Sitting tall. The appearance of body hair and possibly head hair was the big story last week. This week, thanks to strengthening muscles, your little one is working on lifting the head and neck from their curved position. Being able to straighten out a bit makes sitting up a possibility.
Action figure. Your fetus is also moving those arms and legs frequently. These workouts could even get a sweat going, since the sweat glands have already formed (of course, your uterus will keep things at just the right temperature). Sometime between now and 20 weeks, you may be able to feel movement for the first time. But don't worry if you can't sense anything yet. Your little one is still very small—about 4.5 to 4.75 inches long and just under 3 ounces—and the cushion of amniotic fluid can make it difficult to feel movement at this time.
The side effect. Most health care providers recommend that you sleep on your side during pregnancy. It's thought that lying on your back can increase pressure on the vena cava, the blood vessel that returns blood to your heart. Plus, sleeping on your back may make backaches worse, especially as you get bigger. And, of course, your growing belly makes it difficult to sleep on your stomach even if you wanted to. So it's worth your while to get used to sleeping on your side. Lying on the left is best since it increases your circulation, which can help minimize your chances of getting edema (swelling), varicose veins, and other complaints that arise from poor circulation. Many women find that a full-length body pillow makes side sleeping more comfortable. You can also try crossing your top leg over the bottom one to keep you on your side.
Spare on air. Do you find yourself huffing and puffing like the wolf in "The Three Little Pigs"? Pregnancy hormones cause fluid to collect in your lungs, making it harder for you to draw big breaths. Later in pregnancy, your growing uterus will compound the problem by placing pressure on your diaphragm and reducing the space in which your lungs can expand. Breathlessness won't harm you or your baby. But if your shortness of breath concerns you, talk to your doctor, midwife, or nurse practitioner.
Timely test. Now is the time to speak with your health care provider about the pros and cons of the AFP (alpha-fetoprotein) test, which screens for birth defects like Down's syndrome and spina bifida. This simple blood test must be performed between weeks 16 and 18.
From the experts. "The latest research shows that it's around this time—16 weeks—that your baby begins to hear and respond to sounds," says Suzanne Dixon, M.D., M.P.H. "In about two months, your baby will be able to respond to your voice!" To learn more from Dr. Dixon about your little one's hearing, click here.