Week 23 pregnant
In the next month, your baby will double in weight and will fill out to fit its skin and lay down all important fat. You’ll probably notice that you are getting bigger too.
Having any weird and wonderful dreams yet? It is common in the second trimester of pregnancy to have some pretty amazing and vivid dreams, which tend to hang around the next day. You could find yourself dreaming of being in the most fantastical situations bearing no resemblance to your everyday life. Your baby may even take a starring role and quite possibly be nothing you were hoping for.
Try not to take any of this as a sign or a warning of things to come. Dreams are just one way for us to sort through the excess of brain activity we are exposed to through our waking hours. They are, in a sense, the waste products of our subconscious and we need them to make space in our brains for new information in the coming day.
Something’s got hold of my leg!
If it’s not dreams that are causing you to wake up, it could be leg cramps. At 23 weeks pregnant, it is common for women to develop cramping in their lower legs and calf muscles. Instead of this happening at a relatively convenient time, say 1pm, your body will probably decide that 12 hours later is better. Who knows why? But all you’ll be interested in is getting rid of them.
Cramping happens when there is a contraction in a particular muscle, causing pain and tightness. If it is your calf muscle that is cramping, try straightening your leg and then with your hands gently flex your toes backwards towards your shin. Doing this a couple of times will loosen and stretch the muscle to its normal position.
Sometimes cramping is a result of low calcium or magnesium in the diet, or very low salt levels. You’ll hear lots of old wives tales about effective remedies including putting a piece of chalk at the end of the bed or even a clove of garlic. But what has been proven to be effective, is ensuring an adequate water intake and doing some stretching exercises before going to bed at night.
Your physical changes this week
Your tummy is creeping upwards and is now above your navel. You may feel as if you have “popped out” and it’s becoming quite hard to hide the fact that you are pregnant. You may become aware of people looking twice, wondering if you are pregnant or even asking you if you are.
You could be experiencing pins and needles in your hands. This is commonly due to a condition known as carpal tunnel syndrome, which affects the thumbs and forefingers. Compression from water retention on the carpal nerve pathway is the most frequent cause. Physiotherapy and splints are sometimes necessary to alleviate pain and numbness.
Another common complaint at this stage is headaches. Even if you don’t usually get headaches, they may feature more than you’d like in the next couple of weeks. Blame those pregnancy hormones, again. Avoid becoming dehydrated or overheated. If you do get a headache, try to lie down in a dark room with a cool facecloth over your eyes. Sometimes it helps to eat a light meal. If you develop a sudden, unrelenting headache with visual disturbance you will need to be checked by a doctor.
Your vaginal discharge is likely to have increased. During pregnancy this is normally watery, clear to white in colour and odourless. Many pregnant women find wearing a liner through the day is helpful in terms of absorbency. However, it is easy to develop a yeast infection during pregnancy, so if you feel itchy and have a burning sensation when you wee, check with your midwife or doctor. Anti-fungal treatments are very effective and are commonly prescribed.
You may be feeling the start of Braxton Hicks contractions. These are painless contractions concentrated mainly at the top of the womb. After exercising, bending over, having sex or even when you’ve not done much, you may be able to feel them if you place your hand over your tummy. They are your body’s way of practicing for the real thing.
Your emotional changes this week
Excitement could be creeping into your life. The baby is feeling more and more connected to you and it’s become very difficult to ignore the fact that you are pregnant. You may find your partner is more attuned to you because he can see your tummy growing. This is often the best time of pregnancy for many women, so go ahead and enjoy it.
Conversely, this can be a worrying time for some. The foetal screening test a couple of weeks earlier can sometimes detect concerns or possible complications, which are not 100% clear. Often, a “wait and see” approach is recommended, which means a nail-biting time for the new parents. Speak with your midwife or doctor about your concerns and let them know if you are anxious.
Your baby’s changes this week
Your baby weighs around 500 grams or half a kg this week and is just under 20 cm from its head to its little bottom. It still looks like a tiny doll, but perhaps one with more skin than fat to fill it; a bit wrinkly. This is because the skin is growing faster than the underlying fat can be laid down. You are entitled to some treats this week, as long as you remember they are for filling out the baby’s skin, not your own!
Your baby is starting to form an important substance in its lungs, known as surfactant, which will help its tiny alveoli to stay open when it is born. Think about the outer leaves on a tree and you’ll have a mental image of the importance of these minute air pockets staying open, so that oxygen can pass through from the surrounding blood vessels. If a mother goes into premature labour, she will often have an injection of steroids to assist in the development of the baby’s surfactant.
Your baby’s heart chambers and major blood vessels supplying the heart can all be seen on ultrasound this week. Although it is still very small, this major organ will grow along with the rest of your baby so that at birth, its heart is around the size of a walnut.
Your baby can hear. Its ears are fully functioning by this stage of pregnancy and will react if there is a sudden, loud noise. A dog barking, door slamming or car backfiring will all make it jump. Its bones are hardening as well, so remember to have a good intake of calcium every day.
Your baby can move all of its muscles this week and there is even more coordination and action going on in your tummy. You’ll have a sense that the baby is getting stronger and instead of feeling little flutters, which until recently made you doubt you had felt something, you will need no convincing this week.
Hints for the week
Even if you’re exhausted, try to remember to do your stretching exercises before you climb into bed. Make sure there’s nothing beside your bed you could stumble over if you need to stand up in a hurry overnight.
Don’t miss your monthly antenatal check-up. Mark it on your calendar and in your diary as an event not to miss. Many clinics and doctors will make a series of appointments at a time, so you should have plenty of time to plan. Just don’t count on being too focused on your work after you’ve had a check-up.
Invest in some cookbooks and think about meals that you can freeze. It’s still a bit early to be undertaking in a pre-baby cooking frenzy, but it will help to have some idea of what meals are likely to appeal to you and are still edible after being defrosted. There’s only so much pasta and sauce anyone can eat and still keep a smile on their face.
Week 24 coming next!