At week 23 of pregnancy the fetus measures approximately 29cm from crown to heel and weighs around 450g. All body parts, including the head, continue to grow, and the fetus is now proportioned like a newborn baby. The first deposits of body fat are starting to form during this week, although the skin will remain saggy and wrinkled until sufficient fat reserves are formed to fill it. The skin is still translucent and bones and organs are visible through it, as are the developing veins and arteries. Fetal weight gain will continue at a rapid rate over the coming couple of weeks and the fetus will have doubled in weight.
The lungs are developing in preparation for breathing after birth. Hearing is continuing to develop and it is now possible for the fetus to hear distorted versions of loud, external noises such as a vacuum cleaner or loud music playing.
By this stage, babies are turning constantly from minute to minute. Most babies are still head-up at this point and will not turn until later in the pregnancy. Your uterus has now grown to the extent that it is approximately 2cms above your belly button. As your tummy expands, you may find that your belly button either flattens, or even starts to stick out! This is a normal consequence of pregnancy and it will return to its original state after your baby is born.
Due to surges in pregnancy hormones, changes in skin are relatively common during pregnancy. These may include redness of palms of the hands and soles of the feet, skin tags and heat rashes and are all completely normal.
Some women also report experiencing ‘pregnancy brain’, characterised by forgetfulness. The most likely cause of this is, once again, hormones. It is a temporary condition that will pass after the birth and is not a cause for concern.
Women often report feeling bloated at this stage of pregnancy. It is most likely the result of the hormone progesterone causing intestinal muscles to relax. This, in turn, causes the digestive system to slow down, allowing nutrients to remain in the gut for longer and to be absorbed into the blood stream more efficiently. You may find it helpful to drink plenty of water. This may also be helpful if you are suffering from constipation. Bleeding and/or inflamed gums are a common problem during pregnancy and are not a cause for concern, however, if you have any concerns about excessive bleeding or irritation, you should consult your dentist.
Symptoms to watch out for
The baby should be moving quite actively at this stage. You may be having painless contractions or tightenings. These are called Braxton Hicks contractions. There should be no change in vaginal discharge at this stage. You should not be feeling undue pressure on your pelvis. If you are experiencing any of this you should consult your midwife or doctor.
What is routinely offered on NHS
You should be seeing your midwife or General Practitioner. Routinely they will test your urine, take your blood pressure and review your scan results. The anomaly scan should have been done. If the anomaly scan has shown anything of significance you will be referred to a consultant.
What other care is available
If you want additional advice you can refer yourself to a private clinic. There you can have an appointment with a midwife, specialist and you can have a high quality ultrasound scan. If you do not have confidence in the NHS scan for whatever reason it can be repeated. In a private clinic there should be more time, often better equipment and access to highly skilled expertise. If you have had a previous late miscarriage or carry twins then a cervical scan is readily available.
If you are concerened about your diet and nutrution you can arrange to see a specialist pregnancy nutritionist You may like to have pregnancy massage to help with aches and pains.