23 Weeks

Turn on the radio and sway to the music. With her sense of movement well developed by now, your baby can feel you dance. And now that she’s more than 11 inches long and weighs just over a pound (about as much as a large mango), you may be able to see her squirm underneath your clothes.

How your baby’s growing:

Blood vessels in her lungs are developing to prepare for breathing, and the sounds that your baby’s increasingly keen ears pick up are preparing her for entry into the outside world. Loud noises that become familiar now – such as your dog barking or the roar of the vacuum cleaner – probably won’t faze her when she hears them outside the womb.

How your life’s changing:

You may notice that your ankles and feet start to swell a bit in the coming weeks or months, especially at the end of the day or during the heat of summer. Sluggish circulation in your legs – coupled with changes in your blood chemistry that may cause some water retention – may result in swelling, also known as edema. Your body will get rid of the extra fluid after you have your baby, which is why you’ll pee frequently and sweat a lot for a few days after delivery. In the meantime, lie on your left side or put your feet up when you can, stretch out your legs when you sit, and avoid sitting – or standing – in one place for long periods.

Also, try to exercise regularly to increase circulation, and wear support stockings (put them on first thing in the morning) and roomy, comfortable shoes. You may be tempted to skimp on liquids to combat swelling, but you need to drink plenty of water because staying hydrated actually helps prevent fluid retention. While a certain amount of edema in your lower extremities is normal during pregnancy, excessive swelling may be a sign of a serious condition called preeclampsia. Be sure to call your midwife or doctor if you have severe or sudden swelling of your feet or ankles, more than slight swelling of your hands, swelling in your face, or puffiness around your eyes.

Decision Guide: Should you bank your baby’s cord blood?

Cord blood banking is a procedure in which the blood left in your baby’s umbilical cord and placenta after birth is collected, frozen, and stored for future medical use. Cord blood is prized because it’s a rich source of stem cells – the building blocks of the blood and immune system. Stem cells have the ability to differentiate into other tissues, and cord blood can be used to treat a host of diseases, including leukemia and sickle cell anemia. Only you can decide whether banking your baby’s cord blood is right for your family.

Factors to consider:

  • Cord blood research is showing promising preliminary results.
    Studies are under way around the world, and many researchers are optimistic about the future. For instance, cord blood researchers believe that one day some adult cancer patients may benefit from their own cord blood stem cells that were harvested at birth. The hope is that stem cells could be used to treat cancers that aren’t genetically based.

In light of recent animal experiments, many researchers also believe that cord blood will eventually be used to treat diabetes, spinal cord injuries, heart failure, stroke, and serious neurological diseases.

However, many experts caution parents to take such studies (especially those conducted on animals) with a grain of salt, because it’s difficult to predict when, if ever, these treatments will become available for humans.

The March of Dimes, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the health of babies, sums it up this way: “The use of umbilical cord blood stem cells for transplantation treatment holds exciting promise, but this area of medical science is still largely investigational.”

  • It’s expensive.
    Private cord blood banks usually charge an enrollment and collection fee of about $2,000 or so, plus annual storage fees around $125.
  • Chances are that your baby cannot be treated with his own cord blood.
    If your child has or develops an illness with a genetic basis – which is often the case with conditions that could benefit from a cord blood transplant – his cord blood contains the genetic instructions for that disease, so it’s not a suitable treatment. Most banked cord blood is currently used to treat siblings.
  • You probably have a better chance of finding a stem cell match in the public cord blood system than in your own family.
    The chance of an exact tissue match between two siblings is only about 25 percent, according to Dennis Confer, chief medical officer for the National Marrow Donor Program, a nonprofit organization that maintains the largest public listing of umbilical cord blood units available for transplantation in the United States. In contrast, the chance of finding a cord blood match in the nation’s public banks is 75 percent, he says.
  • Doctors aren’t ready to universally recommend banking your baby’s cord blood.
    The American Academy of Pediatrics and some other experts have expressed reservations about private cord blood banking for the general public because they believe the chances a family will ever need the blood are slim and because they support a public cord blood donation system (similar to blood banks). However, cord blood banking is encouraged when there’s an immediate family member who’s already been diagnosed with a condition that may be treated with cord blood transplantation. (In this situation, you may be eligible for a special cord blood banking program called “The Sibling Connection,” in which your baby’s cord blood will be collected, processed, and stored for five years at no cost to you. Call 866-861-8435 for more information.)
  • If your child belongs to a minority group, private storage may be of more value to you.
    According to July 2003 figures, a Caucasian patient has an 88 percent chance of finding a matching donor through the registry of the National Marrow Donor Program, while an African American’s chances were significantly lower at 58 percent.
This Week’s Activity:

Write a letter to your baby. You and your child will treasure this gift for years to come. Go with your heart and follow your inspiration. If you need help getting started:

  • Describe your feelings toward your baby and what it’s like to know she’s growing inside you.
  • Imagine a perfect day with your baby and what you’ll do together.
  • Write down your hopes, dreams, and wishes for your baby.
  • Think about what being a mother means to you and your definition of what makes a good mother.

If writing isn’t your style, put together a collage or a memory box of pregnancy mementos, says Diane Sanford, a clinical psychologist whose focus is on helping women make the transition to motherhood.

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