Fasten your seatbelts, ladies: While you may carry to 42 weeks (or, Lord help you, beyond), "full term" is just six weeks off. That means in a month and a half, you've got the green light to give birth to that tiny person you're carrying around.
Of course, at 31 weeks, that person is not so tiny anymore, and you're probably well aware of this fact, what with your bladder being crowded out of any useful capacity and a belly that will not let you sleep. The effects of that giant uterus on your bodily systems can make six weeks seem like forever, but don't be fooled: It's time to assemble the crib.
Here, what you may be feeling and thinking, and what you might want to be doing, at 31 weeks along.
To begin with, at this point, you may be feeling about a million symptoms at once …
What You Might Be Feeling
For some women, this final stretch can feel like a bloated, fat-ankled dream. Your body may not remotely resemble what it looked like six months ago, and the lack of sleep doesn't help matters.
Overall, you're probably feeling, quite simply, very very pregnant. That can mean bloating, heartburn, constipation, swelling, skin tags, occasional dizziness and headaches, and better hair than you ever thought you'd have. Oh, and lots of farting.
At 31 weeks, you may also be experiencing some relatively new or suddenly more intense symptoms, such as:
- Heightened anxiety and excitement -- You'll be a mom in just about two months. So much to do! (See "Things to Consider.")
- Poor balance -- That bulging abdomen is shifting your center of gravity, which is probably wreaking havoc on your ability to not knock into chairs. Make sure to move carefully, and hold onto a handrail when on the stairs.
- Increasing back pain -- That shifted center of gravity is also affecting your posture, and your lower back is bearing the brunt of the increased weight in your middle.
- Tingling hands -- Increased blood volume (40 to 50 percent right now, if you can believe it), swelling and an oversized uterus are all causing nerves to be crowded, possibly resulting in a tingling or numbness of your hands and wrists which is carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Leaking breasts -- They're making colostrum, the "pre-milk" that, if you breastfeed, will nourish your newborn for a few days before your milk comes in. It may be starting to leak out.
- Leaking bladder -- There's not much room these days for holding it in. You might be leaking a little when you sneeze, cough or laugh.
- Practice contractions -- Braxton-Hicks contractions, sometimes called "false labor," may start to strike around now. They typically last about 30 seconds and feel like a tightening of your uterus. They shouldn't hurt (you may not even feel them). If you feel contractions that are painful and/or last longer than a minute or two, call your doctor immediately, because it could signal preterm labor.
Your uterus is practicing those contractions with good reason -- that baby is incredibly close to what he or she will be at the time birth …
What's Going on In Your Body
Length: About 16 inches (head to toe). Weight: More than 3 pounds. Fat: Building up.
Deep in your uterus, a baby is transforming, in the final stages of becoming someone who can live outside your womb. Some of the goings-on this week can include:
- A rhythmic wake/sleep cycle
- Dramatic brain development, forming what will eventually be about three trillion brain-body connections
- Fully operational senses (all five)
- Continued lung development
- Reproductive-system development (descending testicles or a visible clitoris)
One of the big ones this week is the formation of baby fat. It's starting to fill in beneath the skin -- so while your little one is still pretty scrawny, he or she is finally starting to plump up, which also has the effect of making baby's skin less saggy. Fetal weight gain from fat will be dramatic over the remainder of your pregnancy.
And as mom facilitates all this growth and development, her partner is playing a different but similarly important role …
What Your Partner Should Know
Partners, be aware: Your role will get more intense from here on out, because you're moving from relative bystander to full-on coach. Whether your lady goes natural or chooses medication, she'll need your support in the labor room like never before. Giving birth is no joke, and it can get a lot crazier than in the movies.
On that note, another point to be aware of is this: It's wonderful to have your own views and desires regarding the way your child is brought into this world. You are absolutely, and crucially, a part of the decision-making process when it comes to a birth plan. But it's not your body that's going through labor, so be very open-minded to what the pregnant lady wants in terms of going natural or getting pain meds. She's the one squeezing a watermelon through a nostril.
Your birth plan is just one thing to put some thought into this week. There are some others you may want to start (or continue or finish) considering in week 31 …
Some Things to Consider
Oh my, how the time is ticking down. This week, you'll probably want to get some plans solidified -- or at least get well on the road to that end, since you may have as little as six weeks until you bring your newborn home. A few of the important ones include:
- The nursery -- Any furniture you need to buy or assemble? Do you have your newborn essentials, like blankets and clothing and bottles or a breast pump? Start gathering now, if you haven't yet, so you don't have that particular brand of stress as you near the big day.
- The hospital bag -- You don't need to pack it, but you may want to start making a list of what you want to bring.
- The penis -- Your baby boy's, that is. Will it be circumcised? This can turn into a debate these days, so give yourselves some time to decide.
- Childbirth classes -- If you want to finish before labor begins, it's time to start.
Another thing to consider this week? Solutions to your pregnancy symptoms, since they might be getting pretty intense. Here are just a few:
- For heartburn, eat six small meals a day instead of three bigger ones, and sleep on an incline.
- For back pain, stop any heavy (or even medium-weight) lifting, get off your feet, apply a low-heat heating pad, and treat yourself to a massage.
- For sleep, invest in a body pillow, which can significantly decrease the burden of your heavy, protruding abdomen.
- For leaking urine, get serious about those pelvic-floor-strengthening Kegels, which can help decrease leakage, and wear a panty liner.
- For leaking breasts, try breast-feeding pads. You put them in your bra to absorb any leakage.
And finally, a few things you needn't sweat too much (or at all).
Don't Worry If…
There is, admittedly, a lot to do at 31 weeks, since you may have just a couple of months for final preparations. In the interest of time, try not to waste any mental or physical energy stressing about:
- You're twice the size/half the size of your 31-weeks-pregnant friend -- Everyone carries differently. If your belly is relatively small or large, it doesn't mean you'll deliver a low-birth-weight baby or a giant, respectively. It mostly means your baby is in a different position and/or you have a different body type from your friend.
- Your breasts aren't leaking -- This means nothing. Whether or not you can see it, your breasts are producing colostrum.
- You're peeing every time you cough -- It's not a sign that you'll be incontinent for the rest of your life. Once you deliver, your urine-holding capacity will almost certainly return to its former glory. (And if it doesn't, your doctor can help.)
And while you're not worrying about that stuff, you might as well not worry (too much) about anything, if you can help it. What will be will be. That baby has a (rapidly developing) mind of his or her own, and whether you go into labor in six weeks or 12 weeks isn't within your control. And if you go into labor before you get around to buying a car seat, your mother-in-law can pick one up on her way to the hospital.
For more information on pregnancy, parenting and related topics, look over the links on the next page.
- Guide to Being One Week Pregnant
- Guide to Being Two Weeks Pregnant
- Guide to Being Three Weeks Pregnant
- Guide to Being Four Weeks Pregnant
- Guide to Being Five Weeks Pregnant
- Guide to Being Six Weeks Pregnant
- Guide to Being Seven Weeks Pregnant
- Guide to Being Eight Weeks Pregnant
- Guide to Being Nine Weeks Pregnant
- Guide to Being 10 Weeks Pregnant
- Guide to Being 11 Weeks Pregnant
- Guide to Being 12 Weeks Pregnant
- Guide to Being 13 Weeks Pregnant
- Guide to Being 14 Weeks Pregnant
- Guide to Being 15 Weeks Pregnant
- Guide to Being 16 Weeks Pregnant
- Guide to Being 17 Weeks Pregnant
- Guide to Being 18 Weeks Pregnant
- Guide to Being 19 Weeks Pregnant
- Guide to Being 20 Weeks Pregnant
- Guide to Being 24 Weeks Pregnant
- Guide to Being 25 Weeks Pregnant
- Guide to Being 26 Weeks Pregnant
More Great Links
- 31st Week of Pregnancy. Similac. (June 7, 2011) http://similac.com/pregnancy/31-weeks-pregnant-baby-growth-development
- Week 31 of Pregnancy. What to Expect. (June 7, 2011) http://www.whattoexpect.com/pregnancy/week-by-week/week-31.aspx
- Your Pregnancy: 31 Weeks. Baby Center. (June 7, 2011) http://www.babycenter.com/6_your-pregnancy-31-weeks_1120.bc
- Your Pregnancy Week by Week: Weeks 31-34. (June 7, 2011) http://www.webmd.com/baby/guide/your-pregnancy-week-by-week-weeks-31-34