With only a few weeks left in your pregnancy, the uncertainty of your delivery may be looming ahead. Many women fill the coming weeks with questions and attempts to be as prepared as possible. Now may not be a bad time to consider packing your hospital bag if you haven’t already done so, and putting a few meals in the freezer for those busy first weeks at home.
If born this week your baby may do well, or may struggle. Lung maturity can vary widely between babies and some who are born at 34 weeks only struggle to keep their temperature stable while others need full assistance to breathe and regulate a majority of their body’s functions.
As the pregnancy progresses, some women grow weary with their discomforts and try to give labor a kick start by having sex or riding the lawnmower. Even though you may be tired of being tired, this is not the time to pull out the Cub Cadet and mow every lawn in your neighborhood. Baby still needs each and every day to grow and develop for life outside the womb.
At week thirty-four of pregnancy, the baby is about 5-1/2 pounds and measures in at 15-1/2 to 17-1/2 inches long from head to heel. Some will be larger, some smaller and your doctor should be well aware of any growth issues for your baby by now.
Body fat is continuing to make your baby look more like the picture-perfect sweetheart you have imagined. While this fat certainly helps them look nice, it has several other important roles, including body temperature regulation and blood sugar control during those first days when food can be at a premium (especially if you are breast feeding). Designed to live on only a teaspoon of colostrum (or first milk) at each feeding, baby’s body is ready to take on a few less calories temporarily. Most organs are matured at this week in pregnancy except for the lungs, which continue to produce surfactant and practice breathing movements for the big day.
For little boys, the testes will begin their journey from their previous home in the abdomen into the scrotum. If your baby is born with undescended testicles, don’t worry—about ¼ of all baby boys have at least one that didn’t make the trip down, but it probably will over the coming months without any problems.
Getting ready for birth, your baby should be head down (toward your feet) by now. If not, there’s still time for a flip or your doctor may begin talking about a Cesarean-section, just in case.
Changes With Your Body
By now the uterus is about 5-1/2 inches from the belly button and it feels like you are packing around a watermelon. But as we have been saying, every woman is different and every pregnancy is different—so some will carry and show in their own unique way.
The amount of amniotic fluid that surrounds and pads the baby will begin to decrease, and every movement may feel more pronounced as their water padding diminishes.
You may notice your hands, feet and even your face start to swell a bit. With time and a half your normal blood volume in circulation, it can be a hard task for your body to manage all the extra fluid on board. Lots of walking or standing may cause swelling in the lower legs, but if you should suddenly gain a large amount of weight or your face swells, talk with your doctor as soon as possible. Blood pressure can make dramatic shifts during the last weeks of pregnancy even in women who have had no problems in previous weeks.
What To Expect
Sometimes the last weeks are about the truly unexpected events. As your body prepares for birth, you will notice new feelings and sensations from one day to the next. What happens for one woman may not happen for another. Some of the most typical symptoms to come can include:
- An increase in vaginal secretions (which are usually mistaken for broken water)
- A reduction in your breathing difficulties as baby drops into the pelvis
- Your baby may turn from a breech position to head-down
- Fatigue may increase
- Your nesting instinct (desire to prepare for the baby) may increase
As the due date draws near, make sure that you are at ease with the way the birth is going to happen. Many women tend to panic and when they get into the delivery room, they forget everything they have learned. Share your concerns with your doctor and your partner and begin thinking about a labor coach if you feel you need one. Doulas are certified labor coaches and offer a variety of skills to help you cope—one contraction at a time.