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34 WEEKS, 2 DAYS

40 days to go...

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ultrasound of human fetus at 34 weeks and 2 days

Your baby today

At the back of your baby's eye, nerve cells that identify either black and white or color are maturing. The cells that respond to color signals are the last to develop but will eventually process more than half of the information that the eyes receive.

Your baby is blinking and learning to focus, and his pupils will dilate in response to light filtering through the uterus.

Your baby's eyes first began to develop two weeks after conception and then all of the major eye structures are formed over the following four weeks. The eye, however, keeps growing during the pregnancy and the optic nerve continues to develop after birth.

The eyes have been opening since 26 weeks of pregnancy but, until now, eye movements have been poorly coordinated. Eye movements are first seen at 18 weeks but they are random and infrequent. Movements become more frequent from 26 weeks and now, in the final few weeks, movements settle into a cycle of rest alternating with rapid eye movements (REM).

Some light does get through into the uterus and your baby is now much more responsive to strong lights.

Getting out and about

In most cases, it's perfectly safe to drive in the months leading up to the end of your pregnancy. However, if you feel that you're not able to concentrate at the wheel, or driving makes you uncomfortable, then give it a pass. When driving, it's very important that you position your lap belt directly under your belly (see How to wear a seat belt), to ensure that there is no danger to your baby if you are involved in an accident.

Traveling by public transportation is fine, too, but make sure you take full advantage of your condition to pointedly request a seat. Being jolted around on a train or bus is not ideal-not because it will damage your baby, but because your center of gravity has changed and you are more likely to fall or experience embarrassment and discomfort. Long periods of standing can also cause your ankles and feet to swell.

If you're feeling uncomfortable or dizzy, get off the train or bus and sit down in a cooler environment, preferably with your feet up, for about 20 minutes. Always carry water with you when you're out.

Pregnant woman getting in car

Driving is still an option in late pregnancy, but you may find it uncomfortable to be in the car for long periods.

Ask A... Mom

I'm concerned my maternity leave substitute will do a better job than me. Are these fears normal?

Yes, completely normal. I remember being worried that the man filling in for me would outshine me. The amazing thing was that once my baby was born, anything work related was eclipsed by my new role. Far from losing skills, I think I became an efficient multitasker and when I returned to work, found the job easier than taking care of a baby.

Try not to worry. Not only do you have legal rights regarding the safety of your job (see Your Rights and Benefits), but you will have your chance to shine once again when your baby has settled into child care. In the meantime, enjoy your leave. It goes quickly, but also presents you with an opportunity to hone some important life skills.

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