Pregnancy week by week: Here is an overview of what you should expect to happen to your body and baby during weeks 21 through 24 of your pregnancy.
You’re in the final weeks of your second trimester. That means you’ve moved past many of the unpleasant symptoms that marked your early pregnancy, but your belly hasn’t yet grown as big and cumbersome as it will become. You’re also in the lull before the final preparations of the third trimester. Enjoy this relatively relaxing time.
Here’s a look at what’s happening with your baby — and your body — this month.
Weeks 21 - 22
At just past the halfway point in your pregnancy, your baby is growing at a rapid pace. In fact, she’ll just about double her weight in the upcoming four weeks. Friends and co-workers will no longer have to wonder, “Is she pregnant?” The bulge should be pretty obvious by now.
Although some pregnancy issues, like morning sickness and frequent urination, may have improved, others are taking root. Instead of having a pregnancy glow, your skin might be as broken out as it was back in high school. The increased acne is due to hormones that boost oil production in your skin.
Some women develop thick, ropey veins in their legs, called varicose veins. These enlarged veins are due to an increase in blood volume, coupled with a slowing of blood flow. Thickened veins aren’t always confined to your legs. Some pregnant women get them in the rectum, too – especially if they’re constipated. These veins, known as hemorrhoids, can make bowel movements brutal.
To prevent varicose veins, elevate your feet when you can and wear support hose. Prevent hemorrhoids by adding extra water and fiber to your diet to combat constipation.
Your baby is nearly 10 inches long now, and weighs about 14 ounces. Her lips are clearly visible, as are her eyes, which now come complete with eyelids and an eyebrow arching over each one.
As your baby grows, her gentle fluttering movements will turn into real kicks and elbow hits. From her movements, you’ll start to learn baby’s habits: when she’s awake and asleep and what seems to stir her up. Some babies respond to sounds like music outside the womb, or they get more active the moment their mother sits or lies down. You might notice that your baby’s sleep habits are the exact opposite of your own.
Weeks 23 - 24
You’re coming to the end of your second trimester and are almost in the home stretch. By week 24, your baby’s lungs are starting to produce surfactant, a substance that will allow the air sacs to inflate so he can breathe (babies born prematurely may need to receive surfactant in the NICU). Baby’s lungs and other organs have developed enough that he could live on his own if necessary. Of course, the goal is to keep him safely inside your womb until his due date.
You’ve gained up to 15 pounds. How you carry that baby weight depends on your muscle tone and the baby’s position. Despite one common myth, it’s no indication of whether you’re having a boy or girl. If you want to know that, you’ll need to get an ultrasound. Here are some other pregnancy myths.
Sometime during the next four weeks, your doctor will give you a glucose screening test for gestational diabetes. Even if you’ve never had diabetes in the past, you can develop it during pregnancy, usually around this time. Untreated gestational diabetes can put your baby at risk for obesity and type 2 diabetes later in life. If you do test positive, you’ll need to check your blood sugar levels each day, adjust your diet and exercise routine, and you may need to take insulin.
Baby now measures about 12 inches long, and he’s gained about 1½ pounds. His face is filling in, and his features are nearing completion. His heartbeat is now strong enough that you can hear it through a stethoscope the doctor places on your abdomen.
What to remember
Your belly isn’t the only part of you that’s swelling. Time spent on your feet can make your ankles and feet grow, too. You’re holding on to more fluid now, to give you enough blood volume to meet your baby’s needs.
Try to stay off your feet as much as you can while they’re swollen. Limit salt in your diet because it can increase the swelling. Wear comfortable, roomy shoes. When you must spend several hours on your feet, take breaks periodically and prop them up on a pillow or stool.
If you haven’t already attended prenatal education classes with your partner, now is the time to sign up. These classes, which local hospitals offer, will give you a preview of labor and delivery. Depending on the class you take, you can learn about everything from labor pain relief to diapering techniques and infant CPR.
February 02, 2023
Janet O’Dell, RN