Woman holding flowers, showing part of her baby bump

Pregnancy WEEKS

Pregnancy Week 22

An almost fully formed baby

By the end of the fifth month, your bundle of joy is as good as fully developed. Read on to find out what is still missing when you are 22 weeks pregnant, why your legs may be cramping more frequently and what you can do to avoid fluid retention in the legs.

What's going on inside you at 22 weeks pregnant?

The size of the foetus is around 27 cm (crown - heel) and it weighs approx. 350-400 grams.
Your little one actually now needs to grow even more, develop a thick layer of fat and some colouring in some areas – otherwise, everything is complete. The irises in the eyes, eyelashes and hair still have no colour and the skin is a little translucent. Otherwise, everything else looks pretty much like a baby!

Your baby is now roughly the size of a coconut.

Your baby is now roughly the size of a coconut.

However, in pregnancy week 22, a foetus would still not be able to survive outside the womb. The lungs lack an important material required for breathing, and the baby's (sensory) organs and brain also need to develop further. However, from the 24th week of pregnancy, babies born prematurely have a good chance of survival with medical assistance.

How do you feel at 22 weeks pregnant?

There may now be more visible signs of water retention. This means you will notice that, for example, rings or shoes no longer fit and socks feel tight. Water retention (= oedema) occurs frequently in pregnancy – the bigger your baby bump becomes, the more severe oedema can often be.

The reason for this is more blood, but also more water in the body. The blood vessels become more permeable, making it easier for water to penetrate tissue. In pregnancy, it also becomes more difficult for the blood to be pumped up the lower leg and the weight of the uterus or the child constricts the blood vessels in the pelvis. This results in the blood flowing more slowly, which also encourages the fluid to flow into the surrounding tissues.

Altered concentrations of blood proteins and electrolytes in the body during pregnancy also play a part, as they also influence the regulation of fluid in this complex system.

There is usually no reason to worry about these changes – even though they don't always look very pretty and often don't feel very nice either. Watch out for any very sudden, significant fluid retention and weight gain. This could be a sign of a condition such as pre-eclampsia, for which you would need to see a midwife or doctor. Pre-eclampsia is a very rare complication during pregnancy. However, it can be life-threatening and needs to be ruled out for the sake of safety.

What helps to counteract fluid retention during pregnancy?

  • Moving around helps, sitting doesn't. However, you should not be playing any high-level sport – going for walks, pregnancy yoga and other gentle keep-fit exercises will do you just as much good, especially if you do them regularly.
  • Elevate your legs (whenever possible) and sleep with your legs raised at night, if possible
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Eat plenty of fruit, vegetables and protein – earlier advice was to eat a low salt diet, however that advice is a little outdated these days. Salt, like other electrolytes, is also important for the body. Your body will need to replace any salt it loses, for example, if you find yourself getting hot more easily as a result of being pregnant.
  • Hot/cold showers
  • Avoid heat

Another form of fluid may now occur more frequently: hormones and better circulation can increase the production of the vaginal fluid. If your libido increases at this time, this may also be one of the side effects of hormones when you are 22 weeks pregnant.

Photo: Unsplash

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