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23 weeks pregnant


Your baby at 23 weeks

Foetus at 23 weeks pregnant

At 23 weeks she is still on the scrawny side but her cheeks are getting chubbier and her skin is less see-through. Her lips and tongue are formed and she will be getting used to them, licking her lips and maybe sucking her thumb if she bumps into it.

What else is happening in week 23 of your pregnancy?

  • Her eyes may not yet be open but behind her eyelids they move quickly - she will blink if startled by a loud noise near your abdomen.
  • Her hair and nails are continuing to grow. Nails can get quite long and need to be cut soon after birth to avoid your baby randomly scratching his or her face.
  • Your baby's immune system gets going during this period as she starts making white blood cells, which specifically attack bacteria and other infections.
  • Your baby now has the same sleep patterns as she will have when she is born. She will spend around six hours awake and 18 asleep - and will sleep in set positions. There is some debate among researchers as to what being awake really means. Certainly, there are times when your baby will respond to things happening outside it - to you, perhaps, if you are startled by a loud noise. Some researchers think your baby isn't really awake because the activity of her brain and nervous system is kept quiet while it's developing by hormones produced by the placenta. These hormones are thought to include prostaglandins and steroids.
  • The development of the human brain is incredibly complex. Not only do cells in the brain and other nerve cells in the spine have to grow, but they also have to make intricate connections with other nerve cells. Your baby's highly specialised sense of smell, as well as her sight, is all being developed. The optic nerve, which tells the brain what your eye is seeing, is made up of over a million nerve cells that grow into the brain. It's quite mind-boggling, really.

Your changing body at 23 weeks pregnant

Piles It's about now that you can start noticing hard, grape-like lumps sticking out of your bottom. You may get bright red blood on the toilet paper after you've had a bowel movement. Piles are one of the many indignities of pregnancy. They are swollen blood vessels sitting within cushions of tissue in the lowest part of your rectum.

Pregnancy encourages them because your hefty uterus puts pressure on the veins in your rectum. They can itch and be sore. Sometimes they don't go back up your rectum and sit outside your bottom. Rarely, the blood supply to these piles can get cut off and cause serious pain.

Topical creams work – check with your pharmacist which ones are OK in pregnancy. Anusol cream or suppositories that contain bismuth oxide and zinc work really well. Anusol is not licensed in pregnancy, but doctors think it is safe to use. Creams that contain steroids and painkillers are usually not needed and have active ingredients that can reach your baby. 

Fruit and vegetables can really help relieve piles as they soften your stools and mean you don't strain. Straining makes piles worse.

Exercise helps and warm baths can be soothing. Piles usually go soon after you have your baby.

Urinary tract infections Women are prone to UTIs anyway because bacteria only have to go a short way to get into the urethra and bladder. Progesterone makes the urethra more relaxed and so more open to bacteria and it gets harder for you to wipe your bottom as there's a big uterus in the way.

UTIs are more important in pregnancy because the tubing from the bladder up to your kidneys is also more relaxed, which means any infection can shoot up there.

If your pee stings or burns, if you are going even more often that a pregnant woman should, or if you have abdominal pain, you should see your doctor. There are safe antibiotics if you need them. 


Pregnancy Encyclopedia book coverIllustrations taken from The Pregnancy Encyclopedia, £25, published by DK.

Disclaimer: The information in the pregnancy calendar is for general information and is not intended as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or antenatal team. Not all babies develop at the same time and in the same way, so this week-by-week guide may not always match your own experience. If you have any worries, consult your antenatal team or GP.

Last updated: 3 months ago