Now weighing approximately 1.5kg and measuring around 41cm in length (from crown to heel) the fetus now essentially looks like a newborn. The limbs and body are now proportionate to the head. Body fat continues to be laid down and build up beneath the skin during this week. Fetal movement is now limited due to restricted space in the uterus, although the fetus will continue to squirm and kick.
Brain development continues, with more and more connections being added to neural networks each day. As well as the ability to track light, information-processing capabilities are also increasing. The baby is also now able to perceive and process signals from all 5 senses. In addition to this, sleep patterns are changing, with longer periods of sleep and shorter bursts of wakefulness.
Bone marrow is now capable of producing red blood cells and so the liver is no longer responsible for their production. All major organs continue to develop and mature and the bladder is now sufficiently developed to pass a form of urine out of it.
You may start to notice that your baby’s movements are changing from bigger; sweeping movements to jabs and kicks. This is a normal consequence of there being less available space in your uterus for the baby to move around in. As long as you continue to feel regular movements, there should be no cause for concern.
Weight gain tends to be faster during the latter stages of pregnancy. It is perfectly normal to gain weight quickly and you should continue to eat a healthy, balanced diet.
Some women experience problems with nasal congestion throughout their pregnancy. This is the result of swelling of the nasal passages due to increased blood flow caused by pregnancy hormones. Although many antihistamines and nasal sprays are not suitable for use during pregnancy, some women find the use of saline nasal sprays and nose strips helpful in alleviating congestion.
Most women experience some insomnia or sleep disturbance at this stage of pregnancy. It may be the result of not being able to find a comfortable position to sleep in, or because your sleep is interrupted by the need to go to the toilet. Some women report having vivid or unusual dreams during the later stages of pregnancy. This is also thought to be caused by disrupted sleep. Some women find that practising relaxation techniques before bed can help to promote a more restless sleep. Your midwife will be able to advise you on both relaxation and breathing techniques.
Symptoms to watch out for
It is important to ensure that the baby is moving well. This means at least ten episodes of movement per day. The baby may not move much one day but it should the next day. If it does not you should see a medical professional. In essence the tummy should be growing and the baby moving.
Pre-eclampsia, vaginal bleeding, premature birth and obstetric cholestasis are important complications in late pregnancy. Pre-eclampsia manifests as headaches, disturbances of vision, swelling particularly of the legs and face and upper abdominal pain. It can result in a small baby and the tummy being smaller than it should be. Vaginal haemorrhage (bleeding) is abnormal in late pregnancy. Painful contractions can result in premature birth. Itching of the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet may be due to obstetric cholestasis which is a threat to the baby. More generalized itching is common and usually harmless.
Movements of the baby are important: there should be at least ten episodes a day.
What is routinely offered on NHS
Visits to the midwife or general practitioner become more frequent in later pregnancy. She will ask about symptoms take the blood pressure and check the urine. The midwife will measure the tummy with a tape measure. This is a crude, basic method of estimating the size of the baby. Referral will be made to the consultant as necessary. If there is a serious threat of early birth then an injection of steroids is given to the mother which will help to protect the baby from respiratory distress.
What other care is available
In a private self referral clinic additional blood tests and ultrasound scans can be done at short notice with rapid reporting of results. This is important if the baby is smaller than it should be or not moving enough. The woman and her partner can see a consultant for opinion and advice. This is done at a convenient time and with plenty time for discussion.
3D and 4D scans are ideally performed around this time in pregnancy, as the baby is a good size to obtain 3D images. If you choose to have a 3D or 4D scan, please ensure it is done at a reputable, medical clinic with a qualified sonographer.