In week 27 of pregnancy, the fetus measures approximately 37cm from crown to heel, and weighs around 910g. Fetal length is likely to have tripled, or even quadrupled since the twelfth week of pregnancy. If a baby is born at 27 weeks, their chances of surviving – providing that they have specialist care – are increased greatly compared to babies that are born before this point.
Brain development continues during the course of this week and the grooves on the surface of the brain are starting to form as more and more brain tissue is developing. The lungs are continuing to develop but are still very immature at this stage. The fetus continues to breathe in amniotic fluid to prepare the lungs to breathe air after birth. This action can result in a bout of hiccups, which you may be able to feel.
The eyes are now able to open and close and there is a clear pattern of waking and sleeping. Some experts believe that babies are capable of dreaming now. Some babies can be seen sucking their thumb on a scan from this time onwards.
You may notices changes in fetal movements, with movements becoming increasingly stronger and purposeful. You may also occasionally notice rhythmic movements when your baby is suffering a bout of hiccups!
By this stage of pregnancy, the uterus is so enlarged that it is now just below the rib cage. This can lead to shortness of breath. Increased blood pressure in blood vessels that are being compromised by your enlarged uterus may also cause you to experience occasional dizziness or feel light-headed. You can help to maintain good blood circulation by staying hydrated; drinking plenty of water throughout the day. Many women also begin to, or continue to suffer from oedema – mild swelling of the hands, feet and/or ankles. Oedema is caused by increased blood flow leading to a build up of fluid in tissue. Mild swelling is perfectly normal, especially in he latter stages of pregnancy, but you should consult a healthcare professional if you have any concerns.
By now, you will have had a blood test to determine your rhesus status. If the test revealed that you have a negative blood type, you will probably be offered an antibody test in the near future. If you have a negative blood group, and your baby has a positive blood group, then antibodies may be present in your blood. If you are found to have antibodies in your blood you will be given an anti-D injection that will combat the incompatibility between the two blood types. This injection may also be repeated later in your pregnancy. You are also likely to have been tested for anaemia – also determined by a blood test. Being anaemic can affect the health of the placenta, so it is important to be treated. Your midwife will advise you on any supplements and dietary changes that will help. If you are feeling tired and think that you may be anaemic, you can request a blood test from your Doctor or midwife.
Symptoms to watch out for
Although unusual at this stage, pre eclampsia is a potentially very serious condition. It is characterized by headaches, swelling of the legs and particularly the face, flashing lights or little black floaters in the eyes. When severe there can be pain below the ribs. There should be no vaginal bleeding or change in vaginal discharge at this stage. Fetal movements should in general be vigorous and frequent. They can be painful. There may be a few Braxton Hicks contractions. They should not be painful or more than once a day. A variety of minor symptoms are common particularly those related to greater pressure on the bones and muscles of the spine and pelvis. Skin complaints are also quite common. If severe, a consultation with a dermatologist may be helpful.
What is routinely offered on NHS
You will have a midwife check about this time. She will ask you questions about how you are feeling. She will check your blood pressure and urine for signs of pre eclampsia. She will feel your tummy and may use a tape measure to measure it. From this stage your tummy will increase in size from the top of the lump to the bottom by one centimetre per week. If she finds this is not the case you will be referred for a scan. The midwife will discuss antenatal preparation classes which are usually run locally.
What other care is available
You can be seen in a private clinic without a referral letter. If you are concerned about any aspect of your health or that of your baby you can book a Fetal Wellbeing Scan, or an appointment with a Midwife or Obstetrician Many women find pregnancy reflexology helpful at this stage.