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23 WEEKS, 6 DAYS

113 days to go...

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Your baby today

Your baby is now making regular deep breathing movements. These have been present for some weeks, but not in a sustained and coordinated fashion. These breathing movements are critical for the development and expansion of your baby's lungs.

Although the lungs are the last of your baby's organs to be fully functional, they are undergoing rapid development now.

At this stage, your baby's lungs are starting to mature, as the barrier between the bloodstream and what will become air-containing sacs gradually starts to thin. The thinner this barrier, the more easily oxygen and carbon dioxide will transfer into and out of the baby's bloodstream.

The lungs remain filled with fluid during your pregnancy and when your baby practices breathing, the fluid moves out of her lungs into the amniotic fluid.

At 23 weeks, cells begin to line the smallest branches within the lung and start to produce surfactant, a substance that greatly assists lung function. This substance enables the smallest air sacs to remain open when the newborn baby breathes in and out so that gas transfer can continually take place. Without it, the tiny air sacs would collapse after each breath and it would take much more effort to move air in and out of the lungs. The cells that produce surfactant are not, however, fully functional yet.

Ask A... Doctor

Is it true that playing music to my unborn baby will enhance her development?

Some research into this claim finds that playing music to an unborn baby will lead to a shorter labor and easier birth, and to the newborn baby crying less, being more relaxed, and, overall, being in better health. At the moment, there doesn't seem to be any significant research to suggest that babies who listen to music in the uterus are more intelligent, or develop at a greater speed.

The jury is still out on these findings, but there is anecdotal evidence from pregnant women that their babies move to the rhythm of music. It makes sense that as you relax to gentle music or are invigorated by livelier music, your baby will respond in kind. Many moms say that music played frequently during pregnancy seems to be familiar to their newborns, and soothes them.

So whether your baby is simply experiencing the benefits of your happy state as you listen, or responding to the rhythm, playing music is a good idea.

There's no harm in introducing music to your baby at this early stage. If the music helps you to relax, it will benefit you and your baby.

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