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Week #16 of Pregnancy

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Your Pregnancy: Week 16

By Erin Horner, edHelperBaby

Your Baby
           As you picture your baby and the amazing growth that she is experiencing this week, imagine a little one who is now strong enough to hold her head up more erect.  Her eyes have now moved closer to the front of her head and her ears are now closer to their final position as well.  Stronger facial muscles now make it possible to squint with those sweet little eyes, as well as open her mouth and frown.  Her bones now contain enough calcium that they would show up on an x-ray taken at this stage of development.  Even though she only weighs 3 1/2 ounces and is only 4 1/2 inches long, your little one's strong heart is pumping 25 quarts of blood every day.  This amount will increase every day as your baby continues to grow and develop throughout the rest of your pregnancy.


Your Body
           Sometime between now and your 18th week of pregnancy, your physician may offer to perform an AFP test to check on your baby's development.  This blood test will check your alpha-fetoprotien (AFP) levels.  Abnormally high levels of AFP, the protein coming from your little one's urine, may indicate that your baby has a central nervous system or spinal cord disorder such as spina bifida.

       Another test available during this next month is the Triple Screen Test.  The Triple Screen Test measures not only the level of AFP in your blood, but also the level of hCG and estriol, a form of estrogen produced by the placenta.  The analysis of these three chemicals provides women with a personalized assessment of their baby's risk of having Down's Syndrome.

       While these tests are deemed harmless, in that there is no risk to your developing baby since they are performed just like a regular blood test, their tendency to produce false positive results may be anything but "harmless."  The AFP test, in particular can be very imprecise.  Out of every thousand women tested, fifty will receive an abnormal result.  Out of those fifty only one or two will actually have a baby affected by one of these disorders.  Therefore, women whose levels are determined to be "abnormal" are often encouraged to have an ultrasound and amniocentesis to help clarify the results of the previous test.  An amniocentesis brings with it some risks.  During an amniocentesis, a needle is inserted through the abdomen and into the amniotic sac.  A small amount of amniotic fluid is then withdrawn so that it can be screened for chromosomal abnormalities.  Risks from this procedure, while small, may include injury to your baby, umbilical cord or placenta, infection, or premature labor or miscarriage.  While the use of an ultrasound during an amniocentesis helps to guide the needle placement, nothing can completely eliminate these risk factors.

       For these reasons, as well as others, many women opt to not have these blood tests run at all during this stage of their pregnancy.  Some women feel that the emotional trauma experienced when receiving a false positive test result would be too overwhelming.  Others believe that the little one growing within them is the perfect baby for their family, no matter what type of health problems he or she may have.  They would, therefore, not terminate their pregnancies even if something was "wrong," so there is no reason to find out about potential disorders now.  Some pregnant women, however, feel that while they would not choose to terminate their pregnancy due to their baby having a chromosomal or spinal cord abnormality, they still would like to know about their baby's condition now so that they can begin the process of not only educating themselves about their baby's health condition, but also mentally preparing themselves for the situations they may soon experience after their little one arrives.

       The decision to have these tests run is ultimately up to you and your partner.  Spend some time together and talk it over, and if you decide you are interested in the screenings, speak with your health care provider.


  You're Wondering. . .
           My neighbor offered to give me a bunch of her old baby bottles to use once my little one is born.  Another friend, however, said that I shouldn't use them because they are plastic.  Are plastic bottles dangerous for babies?

       It's not that all plastic bottles are dangerous for babies, rather, certain types of plastic that contain BPA, a synthetic form of estrogen that can seep into liquids and food.  Approximately 95% of plastic baby bottles are made using this material and recent studies in animals have found that ingestion of BPA may raise the risk for certain types of cancers, cause early puberty for girls, and alter brain development.  Several states are currently introducing legislation to limit or ban BPA and many baby stores and larger chain drugstores have begun to phase out their inventory of bottles containing this type of plastic.  While your neighbor's gesture was very kind, if may be safer for your baby if you use glass bottles or bottles made of BPA-free plastics.  If you choose to use standard bottles for your little one, you can reduce the risk of her ingesting this chemical by not placing the bottles in the microwave, dishwasher, or bottle sterilizer, as the heat may trigger the release of the BPA.


  Your "To-Do" List
           On your to-do list this week jot down "eat more...often!"  New research has found that mothers who eat five smaller meals throughout the day provide better nutrition to their babies than those mothers who eat the same number of calories in three larger meals.  The researchers believe that by consuming five smaller meals, your baby is supplied with constant nutrients throughout the day as opposed to three larger meals where the levels of available nutrients for your little one rise and fall.  Eating more frequently is also beneficial for you too, as it can help to alleviate nausea, heartburn, indigestion and can increase your energy level.  So don't eat more this week, just more frequently!


Your Homework: Preparing For Parenthood
           One of the best ways to excel at something is to surround yourself with like-minded people who can help you along the way.  This week, as you continue to prepare yourself for parenthood, look for a support group that you alone or you and your partner can join.  If you are involved in a religious organization, look to see if they offer a weekly gathering for new moms.  If you are planning to nurse, check out the La Leche League and familiarize yourself with the services and support groups that they provide.  Look at the resources offered in your community.  Many towns and cities offer organized playgroups or "outdoor classrooms" which meet at different child-friendly locations or parks each week.  You will find that the other parents that participate in these organizations will not only be able to help you adjust to and enjoy parenthood, but may become great friends as well.


  My Experience
           When my daughter was just a few months old I joined an international organization called MOPS.  No, it wasn't for women who like to clean.  Had that been a requirement I would have been kicked out before the year's first meeting had ever begun!  MOPS is a group dedicated to encouraging Mothers Of Pre-Schoolers.  The group is open to any woman who is pregnant or anyone with a child who is younger than six years old.  My particular chapter met twice a month and truly became the highlight of my week.  Each meeting included childcare (yay!), a yummy breakfast that could be eaten without someone on my lap, an inspirational speaker and oftentimes a craft.  One of the highlights of each Wednesday morning meeting was the opportunity to sit around a table full of other moms and learn from their wisdom as well as their mistakes.  While we were all mothers, we were all at different stages of our motherhood journey and could therefore each offer unique perspectives on situations that the others were facing.  I left each meeting encouraged that I was being the best mom that I could be and thankful for a few hours spent with some wonderful women who were ready to support me every step of the way.


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