Fetal development in pregnancy week 16:
Your baby is now about 4 ½ inches long and weighs about 51/2 ounces. Hard to believe when you consider that most women have gained somewhere between 5 and 10 pounds! Just remember, your weight gain includes a lot more than just the weight of the baby, including the placenta, amniotic fluid and a larger volume of blood.
Your baby now gets the hiccups, but since they have fluid instead of air in the trachea they don’t make any sound. They also like to play, by pulling and tugging and squeezing on the umbilical cord.
The baby’s legs are beginning to grow longer than the arms now and the movement of all of the baby’s limbs is becoming more coordinated. The eyes have reached their final destination on the head and are no longer on the sides of the face. The baby is urinating about every 40-45 minutes and Meconium – the first stool the baby produces is beginning to collect in the bowels.
Usually between 16 and 20 weeks you’ll begin to feel the baby moving about. At first the movement may seem like butterflies in your stomach or gas bubbles. Moms who have been pregnant before may recognize this movement sooner than first time Moms.
Most women report their favorite part of pregnancy is feeling their baby move inside them. By 16 weeks pregnant you might start feeling little fluttering in your stomach for the first time. This sensation may be gas, but in many cases this far along it is often your baby’s way of saying hello! Most babies are enjoying the vast amount of space they have to move around the uterus around 16 weeks pregnant, thus swim about vigorously. This can result in a variety of unusual sensations in your lower abdomen.
Between pregnancy week 16 and pregnancy week 18 you will undergo certain tests at your doctors office, including the alpha-fetoprotein test or AFP test. This is a test that measures the protein coming from fetal urine. This test can indicate if a potential problem may exist with your baby. A higher level of AFP for example may suggest that your baby is at an elevated risk for certain central nervous system or spinal cord problems. Some baby’s with an elevated AFP are more at risk for Down Syndrome. If you do have an elevated AFP don’t panic. It may be nothing. There are many false positives. In many cases however your doctor will recommend an amniocentesis or ultrasound to confirm whether or not a problem may exist.
An amniocentesis is a test that looks for chromosomal problems or genetic birth defects in babies. During this test a health care provider passes a thin need through the uterus to withdraw amniotic fluid for testing. There is some risk for miscarriage, leaking or complications from this test. You should talk with your doctor thoroughly before deciding whether you want this test as it is somewhat risky.
Have you been to a prenatal appointment recently? It might be nice to try to go again, it’s been about a month since you’ve first heard the baby’s heart beat. Think of it as a nice chance to sneak away for lunch together and to celebrate your baby-to-be.
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Pregnancy Health Tips
Genetic testing is more likely in women over age 35. In fact, at 16 weeks pregnant, your healthcare provider might recommend an amniocentesis if you are pregnant and over 35. More and more women are deciding to delay getting pregnant until they are at a stage in life where they are more settled in their personal and career lives. Many women feel that after the age of 35, they have reached a place where they have achieved some personal success and are now looking to work on starting a family.
The good news is that most women will have healthy babies after 35. However, if you are 35 or older, at 16 weeks pregnant you may be prone to more risks. Age affects fertility in a number of ways. Typically it will take a woman in her mid-30s or older longer to conceive than a woman in her 20s or early 30s.
Women who conceive after the age of 35 are more than twice as likely than younger women to develop high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, and even pre-eclampsia. These women are also more likely to have twins. In addition, the risk of chromosomal disorders generally increases as a woman ages. Down syndrome for example, is much more likely in women over 35. At the age of 30, a woman generally has a 1 in 1,000 chance of giving birth to a baby with Down syndrome. By age 35, the odds go up to 1 in 400, and by age 40 the odds go up again to 1 in 100.
Thus most physicians in conjunction with recommendations from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists will recommend genetic testing to diagnose or rule out any of these conditions.
Placental problems are also more likely in older women. The most common placental problem seen in women over the age of 35 is a condition called placenta previa, where the placenta covers part or the entire opening of the cervix. This condition can complicate delivery, resulting in severe bleeding, which can endanger mom or baby. Typically, this complication is prevented by delivery through cesarean section.
If you are over the age of 35, your healthcare provider will work closely with you to ensure the safety of you and your baby during your pregnancy. Some studies suggest that women who conceive their first child over the age of 35 are more likely to have preterm labor or deliver a baby that is low birth weight, which is defined as less than 5 ½ pounds.
Some women over the age of 35 might need fertility assistance to get pregnant, which can also increase the risk of multiple births. If you have been trying to get pregnant for more than 6 months and are over the age of 35, most providers will recommend a full work up to rule out any fertility problems.
Though the outcome seems grim, in reality most women over the age of 35 at 16 weeks pregnant will go on to have happy, safe and healthy pregnancies. There are several things you can do to improve your odds of delivering safely if you fall into the mid 30s to 40s age group. Consider the following tips for improving your pregnancy outcome:
- Make sure you receive early prenatal counseling and rule out any medical conditions that might cause complications during your pregnancy.
- Be sure to start taking a prenatal supplement with a minimum of 400 micrograms of folic acid before, during and after your pregnancy.
- Maintain a healthy weight throughout your pregnancy.
- Avoid tobacco and alcohol during pregnancy, which can increase the risks for certain birth defects.
- Avoid any over the counter medications unless your physician recommends them.
The health tips offered to women over the age of 35 are the same as the tips offered to younger parents, but it is important as an older mom at 16 weeks pregnant that you continue to maintain a healthy lifestyle in order to give your baby the best possible chance for a happy outcome.
You may begin to feel movement now. Another “sign” that there are multiples is the mom who describes fetal movement like an octopus, or “all over the place.” Your practitioner may begin to wonder if there is more than one if they can palpate more than 3 large parts (and several small ones!) in your uterus. If you’re pregnant with quadruplets or more you may be asked to stop working at this point.