This month, you're still enjoying the relative comfort level of the second trimester, but your energy and initiative may be slightly dampened by the dwindling quality of your sleep. Sleep deprivation can also contribute to mental fuzziness and emotional edginess. Now's the time to value and prioritize time spent sleeping.
Month Five Checklist
- Plan a special night out with your partner.
- Choose a method of childbirth instruction.
- Tour childbirth centers.
At ten to twelve inches long and around a pound in weight, your baby is about the size of a football. He is starting to bulk up a bit as he accumulates deposits of brown fat under his skin. This insulation will help regulate his body temperature in the outside world. He's using his bulk to make his presence known; if you weren't feeling him last month you likely are now.
Your baby is now covered in a white oily substance known as vernix caseosa, a sort of full-body fetal ChapStick that keeps his fluid-soaked skin from peeling and protects against infection.
Your Body's Changes
As your baby grows, your muscles and ligaments stretch to support this new weight. The result may be a new set of aches and pains as your body adjusts to the load.
The skin of your belly is stretching, tightening, and itching like crazy. A good moisturizing cream can relieve the itching and keep your skin hydrated, although it won't prevent or eliminate striae gravidarum, or stretch marks.
The band of ligaments supporting your uterus is carrying an increasingly heavy load. You may start to feel occasional discomfort in your lower abdomen, inner thighs, and hips called round ligament pain. Pelvic tilt exercises are useful for keeping pelvic muscles toned and relieving pain. To perform the pelvic tilt:
- Kneel on all fours on the floor.
- Keeping your head aligned with your spine, pull in your abdomen, tighten your buttocks, and tilt your pelvis forward. Your back will naturally arch up.
- Hold the position for three seconds, then relax. (Remember to keep your back straight in this neutral position.)
- Repeat the tilt three to five times, eventually working up to ten repetitions.
The root of all things uncomfortable—pregnancy hormones—are also contributing to lower back pain you may be experiencing. Progesterone and relaxin—the hormone responsible for softening your pelvic ligaments for delivery—are also loosening up your lower back ligaments and disks, and combined with the weight of your growing belly your back is feeling the strain.
If your abdominal and/or back pains are severe or accompanied by any of the following, call your healthcare provider immediately:
- Vaginal bleeding
- Leg numbness
Most minor back pain of pregnancy is completely normal, but in severe cases it can be a sign of preterm labor, kidney infection, or other medical problems.
To help you ease your aches and pains:
Stand tall. Try to keep your center of gravity in your spine and pelvis rather than out in your belly, which can give you a swayback.
Sit up straight. Use good posture when you're sitting as well and choose a chair with good lower back support. You can purchase a special ergonomic support pad for your chair back, but a small pillow may do the trick just as easily.
Avoid twists and turns. With everything so loose, a sudden move as simple as quickly turning at the waist to get out of bed may strain your back. Use your arms as support for a slow takeoff when rising from a chair.
Practice your pickups. If you have small children who still need to be lifted occasionally, it's essential to use good form. To avoid injury, bend and use your leg muscles to lift things rather than bending from the waist and lifting with your back.
Warm up. A warm pad on your back, hips, or other sore spots may help relieve pain.
Wear sensible shoes. Avoid high heels! They will place further stress on your spine.
Rest your feet. Use a low stool or step to rest your feet when sitting. If you must stand for long periods, alternate resting each foot on a step.
Massage. You now have a medical excuse to indulge in a regular back rub from your significant other. A licensed massage therapist who is experienced in prenatal massage may also be helpful.
Fluff and stuff. Sleep on your side with a pillow placed between your legs. This will align your spine and improve your sleeping posture. A full-sized body pillow or beanbag may help support your back and belly as well.
Exercise. Stretching and flexibility exercises may help.
Symptoms you may start or continue to experience this month include the following. Check off any that you are experiencing so that you may ask your doctor about relief and to track the progress of your pregnancy.Hot flashes
Tender and/or swollen breasts
Excess mucus and saliva
Increase in vaginal discharge
Mild shortness of breath
Lightheadedness or dizziness
Skin and hair changes
At the Doctor's or Midwife's Office
Beyond the usual weigh and measure routine, your doctor or midwife may administer an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) at the end of the month (between weeks twenty-four and twenty-eight). If your doctor or midwife hasn't discussed counting fetal movements before, he or she may mention it now.