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20 WEEKS, 4 DAYS

136 days to go...

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ultrasound of human fetus at 20 weeks and 4 days

Your baby today

Shown here is a Doppler ultrasound scan. Your doctor may use a handheld Doppler ultrasound machine to identify your baby's heartbeat; Doppler scanning can also pick up sudden movements and the whoosh of blood through the placenta.

There are few better ways to relieve those pregnancy aches and pains, and to wind down, than to have a soothing massage.

When you book a massage, make sure you do so with a therapist who is experienced in prenatal massage. Although it's unlikely to occur at this stage, massaging the wrong areas or certain acupressure points can trigger uterine contractions (this can actually make a massage beneficial during labor when you want to speed things up).

Before making an appointment for a massage, check with your doctor that it's okay to have one. Massage may not be recommended if you've had complications such as high blood pressure or diabetes.

Comfort is crucial and most therapists will position you lying on your side with your head supported by a pillow. Don't hesitate to tell the therapist if you're uncomfortable or if any aspect of the massage hurts. An experienced therapist should check that you're comfortable throughout the massage and stop if you're not.

If you don't want to book a professional massage, you can always call on your partner or a willing friend. It is, however, important that the person who is massaging you is careful and does not attempt to work on the abdominal area.

In addition to making a world of difference to those aches and pains and helping you to relax, a massage from your partner is a good way to be intimate with him at times when you might not feel like having sex.

If you don't feel up to having a full massage, a foot, hand, or head massage can be very soothing.

pregnant woman getting massage

Having a professional massage during pregnancy can be a real treat. Besides feeling blissful, research shows that it eases aches and pains, helps you sleep, and can reduce stress.

Ask A... Doctor

I can't look in the mirror because I'm feeling so down about my size. Will things get better?

You're not alone in battling with your self-image in pregnancy. For some women, their changing body shape can create negative feelings. Eating a healthy diet and getting some exercise helps prevent excessive weight gain, and exercising will also lift your spirits and improve your sense of well-being.

There's no set emotional response to pregnancy, but in addition to coming to terms with a momentous life and body change, you are also under the influence of fluctuating hormones, all of which affects your mood and can add to feelings of negativity.

Mild depression in pregnancy is often helped by reassurance and support from your partner, family, or friends. Talking over your fears and concerns may help relieve your anxieties-you'll probably find that other pregnant women are experiencing the same feelings.

If you are feeling very low and desperate, don't hesitate to consult your doctor.

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Excerpted from Pregnancy Day by Day.
Copyright © 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited.
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