Your baby is now close to 6 inches from crown to rump, but only weighs about 7 ounces. She still has a lot of growing ahead of her: by the time she is born, her weight will have increased 15 times over.
But even though she is still small, your baby is growing more complex with each passing week. Her digestive system is becoming increasingly capable: it is now producing gastric juices, which aid in the absorption of amniotic fluid. At this stage of development, nipples appear (on both girls and boys), and reproductive organs are developed and in place for both sexes.
Your baby's features are continuing to become more refined and well proportioned. Vernix caseosa, a waxy substance secreted by glands in the skin, is increasingly abundant, providing a protective coating for the baby's delicate epidermis. As nerve cells become increasingly efficient, your baby continues to perform coordinated movements such as sucking her thumb.
You are about halfway through your pregnancy, so now is a good time to consider what you still need to do before the baby arrives. This doesn't mean you should have a nursery prepared or all the baby clothes in order. In fact, only a few items are absolutely essential to have on hand when the baby arrives: an infant car seat, diapers, some infant clothes, and some type of baby carrier. New babies aren't fussy about where they sleep or how stylish they are.
But it is important to begin thinking about how you are going to manage life with a new baby, to make sure that you will have the support that you will need in the weeks and months after you give birth.
No one can fully prepare for the changes that accompany a new baby. Becoming a parent is one of life's peak experiences -- but also one of its most challenging. It will be wonderful --- and it will likely rock you to your very bones. It is important to let yourself experience this transition as fully as you can, to celebrate and savor it, and to give yourself time and space to get to know your baby -- and vice versa.
If possible, your partner should take -- at minimum -- a few weeks off work after the baby comes, so you can enjoy this experience together. You will never forget those early days of your new baby's life. You and your partner are likely to be emotional and fragile, exhausted and exhilarated, excited and apprehensive, all at once. It will be wonderful for your family if the three of you can spend those early days together --- without any deadlines or stress. Post partum exhaustion and sleep-deprivation are easier to endure -- and bounce back from -- if you and your partner can take naps with the baby, spend lazy days in your pajamas, and laugh together over your shared state of clumsy new parenthood.
Think now about ways you can make life easier for yourself and your partner in those early postpartum weeks. If you have the time, prepare and freeze some meals before the baby comes, or stock up on convenience foods. Collect take-out menus from restaurants that will deliver healthy meals to your door. If friends give you a shower, add "a homemade meal after the baby comes," to your wish list.
If your partner has to go right back to work, or if you are a single mother, setting up a support network is all the more important. Join a new mother's group, and make arrangements with a parent, sibling, or close friend to come and stay with you as soon after the birth as possible. This person should understand that this isn't going to be a vacation: he or she should be prepared to do things like wash dishes, fold the laundry and go to the grocery store.
If you are a person who has trouble accepting favors, don't forget that you aren't going to be a new mother often -- perhaps ever -- again. Most of your close friends and relatives want to share the experience, and will feel more a part of things if they can lend a hand. If it really feels like too much to ask, you can develop a barter system. Offer to babysit or help with a few house projects before the baby comes, in exchange for some hours of post-pregnancy help.
If you have no friends or relatives who are available to pitch in, consider splurging on hired help for those early weeks, if you are able to financially. Find someone who can do light housekeeping, go to the store, or care for your baby while you nap or take a shower. Even if it is only a few hours a day, it will make a big difference.
Your Pregnancy Week by Week. Glade Curtis, OB/GYN and Judith Schuler, M.S. De Capo Press.
Watch Me Grow! Stuart Campbell, M.D. St. Martins Press.
American Academy of Family Physicians. Your Baby's Development. 2010. http://kidshealth.org/
The Pregnancy Book. William Sears, M.D., and Marcha Sears, R.N. Little, Brown and Company.
Parenting Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth. Paula Spencer. Ballantine Books.
American Academy of Family Physicians. Day Care: Choosing a Good Center. http://familydoctor.org/030.xml
National Womens Health Information Center. Child Care Provider Checklist. http://www.4woman.gov/Pregnancy/childcare-checklist.htm
California Child Care Resource and Referral Network. Tips on Finding Child Care that Works Best for Your Family. http://www.rrnetwork.org/rrnet/resources_and_links/1046988505.php