All About Baby

In your 24th week of pregnancy, your baby is filling out. Part of your weight gain goes straight to helping him gain weight, too. Since he’s still on the scrawny side, his skin wrinkles on his body, but he looks like a miniature version of what you’ll see on delivery day. His face has formed, his ears are in place, and his eyes are complete (although his lids are still closed). He has eyelashes, fingernails, and may already be growing hair. Rapid eye movements (REM) are beginning, too.

All About You

Are you exercising? Eating well? Don’t forget to drink lots of water during pregnancy. It can prevent some early labor symptoms, help you stay energized, give your skin a healthy glow, and nourish your baby. Speaking of skin … you may begin getting stretch marks and forming a linea negra, the dark line between your belly button and pubic bone. (The linea negra will disappear and the stretch marks will eventually fade.)

You may find tying your shoes and bending over are more difficult as your baby bump grows bigger. Your unborn baby’s growth spurt means you may have itchiness and soreness as the skin stretches to make room. Your joints will loosen as pregnancy hormones soften them to accommodate your baby and to prepare your body for labor.

Prenatal Exercise

You may be discouraged to see the scale inching (or jumping!) upwards. Pregnancy is not the right time to try to lose weight or begin a rigorous exercise regime, but regular exercise can be beneficial and ease some of your pregnancy pains.

Benefits of Prenatal Exercise

Here are some pregnancy woes that exercise can lessen.

  • Backaches: Walking and prenatal yoga can improve your posture, which has probably been suffering under the weight of your expanding belly.
  • Edema (swelling): Exercise can boost your circulation explains Dr. William Camann, MD, director of obstetric anesthesia at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, and coauthor of Easy Labor Better circulation can prevent or at least ease some of your swelling.
  • Stress reliever: Nothing clears your head and energizes like a brisk walk around the block.
  • Labor preparer: Regular exercise strengthens your muscles for delivery day. “Exercising can help you feel more confident about labor,” says Dr. Camann. And if you’ve kept yourself in reasonable shape, chances are losing weight post-pregnancy will be that much easier.

How to Get Started

Always talk to your healthcare provider before beginning an exercise program (even if you were a star athlete pre-pregnancy).

Your healthcare provider may be able to recommend a prenatal class in your area. Many hospitals and health clubs offer prenatal exercise classes. Exercising with other women in similar circumstances will help keep you from becoming discouraged about weight gain and provide support. Many hospitals and health clubs offer prenatal exercise class, such as yoga and swimming.

If you haven’t been exercising walking is a great way to begin during pregnancy, suggest Dr. Camann. Try walking 20 minutes several times a week to keep yourself in labor-ready condition.

Exercises to Avoid

“There are several exercises that you should avoid while pregnant,” advises Dr. Camann. “Any hard contact sports like skiing, tennis, or sports that require you to make rapid changes, like in high-impact aerobics can be harmful.” If you have any questions about a particular sport, ask your healthcare provider. Dr. Camann says that over his many years in practice he’s seen it all: “No, you shouldn’t be jumping on a trampoline when you’re pregnant!”

Remember, your goal is not to lose weight but to stay fit. After all, your body won’t respond to exercise in the same way while you’re pregnant. Along with the added weight (25 to 35 pounds total), your heart is working harder to pump twice the blood through your system, and many of your organs — your lungs included — have less room.

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Q & A

Got questions about Week 24? Other women have wondered…

Q: I’m having trouble sleeping through the night. Is this normal for this stage?

It can be normal for you to have that tired feeling and to have trouble sleeping if your belly is already fairly large. Being on your feet a lot during the day can also have an effect on your energy level and sleep patterns. Read more about getting a good night’s sleep while pregnant.

Q: I have sharp pains in my stomach around my belly button. What could be causing this?

Pregnancy causes some strange sensations. Your belly button is where your umbilical cord was attached when you were a fetus. It represents a weak spot in the abdominal wall, because the blood vessels that fed you nutrients and oxygen had to run through there. Read more about pain near your belly button.

Q: What is the survival rate for a preemie at 24 weeks?

There are so many unknowns in pregnancy, and preterm labor just amplifies those stresses. The outcome of preterm birth depends on several factors. Read more about premature babies.

Your Partner

Your Body, Yourself

As crazy as it sounds, many guys experience sympathetic pregnancy aches and pains right along with their partners (this is called Couvade’s syndrome). This empathetic experience may include, among other things, a hearty weight gain. And often after the birth of Baby, parents experience even more weight gain, in part because they are sleeping less, are stressed out, and subsequently don’t eat and exercise as healthfully or regularly.

Remember, pregnancy lasts for nine months — you’ve got time to get prepared. Before your life becomes too hectic, begin eating and living healthier in preparation for your baby’s arrival. Establishing healthy lifestyle habits now will give you a better chance of maintaining some of those habits after Baby comes. For instance, you can take a walk with your partner, a stroll through the neighborhood after dinner. Not only will that be good exercise for you both, but it will be nice time where you can catch up on all that is going on with each of you, building your connection even stronger for when Baby arrives. If you haven’t historically helped with meals, this is a good time to begin to participate more by making sure more vegetables and other healthy food make their way onto the table. This will be invaluable when things get a little crazy after your baby is born.

Because, of course, your partner’s health is vital; she’s carrying and supporting your baby, but your own health is crucial, too! You need your strength just like she does. Think of this as your own spring training: You need to practice now so when Baby comes you will be in great shape for the real thing.