The 6th month of pregnancy marks the end of the second trimester. Looking back over earlier pregnancy difficulties may help you realize that you can cope with whatever comes next. This month will probably not bring any major physical changes, but your baby continues to grow and prepare for life outside the womb.
Your baby’s growth
- The surfactant
During the 6th month of pregnancy, the baby begins to produce surfactant, which is essential for breathing. The surfactant is a thin membrane that covers the inner surface of the pulmonary alveoli (lung cavities). In the case of premature births, the amount of surfactant secreted is insufficient making breathing difficult, a dangerous illness that can cause premature death.
The eyes, including the retina (the membrane where the visual image is formed), are fully formed. He or she can blink now. Your baby is able to distinguish light from darkness. You can do an experiment to see for yourself: put a source of light on your abdomen and wait for your baby to move. Instinctually, your baby will turn his or her face towards the source of light. In this way you will know where your baby’s face is!
- Spinal cord
The spinal cord of the fetus begins to form: the 33 vertebrae with numerous joints and ligaments. All of them form the backbone that will support the weight of the child.
Your baby’s skin is still wrinkled, transparent and thin but gradually it begins to thicken and to smooth as fat accumulates. In this period, fat deposits represent only 1 percent of the total body weight.
What happens inside your body?
- Numbness and tingling of the hands
The area in your wrist where the nerve enters the hand is called the carpal tunnel. This tunnel is normally narrow, so any swelling from excess fluid can pinch the nerve and cause pain, numbness, tingling or weakness. Known as carpal tunnel syndrome, this condition can affect the hands and fingers, especially the thumb and first two fingers. These symptoms may be accompanied by pain in the wrists, which can radiate suddenly to the shoulders.
- Separation of abdominal muscles
During the 6 month of pregnancy it is very common to experience sensations of superficial tenderness, ‘tearing’ or ‘splitting’ down the center of the abdomen. This sensation is generally due to the two large abdominal muscles stretching and ‘splitting’ in late pregnancy. Do not worry, after childbirth these two straight abdominal muscles will regain their position, although they may not be as toned as before the pregnancy.
- Urine loss
When you sneeze, cough or laugh, the diaphragm contracts and pushes the abdominal contents into the uterus and bladder, causing an involuntary loss of small amounts of urine. If this happens to you, the Kegel exercises will help you improve the control of your bladder.
- Uterine contractions
Sometimes you can feel some contractions of your uterus, that are most likely infrequent, irregular and painless. These contractions are called the Braxton-Hicks contractions. This is your body preparing itself for the challenge of labor. Don’t worry about them unless you have more than 4 per hour. If this occurs, try to stay calm but call your obstetrician.
How different will you look?
Your belly is becoming visibly rounder and bigger. With your weight gain, thin stretch marks may appear timidly on your breast, arms, belly and thighs. If you did not start moisturizing last month, it is good to start now. Cocoa butter, Shea butter, olive oil, Aloe Vera, chamomile, argan oil and emu oil are all widely recommended.
How can you care for both of your loved ones?
As a future father or other partner, this can be one of the more relaxing months of the whole pregnancy. You can love and support the mother to be, who may feel unattractive with the pregnancy weight gain. Next month, her hormones will go through the roof, so now is a chance to enjoy the calm before the storm.
Tips to help you go through this trimester
- Be rigorous about your body hygiene: During pregnancy you may need to spend more time on body hygiene. Increased hormones, perspiration and vaginal discharges may cause your body to smell differently than normal. Regular baths and showers should solve this issue. There is a misperception that baths are bad for pregnant women, but this is an old wives tale. Opt for warm – around 98.6 degrees – water rather than hot which is better for you and the baby. Choose a temperature that feels relaxing.
- Avoid inhaling passive smoke: Smoke inhalation is harmful to your baby whether its active or passive smoking. When you smoke, your baby gets less oxygen and nutrients. This will cause your baby to grow more slowly and gain less weight in your womb. Babies with a lower-than-average birth weight tend to have more health problems in childhood and the rest of life.
- Drink plenty of fluids: Try to drink enough fluidto keep the urine looking clear. The old adage of 8 glasses per day is outdated but it is advised to drink a lot of water during pregnancy. Milk, juice, sodas and caffeinated drinks all contain plenty of water and count toward your fluid intake. But caffeinated drinks are also diuretics, so try to drink them in moderation. Water also helps prevent some pregnancy problems such as constipation, hemorrhoids, and bladder infections.
Being 6 months pregnant is one of the best times of pregnancy, as your body has adjusted to carrying another being. Enjoy it while it lasts – next month is the beginning of the third and final trimester.