Week 22: Your pregnancy
Your baby's growth: She can feel!
Your baby weighs almost a pound now and is 7 to 8 inches long. Although she's filling out, her body still appears wrinkled because she lacks a significant layer of fat beneath her skin.
This week nerve endings become functional enough so that your baby can feel! She may experiment with this new sense of touch by stroking her face or feeling other body parts to see how they move. You may feel your baby stretching her muscles by pushing against the muscular wall of your uterus with her feet or head.
In addition, your baby's liver is busy breaking down bilirubin, a substance formed by the breakdown of hemoglobin in blood cells. Because a baby's liver can only break down a limited amount of bilirubin, the excess is passed on to you through the placenta to filter in your liver.
Other developments taking place this week:
- Lips. Your baby will form distinct lips.
- Testes. If a boy, the testes, which have been tucked up inside the pelvis, will begin to descend into the scrotum this week, and immature sperm will form in the seminal vesicles.
- Eyes. Your baby's eyes will complete formation, although the iris (the colored part of the eye) will still lack pigment.
- Pancreas. Essential to insulin production, the pancreas will continue to develop steadily.
What's happening with you
- Weight gain. By now you may have gained 12 to 15 pounds. Starting this week you'll begin to put on weight more steadily, averaging about half a pound to a pound per week.
- Contractions. This week you may also begin to notice your uterus practicing for delivery with an irregular, squeezing sensation called Braxton Hicks contractions.
The term refers to an irregular tightening of the uterus that may get stronger and longer as pregnancy progresses. Near the end of your pregnancy it may be difficult to tell the difference between strong Braxton Hicks contractions and true labor pains. If the contractions become painful or if you have more than four contractions in an hour, contact your doctor. Painful regular contractions may be a sign of preterm labor.