23 weeks pregnant: baby's development, feeling breathless and telling your employer

Your baby is about 30cm now and roughly the size of a large mango.

Your baby’s development this week

By this week, your baby’s facial features are becoming very well developed and eyebrows, eyelashes and head hair are becoming visible.

You should start feeling the baby move more and more around now. There is no set number of normal movements you should be feeling – every baby is different. But try to get to know your baby’s pattern of movements

Do not wait until the next day to get help if you are worried about your baby’s movements and contact your midwife or maternity unit straight away if you think they have slowed down, stopped or changed. There are staff on the hospital maternity unit 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Your pregnancy symptoms in week 23

Sensitive skin

Hormone changes can make your skin more sensitive. If you sunbathe, you may burn more easily than before you were pregnant. It’s a good idea to protect your skin with a high-factor sunscreen and don’t stay in the sun for very long.

Feeling breathless

It’s common to feel breathless in pregnancy now and again. This tends to start gradually in the first or second trimester. It should not be painful or come on suddenly and you shouldn’t have other symptoms, such as wheezing or a cough.

Feeling short of breath can sometimes be a sign of anaemia in pregnancy. Other symptoms may include:

  • tiredness and lack of energy
  • shortness of breath
  • noticeable heartbeats (heart palpitations)
  • pale skin.

Speak to your midwife or GP if you have any concerns about breathlessness in pregnancy.

Call 999 for an ambulance or go to your nearest A&E if you have severe shortness of breath and any of the following symptoms:

  • heart palpitations
  • chest pain or tightness
  • dizziness or light-headedness
  • fainting or blackouts.

Are you suffering from cramps, headaches, indigestion or heartburn?

Read our guide to the 10 common pregnancy complaints (and how to avoid them).

Feeling stressed out?

Your mental wellbeing is just as important as your physical health during pregnancy. Make sure you look after yourself, as well as your bump.

“I tried to spend some time each day focusing on the baby. Thinking about her, rather than everything else that was going on around me helped.”

Here are tips to help you stay stress-free in pregnancy.

You can also work through our downloadable pregnancy and post-birth wellbeing plan.

It’s natural to feel a bit stressed or anxious when you’re pregnant. But if you are struggling with these feelings, you may need help. Tell your midwife or GP how you feel. They will help you get the right treatment and support.

What to do in week 23

Stay active

Being active during pregnancy has many benefits for you and your baby. Exercise won’t harm your baby, just make sure you warm up well beforehand and drink plenty of water.

Read all about exercise in pregnancy.

“I exercised throughout both my pregnancies, right up until my due date. I was a lot more tired in the second pregnancy, because I was running around after my daughter, but I always did something active because it made me feel better.”

Limit your caffeine intake

NHS recommends that you try to limit the amount of caffeine you have to less than 200mg a day, which is around 2 cups of instant coffee.

However, new research from our Tommy’s research centres shows that the risk from caffeine increases the more you have. So it’s a good idea to reduce the amount you have as much as possible, to reduce any potential risks. Although this might sound scary, try not to worry as the risk to your baby is still very low.

Try our caffeine calculator to work out your caffeine intake.

You could also try our healthy pregnancy tool. 

Tell your employer in writing that you are pregnant

If you work, you must let your employer know you're pregnant by week 25. You must also tell them the date you want to start your maternity leave. It's important to put this in writing so that you qualify for maternity pay and benefits.

If this is the first time you’re telling your boss about your pregnancy, they must also make sure your workplace doesn’t have any risks for you or your baby. They’ll need to make other arrangements for you if necessary.

Choosing a date to start maternity leave isn’t easybecause you can’t tell for sure when your baby will be born. Your decision may also depend on how your pregnancy is going or what kind of work you do. It may help to talk to your employer about your options. Friends and family may also have ideas of ways they made the most of their options.

Lennart Nilsson (2009) A Child is Born, Jonathan Cape

NHS Choices Backache in pregnancy http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pages/backache-pregnant.aspx (Page last reviewed: 14/02/2018  Next review due: 14/02/2021).

NICE (2008) Antenatal care for uncomplicated pregnancies,Clinical guideline [CG62] Last updated: January 2017. https://www.nice.org.uk/Guidance/cg62

RCOG (2006) Recreational Exercise and Pregnancy: Information for you, London, Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists: https://www.rcog.org.uk/globalassets/documents/patients/patient-information-leaflets/pregnancy/recreational-exercise-and-pregnancy.pdf

Review dates
Reviewed: 11 July 2022
Next review: 11 July 2025