Your baby may be able to hear both you and your partner as you chat – the network of nerves in her ears is better developed and more sensitive than before. She's inhaling and exhaling small amounts of amniotic fluid, which is essential for lung development. These so-called breathing movements are also good practice for when she's born and takes that first gulp of air. If you're having a boy, his testicles should soon begin to descend into his scrotum.
How your baby's growing
The network of nerves in your baby's ears is better developed and more sensitive than before. He may now be able to hear both your voice and your partner's as you chat with each other. He's inhaling and exhaling small amounts of amniotic fluid, which is essential for the development of his lungs. These so-called breathing movements are also good practice for when he's born and takes that first gulp of air. Your baby is continuing to put on baby fat. He now weighs about 1 2/3 pounds and measures 14 inches (about the length of a scallion) from head to heel. If you're having a boy, his testicles should soon begin to descend into his scrotum – a trip that will take about two to three months.
How your life's changing
Are you rushing around trying to get to childbirth classes and prenatal visits, prepare your baby's room, and take care of all your other daily tasks? Make sure that you also continue to eat well and get plenty of rest.
Around this time, your blood pressure may be increasing slightly, although it's probably still lower than it was before you got pregnant. (Typically, blood pressure falls toward the end of the first trimester, and it tends to reach a low at about 22 to 24 weeks.)
Preeclampsia – a serious condition characterized by high blood pressure – most often shows up after 37 weeks, but it can happen earlier so it's important to be aware of the warning signs. Call your healthcare provider if you have swelling in your face or puffiness around your eyes, more than slight swelling of your hands, excessive or sudden swelling of your feet or ankles, or rapid weight gain (more than 4 to 5 pounds in a week). With more severe preeclampsia, you may experience other symptoms. Let your doctor or midwife know immediately if you have a severe or persistent headache, vision changes (including double or blurred vision, seeing spots or flashing lights, sensitivity to light, or temporary loss of vision), intense pain or tenderness in your upper abdomen, or vomiting.
If your lower back seems a little achy lately, you can thank both your growing uterus – which shifts your center of gravity, stretches out and weakens your abdominal muscles, and may be pressing on a nerve – as well as hormonal changes that loosen your joints and ligaments. Plus, the extra weight you're carrying means more work for your muscles and increased stress on your joints, which is why you may feel worse at the end of the day. Walking, standing, or sitting for long periods, as well as bending and lifting, can put a strain on your back.
A warm bath or hot compress might bring relief. (Some women, though, find cool compresses more comforting.) Try to maintain good posture during the day, avoid activities that require bending and twisting at the same time, take frequent breaks when sitting or standing, and sleep on your side with one or both knees bent with a pillow between your legs, using another pillow (or wedge) to support your belly.
Learn about: Making a birth plan
Writing a birth plan gives you an opportunity to think about how you'd ideally like your delivery to be handled and to discuss options with your doctor or midwife. The process of creating a birth plan can be a terrific way to learn more about labor and your own preferences for care.
But keep in mind that labor is inherently unpredictable, and you'll need to stay flexible in case things come up that require you and your birth team to veer from the plan.
So is it worth doing?
If you use the birth plan as an educational tool to learn more about your options during labor and delivery and as a guide for talking to your healthcare provider and communicating your wishes, you can't go wrong.
In a BabyCenter poll about birth plans, 54 percent of those who responded said their plan was irrelevant once actual labor started. "My birth plan pretty much went out the window once I got to the hospital. But not sticking to the plan didn't take away from my birth experience at all," said one mom.
On the other hand, 46 percent said their birth plans did help them create the birth experience they wanted. Said one new mom: "I was amazed. My midwife and the nurses followed my birth plan like an instruction manual. I was so worried because I had heard all these awful stories about how the hospital staff really doesn't care about birth plans. I got everything I wanted out of my daughter's birth."
If you decide to try making a birth plan, it can be as long or short as you like. Some women simply write down their birth philosophy and a general sense of how they'd like things to go. For instance, "I'd like to have as natural a birth as possible. Please don't offer me pain relief medication or do any interventions unless necessary." Or, "I'd like my labor to be relatively pain-free and want an epidural as early as possible."