Pregnancy Week 20

July 8, 2009

How Big Is Your Baby?

The changes in your baby from week to week are nothing short of remarkable. At pregnancy week 20, baby is now between 5.5 and 6.5 inches long and weighs around nine ounces. He is practicing his breathing techniques and is swallowing regularly. He is growing and filling out and his head is becoming more proportional to his body.

Last week he was producing vernix, a white sticky protective covering on his skin and now we can observe that his skin is becoming more complex, forming different layers. The surface of his skin, the epidermis, now has four layers that have ridges. Additional layers will form in his palms and feet and his own personal "print" will be established in this skin.

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Your Due Date

Until now, it has likely felt that exterior growth has been slow, as you've waited for your baby bump to appear. From this point forward, things will be changing constantly as growth becomes more regular. You are now midway in your pregnancy. A typical pregnancy lasts anywhere from 37 to 42 weeks, with some women delivering earlier and some shortly after that period. There are various factors affecting delivery date, including the accuracy of your due date, your baby's health, and your own genetics.

Tracking Baby's Growth

There are several ways your doctor can track your baby's growth from week 20 onward. One common method is by measuring fundal height with a tape measure. The fundus is the top of the uterus and fundal height is determined by measuring from the pubic symphysis to the top of the uterus. Until 32 weeks, this method of measurement proves to be quite accurate. After 32 weeks, it becomes a bit ambiguous and serial ultrasounds are a more accurate measure during the late period of pregnancy.

If your measurements are much larger than expected for your pregnancy week, twins may be suspected or, if the baby is growing larger than what is considered normal for your gestational age, there may be a miscalculation in due date. Ultrasound exams help to clear up the questions. Some women are slightly smaller than expected for their gestational age, and that is a normal occurrence. A miscalculation in due date may be the cause. Small size may also be the result of intrauterine-growth restriction (IUGR) and an ultrasound will bring this information to the forefront.

Intrauerine-Growth Restriction

IUGR is a condition that results in significantly smaller birth weight due to fetal growth restrictions in the uterus. Typically, a normal weight for a baby is around seven pounds, smaller if the birth is premature. When growth is not proportionate to gestation, IUGR may be the reason and your doctor will want to perform tests to help determine the cause and treatment. Newborns diagnosed with IUGR often struggle with more difficulties and medical issues than normal births. However, by taking good care of your own health and having proper prenatal care during pregnancy, IUGR and subsequent problems can be averted.

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