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21 WEEKS, 6 DAYS

127 days to go...

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Your baby today

This is a close-up of the baby's skin just behind the ear. Every part of the skin's surface has small ridges and hollows in a unique pattern. During this week the dermal ridges-the deeper layers of skin-start to mature, giving rise to finger- and toeprints.

Your baby has been filtering amniotic fluid and storing the waste as a substance called meconium.

At the end of this week, your baby's anal sphincter muscle is fully functional. This should prevent any small particles of meconium from being passed into the amniotic fluid. Meconium is first produced at 12 weeks. It is the somewhat greenish/black first poop that nine out of 10 newborn babies pass in the first 24 hours.

Meconium is formed mainly from cells discarded from the lining of the gut as it lengthens and expands, and the waste of any nutrients which have been absorbed from the swallowed amniotic fluid. It is continuously produced, slowly moving down the gut to enter the large bowel (colon) by 16 weeks. Meconium is sterile since there are no organisms inside the gut and no bowel gas is produced.

As A Matter Of Fact

The unborn baby will move her hand to her mouth and even suck her thumb.

Research has shown that the baby may even open her mouth in anticipation. Anything that the hands encounter is firmly grasped and this grip is strong enough to support all of the baby's body weight.

Keep toned

Effective strength training during pregnancy, using free weights or a machine at your gym, will help your body deal with the demands of pregnancy. Being stronger will help you carry the increase in body weight and also help you recover after the baby is born. Having more toned limbs will help you look and feel better, too.

Like all aspects of exercise during pregnancy, there are guidelines that should be followed:

  • If you've been doing regular weight training, continue with your program, but do not increase the weight loads or repetitions.
  • If you're new to using weights, begin with very light ones and few repetitions and build up slowly. Do not increase the weight load until you are confident that you are able to manage the increase.
  • Take a deep breath to start and breathe out as you lift the weight.
  • Free weights, rather than machines, are safer to use during pregnancy. If you're using a machine, make sure a trainer has shown you how to use it correctly.
  • If you find standing up while doing strength training too tiring, sit on a chair to lift your weights.

If you're sitting and using weights, keep your back straight and relax your shoulders. When standing, make sure that you have your legs hip-width apart and your knees slightly bent.

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