You've been running a marathon for 35 weeks. Now, as you begin your 36th week of pregnancy, you're entering the homestretch. Part of you is ready to be there already. And you could be closer than you think. Human gestation is estimated to take 40 weeks, but you could have an early delivery any day now or hang on for 42 weeks. (Ugh!)
Since birth could be right around the corner, let's take a quick look at the exciting things your body and your baby are doing to get ready for the big day. We'll also clue your partner in on what he or she could do to ease your load (and his or her mind) and go over a few things you don't need to worry about.
What You Might Be Feeling
Ponderous might be a good word to describe your 36th week of pregnancy. Your back, muscles and pregnancy hormone-loosened joints are supporting about a 6-pound baby and several more pounds of pregnancy fluids that bulge far out over your hips. You're slower than ever, and not just in your movements.
Your growing baby is filling most of the space in your body and your mind. Between fatigue and anticipation, it's harder to concentrate and process thoughts that aren't related to your baby and the immense changes that will soon take place in your life. People around you may say you've become absent-minded, but that's not true. Your thoughts are highly focused -- they're just not focused on the outside world. Your mind may also be divided: Part of you is impatient for the birth, and another part wants to ensure your baby gets all the development he needs for a healthy start.
Physically, you may be feeling:
- More fetal squirming and less kicking
- Periods of inactivity as your baby develops sleeping patterns
- Stronger and more frequent Braxton-Hicks contractions (contractions not associated with labor)
- Bursts of nesting activity
- Bouts of can't-do-another-thing-until-I-have-a-nap
Meanwhile, the little person inside you is…
What's Going on in Your Body
Your baby is fully developed -- even crying -- at 36 weeks. He's about 20 inches long and weighs about 6 pounds. Only his digestive system hasn't been tested yet, because he's still getting all his nutrients through the umbilical cord. For the remainder of your pregnancy, the little guy's purpose is putting on fat. He'll gain about half a pound every week until delivery.
You, on the other hand, will probably see your weight gain stop as amniotic fluid levels decrease in preparation for birth. Your body is pushing infection-fighting antibodies through your placenta to get the little guy ready for life on the outside, and he may settle lower into your pelvis. This drop, or lightening, makes breathing easier, urinating urgent and waddling unavoidable.
From now until delivery, you'll have weekly doctor visits. Your doctor will check your baby's heartbeat and examine your stomach to estimate his size and determine how he's positioned. In addition to your normal exam, you'll be checked for cervical dilation and given instructions for notifying your doctor or midwife when you go into labor.
And since you're not in this alone…
What Your Partner Should Know
In addition to feeling all the excitement, anticipation and impatience you're feeling, your partner may be worrying about your health. Talking helps. Let him or her drive you to the doctor, so he or she can ask any questions, too.
Now's a good time for your partner to take on more household responsibilities, since it's more difficult than ever for you to move, your balance is shot and your legs and feet may swell if you stand for too long. Having your better half take care of the shopping, cooking, cleaning and laundry will ease your load considerably. And if you have a C-section, you won't be able to do any of that for a while after the baby is born anyway.
Here's some comfort for your partner: When the baby is born -- and that could be only days away -- he or she will recover the bed space that your expanding tummy and all those pillows took up.
On the next page, we'll go over a few things you should keep in mind as birth grows closer.
Some Things to Consider
You've no doubt been planning and preparing since news of your pregnancy sank in, but this week it's time to take action on several things, if you haven't already. You need to:
- Find a pediatrician. Ask friends for recommendations or visit nearby pediatrician offices and ask questions. Do they have a separate waiting area for newborns? How long will you wait for an appointment? How many physicians are in the practice? Is the staff friendly and helpful?
- Decide on cotton or disposable diapers. Cloth diapers are a comfortable, less bulky, environmentally friendly and economical alternative to disposable diapers.
- Get your hospital bag (and your partner's bag) packed and ready to go.
- Stock up on frozen meals and restaurant delivery or takeout menus.
- Establish a calling tree for notifying your family and friends of when you go into labor.
- Set priorities and allow some things to slide. Your health and your baby's health are priority one -- now and after the birth. Feeding (for both of you), diapering, cuddling and bonding are more important than making beds and ironing.
While you're doing all that, don't worry if…
Don't Worry If…
Pregnancy is a marvelous gift, but it's hardly a normal state. Your body is an escalator of change, and some new developments can be worrisome. Here are a few things that could happen during your 36th week. You should note these for your next doctor visit, but otherwise not fret about:
- Fluid leaking from your breasts. Some women release small amounts of colostrum, the high-protein, antibody-rich fluid that infants drink in their first few days of life.
- Pelvic and buttocks aches. When your baby drops, it puts more pressure on this area, causing discomfort or pain.
- Bladder urgency (or leakage). Your baby's downward settlement compresses your bladder. Waiting another minute may be out of the question.
- Heavier vaginal discharge that takes on a pink or brown tinge after sex or a vaginal exam. This happens because your cervix is bruised or because you've begun to dilate. As long as you aren't having labor contractions, it's nothing to fear.
- Your baby hasn't dropped. Lightening can happen two to four weeks before delivery, but it may wait until you go into labor, especially if you've given birth before.
Lots more information about pregnancy awaits you on the next page.
- Baby Center. "Your pregnancy: 36 weeks." (June 14, 2011) http://www.babycenter.com/6_your-pregnancy-36-weeks_1125.bc
- Murkoff, Heidi. "What to Expect When You're Expecting, 4th Edition." Workman Publishing. 2008.
- Sutton, Amy L., ed. "Pregnancy and Birth Sourcebook, Second Edition." Omnigraphics. 2004.
- WebMD."Your Pregnancy Week by Week: Weeks 35-40." (June 14, 2011) http://www.webmd.com/baby/guide/your-pregnancy-week-by-week-weeks-35-40
- What to Expect. "Week 36 of Pregnancy." (June 14, 2011) http://www.whattoexpect.com/pregnancy/week-by-week/week-36.aspx