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32 Weeks Pregnant: Making Friends With Your Braxton Hicks
What is it like?
Congratulations! You’re just over four weeks into your third trimester! You’re probably still coping with many of the common pregnancy symptoms, and you may find that the Braxton-Hicks contractions have started to intensify. If you’re not sure, below are a few easy tips on distinguishing these contractions from those of labor. You’re probably still gaining about one pound every week. While it might seem like most of this is going to your thighs and ass, about half goes to your baby – she’ll gain a third to one half of her birth weight over the next few weeks, fattening up for life outside the womb.
Your baby’s growth
- Body size
During week 32 of your pregnancy your baby weighs about 4.4 pounds (2300 grams) and measures 17 inches (440 millimeters) from head to toe. Your baby continues to gain weight, about 0.55 pounds (250 grams) per week.
- Head characteristics
Your baby’s skull will remain soft until about one year, because, her brain needs room to grow quickly. And your baby’s skin is no longer transparent – it looks more like yours.
- Body appearance
Your baby’s skin is adding layers of fat and is smoother than ever before. And she’s shedding the lanugo, the soft downy fur. The white coating that protects the skin, called vernix, will thicken this week. At birth you will probably see traces of vernix especially under the armpits and behind the ears of your baby.
- Internal organs
Your baby’s central nervous system is maturing and also her lungs. Starting this week, you no longer have to worry about a premature birth. Babies born between 32 and 35 weeks are called moderately premature – they have an excellent chance of survival, 95 %, and they tend to catch up to their peers quickly. Few have long-term effects of the early birth.
What happens inside your body?
Throughout the pregnancy, the mucus plug blocks the cervix and prevents bacteria from entering the vagina. As the cervix begins to open wider to prepare for birth, you will probably lose your mucus plug, which will feel like gelatinous discharge, or thickened mucus. It may also have a brown, red or pink tinge to it and is commonly referred to as the ‘bloody show’. Usually this happens towards the end of the pregnancy and just a few days or a couple weeks before childbirth. If it happens before the 36th week or if you have a history of pre-term labor, you should tell your doctor at your next visit. If your discharge is bright red or you experience cramping, you should call your doctor immediately. You could be experiencing a complication such as placenta previa or placental abruption.
The Braxton-Hicks contractions vs. labor contractions
Your body is continuously preparing for birth, so you may feel the Braxton-Hicks contractions several times per day. The Braxton-Hicks contractions usually last about 15-30 seconds although they can last up to two minutes. These contractions will become progressively stronger towards the end of your pregnancy. Unlike, labor contractions, these aren’t painful and they shouldn’t be regular. If you’re not sure, try counting them. You shouldn’t have more than four Braxton-Hicks contractions in one hour. Or you can try changing position. They should stop if you get up if you’ve been lying down or walk about if you’ve been sitting. If they are persistent and frequent, and don’t stop when you change position, call your doctor.
How different will you look?
Pregnant women feel hot and sweaty all the time, mostly at the end of their gestation period – you’re carrying a lot of extra weight! On the plus side, the extra hormones and flushed skin can cause pregnancy glow – one of the more attractive features of pregnancy. You may find that your growing belly is itchier, as the skin dies and stretches. Your best bet is to rub your belly with unscented creams and moisturizers, as scented ones can irritate your growing belly. If you’re in a dry place, try humidifying the air with a humidifier. If that’s not helping, try soaking in an oatmeal bath, and make the water warm, although not too hot, as the excess heat can harm your baby.
Tips for fathers – Learning the haptonomic touch
This may be old news, but it’s a good idea to begin creating a bond with junior before the actual birth. This doesn’t have to be a major undertaking – even just talking to the little one is an excellent start, and will help them recognize your voice once she or he is born. Touching your partner’s belly may excite him or calm him down; it all depends on the situation and your baby’s needs.
Some parents find haptonomy helpful – it’s a way of learning to communicate with the baby through touch. Parents attend classes, which are always done on an individual basis, to learn how to apply pressure to calm the baby. You learn how to touch the belly to relax baby and mom, and she learns how touch can help her relax during labor. You can start haptonomy as soon as the baby has started to move, usually at around 4½ months.
Tips to help you go through trimester
Deciding on Pain Relief
Pain medications used to be an all or nothing affair; either you were knocked out or you felt every push and tear. Today, the options are far more sophisticated, and you can tailor your medication to fit your needs. Most moms today chose some form of pain relief, and the most common is an epidural.
- Analgesics are those pain medications that affect the entire body. Also called systemic medications, they reduce the pain but don’t eliminate it entirely. Some of the most common forms of prescription strength analgesics are morphine, oxycodone, and codeine. They may make you sleepy or light-headed but they won’t knock you out entirely. Doctors allow the use of these drugs sporadically in pregnant patients when the benefits of the drug outweigh the potential risks and they are often used in combination with other forms of pain medication.
- Regional analgesics are injected forms of pain relief that work on targeted areas of the body. The most commonly used type of regional analgesia is an epidural. Medication is delivered through a catheter, a very thin, flexible, hollow tube that’s inserted into the space just outside the membrane that surrounds your spine, called the epidural space. The drug delivered by the catheter affects the nerves that carry pain signals. When administered early enough in your labor, the result will be that your belly feels numb, eliminating the pain almost completely.
- Epidural medication delivery comes in several forms. One form is continuous infusion. This is when the catheter is attached to a pump, which controls the amount of local anesthetic entering the body. Sometimes the pump is under your control, e.g. patient-controlled epidural analgesia or PCEA, but is only available in some hospitals.
- Combined Spinal-Epidural (CSE) is another popular option. With a CSE, the anesthesiologist injects pain medication directly into the spine for immediate pain relief (a mini spinal). They also use the standard epidural procedure, injecting pain medication into the catheter, for combined pain relief.You can have an epidural at any point in labor, but most women choose to have an epidural when their contractions are getting pretty strong, which is often when their cervix has dilated by about 5cm or 6cm.
It’s important to discuss the pros and cons of each form of pain relief with your doctor, and find out the options offered at your chosen hospital or by your mid-wife. Pain options are a key part of your birth plan. Your baby is fattening and if born now, he would soon catch up to his peers in terms of weight and size. You’re almost halfway through your first trimester which means it’s time to finalize your birth plan and count off those weeks. Not too long now!
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At two weeks pregnant, you are still preconception. You may experience a few symptoms of ovulation.
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