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The Inside Story: Your Baby in Week Twenty-Four

This week heralds one of the most important thresholds in pregnancy: Your baby is considered "viable." That means that he now weighs well over 1 pound and has a better than 50 percent chance of surviving with intensive care if you deliver prematurely. This is due in large part to the final development of airway passages and air sacs in his lungs.

During the remaining weeks of pregnancy, your baby will gain about 6-7 pounds. His ears are now extremely sensitive to sounds outside the womb, and he can recognize your voice. In fact, research shows us that babies have their earliest language lessons in the womb; after birth, they suck more vigorously if they hear tape recordings of people speaking in their native tongue than they do if they hear people speaking a foreign language. There is no evidence that babies prefer the voices of their fathers, grandmothers, or siblings, but they definitely recognize their mothers' voices and prefer them once they're born.

Through ultrasound scientists have learned that even unborn babies love to play. Yours will continue to pedal around on the uterine walls, and he'll try to grab everything around him with his increasingly strong grip. His favorite toy -- well, his only toy, really -- is the umbilical cord, which he might yank or swing or pull on for entertainment. Don't worry, though. This thick bundle of blood vessels is remarkably strong, and the force of blood rushing through it keeps the cord extended and prevents kinking.

Originally published in You & Your Baby: Pregnancy.

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