Week-by-week guide to pregnancy
Our week-by-week pregnancy guide is full of essential information. From staying fit in pregnancy to advice on your maternity rights, you'll find it all here. Happy reading!
Week 23 – your second trimester
Week by week, you're hitting new milestones in your pregnancy as your baby prepares for life outside the womb. Around this time, your baby is practising breathing, and getting into patterns of sleeping and waking. Unfortunately, they won't always coincide with when you want to sleep – but that's babies for you!
What's happening in my body?
Have a good look at your breasts. Big, aren't they? They may be starting to leak colostrum, which is an early type of milk. Do you think you'll want to breastfeed? This gives your baby a flying start by boosting their immunity so they can fight off infections. It's good for you too, as it lowers your risk of breast cancer and burns around 300 calories a day. That's equivalent to a breakfast burrito followed by a choc cherry popcorn cake.
Find out more about breastfeeding. It might help to involve your partner too.
This week, you may start to get rib pain as your rib cage expands to accommodate your bump. You could be feeling a bit more breathless than usual as the growing baby puts pressure on your lungs. The best remedy is to put your feet up and relax. If you're worried about any symptoms of pregnancy, talk to your midwife or doctor. They will want to help you have a healthy and happy pregnancy!
Beyond the pale: staying sun safe
Did you know that even on a cloudy day, your skin could burn? Unfortunately, this is more likely to happen when you're pregnant, as your skin is more sensitive. The bad news for sun-worshippers is that sunburn increases your chances of skin cancer – and that's even if you just go pink, you don't have to peel or look like a lobster.
Cover up and head for the shade if you're going outdoors when the sun is at its strongest. That's between 11am and 3pm, from March to October. So even if you're just popping to the shops…
- Choose a high-factor suncream (15+) with at least four-star UVA protection
- Apply a nice thick layer to all exposed skin
There's no such thing as a safe tan – and fake tans can be risky too – so don't bother with either, and stay safe this summer.
Losing a baby
Sadly, not all pregnancies go to plan, and some women and their partners have to cope with the tragic loss of their baby. Before 24 weeks, it's called a miscarriage. After that, it's a stillbirth. This can be a huge shock, but there are trained people who can support you through your bereavement.
Second trimester pregnancy symptoms (at 23 weeks)
No matter how excited you are about having a baby, anxiety might be creeping in as your bump gets bigger. Try taking the NHS mood self assessment quiz, which helps you work out how you're feeling. If you're getting mood swings or feeling stressed, talk to your midwife or doctor. Take along a printout of your mood quiz results.
This week, your signs of pregnancy could also include:
- tiredness and sleeping problems
- stretch marks
- swollen and bleeding gums
- pains on the side of your baby bump, caused by your expanding womb ('round ligament pains')
- indigestion and heartburn
- bloating and constipation
- leg cramps
- feeling hot
- swollen hands and feet
- urine infections
- vaginal infections
- darkened skin on your face or brown patches – this is known as chloasma or the 'mask of pregnancy'
- greasier, spotty skin
- thicker and shinier hair
- symptoms from earlier weeks, caused by pregnancy hormones, such as mood swings, morning sickness, weird pregnancy cravings, a heightened sense of smell, sore or leaky breasts, a white milky pregnancy discharge from your vagina and light spotting (seek medical advice for any bleeding)
Tommy's, the baby charity, has produced a pregnancy guide with a further list of symptoms.
What does my baby look like?
Your baby, or foetus, is around 28.9cm long from head to heel and weighs about 500g. That's approximately the size of a squash and the weight of a packet of wholewheat dried pasta.
The limbs are now in proportion, so there's no question that this is a very cute baby, rather than an alien with a giant head. Over the next few weeks, you're going to be kicked around by your baby and will start to see your tummy move too, which looks very strange. Get to know your baby's rhythms and talk to your midwife if the kicking slows down. Have a look at Tommy's guide to baby movements in pregnancy.
Are you drinking loads of tea and coffee? This week, why not make a real effort to swap your cuppas for alternatives such as smoothies and fruit teas. Giving up caffeine can be a hard habit to break, but it's worth it, as too much caffeine in pregnancy is linked to miscarriage and low birth weight. Your daily recommended maximum is 200mg. That's not much, when you consider that...
- a mug of tea has around 75mg
- a cup of instant coffee has around 100mg
- a can of cola has about 40mg
- a 50g bar of milk chocolate has up to 10mg
You can check your caffeine intake with Tommy's Caffeine Calculator.
This week you could also...
It's about time to break the news, if you haven't already. The latest you can leave it is 15 weeks before the baby is due, which is around week 25. As soon as you tell your employer, you will have maternity rights and can attend antenatal appointments during paid work time. You can also ask for a risk assessment of your workplace.
It's a good time to tone up those muscles 'down under'. Gentle exercises can help to prevent leakage when you laugh, sneeze, cough or jump around on your baby's future trampoline. Get the muscles going by pretending that you're having a wee and then stop the 'urine' in midflow. Visit Tommy's for more ideas.
Ask your midwife or doctor about online antenatal classes – they may be able to recommend one. The charity Tommy's has lots of useful information on antenatal classes and preparing you for birth.
Ask your partner if they would like to take part in the antenatal classes. Even if you've had children before, they're still worth going to as you can meet other parents-to-be. The NCT offers online antenatal classes with small groups of people that live locally to you.
We can usually get enough vitamin D from sunlight, but as we are at home a lot more at the moment, you may not be getting enough. If you're pregnant, or breastfeeding, you should consider taking a daily vitamin D supplement. It's worth checking if you're entitled to free vitamins.
Get moving! It's recommended that pregnant women do 150 minutes of exercise throughout the week. You could start off with just 10 minutes of daily exercise - perhaps take a brisk walk outside. Check out Sport England's #StayInWorkOut online exercises (scroll to the pregnancy section). Listen to your body and do what feels right for you.
Don't eat for two! Eat for you. You don't need any extra calories until the third trimester, which starts in week 28. Try and eat healthily with plenty of fresh fruit and veg, and avoid processed, fatty and salty foods. You may be able to get free milk, fruit and veg through the Healthy Start scheme.
How are you today? If you're feeling anxious or low, talk to your doctor or midwife who can point you in the right direction to get all the support that you need. You could also discuss your worries with your partner, friends and family. You may be worried about your relationship, or money, or having somewhere permanent to live. Don't bottle it up – you're important, so ask for help if you need it.
This week's treat
Have fun planning your baby's nursery. Are you going to have a theme or will you play it safe with neutrals? Get brainstorming with your partner and come up with designs for the décor. You can find wild ideas online ranging from a wooded wonderland to an underwater oasis. You don't have to spend a fortune - try looking at different ways to DIY!