Welcome to Week 24! You’ve been pregnant now for about six months, and a lot has happened—even if you can’t see all of it. Your little baby now has fully grown eyelashes and eyebrows, and even if his or her hair is still likely white because there’s no pigment, your baby might already have a full head of wispy hair!
You likely don’t need us to tell you this, but your uterus is really growing fast now. At 24 weeks, your uterus has migrated so the top is well above your belly button—and your belly button might have already inverted, making your “innie” an “outie.” A typical uterus at this stage is about the size of a soccer ball.
While you can expect that your symptoms won’t be changing much at this point, it’s not uncommon for moms-to-be to start worrying as the pregnancy goes on. They worry about all the things that could happen and all the ways life is about to change. Moms worry about scary things they’ve read, about going into labor early, about going into labor at all, whether the baby will be healthy, and if everything will be ready.
It’s natural to have some anxiety—this is a major life event—but for some moms, natural anxiety can grow into anxiety and/or depression. In fact, it’s estimated that up to 20 percent of pregnant women experience some type of depression, ranging from mild episodes to more serious conditions. The risk of depression among pregnant women is greater in women who have previously been diagnosed with depression. Symptoms of depression often overlap with normal symptoms of pregnancy but can include:
- Sadness that feels overwhelming and lasts for days
- Serious sleep disturbances, including inability to fall asleep or sleeping all the time
- Loss of interest in food
- Increased self-injurious behavior, including consuming alcohol and drugs
- Suicidal thoughts
If any of these symptoms sound familiar, you should talk to your healthcare provider immediately. The good news is that depression and anxiety can be treated while you’re pregnant, usually via some combination of therapy and medication if deemed necessary. If you were on antidepressants before becoming pregnant, you shouldn’t stop taking them just because you’re pregnant, as many are perfectly safe in pregnancy. Other non-drug treatments have also been shown to help, including a healthy diet, massage, and exercise.
The most important message, however, is to reach out if you’re feeling overwhelmed and depressed.
Guess what? By 24 weeks, your baby’s facial features are essentially fully formed. Everything is in the right place and the right proportions. His or her eyes are still fused shut, but if you’re lucky enough to get a good ultrasound image, you can finally see what your baby will look like on the Big Day.
That said, though, your baby is still much smaller and leaner than a full-term baby. At 24 weeks, your baby’s fetal age is 22 weeks. He or she is likely between about 8 and 11 inches in length and weighs almost 20 ounces, or about 1.3 pounds. While most of the major development is done, your baby’s lungs still have a ways to go. They are developing the bronchial tree of passages for air, as well as the slippery substance called surfactant that will lubricate the lungs after birth. At Week 24, it is very, very early and less than ideal, but it is possible for babies to survive a pre-term birth at this point—but his or her underdeveloped lungs would be a medical issue.
For most babies, though, these weeks are all about packing on the fat. Your baby is gaining as much as 3–4 ounces a week now. As your baby grows and his or her organ system mature, the nature of amniotic fluid in your uterus is also changing. Early on, amniotic fluid resembles blood in its composition, minus the red blood cells. As the pregnancy goes on, and your baby swallows and excretes amniotic fluid, the amniotic fluid begins to include waste products including dead skin cells, laguno, and vernix that has shed from your baby’s skin.
“While it’s true that babies this far along can possibly survive with the appropriate intensive care, many babies born at this age have permanent health issues.”
Reviewed by Dr. Jen Lincoln, November 2018