Your baby has reached another milestone in his/her development. At 24 weeks of pregnancy, your baby is considered "viable." This means that if your little one decided to make a surprise entrance this week, he/she has a 40 percent chance of surviving with the help of neonatal intensive care. Your baby is now around 11.8 inches long, and he/she weighs over a pound (around 1.3 pounds).
- Your baby's lungs continue to mature and improve their function this week. In fact, the lungs are developing the "branches" of the "respiratory tree." In addition, cells are starting to produce a substance called "surfactant," which will help the air sacs inflate on the outside world. If your baby is born without enough surfactant, he/she will need help breathing.
- At pregnancy week 24, your little bundle of joy's skin is still thin and translucent (see-through), but this is slowly changing, due to more fat layers being laid down between the skin cells.
- The amount of amniotic fluid surround your baby starts to increase in volume after this week. The level of amniotic fluid steadily increases until around week 35 or 36, when it slowly decreases.
- As your baby grows more proportional with every day that passes, his/her digestive system, central nervous system, reproductive system, and circulatory systems continue to mature.
- Your baby's eyelids and eyebrows are fully formed at 24 weeks of pregnancy, but your little one's eyes won't open for several more weeks. (They have been fused shut since the first trimester.)
- Ossification is occurring this week. Your baby's skeleton is slowly turning from cartilage to bone. This process will continue throughout your pregnancy.
- This week, lanugo (soft, downy hairs that cover your baby's body for warmth) is trapping vernix (the white, waxy protective covering which protects his/her skin from the amniotic fluid) onto the surface of the skin.
Your baby's heartbeat has slowed down at 24 weeks, though it still beats pretty fast. If you want to listen to his/her heartbeat, you can buy a Prenatal Heart Listener from any baby store, and you can listen to your little bundle of joy's heart beat from the comfort of your home.
In the last couple of weeks, the top of your uterus has continued to rise above your navel. At pregnancy week 24, your uterus may be anywhere between 1.5 and 2 inches above your belly button. You may also have gained at least 15 pounds, possibly more. (Remember to aim for 25 to 35 pounds if you are average-sized.)
As your baby is getting larger, he/she has less room to move about in the womb. So you may be feeling stronger kicks this week, but if your baby's movements are still rhythmic, that's perfectly normal too. At this point in pregnancy, you may also notice that your baby has a regular sleep-wake pattern. Take time to enjoy feeling your baby move inside you - you'll miss this sensation after your little one is born!
At pregnancy week 24, you may notice that you're experiencing more vaginal discharge than before. Don't be alarmed by this change. It's quite normal. A majority of expectant mothers have higher levels of vaginal discharge than before pregnancy, due to the increased hormones in their body and more blood flowing to the genital area.
This vaginal discharge is called "leukorrhea," and it should be clear or white in appearance, and it's often odorless. You will notice more of this discharge in your third trimester and closer to your due date. If your vaginal discharge is thick, yellow, and foul smelling, and it comes with itching, you should call your doctor. This may be a sign of a vaginal infection.
Unfortunately, there's not much you can do about this extra discharge. It's normal during pregnancy. If it bothers you that much, you may want to wear panty liners to soak it up. (Do not use tampons during pregnancy.)
Did you know that most babies instantly recognize the scent and sound of their mother's voice immediately after birth? So the more that you talk and communicate with your baby in utero, the more closer both of you will feel toward each other following delivery.
The Signs of Preterm Labor
Though you may think it's too early to even think about preterm labor, it's not. Over 12 percent of babies are born premature (or before 37 weeks of pregnancy). Premature babies face a host of problems, so you will want to keep your "bun" cooking in the "oven" for as long as possible.
Risk factors for delivering early include:
- Past history of preterm delivery
- Twin or multiples pregnancy
- Late or no prenatal care during pregnancy
- Smoking, drinking, or using illegal drugs when you're expecting
- Standing for prolonged periods of time
- Domestic violence
- Cervical and uterine abnormalities
Even if you are not at risk for going into labor early, you are only weeks away from the third trimester, so you will want to know the signs of labor just in case. These include the following:
- Low, dull backache
- Pelvic pressure, or the sensation that your baby is pushing down
- Menstrual-like cramps
- Vaginal bleeding or fluid leakage
- Contractions that come every ten minutes, or more often, and get closer together as time passes
You will want to contact your doctor or healthcare provider if you experience any of those symptoms.
At 24 weeks of pregnancy, if you're at risk for delivering early or you're experiencing symptoms of preterm labor, your care provider may recommend that you take a fetal fibronectin (fFN) test. This test looks at the "glue-like" protein that binds the amniotic sac to the uterine lining.
If the test detects this protein, this means that your body is ready to deliver. If the test is negative, this means that there is a 99 percent chance that you will not go into labor in the next two weeks.
If you receive a positive result, your healthcare team will create a plan of action to help your pregnancy last longer, if that's possible. This may include certain medications and bed rest for the rest of your pregnancy.