At 23 weeks pregnant, your mind is fuzzy (this is your brain…this is your brain on progesterone) and your toes (well, your feet, at least) are growing.
The palms of your hands and soles of your feet might be red and you might be more prone to heat rash and skin tags. Stretch marks are blooming in vibrant shades of pink and purple on pretty much every available surface of skin and…wait! What’s that funky dark line running down the center of your belly? Never fear! Heidi Murkoff,(author of the What Too Expect book series) walks you through all of these perfectly normal happenings and leads you through your baby’s milestones this week.
At around 8 inches long and a smidge over a pound, your little pup is actually looking a bit like a Shar-Pei – very cute, but still very wrinkly. Poised to put on pounds, baby’s birthday suit has outpaced the fat that’ll start to accumulate very soon. As a result, saggy skin hangs loosely from those little limbs like long johns that are two sizes too big.
Your baby’s skin is also cellophane thin and has taken on a reddish cast, thanks to the vivid network of blood vessels developing underneath. Right now, it’s a look only a mother or father could love. Luckily, a tough protective protein called keratin is being added to your baby’s skin cells, and that’ll thicken his skin as he continues to gestate in your cozy uterus. Don’t worry, his skin will be soft, sweet, and suitable for stroking by the time he checks out of Motel Mommy and checks into your arms.
But before he’s ready to face the world outside, he’s going to have to be able to breath in it. And for that important function to function, his lungs will have some maturing to do. Right now, the maturation process is beginning, though it’ll be a while before those tiny lungs will be ready for the breathing big time. Small capillaries are forming in the lungs and specialized lung cells called pneumocytes are developing. These all-important cells will produce surfactant down the road, the crucial substance that’ll help baby’s lungs expand after birth. But more about that later.
In the meantime, take a look at that amazing placenta, your baby’s recently completed life support system. The pancake-shaped placenta, attached to your uterine wall and connected to your growing baby by the umbilical cord, acts as a sophisticated trading post and filtering system, transferring oxygen and nutrients to your fetus, and removing waste products.
It also protects your baby, serving as a sort of fetal security checkpoint by preventing harmful substances and infections from passing from your system into your baby’s. And as if that’s not enough to dazzle you, the placenta is also hard at work producing hormones – estrogen and progesterone – that keep your pregnancy going strong. Pretty impressive for a network of blood vessels!