What's going on inside and out now that you're 24 weeks pregnant and coming to the end of your second trimester. Find out why this week is a huge milestone for your baby, plus what else to expect this week from your pregnancy.
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What’s happening at 24 weeks?
Here are the key things you can expect from your pregnancy at this stage:
- If you went into labour now, your baby could survive with assistance.
- Your skin may feel itchy as it stretches.
- You may need to be tested for gestational diabetes.
- Time to address those pregnancy niggles.
How big is your baby?
Your baby's about as long as a large Toblerone this week, weighing around 600g and measuring about 30cm in length.
From 24 weeks, a pregnancy is considered 'viable'. This means that your baby could survive if you went into early labour . Of course, they'd need specialist care to help.
According to the charity Tommy's , the chance of survival for a baby born at 22 weeks is just 10%, but that shoots up to 60% by 24 weeks. With each week that passes, the chance increases; it's almost 90% by 27 weeks.
Hopefully, your baby will stay put for a few more months, as there's still lots of weight to gain and development to do. But if you start getting signs of premature labour , it's reassuring to know that your baby stands a good chance.
Development-wise, your baby's hearing is almost able to differentiate between different sounds like your heartbeat and voice.
Around now, the lungs start to develop so that they can take in air after the birth, rather than the amniotic fluid your baby has been inhaling until now.
Your little one's eyelashes, eyebrows and hair are all fully formed. Although the hair colour's still white, the pigment will start to develop soon.
What's going on with your body?
As you continue to expand, it's not uncommon to find stretch marks appearing on your boobs, hips and thighs as well as over your bump. Some mums-to-be find their bump gets itchy too, as the skin stretches.
Keeping the skin slathered in a gentle fragrance-free moisturiser can help you feel better. It's good to ditch your usual moisturiser and use a milder one in pregnancy for two reasons:
Firstly, your skin is more likely to be sensitive during pregnancy, so an unperfumed moisturiser minimises the chance of a reaction.
Secondly, once your baby is born, they'll love your natural scent. Using fragrance-free moisturiser, deodorant and hair products may help during the bonding process.
Changing hormones can also cause itchiness and skin conditions like eczema or PEP (polymorphic eruption of pregnancy). Luckily these should disappear once you have the baby.
If your itching is severe, it can be a sign of a liver condition called ICP (intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy) . Although quite rare, your GP can rule it out or confirm it with a blood test. Speak to your midwife of doctor if your itching is severe, particularly if it mainly affects your hands and feet.
You may find your teeth are particularly sensitive or your gums start bleeding around now, too. Don't delay in seeing your dentist. Appointments are free so there's no need to suffer with dental issues during your pregnancy .
What to expect this week: oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT)
Gestational diabetes (GD) affects around 15% of mums-to-be and tends to occur in the second half of pregnancy.
It happens when the body is unable to produce enough insulin to meet the demands of pregnancy. This creates high sugar levels in your blood, which can have serious implications for your baby and you if it's left untreated.
Gestational diabetes often has no symptoms, but at-risk groups are offered a screening test to check for it. You should be offered a screening test if you:
- are obese, with a body mass index of over 30 before getting pregnant
- have previously had a big baby who weighed at least 4.5kg (10lb) at birth
- have had gestational diabetes before, or if any of your parents or siblings have had it
- are of south Asian, Black, African-Caribbean or Middle Eastern origin
If you're not in these groups, your risk of gestational diabetes is low, and you probably won't be offered a screening test. But do let your midwife know if you find yourself feeling very thirsty and tired, with a dry mouth. Although thirst and tiredness are common in pregnancy, they can sometimes be symptoms of GD.
If you are in an at-risk group, you should be offered an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) , which will tell you if you have GD.
This is usually done when you're between 24 and 28 weeks pregnant. You'll usually have it done at your maternity day unit as an outpatient.
Here's what's involved:
- First you’ll have a blood test after fasting for around 14 hours.
- Then you’ll have to drink a concentrated glucose drink.
- After about two hours, your blood will be tested again to see how your body is dealing with the glucose.
If you do have GD, you'll be given a blood sugar monitor, and asked to monitor your blood sugar regularly. You'll be given advice on how to manage your diet, to minimise the health risks to yourself and your baby.
The good news is that in most cases, gestational diabetes can be controlled by diet and exercise. If not, you'll be offered medicine to stabilise your blood sugar, either tablets or injections.
Gestational diabetes usually goes away after the baby is born. You may be at a higher risk of developing diabetes again in a subsequent pregnancy, or type 2 diabetes in later life. But your doctor will work with you to help you minimise the risks.
What to do this week: tackle your pregnancy niggles
Pregnancy hormones, extra blood coursing through your veins, plus a growing baby that’s squishing your insides equals a growing list of annoying health niggles.
Here’s our lowdown on some of the most common symptoms pregnant women experience – plus how to sort them …
Sweating ... a lot!
Some mums are plagued by sweating (especially in the hot summer months ) thanks to the thyroid gland becoming more active. It’s not usually dangerous, but try to keep cool with a fan in your room, keeping a face spritz in your handbag, drinking plenty of water and running your wrists under the cold tap.
Around now lots of mums-to-be find their breasts leaking colostrum (the first nutrient-rich milk). Worse, they tend to leak if you hear a baby crying or you get all emotional. It’s worth getting yourself a supply of breast pads if you haven’t already – and wearing dark tops!
Pregnancy constipation is the plague of many a mum-to-be and is caused by pregnancy hormones slowing down your digestive process. Drink plenty of water, and step up your intake of fibrous fruit and veg, and wholemeal carbs.
This is characterised by tingling and/or pain in the hand and wrist caused by pressure on a major nerve in the hand – usually due to swelling from water retention. Try holding your hand up in a ‘high five’ and stretch your fingers as hard as possible for a few seconds, then relax them. Repeat 10 times. Then ball your hand into a tight first, then relax. Repeat 10 times.
Piles (haemorrhoids) are basically varicose veins in your bottom. Straining to go to the loo can put pressure on the veins, and you may notice itchy bumps around your anus and bright, red blood on the loo roll.
Piles can be treated easily with haemorrhoid creams to numb the pain and itching, so ask your midwife or GP.
In fact, if there's any kind of niggling pain or any other symptom that concerns you, it's always best to bring it up with your midwife. You don't have to wait until your next appointment, either.
Your midwife should have given you a number to call if you have any concerns. You may feel awkward about using it, but remember that's exactly what your midwife is there for! Many common pregnancy symptoms and side-effects have simple remedies that can help you feel better.
Your 24 week to-do list:
1 Book a (free) dentist appointment if you have any dental-related niggles.
2 Slather your bump with a nourishing, unfragranced moisturiser to keep the skin supple and non-itchy.
3 Still not sure on a name for your baby? Find inspiration here .
4 Check when and where next week's 25-week antenatal appointment is and take your birth plan along to discuss. Don't forget your antenatal notes, too! (If you've had a baby before, your next appointment may not be till 28 weeks, though.)
5 If you're an employee and haven't told your boss yet, now is the time to do so. You must tell tell your employer about your pregnancy at least 15 weeks before the beginning of the week the baby is due – in other words, around now.
What to watch this week...
Get expert tips on what to expect at 24 weeks pregnant from our midwife.
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