At 32 weeks your baby is as long as a kale leaf measuring approximately 42.4cm or 16.7in from head (crown) to heel and weighing about 1.7kg (3.7lb).
From 32 weeks, most of your baby’s systems and organs are well developed with the lungs and digestive tract needing a few more weeks to mature. Babies born at 32 weeks have a strong chance of surviving however they will need help with their breathing at this stage as their lungs develop just before birth, later in your pregnancy.
Your baby’s tiny fingernails are fully formed now and have reached the tips of her fingers. Her toenails however will grow to full length a little later down the line compared to her fingernails and are only just visible at this stage. Your baby’s hair is getting thicker too, although it may thin out a little after birth.
Your baby is now doing lots of things a newborn outside the womb would do such as opening their eyes and grasping at their feet. They may even be sucking their thumb as well as making lots of facial expressions too – perhaps practising their smile for when they first see you.
At week 32 your baby may start to position themselves readying for birth. This is usually in a head down position (cephalic position). If she isn’t in this position yet though don’t worry as most babies will make their way to this position by week 36 so there’s plenty of time for your baby to position herself down downwards in your womb.
You may realise that you are experiencing Braxton Hicks contractions or “practice contractions”. Some mothers feel them earlier on in their pregnancy but as you prepare for the arrival of your baby you may confuse Braxton Hicks with the real thing, especially if this is your first baby. The main difference between a Braxton Hicks contraction and a real contraction is that the real ones tend to gradually get stronger and more numerous over time whereas Braxton Hicks tend to be irregular and stop after a while. You should also be able to move around during a Braxton Hicks whereas a real contraction will often stop you in your tracks. Often, changing your position or having a warm bath will help ease the feeling of a Braxton Hick. These “practice contractions” can still be uncomfortable and if you feel unsure as to what you’re experiencing you should contact your midwife for advice.
At this stage you may be thinking about whether you will be able to give birth veginally. It’s normal to be concerned or worried about this especially if it’s your first baby. To help you prepare and to build your confidence you may want to practice different positions to birth in e.g. standing, squatting, kneeling or lying down. Many women find that the upright position enables gravity to help move the baby downwards when the time comes.
In addition to the birthing position now is also a good time to practice other techniques to help you through your labour such as breathing exercises, massage and natural pain relief methods. Here is some helpful information to help you consider which techniques may work for you.
- Think of the word “relax”. It has two syllables, “re” and “lax”. As you breathe in, think “re” to yourself, and as you breathe out, think “lax”. Try to focus your entire attention on repeating the word “relax”‘ in time with your breathing. If you do find your mind wandering, don’t worry – just gently bring your attention back to the word and your breath. When you breathe out, try to let go of any tensions in your body. Focus on the muscles that you know become tense when you’re stressed, such as your neck, shoulders, stomach and back.
- Or try counted breathing. As you breathe in, count slowly up to four, or whatever number seems comfortable for you. As you breathe out, count to a slightly higher number. For example, if you breathe in for a count of four, breathe out for a count of six.
- Try breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth. Inhale deeply through your nose, then gently sigh the air slowly out of your mouth. You also may find it helpful to make a sound on the out-breath, such as “hoooooooh”. Once you’ve exhaled, pause for a moment until your body naturally feels like inhaling through your nose again.
[From Baby Centre]
- Massage is a great way to stimulate your body to release endorphins, the natural pain-killing, mood-lifting chemicals produced in the brain.
- You may want to speak to your birthing partner about how massage can help you during your labour. There are a number of great internet resources that can help you learn which techniques will help. A qualified pregnancy massage therapist may also offer some guidance and advice.
Natural pain relief
- Taking a warm (not hot) bath or shower can help ease the pain of contractions or labour. If you have opted for a water birth, you may find that the warmth of the birth pool will ease the pain too. You should only use a birth pool on the guidance of your midwife.
- Using a hot water bottle filled with hot (but not boiling) water may help. Ensure you wrap the water bottle in a towel or cloth to prevent from burning and also getting too hot.
- Many women benefit from hypnobirthing techniques which can often distract from the pain of labour. Hypnobirthing has been described as a technique that instills calm and control during labour too. There are many resources available online including virtual and in-person courses that you can sign up too as well.
A few things to think about at 32 weeks
Have you thought about organising a baby shower for yourself? Or perhaps a close friend or family member may kindly throw one for you. Baby showers can be a great way to celebrate your pregnancy by playing games and having a bit of fun. It’s also a chance to put together a gift list of all the essentials you need for your baby. Family and friends may appreciate knowing what to get you and in turn you get what you need. How about throwing a baby shower? Or asking a kind friend to throw one for you?
By Lalita – mummy to Averie (three) and Acer (under one month)