Your baby now weighs about 2 1/2 pounds (like a butternut squash) and is a tad over 15 inches long from head to heel. His muscles and lungs are continuing to mature, and his head is growing bigger to make room for his developing brain.
How your baby’s growing:
To meet his increasing nutritional demands, you’ll need plenty of protein, vitamins C, folic acid, and iron. And because his bones are soaking up lots of calcium, be sure to drink your milk (or find another good source of calcium, such as cheese, yogurt, or enriched orange juice). This trimester, about 250 milligrams of calcium are deposited in your baby’s hardening skeleton each day.
How your life’s changing:
Your baby’s very active now. Your practitioner may ask you to spend some time each day counting kicks and will give you specific instructions on how to do this. Let her know if you ever notice a decrease in activity. You may need a nonstress test or biophysical profile to check on your baby’s condition.
Some old friends – heartburn and constipation – may take center stage now. The pregnancy hormone progesterone relaxes smooth muscle tissue throughout your body, including your gastrointestinal tract. This relaxation, coupled with the crowding in your abdomen, slows digestion, which in turn can cause gas and heartburn – especially after a big meal – and contribute to constipation as well.
Your growing uterus may also be contributing to hemorrhoids. These swollen blood vessels in your rectal area are common during pregnancy and usually clear up in the weeks after giving birth. If they’re itchy or painful, try soaking in a sitz bath or applying cold compresses medicated with witch hazel to the affected area. Also avoid sitting or standing for long stretches. Talk with your practitioner before using any over-the counter remedies during pregnancy, and let her know if you have any rectal bleeding. To prevent constipation, eat a high-fiber diet, drink plenty of water, and get some regular exercise.
Some women get something called “supine hypotensive syndrome” during pregnancy, where laying flat on your back causes a change in heart rate and blood pressure that makes you feel dizzy until you change position. You might note that you feel lightheaded if you stand up too quickly, too. To avoid “the spins” lie on your side rather than your back, and move slowly as you go from lying down to sitting and then standing.
3 Questions About Maternity leave
Q1. Does my employer have to let me take maternity leave?
Not necessarily. Many employers are required by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to allow their full-time employees (both men and women) 12 weeks of unpaid family leave after the birth or adoption of a child. But there are exceptions: Some part-time workers, newer employees, and employees of companies with fewer than 50 workers aren’t covered by the FMLA. But even if you’re not eligible for leave under the FMLA, you may be eligible under your state’s provisions. To find out, check with your state’s department of labor.
Actual paid “maternity leave” is unusual in the United States. Some companies offer new parents paid time off, up to six weeks in some cases. But most likely, you’ll use a combination of short-term disability (STD), sick leave, vacation, personal days, and unpaid family leave to cobble together your maternity leave.
Q2. How do I decide when to start my leave?
There’s no “right time” to stop working. Some women start their leave in the seventh or eighth month while others work right up until delivery. You’ll need to monitor your pregnancy to determine the right time to start maternity leave. If your practitioner puts you on bed rest, or complications develop that require you to be out of work before you give birth, you’ll most likely be put on short-term disability if your state or company offers it.
Once your maternity leave is up, don’t be surprised if it’s hard to leave your baby and go back to work. Seventy-eight percent of new moms in a BabyCenter poll said they struggled with the decision to return to work, while only 22 percent said they were ready to go back.
Q3. What’s the best way to discuss these issues with my boss?
First, do your homework. Review your employee handbook, or contact a human resources representative who can inform you of your employer’s formal policies regarding pregnancy and maternity leave. You may also want to question your co-workers who have already traveled this path.
Then, make a plan. Figure out how much time you think you’ll want to take. If you’re considering unpaid leave, think about how much time without a paycheck you can reasonably afford. Consider whether you’ll want to take maternity leave in one block of time or whether you’d rather split it up over the year. Under the FMLA, you can use your 12 weeks anyway you want – all at once, a week at a time, some now, some later, etc. When making these decisions, consider your partner’s schedule and benefits too. Some companies offer paid paternity leave, and your partner may qualify for leave under the FMLA as well.
To increase your chances of getting what you want, plan to offer your boss solutions rather than problems by having some ideas for how your work can be handled while you’re away.
If you’re not sure where to start, read about how seven new moms negotiated their maternity leaves and transitioned back to work. Seeing how other women made it work can be inspiring.
This Week’s Activity:
Run some vital errands now. Here are some things you’ll need in the first few weeks when it’s almost impossible to go shopping:
- Diapers and wipes.
- Baby care items such as nail clippers, a thermometer, a bulb syringe, and a pacifier.
- Baby-friendly laundry detergent.
- Sanitary pads for you. (You’ll bleed for a few weeks after delivery.)
- Thank-you cards and stamps.
- Paper towels and paper plates for easy cleanup after meals.