Pregnancy week 24 – Bracing yourself for the big changes ahead

December 14, 2012 12:00 AM by

YOUR CHANGING LIFE

Better grab that cocoa butter – it's stretch mark season!
Welcome to week 24 of your pregnancy. You're well past the hump of your pregnancy and it should all be easy street, right? Well, not exactly. Things you knew would happen eventually – like stretch marks – are finally starting to arrive during this trimester, and with them come a whole new host of concerns. If you don't want those itchy and shiny streaks to stretch across your skin, go for some cocoa butter or other cream that can prevent them from forming.

But that's not all that's going on with your body. As you head into week 24, your uterus is moving up about 2 inches over your belly button. If you're an innie, get ready to show off your outie in the coming weeks, because this transition is bound to make your button pop! 

During this time, it's also important that you schedule a glucose screening test with your healthcare provider. This test can determine if you have gestational diabetes, which about 2 to 5 percent of expectant moms experience during pregnancy.

The signs of the condition include frequent urination, nausea, fatigue and excessive thirstiness. The last and most compelling sign – having high sugar levels in your urine – can be picked up by your doctor by performing a test in the office. While only temporary, gestational diabetes is a serious issue that, if you test positive for, could seriously impact the remainder of your pregnancy.

YOUR BABY THIS WEEK

From eggplant to ear of corn
Your baby's growing rapidly now, and while he or she is no bigger than an ear of corn, distinctive features are definitely becoming more apparent. At 12-inches long, your little one is over 1 pound and is finally starting to thicken up, and even skin – which was translucent – is starting to reflect this change.

Gone are the days when your baby had room to spin and turn in the womb – now, as he or she gets larger, it'll be tougher to find that extra space to move around.

Don't be surprised if you start feeling more kicks from your bun in the oven around this time. He or she can pick up on all kinds of noises going on in the outside world and wants to make his or her presence known.

But perhaps the best thing about this period is how steadily your baby's internal organs are developing. For instance, his or her lungs are starting to branch out, and the respiratory tree, as well as cells, are beginning to produce surfactant, which will enable the air sacs in his or her lungs to inflate after birth.

Facial features, including eyebrows and eyelashes, are fleshed out now. While you'll still have to wait to see your little guy or girl, you can start imagining which traits your baby inherited from you and your partner. While your baby has hair, the pigment hasn't formed yet and is actually white!

HOW TO

Pick up on the signs of premature labor
Your unborn baby may seem nice and cozy in your womb right now, but more than 12 percent of babies born in the U.S. are premature. What does this mean exactly? Well, if you're less than 37 weeks along and you start to experience vaginal bleeding, discharge, abdominal pain or start to feel like your baby is pressing down in your pelvic area, these could all be signs that your little one is on his or her way!

While a quarter of premature births are intended, meaning that the birth was induced on the decision of your healthcare provider, the majority are spontaneous and can occur at any point. If your doctor has treated you for a medical condition such as a genital tract infection or has noted that your cervix is smaller in size, these could put you at risk for going into premature labor.

Giving birth prematurely is certainly a cause for concern, but many babies who are born early go on to lead healthy, active lives. At 24 weeks, your baby is still much too young to come outside and say hello to the world, but if you were to go into labor, your little one may still have a good chance for survival, although would likely require extensive medical care in order to continue developing. Babies born later, between 34 to 39 weeks, usually fare just fine.

Knowing what to do in the event that spontaneous premature labor occurs can be essential for ensuring the safe delivery of your baby. In addition to the symptoms already described, if you begin experiencing lower back pain and vaginal discharge takes on a mucous or thick, filmy-like manner that you believe is similar to amniotic fluid, you should immediately head for the hospital and reach out to your healthcare provider.

Being proactive is important, so even if it's just a false alarm, your rapid response could help you learn more about your pregnancy. A practitioner can perform tests to determine if you are indeed going into labor and help set your mind at ease. 

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