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22 WEEKS, 2 DAYS

124 days to go...

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hands of human fetus at 22 weeks and 2 days

Your baby today

The hands and fingers are clearly visible and the nail beds have been laid down. The baby's fingers will close if the palm of his hand is touched. The tips of the two bones in the forearm, the radius and the ulna, can just be seen in the lower part of this image.

Now that your baby's ears are sufficiently well developed to process sounds, his hearing will gradually improve.

Your baby's external ears have been developed for some time but for him to hear, the internal ear structures also need to mature. In the middle ear, three bones-the malleus ("hammer"), incus ("anvil"), and stapes ("stirrup")-conduct sound into the inner ear. These bones are formed initially from soft cartilage and embedded within connective tissue. The bones begin to harden and the connective tissue gradually dissolves. This allows the ear drum to vibrate onto the hammer, which passes the movement on to the anvil, and then the stirrup. The vibrations are then passed to the cochlea, a cavity of the inner ear, where they are translated into nerve impulses to be sent to the brain.

At 22 weeks, your baby's inner ear has matured adequately for sound to be processed into neural signals to the brain. The first part of the cochlea to develop is responsible for receiving lower-sound frequencies. As your baby develops, he will gradually be able to recognize and respond to higher sound frequencies. Over the next three weeks, your baby's responsiveness to sounds will gradually increase. At first the responses are slow and sluggish, but by 25 weeks he will react to a range of sounds by moving around.

In addition to being responsible for your baby's hearing, the inner ear also controls his balance. Small fibers within three semicircular canals of the inner ear are able to sense acceleration in any direction, providing the sense of motion and balance. Floating in the amniotic fluid is similar to weightlessness and, although your baby is very active, he has no sense yet of moving up and down.

As A Matter Of Fact

Men are faster than women at changing diapers.

Research shows that the average time a woman takes is 2 minutes and 5 seconds, whereas the average man takes 1 minute and 36 seconds! So that's a job for him, then.

Raring to go

If, like many pregnant women at this stage, you feel incredibly energized, make the most of it. Here are some ways to direct that energy:

  • Get some exercise, including doing some gardening .
  • Organize your paperwork and get your finances in order.
  • Clear out any clothes that you know you won't wear again.
  • Learn to knit or, if you already can, get going on some baby clothes.
  • Make time to see all the friends you haven't been in touch with for a while-you may not feel up to socializing in later months.

    However good you're feeling, always make time to relax and recharge your batteries.

pregnant woman gardening

Gardening is great exercise and will also ensure you get some fresh air. Make sure you wear gloves because the soil may contain toxoplasmosis parasites.

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