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 practically fully developed. Read on to find out what is 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 in Your Belly at 22 Weeks Pregnant?

The fetus is around 10 inches long (crown - heel) and it weighs approx. 12-14 ounces. 

Your little one actually needs to grow even more and develop a thicker layer of fat and coloring in some areas – otherwise, everything is complete. The irises in the eyes, eyelashes, and hair still have no color, and the skin is a little translucent. Otherwise, everything else looks pretty much like a baby!

Your baby is now about the size of a coconut.

Your baby is now about the size of a coconut.

However, in week 22 a fetus 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 proper medical assistance.

How Do You Feel at 22 Weeks Pregnant?

There may now be more visible signs of fluid retention. This means you will notice that, for example, rings or shoes no longer fit and socks feel tight. Fluid retention (= edema) occurs frequently in pregnancy – the bigger your baby bump becomes, the more severe edema 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 if they don't always look very pretty and or feel nice either. Watch out for any 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 doctor. Pre-eclampsia is a very rare complication during pregnancy. However, it can be life-threatening and would need 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 sports – going for walks, pregnancy yoga and other gentle gymnastic-type exercises will do you just as good, especially if performed 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 – a while ago the dominant advice was to eat a low sodium diet, but that is a little outdated these days. Salt, like other electrolytes, is important for the body. Your body will need to replace any salt it loses, especially 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 you experience when you are 22 weeks pregnant.

Photo Credit: Unsplash

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