Your pregnancy week by week : Week 36
Your baby’s weight is almost 2.6kg or 5.7lb and measuring around 47.4cm or 18.7in this week. She’s almost the length of a romaine lettuce and getting longer (and chubbier) day by day.
By the end of this week your pregnancy will be considered full-term and this means that your baby is ready to be born and could arrive any day from now. It’s very rare that babies are born on their due date and most women tend to give birth anytime between 38 weeks and 42 weeks. Babies born before 37 weeks are known as premature or pre term, while those born after 42 weeks are known as post-mature or post-term.
Your baby’s senses are continuing to develop at speed and this week her hearing is likely to become much more sensitive and mature. Her brain and nervous system are also maturing fast in preparation for her arrival into the world.
Your baby will continue to shed what’s left of her downy lanugo hair and vernix caseosa – this is the protective substance that covers her skin. It’s worth noting that your baby will likely still have patches of them after the birth – newborns don’t always look like they do on TV! She’ll swallow this hair and skin and, once digested, it will stay in her bowels as meconium, a black or dark green sticky substance. This meconium will become her first poo after birth.
This week you will likely have an appointment with your midwife who will check what position your baby is in. It’s likely that your baby is in the head-down, or cephalic, position. Your baby’s head may even have moved down into your pelvis in preparation for birth – this is called engaged. Women share that when their baby becomes engaged they feel able to breathe much better. You may also notice that your bump has “dropped” or moved down. This is called lightening. Lightening and engagement is a sign that your baby is ready to be borm but it doesn’t mean that it’s imminent. For those who’s baby isn’t engaged yet, dont worry, this is also normal and will happen at any point leading up to your labour. Some babies don’t even move into the pelvis and become engaged until labour has started.
If your baby stays in a bottom-down position (breech), or is lying across your belly (transverse lie) after this week, your doctor or midwife may offer to try to turn her round. A technique called external cephalic version (ECV) can encourage your baby into a head-down position. Your doctor or midwife will place their hands on your belly and use firm, gentle pressure to help your baby to turn. Some experts advise women to bounce on their pregancy ball to help turn a baby around. If you have any questions about natural ways to support your baby to turn around you should contact your midwife.
As lightening begins your lungs and tummy will finally get a chance to stretch a bit, so breathing and eating become easier however the bad news is that you may find walking a little bit uncomfortable and difficult. Some mums have shared that they feel their baby is about to fall out but don’t worry, this won’t happen. At the later stages of pregnancy it’s also common to feel the need to go for a wee much more regularly. This is due to your baby pressing on your bladder. Doing your pelvic floor exercises can help with this and also protect your pelvic floor muscles following the birth. Your midwife can share information on how how to do these exercises.
As the birth of your baby approaches you may be wondering about the ways that women give birth or how you will know when labour is starting. Every woman’s experience of labour. Even those who have had babies before can experience labour in different ways.
What does early labour feel like?
- Persistent lower back pain or abdominal pain, with cramps that feel like period pain.
- Painful contractions or tightenings that may be irregular in strength and frequency, and may stop and start.
- Broken waters (ruptured membranes). Your membranes may rupture with a gush or a trickle of amniotic fluid. Although this can happen long before labour starts, you should still call your maternity unit to let them know.
- A sticky, jelly-like mucus discharge, which may be tinged with blood (bloody show). This is the mucus plug that blocks the cervix during pregnancy. If it comes out, labour could start soon, or in a few days. It’s a sign that things are moving along.
- An upset tummy or loose bowels.
The main ways that women give birth
This is the most common way that babies are born, and accounts for around 6 out of 10 births in England. You may need help getting the labour started. This is called induction and can be done by breaking your membranes and/or drugs. You will then go through 3 stages of labour:
- You will feel contractions as your cervix opens up (dilates) to around 10cm. This stage lasts 6-12 hours.
- Your baby moves down the birth canal towards the opening of your vagina. You may get the urge to push… and then your baby comes out! This stage lasts up to 3 hours, if it’s your first baby, or 2 hours if you’ve had a baby before.
- Your womb contracts and the placenta comes out through your vagina. This could happen naturally or you may need an injection of a drug called oxytocin to speed it up. This stage is usually over within 30 minutes.
Nearly 3 out of 10 babies are delivered by caesarean. This is a procedure that is ideally planned, but it can also be carried out in an emergency. A 10-20cm cut is made in your stomach and womb. Your baby is delivered through the opening and brought over to you. Then you’ll be stitched up and offered an injection of oxytocin to help your womb contract and reduce blood loss. The procedure takes 40-50 minutes. You may need to recover in the hospital for a few days.
Just over 1 in 10 births are ‘assisted’, which means that the baby needs some help getting out with the use of a ventouse (suction cup) or forceps (surgical tongs). You will be offered a local anaesthetic or epidural (injection in the back) for pain relief. Some women will need an episiotomy (cut) to make it easier to get the baby out. If you tear, or need a cut, then you will be stitched up again.
Now that you’re in full term and with the baby potentially arriving any day from now it’s a good time to focus on last minute preparations. If you have a car, keep it topped up with petrol to get you to the hospital or birth centre, rehearse the best route and have plenty of change for the car park. This is also a good time to work out where you need to go when you arrive at the hospital in labour (if you choose to birth at the hospital).
To further prepare, ensure your birth partner knows what you expect of them during the birth whether it’s what they’re bringing to the hospital for you to how you want them involved during the labour (which can of course change in the moment).
Snacks, a change of clothes and the labour timeline are all essential. Consider what the mother may want but also think about what you may need throughout the process, espeically if the plan is to go into hospital for example something to read, your own toiletries, and even swimming gear (if you’re planning a water birth).