YOUR CHANGING LIFE
Don't be afraid to put your feet up
Your body is starting to take on a rounder, more feminine shape. While some relatives may insist you're still too small to seem pregnant, many people around you are probably picking up on your new state just from your glow.
Those old aches and pains from week 22 are still hanging around, and you may start to notice that your lower back is aching more as your breasts and belly grow larger in size. Taking your best girlfriends with you on a shopping trip for new bras can be a great way to cope with your changing curves.
As your baby continues to develop, he or she is bound to absorb more of your body's nutrients, which may leave you feeling tired or sluggish. Your healthcare provider has probably prescribed prenatal vitamins, which can help your body recoup some of that lost energy. Throughout this time, don't be afraid to put your feet up and give yourself time to relax – after all, you deserve it!
YOUR BABY THIS WEEK
From spaghetti squash to eggplant
This week, your baby weighs a little over 1 pound and is about the size of an eggplant – pretty cool, right? That's not all you have to be excited about, either. Your unborn baby's brain is developing at a rapid rate, and so is his or her hearing ability. In fact, this week is pretty important, because your baby can start recognizing sounds occurring outside the womb as his or her ears become more defined.
Whether it's a dog barking or just the sound of you singing in the shower, your little boy or girl will start picking up on all kinds of things going on around you, so you better start speaking up!
Around this time, your baby will begin to gain a sense of movement and rhythm. If you want him or her to be musically inclined, now's a great time to play the classics and sway a little bit to the music.
By now, most of your baby's internal organs are in place and starting to function. His or her taste buds are even formed! While this is a huge step, it doesn't mean your little one can savor that juicy steak you devoured just yet – unfortunately, that won't happen until he or she is a few months older.
Your baby is also starting to take on some of the characteristics he or she will have at birth. As he or she fills out, lanugo – or the fine hair covering a baby's body – will become thicker and darker along his or her body. You may even be able to see it on an ultrasound!
Plan your leave of absence
Getting ready for baby isn't just about picking out the right colors for the nursery or putting together a wish list for your shower. Right around this stage of your pregnancy, you should start planning for maternity leave, which is time taken off from work after the birth or adoption of a new little bundle of joy.
If you're working, you should talk to your employer about the company's policies regarding time off. By finding out whether your place of work offers paid time off – some businesses offer up to six weeks' worth of paid maternity leave, while others are unpaid – you can start planning ahead for when the baby comes.
In most cases, you may need to use a mixture of paid sick time, vacation and short-term disability while you're not in the office. Consulting with your boss or human resources representative can allow you to make informed choices about your time off.
You should also take this opportunity to set a timeline for yourself, including when you'll leave work and if you'll return after the baby is born. Some companies offer daycare services on the premises, which can be a great way to balance the obligations of work and home. Regardless of what you do, be sure to use this time wisely and find answers to whatever questions you have.
Now is also a good time for you and your partner to discuss paternity leave, which is time off from work that a father can take after the birth or adoption of a child. If an employer offers paternity leave, this can be a period for your growing family to bond. Unfortunately, in most states, paternity leave is unpaid, so you'll have to set aside a budget if you both plan to take time off together.
Whether it's just you at home with the baby while your partner heads to the office or the two of you are able to enjoy those special first few weeks at home together, this is bound to be one of the most memorable periods of your life, so it's important to plan ahead!