Weeks 27 to 31
Your baby’s weight has almost doubled since last month. She has grown about 3 inches longer and weighs almost 3 pounds. Hair is beginning to grow long on her head. Any sugar she doesn’t use for energy will be stored as fat under her skin. Her body is getting plump and round as she begins storing fat. Her nervous system is now able to control her body temperature.
Over the next few weeks, your immunities will be passed from your blood to your baby.
If born at 27 weeks, a baby has a small chance to survive with lots of very special care from doctors, nurses, and machines.
Pregnancy causes major changes in your body, including your metabolism. Changes in metabolism make sure you get the most benefit from the calories and nutrients you eat so you can provide your baby with the nutrients, water,and oxygen he needs for healthy growth and normal development.
Gaining enough weight
Gaining enough weight is a good sign that the nutritional needs of you and your baby are being met and helps make sure your baby is also gaining enough weight. Babies born too small are at risk for physical and mental problems. Mothers who don’t gain enough weight often have babies that are born too small. Gaining less weight than your doctor recommends may effect your baby’s chances of being healthy.
Gain weight at a healthy rate
The rate at which you gain weight is carefully monitored by your doctor. Gaining or losing a lot of weight in a short time can be a sign of problems. There are no set rules for the amount of weight to gain. It varies from mother to mother and usually depends on the mother’s pre-pregnancy weight and build. For mothers who were underweight before pregnancy, the recommended rate of weight gain is about five pounds during the first 13 weeks, and about a pound a week from then on. Total weight gain should be 28-40 pounds.
For normal weight mothers, the recommended weight gain is three to five pounds during the first 13 weeks, then about a pound a week from then on, for a total of 25 to 35 pounds. For overweight mothers, the recommended weight gain is about two pounds during the first 13 weeks and about 2/3 of a pound per week from then on, for a total of 15 to 25 pounds. Mothers under 5’2” should gain 18 to 30 pounds. Teen mothers should gain 28 to 40 pounds. Mothers carrying twins should gain 35 to 45 pounds.
Your body begins getting ready for your baby by storing fat. Most of this fat is stored during the early weeks of pregnancy. Some fat is stored in weeks 14 through 28. Almost no fat is stored during weeks 29 to 40. This extra fat is stored over your back, abdomen, and upper thighs; therefore, the clothes you wore comfortably a few weeks earlier may not fit even before you begin to show. Fat is stored opposite the growth rate of your baby, which is minimal during the first half of pregnancy and rapid during the last half. Stored fat provides a reserve of calories for you and your baby to use in the last 10 to 12 weeks. This is the time when your diet may not be able to keep up with the nutritional needs of you and your baby.
Your weight should increase evenly. However, mothers who gain too much too soon should not diet. Dieting can keep you from eating enough food to provide your baby with the right nutrients. This can cause your baby to grow and develop slower than normal. Instead of dieting, try controlling your weight gain by cutting out sweets and fatty foods. If morning sickness during the first few months caused you to lose weight or not gain the recommended amount, “catch up” to your recommended weight level once your morning sickness stops. If you need advice about your diet ask your doctor to recommend a nutritionist. The goal is to gain weight at a healthy rate. An up and down pattern of weight gain for you means an up and down food supply for your baby.
Weigh yourself every day. If you stop gaining weight or are losing weight, call your doctor’s office. If you gain more than two pounds in one week and have swelling in your hands, feet, and face, call your doctor’s office.
Monitoring Weight Gain
We have some great tools for monitoring your weight as well as a daily food guide to eating a healthy diet. These include a daily food guide, pregnancy weight chart, and a 2-day food record.
Where the weight goes
Your baby makes up only part of your total weight gain. A few pounds become fat stores for energy needed during labor, delivery, and breastfeeding. Weight gain also comes from the extra blood, muscle, fluids, and tissue your body makes for you and your baby to use while you are pregnant. On average, most women should gain a total of 25 to 30 pounds. The breakdown of weight gain is as follows:
Baby 7-8 pounds
Placenta 1-2 pounds
Amniotic fluid 2-3 pounds
Uterus 2 pounds
Increased blood supply 3-5 pounds
Fluid, fat, breast tissue 10 pounds
Total 25-30 pounds
Fasting has been linked with preterm labor. Fasting causes the level of sugar in the blood to drop, called hypoglycemia. The body makes up for this drop by releasing fatty acids which can stimulate uterine contractions. Low sugar levels also cause the release of stress hormones, which can lead to contractions.
Also, fasting releases ketones into your blood which can cross the placenta and be harmful to your baby. To prevent low sugar levels, eat several small meals every two to three hours. Include complex carbohydrates such as breads, fruits, rice, or pasta at each meal. Complex carbohydrates are sugars that take a while to digest.
The Importance of a Balanced Diet
A balanced diet means “proper balance between the quality and quantity” of the foods we eat. The quality of the foods we eat affects the body building needs of our body. The quantity of foods we eat affects the energy needs of our body. In order to keep this balance during pregnancy, you must eat enough of the right foods to meet the body building and energy needs for both you and your baby.
Your energy needs are increased because your heart must pump more blood and you must carry around the extra weight of pregnancy. Your baby needs energy for his heart to beat and to practice breathing and moving his arms and legs. Carbohydrates and fats are the main energy-giving foods. Proteins can give energy but are mainly used for body building and repairing cells. Getting enough calories to meet your energy needs is a high priority during pregnancy. If you don’t eat enough calories, your body will use protein for energy rather than building blood, tissue, and the placenta.
Foods used to build our bodies and give us energy can’t maintain normal growth and metabolism without vitamins and minerals. Most vitamins aren’t made in our bodies and must be gotten from the foods we eat. Our daily energy and body building needs are best met by eating balanced meals of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats, plus vitamins, minerals, and water – the six essential nutrients found in foods. Remember “balanced” doesn’t mean equal amounts of each nutrient. To meet the daily food requirements of a balanced diet and make every calorie count, eat the recommended number of servings from a variety of foods within the five basic food groups.
Iron Deficiency Anemia
Iron is important for maintaining health and for making hemoglobin. Hemoglobin carries oxygen to your tissues and to the placenta for your baby. Anemia is a common nutritional problem in pregnancy. Its symptoms include feeling tired all the time, dizziness, rapid heartbeat, and pale skin. Preventing anemia during pregnancy is important because it has been linked with preterm birth, low birth weight, and problems for the mother during delivery. Also, feeling tired all the time can affect your overall outlook; make you less likely to do things to stay healthy during your pregnancy; increase the amount of stress you feel; and lessen your ability to cope.
Anemia can be prevented by eating foods rich in iron and taking iron supplements as prescribed by your doctor. Take vitamins and iron supplements with meals that include foods and drinks high in vitamin C, and meat. Don’t take iron supplements with milk products; milk products reduce the amount of iron which is absorbed.
Excellent Sources of Iron
2 oz. calf liver
1 cup lima beans
1/4 cup prunes or prune juice
2 oz. beef liver
1 cup mustard greens
1/2 cup dried raisins
2 oz. pork liver
1 cup spinach
1/2 cup Total cereal
2 oz. lean beef
1 cup English peas
2 oz. clams
2 eggs yolks
Folic Acid (Folate)
Your body uses folic acid in DNA, for cell division, and to make the extra blood needed during pregnancy. Folic acid, a B vitamin, has been found to reduce birth defects of the neural tube. Neural tube defects include spina bifida, a leading cause of paralysis in children, and anencephaly, which is fatal. The best sources for folate are spinach, leafy green vegetables, romaine lettuce, asparagus, broccoli, orange juice, liver, sunflower seeds, cauliflower, wheat germ, and cabbage. Because food preparation can destroy folate it is better to eat raw food sources or prepare them with a minimum amount of water as in steaming, stir-frying, or cooking in a microwave. Also, taking prenatal vitamins 20 will ensure that you get enough folic acid.
Calcium and Phosphorus
Calcium and phosphorus are used for making bones, clotting blood, and contracting muscles. Calcium may prevent high blood pressure caused by pregnancy. Calcium and phosphorus are needed the most during weeks 27 through 40, when your baby is growing the fastest and making most of his bones and teeth. Foods that give you calcium can also meet your needs for phosphorus. Nonfat milk is the best source of calcium. Information about the calcium content in foods is required on all food labels. Eating the recommended servings from the Milk, Yogurt, and Cheese Food Group can supply the extra calcium and phosphorus you need.
Excellent Sources of Calcium
1/4 cup powdered skim milk, dry
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup evaporated whole milk
2 oz. sardines
1 cup yogurt
1 cup skim milk
1 cup whole milk
1 oz. cheddar or swiss cheese
Constipation is common in pregnancy, particularly if you are on bed rest or your activity level is reduced. Tips for preventing constipation:
~ Eat foods high in fiber, such as raw fruits, vegetables, and bran.
~ Drink six to eight 8-ounce glasses of fluids every day, especially water.
~ Drink hot water mixed with one tsp. of lemon juice three times a day.
~ Eat meals at “regular” times.
~ Dried or stewed prunes, prune juice, raw carrots, bran or bran cereals, and fresh or dried figs are excellent foods for preventing or relieving constipation.
Your baby is the perfect reason to stop an unhealthy habit. Pregnant women who smoke or are around people who smoke have a greater chance of ectopic pregnancy, vaginal bleeding, miscarriage, stillbirth, preterm birth, cesarean birth, and fetal death.
Drinking large amounts of alcohol can cause fetal alcohol syndrome. Light drinking of alcohol has not been shown to have a measurable effect on unborn babies or children in recent studies. Mothers who drank lightly before they found out they were pregnant have no need to panic. However there is a significant difference between drinking “lightly” and heavy drinking which represents a very high risk factor to the unborn child.
Drugs such as cocaine, crack, heroin, methadone, and amphetamines cause not only a wide range of mental and physical handicaps but also cause the newborn to suffer the effects of withdrawal at birth. Cocaine can shut down the mother’s blood supply to her uterus, keeping food and oxygen from her baby.
When a pregnant women smokes, the blood supply to the placenta is reduced. Also, the amount of oxygen in her blood is decreased because of the increased levels of carbon dioxide. These two factors can result in babies that are born too small and too soon. If you smoke, try to stop or cut down as much as you can. Talk with your doctor before using a nicotine patch.
Drugs and Alcohol
Drugs and alcohol are passed from your blood to your baby. Your baby’s developing liver can’t get rid of these substances, and they build up. Large amounts of alcohol can harm a developing baby resulting in mental retardation or other health problems.
If you have problems with alcohol or drugs, talk with your doctor.
All drugs, even over-the-counter medicines, should be avoided during pregnancy. Always talk with your doctor before taking any new medicine, including prenatal vitamins.
Studies examining the effects of drinking caffeine while pregnant on unborn babies and subsequent characteristics in children have had mixed results. Recently studies have generally concluded that moderate consumption of caffeine as in one or two cups per day, cannot be shown to have a significant effect.
Caffeine is both a stimulant and diuretic. Caffeine reduces the amount of iron your body absorbs. It also reduces the flow of blood to your baby. As your intake of caffeine goes up, so does your baby’s risk of low birth weight. Too much caffeine can result in withdrawal symptoms for your newborn. Therefore, avoid drinks that have caffeine such as coffee, cocoa, colas, and teas. Limit your caffeine intake to two cups of regular coffee or four soft drinks per day. If giving up regular coffee “cold turkey” gives you a headache, cut back gradually. Decaffeinated tea is available in most grocery stores and is a better choice than regular brewed tea. Avoid tea, chocolate, and over-the-counter medicines which have caffeine. Stick to drinks that are caffeine-free or naturally have no caffeine. Water, lowfat milk, or fruit juices are your best choices.
To Learn More about Preventing Preterm Birth
To Learn More about Caring for Your Newborn
- Weight Gain Guidelines and Diet While Pregnant
- Issues Related to Nutrition
- Nutritional Needs During Pregnancy
- What We Need From Food
- Nutrition While Breastfeeding
- Nutrition and Diet After Vaginal Birth
- Nutrition and Diet After Cesarean Birth
- Managing Gestational Diabetes
- Prenatal Supplements
- The Basics of Healthy Eating
- Nutrition and Health: What’s the Connection?
- Benefits of Breastfeeding Your Baby