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20 WEEKS, 5 DAYS

135 days to go...

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Your baby today

The skin is less translucent now as your baby is starting to lay down fat reserves, which after the birth will help with temperature control and provide an energy reservoir for your baby to call upon when necessary.

Your developing baby is becoming more responsive and aware every day as his nervous system begins to work more effectively.

By this stage, your baby can use his senses and recognize the sensations of light, pressure, pain, and temperature. Sound is thought to be the first sense to develop, although taste buds are at least present on the tongue from as early as 10 weeks. Nerves carrying the sensations of pain, temperature, and light touch from your baby's body reach his spinal cord and then travel to the hypothalamus, which lies in the center of the brain. This then sends signals to another part of your baby's brain so that the stimuli can be recognized and also evoke an emotional response. Many, but not all, of these nerves require insulation around them to conduct signals effectively. Known as myelin sheaths, these do not develop until much later, after 29 weeks in the spine and 37 weeks in the brain.

Painful stimuli result in a reflex action (such as pulling your hand away from a hot object). Reflexes don't have to involve the brain and for these sensations to be recognized at a conscious level, rather than as a simple reflex, the nerves need to connect the hypothalamus to the gray matter in the brain. These connections are thought to function after 26 weeks of pregnancy, but it may be 34 weeks before their electrical activity can be clearly seen on an electroencephalogram (EEG).

Ask A... Mom

This is my second baby-does it make sense to go to prenatal classes again?

I think so. There were three years between my pregnancies and it helped to have a refresher course; I even found that some of the advice had changed in that time. My partner found it helpful, too.

One reason to go is to meet some pregnant moms again; it's always useful to share the experience with others and, as with your first pregnancy, you'll probably find you make some great friends.

Wearing maternity hose

You probably can't imagine wearing maternity hose, but they have their uses. They work by promoting circulation and the return of blood back to the heart and may be recommended to prevent vein-related problems, particularly if you suffer from varicose veins (see ... Doctor) or spider veins (see Tackling spider veins).

They also help to relieve aching feet, mild swelling in the feet, ankles, and legs, as well as fluid retention. They may be particularly helpful if your work means that you must be on your feet for long periods of time.

Thankfully, an element of fashion has been introduced and many brands are sheer and pretty. There is a variety available: some are thigh- or knee-high and others cover the whole leg. There are also some that provide support for your baby and uterus, taking the pressure off your back. You'll find lighter stockings for summer wear, when the hot weather can lead to further swelling.

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