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A common blood test called the Maternal-Serum Alpha-Fetoprotein (MSAFP) screening, which is offerred to women between weeks 16 to 18, is also used to identify potential problems with the fetus. In some cases, results can be misleading and cause needless worry: 50 in 1,000 women will have poor results and only one or two of the original fifty will go on to experience actual problems. One common reason for unusual results is that the pregnant women is, in fact, carrying multiple fetus’. However, for many women, test results will bring great relief.
At about twenty weeks, your uterus will extend beyond the belly button. An ultrasound can clearly identify gender. If you are carrying a girl, she already has six million eggs in her ovaries. By birth, the amount of eggs will have decreased to one-sixth this amount.
By 22 weeks, your fetus weighs nearly one pound, and measures 10 and one-half inches head to toe. He or she more closely resembles a baby. Eyebrows and eyelashes begin to grow. And these teeny tiny pair of ears can actually tune in to mommy’s conversations.
Periodically, some women may feel their uterus tightening. These contractions, called Braxton Hicks, are harmless. You will probably continue to experience them throughout your pregnancy as your body prepares itself for birth. While Braxton Hicks are completely normal, if they occur more than four times an hour, call your practitioner. Differentiating between Braxton Hicks and the real thing is sometimes difficult. It’s a smart idea to familiarize yourself with the signs of preterm labor so your practitioner can use medical means to delay labor until a safe time.