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Welcome to your Second Trimester (part 42) - Coping with leg cramps

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You are 23 Weeks and 2 Days 117 days to go…

With a layer of fat and a tough layer of cells, your baby’s skin is now becoming more resilient.

Your baby today

You will probably be aware of your baby’s movements by now: the number of movements and their nature will vary during the day and night and you may notice that they start to form into a particular pattern or respond to your own activity.

Your baby’s skin is continuing to develop and has now started to “keratinize.” Keratin is the substance that transforms the skin’s outer layer into a protective layer of dead cells. Hair and nails also form from keratin.

The outer keratinized layer of skin cells, plus a layer of fat laid down between the skin cells, gives the skin a waterproof covering. This process of keratinization reduces the amount of water your baby loses into the amniotic fluid. Each new skin cell, made in the deepest part of the skin, matures as it gradually moves up toward the surface and, now keratinized, becomes part of the outer protective layer before it is eventually shed. The cycle takes approximately 30 days.

The thickest layers of keratinized cells are on the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet. The keratinizing process has only just begun. Since the fat layer is very thin at this stage, your baby’s skin will still appear translucent, but less so than it did in earlier weeks. At this stage of pregnancy, your baby still has plenty of room to maneuver inside the uterus, and although you’re likely to be feeling lots of movements by now this will only be a fraction of the total. This is because the only movements you’ll feel are those that cause your baby to kick or bump into the wall of your uterus. You will be unaware of many of the finer movements that are performed close to the baby’s body since they won’t make any contact with your uterus.

Coping with leg cramps

Getting painful spasms in the leg muscles is common in pregnancy, particularly at night. You may find that you wake up due to the sudden and severe localized pain in your legs or feet. This is thought to be due to the pressure of the uterus on the pelvic nerves.

Some experts believe that cramps during pregnancy may be caused by a lack of calcium or salt or an excess of phosphorus, but these theories are as yet unproven.

When you get a spasm, relieve it by flexing your foot or leg (see image), and gently massaging the affected area. The cramp should resolve itself once you are out of bed and using the muscle. However, if the pain doesn’t recede and there is any reddening or swelling in the leg, you should seek medical advice immediately to eliminate the possibility of a clot , since this can be dangerous.

To reduce the incidence of cramps or its severity, drink lots of water to prevent dehydration and regularly do leg stretches (see image) and ankle exercises, circling your heel and wiggling your toes.

Getting gentle exercise, such as walking or swimming, can also help, as can regularly massaging the calf muscle to improve circulation.

Gently flex your foot to relieve cramps in the calf muscle. Alternatively, do a calf stretch.

Your baby’s bones are hardening and her arms and legs are beginning to flesh out. She brings her hands to her face often. Her skin is starting to develop a protective outer covering of vernix.

You are 23 Weeks and 3 Days 116 days to go…

Are you feeling hot? Being pregnant can sometimes feel as though you have your own personal radiator strapped to you.

Your baby today

Ultrasound uses sound waves of a very high frequency, well beyond the audible range of the human ear, so your baby’s hearing will be completely unaffected by the sound waves transmitted during these scans that check her growth and development.

You may find that you’re much hotter and sweating more than normal during pregnancy. This is because you’re carrying more weight than usual and you have more blood pumping around your body.

If you’re pregnant during the summer, this can be difficult to bear, so find ways to stay cool . If you’re pregnant in the winter, you may find yourself walking down the street in a light sweater while other people are all bundled up in coats and scarves. You might get into debates with your partner if he wants the heat on and you want the windows open!

Make sure you drink enough fluid throughout the day. You might find that the increased sweat causes a rash in the creases under your breasts or in your groin, so wash frequently and make sure that you dry these areas well.

Hot flashes can be worse at night, so pack away your pajamas for a few months and get naked.

It’s common to dream that you give birth to an older baby, who is born walking and talking!

This is thought to reflect a mother-to-be’s insecurities about caring for a tiny, helpless baby. The older the baby, the more self-sufficient she appears.

… Doctor
Q: I keep having really strange and vivid dreams. Is this normal in pregnancy?
A: Yes, when you’re pregnant, it’s common to dream more and to remember your dreams. Experts attribute the vividness of these dreams to all the emotional and physical changes a pregnant woman is going through.

The vivid dreams may be a way for your unconscious to deal with all the hopes and fears you may have about your unborn baby and impending motherhood.

The increase is also believed to be due to hormonal changes: increased levels of estrogen are thought to cause longer periods of REM (rapid eye movement) sleep—the phase of sleep in which we are most likely to dream.

If your dreams are disturbing, try writing them down to get them off your mind.

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