Your baby at 22 weeks
Week 22 and your baby is becoming a proper little detective, using her newfound body and brain to begin to decipher the world around her, tiny and enclosed as it is. But it’s all important practice for the day she’s born when, within seconds of breaking out of there, she’ll be bombarded with new sights, sounds and smells to get to grips with.
At 22 weeks, her legs are now longer than her arms, and they’ll stay that way for good. The creases on her palms are also developing.
Her brain is mature enough for her to investigate anything she touches, so where she once moved away from things, she now reaches out for them.
Her sense of touch is developing and she will stroke her face and feel other bits of her body. She's also starting to realise that various parts of her body are connected.
She's more aware of her environment. Loud noises, bright light and being poked through your bump will all disturb her and she may even respond with a kick or a push of her elbow.
Until the late 19th century, doctors believed that babies were born deaf. Now we know that by 22 weeks in utero, your baby responds to many different sounds. She can hear a door slamming or loud music, and is lulled to sleep by the constant rhythmic sound of blood going through the uterus. It’s thought she prefers low sounds, to begin with. Sadly, although she may well find it relaxing, playing her Mozart at this stage is not going to improve her SATs scores in year six. She would probably prefer you turned CBeebies up and let her listen in to that.
She already has a cycle of waking and sleeping and will nod off pretty regularly, but only for short periods of time. You’ll also find she’s more quiet in the day when the motion of you moving around lulls her to sleep, and is more active at night time when you’re lying still.
Her lungs are growing quickly now. The main tubes in her lungs have buds at the end of them and these alveoli ducts (like air sacs) keep budding. In a month's time, the alveoli will be surrounded by tiny blood vessels so that oxygen can pass from the air sacs into the blood. Before birth her lungs are full of fluid, which contains lots of chloride, a bit of protein and some mucus. Closer to birth she will start producing surfactant, an amazing chemical that stops the air sacs collapsing when you breathe in and out.
If she’s a girl, she’s developing mammary glands this week, and boys’ testes are descending.
What size is the baby at 22 weeks?
At 22 weeks your baby is about 27.5cm long – about the size of a papaya – and weighs around 430g.
How is your body changing at 22 weeks pregnant?
Until now it’s seemed as though all the changes to your body were focused on keeping your baby fit and healthy, but actually, there’s much more going on than that. Pregnancy hormones are clever and complicated things and they’re already busy doing the important work of making you ready for motherhood.
In a review of the effects of pregnancy on your brain, psychologists from the University of California found that the changes in hormone levels during pregnancy are not only unique but have a purpose. They prepare us for motherhood by making us better at dealing with stress and putting us in touch with our baby's needs.
When your baby stirs at night, many women say it’s always them that sits up immediately while their partner snores on (though if you spot his eyelid flickering, your hormones may also cause you to suddenly elbow him in the ribs).
When you feel your baby moving in your womb it raises your heart rate and increases the rate at which messages from nerves are transmitted through your skin. Psychologists say all these things work to 'optimise' maternal behaviour. Amazing… Though it is worth knowing that some of this research was done on rats. Human mothers are likely to be more complicated.
Pregnancy symptoms in week 22
With so much changing, both physically and emotionally, it’s little wonder if you find yourself unable to fall asleep as soon as your head hits the pillow these days.
Some things, like avoiding caffeinated drinks, not eating too late at night, and investing in a pregnancy pillow to get your comfortable will all help, but if possible, it’s worth addressing the root cause of whatever is keeping you awake.
Unfortunately, if that happens to be your baby booting you in the bladder there’s very little you can do about that – perhaps use the time to investigate which pushchair you’re going to buy and tick that off your to-do list.
Things to think about during week 22 of pregnancy
As things start to feel more 'real', lots of women find themselves beginning to worry about birth a little.
Your emotions about birth
Women often worry that the birth will be so painful they won't cope, or that their waters will break on the bus. These are both valid concerns (although you’re pretty unlikely to have your waters break in public). To allay your fears a bit try talking to others on the Mumsnet Talk boards, and at antenatal classes, as well as to friends and family who’ve been there and done it (and can be trusted not to tell you stupid horror stories about women with 15lb babies).
It’s also worth sharing how you feel with your midwives, who may well have answers for many (maybe all) of your fears and will be able to suggest ways of helping yourself to feel more relaxed and in control of things.
Above all, remember it’s natural to have worries. Birth is a big deal and, especially if you’ve never done it before, it’s very hard to anticipate what it will be like. To a certain extent, the best thing you can do is go with the flow, know that it probably won’t be nearly as bad as you fear and that even if it is pretty awful, it’s just one day out of your life – at the end of which you get to meet your baby.
What's next: 23 weeks pregnant