Understanding your pregnancy: Week 23

Understanding your pregnancy: Week 23

A quick snapshot

Having any weird and wonderful dreams yet? It is common in the second trimester of pregnancy to have some pretty amazing and vivid dreams which tend to hang around the next day. Try not to take any of this as a sign or warning for things to come. Dreams are just one way for us to sort through the excess of brain activity we are exposed to through our waking hours.

If it's not dreams which are causing you to wake up, it could be leg cramps. At 23 weeks pregnant, it is common for women to develop cramping in their lower legs and calf muscles. Sometimes cramping is a result of low calcium or magnesium in the diet, or very low salt levels. Make sure you’re drinking enough water and do some stretching exercises before going to bed at night.

What’s changing in your body

  • Your tummy is creeping upwards and is now above your navel. You may feel as if you have popped out and it's becoming harder to hide the fact that you are pregnant.
  • You could be experiencing pins and needles in your hands. This is commonly due to a condition known as carpal tunnel syndrome, which affects the thumbs and forefingers. Compression from water retention on the carpal nerve pathway is the most frequent cause. Physiotherapy and splints are sometimes necessary to alleviate pain and numbness.
  • Another common complaint at this stage is headaches. Even if you don't usually get headaches they may feature more than you'd like in the next couple of weeks. Avoid becoming dehydrated or over heated. If you do get a headache try to lie down in a dark room with a cool washer over your eyes. Sometimes it helps to eat a light meal. If you develop a sudden, unrelenting headache with visual disturbance you will need to be checked by a doctor.
  • Your vaginal discharge is likely to have increased. During pregnancy this is normally watery, clear to white in colour and odourless. Many pregnant women find wearing a liner through the day is helpful in terms of absorbency. However, it is easy to develop a yeast infection during pregnancy so if you feel itchy and experience a burning sensation when you pee, check with your doctor.
  • You may be feeling the start of Braxton Hicks contractions. These are painless uterine contractions concentrated mainly at the top of the uterus. After exercising, bending over, having sex or even when you've done not much, you may be able to feel them if you place your hand over your tummy. They are your body's way of practicing for the real thing.

How your emotions are affected

  • The baby is feeling more and more connected to you and it's become very difficult to ignore the fact you are pregnant. You may find your partner is more attuned to you because he can see your tummy growing. This is often the best time of pregnancy for many women, so go ahead and enjoy it.
  • Conversely, this can be a worrying time for some. The foetal screening test a couple of weeks earlier can sometimes detect concerns or possible complications. Often, a "wait and see" approach is recommended, which means a nail biting time for the new parents. Speak to your doctor about your concerns and let them know if you are anxious.

How your baby is growing

Second Trimester: Week 2324

  • Your baby weighs around 500g this week and is just under 20cm.
  • They still look like a little doll but one with more skin than fat because their skin is growing faster than their underlying fat can be laid down.
  • Your baby is starting to form an important substance in its lungs, known as surfactant, which will help their tiny alveoli to stay open when they are born.
  • Your baby's heart chambers and major blood vessels supplying the heart can all be seen on ultrasound this week. Although it is still very small, this major organ will grow along with the rest of your baby so that at birth, their heart is around the size of a walnut.
  • Your baby can hear.Their ears are fully functioning by this stage of pregnancy and they will react if there is a sudden, loud noise. Their bones are hardening as well so remember to have a good intake of calcium every day.
  • Your baby can move all of their muscles this week and there is even more coordination and action going on in your tummy.

Tips for the week

  • Even if you're exhausted, try to remember to do your stretching exercises before you climb into bed.
  • Don't miss your monthly pre-natal check-up. Many clinics and surgeries will make a series of appointments at a time, so you should have plenty of time to plan.