Pregnancy diary: week 25 – what is baby upto?

As we’re approaching the end of the second trimester (where did that trimester go?! ….the first seemed longer!), I thought I’d do a bit of research into what baby is upto at the moment in terms of growth and development at this stage of pregnancy. I say ‘research’ – this consists of me reading the NHS ‘Pregnancy’ book (for the first time in ages) and a few other pregnancy websites. I used to follow Andrew’s progress in pregnancy much more regularly, as I found it interesting to know what was going on inside me at each stage, but this time I’ve had fewer opportunities to catch up with where we’re at.

So, apparently I should really look pregnant now. Check. Apparently I may also feel hungrier…. I feel less nauseous, does that count? I can’t say that I’ve really got a sense of ‘hunger’ back. In the morning and afternoon, I do feel more like eating for the taste of the food itself rather than because I know I have to (though still no smelly cooking allowed in the flat), but the evenings are still not great. Still, I’m generally feeling much better than in early pregnancy 🙂 Both the ‘looking more pregnant’ and ‘feeling hungrier’ things are of course to do with baby starting to grow more quickly per week than in the earlier weeks which involved a lot of laying the foundations of growth. The BBC pregnancy calendar tells me to make sure I eat well and put my feet up when I can because my body is working hard. Bless it, it clearly doesn’t know I have a toddler to look after! Feet up is a thing reserved for evenings, when I just lie horizontal anyway.

Apparently baby is moving around ‘vigorously’ now. Check – definitely! That’s a good word to describe it actually. He/she also responds to touch and sound, and a loud noise close by make make him/her jump and kick. That’s definitely the case, like when my tummy was being prodded and poked in various ways for the scans I had last week, baby moved in reaction to touch, and when we’re in church, baby is always very active during and after the worship sessions (which feature drums, keyboards, guitars, and of course my singing).  Daddy and Andrew are also starting to get reactions out of baby, either intentionally in the case of Tom talking to the bump or unintentionally in the case of Andrew boofing the bump as he feeds or plays with me. It’s amazing to think that baby is starting to experience bits of family life even in the womb.

Looking bumpy! This is the last time I wore these trousers - when I took them off I discovered a rip right over my bottom! Apologies to anyone who saw me that day, whenever it happened. Nobody was brave enough to tell me though. Although they weren't particularly tight, they were wearing very thin across the bottom, and I did brush past a bike handle that day whilst locking my bike up and trying to get out of the space between my bike and the next (bike racks weren't designed for big or pregnant people!), so I think it must have torn then.

Something that I can’t say whether it’s happening from the outside is that apparently baby is swallowing small amounts of amniotic fluid and passing tiny amounts of urine back into the fluid. That doesn’t sound particularly nice, but it’s a good thing I guess to get the system used to working before it has to do it ‘for real’ once baby is out in the real world of being unattached to me through the umbilical cord. Baby may also get hiccups; I haven’t felt this yet, but I do remember Andrew getting hiccups quite a lot in the womb (and, incidentally, I know now that frequent hiccups in a newborn can be a sign of tongue-tie….) By now baby is covered in a greasy substance called vernix, which is thought to be there to protect the skin as it floats in the amniotic fluid. The skin isn’t as tough as it will be at birth as it’s still developing – this is why premature babies often look redder than full-term babies who have their natural skin pigment colour. The vernix mostly disappears before birth, but I do remember Andrew having some bits left on his back when he was born.

It may be that baby starts to follow a pattern for waking and sleeping. I haven’t noticed this yet, but then I’m not sure I will without really paying attention and making notes, because I’m so busy doing everything else that I don’t really think about when exactly I feel kicks or not. I do know that I would notice if I suddenly felt far fewer kicks over the course of a day though, and this is something I would need to contact my midwife or GP about. Apparently it’s quite common that baby sleeps more in the day when mum is up and about, and then decides to wake up and wriggle as she is slowing down and going to sleep herself. I don’t remember this being a particular problem with Andrew; I think I just slept well generally in pregnancy, until the end when I was so big and then felt him moving a lot all the time! Let’s hope this will be the case this time too 🙂

At this stage of pregnancy, it’s relatively easy to pick up baby’s heartbeat with a stethoscope or ultrasound probe. As this is my second baby, I don’t get a midwife appointment this week as I did with Andrew, so I don’t get to hear that amazing sound of the heart beating on the ultrasound machine. I’ll have to wait until 28 weeks for that pleasure. Apparently it won’t be long before Tom (or anyone else who’s invited to get that close to bump!) can possibly hear the heartbeat just by putting his ear to my tummy, but only if baby is in the right position. I don’t hold out a lot of hope for that!

With most of baby’s vital organs now developed and in place, most of the work left to do is just increasing everything in size. Baby is basically an even mini-er version of what he/she will be when born in about 15 weeks. The brain and nervous system are still getting there, however, and are developing intensely around this time. Although the brain needs to reach a certain level of development in order for baby to survive outside of the womb, it doesn’t stop developing at birth. In fact baby’s brain will continue to change as he/she experiences things in the world right throughout childhood and into adulthood. This is what happens as we learn new things – the brain makes new connections within itself, and is constantly doing this in the first years of life. Fascinating!

So as you can see, that’s a lot of stuff going on with baby right now, some of which I’m aware of from the outside by observing his/her reactions, and some of which isn’t obvious but is interesting to think about and imagine going on inside me. Next week sees us counting down to 30, in more ways than one, as I’ll be 26 weeks pregnant and celebrating my 20-something-th birthday 😉

Pregnancy diary: week 24 – BOGOF on scans (except I didn’t pay a thing)

Cute little nose showing, as baby looks right at the camera 😉

It seems like ages ago that I sat in the waiting room for our (what turned out to be) 13 week scan and saw a poster asking for pregnant mums to take part in junior doctor training by having an extra scan. Now, 11 weeks later, I’ve actually had the scan. In fact I ended up having two, each on consecutive days! When I arrived for the first on Tuesday, the lady checking me in rather gingerly asked if I might possibly have time to come again later in the week. She looked quite desperate to fill the slots (I can only assume not enough people had signed up, or had cancelled last minute). So I couldn’t resist agreeing to come again – I’ve been there, done that, and bought the desperate person t-shirt myself, trying to get as many participants as possible for my PhD experiments and for the project I’m currently working on in my job. After all, I’d get to see baby again, and I knew Tom was having a random day of annual leave on the Wednesday so I could get to work earlier and take a longer lunch break for the scan. There was a small remuneration and free car parking involved (not that I used it on the second day as I was on my bike), but that wasn’t enough on its own to attract me to help out. This is the kind of thing you have to not mind giving up your time for.

Scan 1

The scans were taking place in a training suite, not at the usual maternity hospital ultrasound department. It was actually a lot easier to find than the usual place, which I still find difficult to find in the hamster maze of corridors that make up the hospital! I was greeted by the above-mentioned lady and shown to a waiting area. A short time later I was called through by a young doctor (she looked younger than me – she probably was, it’s possible, even though this makes me feel old). I was greeted in the scanning cubicle by another junior doctor, two sonographer midwives and a fetal medicine consultant (who incidentally works at the Norfolk and Norwich hospital where I was born – doubt he was there then, again he looked too young…).

After a few basic questions like how many weeks pregnant I was, the first junior doctor got on with the scanning. Her first task was to figure out what position baby was lying in (head down and back to my left side), and showed the consultant what she’d concluded using a Winnie the Pooh stuffed toy. She was right. Then came a good look at the head. They talked amongst themselves about various things, most of which I understood, even though they were tossing about names of brain parts like they were piece of fruit in a bowl: bla bla bla cerebellum, bla bla bla ventricle, bla bla bla mid-line etc. It’s times like that when I’m pleased I work in a neuroscience lab, even if I’m not a neuroscientist by training myself. She established that baby’s brain looked normal and measured the head circumference. All good.

A great view of the eyes (closed), nose and mouth

Then she moved down to the abdomen, and checked the stomach and measured its circumference, which again was normal. A small journey upwards (in baby, so downwards on me – that must be a confusing thing when learning to scan) and she checked the heart, showing its four chambers beating together nicely. Baby was in a good position for viewing the heart apparently, unlike at our 20-week scan when I had to go for a walk to try and shift him/her into place. Not that he/she stayed still you understand – there were plenty of kicks, twists and general fidgeting movements throughout the scan. Poor doctors, I thought, having to learn on such a wriggly baby. Still, if they can do one that active, they can do any!

Next she moved down to the femur (thigh bone) to measure it. At that point the sonographers advised me to look away and they turned the screen around out of my view, in case I happened to catch sight of whether baby is a boy or a girl. After the leg was successfully measured (it took several attempts as baby was moving so much), she moved on to what they were calling the ‘AFI’. It became clear from the fact that they were measuring the amniotic fluid around baby that the ‘AF’ stood for amniotic fluid, and the next day I learned that ‘I’ stood for index.

That was the end of the first doctor’s turn, and the second one took over and did exactly the same thing. By the time she was on her last measurement, after 45 minutes of lying on my back, I was starting to feel a bit lightheaded – this is quite normal in later pregnancy when you lie on your back for long periods, because baby presses down on blood vessels so restricts the blood flow. I mentioned it and they were very good, flipping me over onto my left side straight away, as this is the best position to be in for blood flow when lying down. I soon started to feel better. The next question I was not expecting….. the consultant asked me whether I was feeling well enough to lie on my back for a 3D scan! Was I well enough?! Of course!! It wasn’t like I was about to faint, and I wasn’t going to pass on a free 3D scan!

Looking upwards at perfect little fingers

So he took over, showing the doctors how to change the probe to the 3D one and scan in 3D. It was incredible. He focused on baby’s face, and the detail and definition that we could see were amazing. The pictures on here, although good, don’t show it as well as on screen, where the sepia colouring and movements seemed to give the picture an even more lifelike quality and definition. At first it felt slightly odd and freaky to be seeing my unborn baby in this much detail, but soon I was just filled with an amazing feeling of being in awe of the fact I was seeing this! Baby had one of his/her hands constantly up by the head, and this is what was captured in the pictures that the consultant printed out for me. All five of them in the cubicle agreed that this was one very cute baby. I guess they have to say that though, I mean you wouldn’t tell a pregnant mum that her baby is ugly before it’s even born.

After about 10 minutes of 3D scanning, the session came to an end and I was thanked several times, given my photos to take home, and handed some tissue to wipe the sticky gel off my tummy. What an amazing experience, I thought, and couldn’t wait to go home and show Tom, Andrew and Granny the pictures. I was also looking forward to doing it all again the next day.

A bit shy, looking down to the left, hand in front of face

Scan 2

I don’t think it would have been possible to beat the enjoyment of the first training scan, so I wasn’t bothered that the second one didn’t quite have the same ‘wow’ factor. This time I was in a cubicle with just three people – two midwives who were training to become midwife sonographers, and one midwife sonographer doing the training. I had thought it was doctor training, but it made no difference to me who they were, I just got to see baby again. Interestingly I met a male midwife for the first time; I knew they existed in small numbers, but it was nice to actually meet one in person.

Today’s trainer obviously had a very different approach to teaching compared to the trainer the day before. She was much more hands on, literally, as she was quick to grab their hand on the probe and move it how she wanted them to, whereas the consultant had done much more verbal explaining, with the odd occasion of doing it for them by directing the probe himself. She was also very talkative, and engaged more with me (than the consultant had) as well as with the trainees, who were very quiet and kept their eyes on the screen for most of it. I’m not sure whether they were just concentrating, or trying to avoid interacting with her too much, as she was very enthusiastic and keen to show them everything she knew about what they were doing. It was hilarious, being a kind of fly on the wall (OK, not quite such an inconspicuous one!) witnessing this interaction between a slightly eccentric, but eccentric in a lovely way, trainer and her trainees.

So this is baby's head on the left (the skull bone of the forehead is showing bright white), and the blob at the top right is the arm and hand near the mouth, just as in the 3D photos. In fact if you imagine looking down on this picture from the top, that's what the 3D scan was picking up.

Of course I made the mistake of warning them that I had felt a bit lightheaded towards the end of yesterday’s scan. This provoked a reaction from the trainer of constantly asking me if I was OK and turning me onto my side frequently, and also praising me several times for giving so much of my time by coming twice and repeating how grateful they all were. She said it was good for them to learn to scan a woman on her side, so I shouldn’t worry. I wasn’t worried, it wasn’t that bad, but I let this slip before I’d had chance to experience her personality.

The trainees basically did the same measurements as the ones the day before had done, so by the end I felt like I could have a good shot at measuring if I’d been given the chance (no not really, it looks incredibly difficult to scan!) Again there was lots of wriggling, but the trainer was keen to point out that this was a good experience for them. This time baby was in breech position, which helped to explain all that wriggling the evening before. I think this baby must turn around all the time, and I just hope he/she gets in to the head down position and stays there before it gets too tight on space in there.

There was no 3D scan on offer at the end this time, but the hilarity of the printer breaking down kind of made up for it! I tried to explain that it really didn’t matter if they couldn’t give me pictures today because I’d had such good ones yesterday, but the trainer, as you might have guessed, was not having this as an option. She pressed the print button several times, 11 in fact (that’s how many photos eventually spurted out when it was fixed), and fiddled about trying to get it to work, whilst making lots of noise about this technology failure, complaining that this machine wasn’t as good as the one she normally uses, and generally making a big fuss. She figured out that she could save them onto the hard-disk, and insisted that the administrator would sent them to me. But just in the nick of time, before I was about to be brave and try and leave, a technician arrived and sorted it all out using the reset button. Again I got a flood of thanks, and of course apologies for the hardware failure, and at last was on my way back to the office.

I thought I should include some of the 2D photos too in this post, given the faff of the printer failure - I feel I owe it to the midwife sonographer who was desperate that I had them!

So here we are at the end of week 24….

…and as you can see, it’s been an exciting week of seeing baby. This should be the last time we’ll see baby before he/she is born, unless there are any complications that require more scans. I’ve tried showing Andrew the 3D pictures and explaining that the baby in the picture is inside my tummy (pointing to tummy), but he looks at me as if to say ‘are you crazy Mummy?’ He’s still too young to understand, and we’re hoping that this will be a good thing when baby is born, that he’ll just accept that this is what has happened without being old enough to think about it too much.

Outside the bump - not such an interesting view as inside!