You feel so pregnant that you can't help but wonder whether the baby will be delivered soon. And if it does come, it's OK. It might even be preferable, at least to you.
You can't breathe. You can't sleep. You might not be able to eat. You jealously watch TV commercials that show pregnant women eating to their hearts' content.
Though you're only six weeks from the official due date, you might feel like you're looking at the longest six weeks of your life. Of course, they're weeks that carry a certain edginess, while you expect the baby to appear at any time.
So stop and enjoy it. Even if it's not easy to get comfortable, you can still sleep pretty much any time you want to. If it's your first child, these are the last weeks you'll sleep without one ear open for the rest of your life.
Read on to learn more about what you can expect during week 34 of your pregnancy.
What You Might Be Feeling
It's like the first trimester all over again, except that you're so big and clumsy, your symptoms may seem worse.
You're sleepy, but you just can't sleep. It's getting really hard to find a position that doesn't press a 5-pound (2.27-kilogram) baby onto something inside you, making you uncomfortable. If you're already having trouble getting comfortable sleeping at this stage, build yourself a nest of pillows so you can sleep while propped up. It doesn't sound that comfortable, but chances are, you'll get sleepy enough to make it work.
You're feeling that shortness of breath again, just like in the first trimester. This time, it's not caused by the hormones so much as the fact that your uterus is pushing on your diaphragm, and it's hard to draw a deep breath. Aerobics can help, if your doctor says it's OK to do some cardio.
Your vision may seem to be failing, too. The fluid behind the lenses of your eyes is building up, and you may end up more nearsighted or farsighted than usual. Obstetricians often recommend that you wait to change the prescription in your glasses until after the pregnancy, when this should clear up.
What's Going On In Your Body
Yes, you really are carrying around a 5-pound (2.27-kilogram) weight in your gut. And the little guy is getting fatter by the day. He may be as much as 20 inches (half a meter) long, too.
The baby should be in position for delivery by now. In a few weeks, when you have your late-term ultrasound, the doctor will be able to see if the baby is head down or breech. Meanwhile, he's gotten big enough that however he lies right now, that's probably where he's going to stay.
The vernix, or white coating, on the baby's skin is getting thicker. You'll see that coating when he's delivered. The baby now has well-developed lungs, as well as fingernails. And if you're having a little boy, he'll have something new by the end of the week: His testicles are descending.
The combination of extra baby weight, pressure and swelling could bring on leg cramps at this stage. If you feel one coming on, try a calf stretch to work it out.
What Your Partner Should Know
Whatever your partner doesn't know about birthing babies, it's time for him to learn. Because the baby really could come at any time, the first thing he needs to know is how to find the entrance to the emergency room. Beyond that, it's time to look into a tour of the maternity ward at the hospital.
If you have the time, enroll in a childbirth class, or at least check out a DVD about the topic from the library. It'll help your partner during the delivery if he knows the lingo in the delivery room.
He's probably already used to your alternating bouts of crying and elation; now he needs to get used to the idea that you're no longer able to pick up his socks and clean his dishes as quickly as you used to. And who knows? You may just stop doing those things altogether. That's a very big thing for a partner to get used to.
So maybe put him to work on the infant seat: He can practice installing it and stop worrying about the laundry that's starting to pile up on the floor.
Some Things to Consider
During this important week, keep these things in mind:
- Eat lots of calcium so the baby's calcium needs don't deplete your own bones. You may have trouble eating again. Some women have heavy heartburn because the growing uterus has pushed the stomach out of its normal position. In the third trimester, as in the first, the advice is to eat small meals throughout the day, and avoid fried foods, spicy foods, citrus fruits and juices.
- Sleep all you can, while you can. As you continue to gain weight, be comforted by the fact that two of those pounds may be just in breast tissue. But it's not over. At this stage, you may need to go bra shopping yet again. Oh, and you may want to check the drug store for absorbent breast pads to insert into your bra. That's right: You may start leaking even before you have the baby.
- And speaking of leaking: You may want to keep some panty liners on hand.
Don't Worry If…
You deliver the baby early, or the doctor wants to deliver the baby for medical reasons. It's not uncommon for babies to be delivered at this stage. If the baby does come at this point, in most cases, babies at 34 weeks can survive outside the womb without extensive medical intervention.
They have lungs that can breathe, and if they've reached that 5-pound (2.27-kilogram) weight, they've reached a safe margin; most hospitals allow babies that weigh more than this to go home, barring any medical issues that need to be monitored.
The biggest reason the doctor may want to deliver the baby early is preeclampsia. This is a condition in which women with elevated blood pressure start showing excess protein in the urine. The condition can be fatal for mother and child, and the only cure is to deliver the child.
If your doctor suspects preeclampsia, you'll have plenty of time to get used to the idea of an early delivery. The chief medical test involves collecting your urine in a carton for a 24-hour period. After that, your doctor will decide whether it's time for you to have the baby.
For more pregnancy articles, check out the links on the next page.
- Mayo Clinic. "Third trimester pregnancy: What to expect." (June 16, 2011) http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/pregnancy/PR00009
- Kids Health from Nemours. "Pregnancy Calendar: Week 34." (June 14, 2011) http://kidshealth.org/parent/pregnancy_center/pregnancy_calendar/week34.html
- What to Expect. "Week 34 of Pregnancy." (June 14, 2011) http://www.whattoexpect.com/pregnancy/week-by-week/week-34.aspx