestation, your baby will weigh about 1 pound, 13 ounces, and will be about 13 ½ inches in length. The baby's skin is wrinkled, translucent, and pink to reddish in color. Buds for permanent teeth are present, and the brain is growing rapidly, but eyelids remain closed. The baby now moves about freely in the amniotic fluid, and while he/she is still lean, the baby begins to gain weight by adding muscles and body tissue. He/she has a set "schedule" of sorts, sleeping and waking for certain periods of time each day. Twenty-four weeks of pregnancy is considered a time of viability. This means your baby could possibly survive with advanced medical treatment if born prematurely. Major organ systems, while formed and functioning, are still too immature, however, to work as intended.

Mother

Your enlarging uterus will push your stomach upward, which can lead to heartburn. You may notice irregular, occasional contractions of your uterus Braxton-Hicks contractions, which occur more often in late pregnancy. Due to hormonal changes you may notice darkening of the skin which can appear on the face (chloasma) or as a darkened line down the middle of the abdomen (linea nigra).

The second half of pregnancy brings more physical and emotional changes for you and a time of significant growth for your baby.

For many women, this time of pregnancy brings a renewed sense of well-being. You may have more energy and, despite your increasing size, you're probably feeling more in control of the process. There may be some downsides, such as heartburn from your enlarging uterus pushing your stomach upward, but you're learning how to manage these minor discomforts.

Hormonal changes may be causing some darkening of your skin. When it occurs in patches on your face, it's called chloasma; when it's visible as a darkened line down the middle of your abdomen, it`s call linea nigra. These patches may darken in prolonged sunlight, so you may want to avoid direct sun exposure and/or use a sunscreen.

Don't be surprised if you begin to feel some irregular, occasional uterine contractions during this time. This is your body's way of normally preparing for birth. A uterine contraction is defined as a tightness or hardness of the entire surface area of your uterus. Some women describe it as a "balling up" feeling. Normally, these contractions may occur as frequently as three times an hour, timed from the beginning of one contraction to the beginning of the next contraction. Each contraction may last 45 to 90 seconds.

Because contractions can be subtle and are oftentimes painless when they occur, it is important that you become aware of what a contraction feels like and how often you are having them.

To help determine if you are experiencing contractions, lie down with a pillow propped under your shoulders, and with your body tilted slightly to the left side, place your hands on your uterus. Do this at 10-minute intervals, two to three times each day throughout your pregnancy. If you feel the entire surface area of your uterus "tighten" one or more times in this 10 minute period, continue to rest and place your hands on your uterus. If your partner has his hand on your uterus when you are experiencing a contraction, he will be able to feel a tightness similar to when he flexes his bicep (upper arm) muscle. When your contraction is over, your uterus will once again become soft and relaxed.

It is not normal to have frequent uterine contractions occur before you have reached 37 weeks of pregnancy. If your contractions are occurring regularly (more than 4 times in an hour) after resting, promptly notify your provider.

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