Has your older kid been marking off dates on the calendar every day because he can’t wait to hold that bundle of joy in his arms? As much as you would want to hold it yourself now, you would rather wait 6 more weeks for full term so that your baby has no complications whatsoever. If the arrival of a new baby is making your older child sulk, especially because everyone seems to be talking about the little one, take some time out with him and help him cope like he would want to. Sibling rivalry is common and given time and attention, all kids settle down into a rhythm sooner or later. Being gentle and responsive might take extra effort on your part now and after the baby is here but it is so worth it! Always seek help when you feel touched out because of being wanted everywhere.
Your Baby At 31 Weeks
You would be happy to know that your baby is almost the size of a coconut by now. Measuring over 16 inches in length and weighing around 3 1/3 pounds in weight, your baby’s stage of rapid development is spurring up. This is the week for a massive growth spurt and you can expect yourself to be hungry all the time. This is because your baby’s fat stores are being laid out this week at a rapid pace and he will draw maximum amount of nutrition required for the process, from your body.
While your baby is quickly nearing his birth weight and length, he still has around 5 pounds of weight to gain. His sleep cycles are falling into place and you will realize this when there are longer stretches of sleep and more distinct stretches of wakefulness. He will probably be kicking up a storm now and you will find it hard to get enough rest with all the kicking around happening inside your tummy.
Your baby can now turn his head from one side to another and with all the movement going on, you can continue to feel good about the fact that your baby is active and healthy.
Development Of Five Senses
The most significant milestone this week is your baby’s development of five senses. With his brain working at an unbelievably rapid pace and the individual nerve cells getting connected at a fast rate, your baby is now receiving signals from all his five senses. He can process this information and respond to it in an efficient manner.
The only factor that needs further brushing is his ability to smell in things. This is because he is still submerged in amniotic fluid and needs to breathe in after he is born. To sum it up, your baby is not only seeing things, but is also hearing, touching and tasting like any human being and will very soon be able to take in a whiff of your scents right after birth.
While talking about the sense of smell, an important point to remember is your baby’s way of identifying you as the mother. Since they cannot really distinguish between people caring for them; their sense of smell helps them to track their primary caregiver. The smell of milk is what draws them to their mother. The doctor and the attending nurses would recommend you to avoid strong perfumes, deodorants, body creams with strong smell or oils that could mask the natural smell of your body. By doing this you would confuse the poor baby about the source of his primary nourishment. Keeping your baby close to you and breastfeeding on demand1 can help your baby perceive the sense of belonging to you.
Your Baby’s Activities
Apart from kicking up a storm and keeping you up all night, what else could your baby be doing now? While you are busy getting everything ready for the little one’s arrival, your baby is busy sucking his thumb. You can also expect your baby to be hiccupping often, pedaling with feet, sucking on his thumb for long stretches of time, swallowing tiny portions of amniotic fluid and making different kinds of faces.
Your Body At 31 Weeks
Is there anything else that you should be looking forward to this week that promises to be slightly different from what you have been witnessing? Unfortunately, the last leg of pregnancy could be quite rough and all you would want is for the due date to be here as soon as possible. Listed below are the symptoms that could be driving you up the wall this week:
1. Falling Short Of Breath
Your uterus has now shifted to above your belly button and can be felt distinctly from outside. It is but natural that your lungs have been cornered along with your intestines. While it seems like your stomach cavity has been completely taken over by the uterus, thinking about 9 more weeks could make you yelp.
Since your lungs are so badly compressed, you may find it difficult to breathe in and breathe out as effortlessly as you used to do. The lungs are not expanding as fully as they are meant to. Until your baby drops down into the pelvis completely, the shortness of breath will continue to disrupt your normal working force.
You need not worry about your bay’s oxygen supply because while you are clearly huffing and puffing around, your baby is drawing adequate amount of oxygen from the placenta2 Till the time your baby does not position itself for birth in the pelvic area, you could relieve yourself of the discomfort by lying on your side. Always stand in an upright position because the right posture can help you deal with all kinds of aches and pain that catch up in the last leg of pregnancy.
2. Braxton Hicks getting more intense
The muscles in your uterus have been tightening off and on for a couple of months now and these mild contractions will only intensify from now onwards. This is your body’s way of making you adjust to what feels like real labor. These random contractions, known as Braxton Hicks, should ideally be painless and occasional. They generally last for not more than 30 seconds and while you might feel short of breath for that amount of time, there is not much you will feel otherwise.
If the contractions are more frequent and are associated with pain or spotting, you could be in preterm labor. Other signs that are definitely to be considered as red flags are, vaginal bleeding, leakage of fluids from the vagina, pressure and cramping in the pelvic area, lower back pain, mucus-like discharge from the vagina, elevated body temperature etc.
3. Leaky Breasts
As if your sore and tender breasts were not enough, you are likely to have leaky breasts now. Your breasts are preparing themselves for the most important function of nourishing your baby with the best form of nutrition; breast milk. The colostrum is the first thickened version of breast milk that provides the baby with the best form of immunity for a lifetime. In the process of production, tiny amounts of colostrum might be released through your nipples.
If you are not comfortable with it, you could try wearing breast pads to help keep your dry. You can use both washable as well as disposable breast pads. Your breast size may also go up by another cup. Always invest in a supportive nursing bra by this time of the pregnancy. Remember to get one size bigger than the one that you are wearing at the moment because when your milk comes in after delivery, your breasts will feel fuller and you will need a bigger size.
Sex and Orgasm
While many couples find it difficult and inconvenient to have sex after the second trimester, many others continue to enjoy sex till the last few days before delivery. This varies from person to person and there can be no comparison.
If you are among those who enjoy sex but are apprehensive of how the baby will react to sexual activity and orgasms, you need to know that your baby feels neither. The amniotic sac keeps your baby well protected against any injury or impact and even if you are having an orgasm, it does not affect the baby in any way.
In fact, research shows that while you are having an orgasm, the rhythmic movement might as well lull your baby to sleep. If you have been postponing your date with the husband because you are not sure if having sex is a good idea now, go ahead and enjoy the night. After the baby is here, you two might crave for a quick session but a newborn is not easy to look after. With a number of hormonal changes happening after delivery, sex could very well take a backseat.
Urinary Tract Infection In The Third Trimester
A UTI could happen in any part of your urinary tract and pregnancy does seem to enhance your chances of contracting UTI. However, it is not restricted to just a tract infection but could also reach the kidneys. This is why it is important to get an early diagnosis done and treat it as soon as possible.
A typical UTI would seem like a frequent urge to urinate, pain and a burning sensation while urinating and the feeling of not being able to empty the bladder completely. It is caused by bacteria travelling from your vagina or rectum and passing into your urethra.
In pregnancy, your urine passes more slowly through the tract and this gives the bacteria more breeding ground to multiply and infect. Along with this, your urine also becomes less acidic and with glucose being present in it, it is the perfect condition for the infection to take root and make its way to the upper regions of the urinary tract.
What Are The Symptoms Of UTI?
Apart from the pain and burning sensation associated with passing urine, you could also have a dull and annoying pain in your lower back. A lower abdominal pain is also a characteristic feature of UTI.
You might find it hard to differentiate between the normal urge to pee in pregnancy and UTI. However, the pain and burning sensation is not normal in pregnancy and needs to be checked out right away by the doctor.
What If This Is A Kidney Infection?
As mentioned before, UTI does not always restrict itself to the urinary tract. If the infection gets severe, it can reach the kidneys and pose a threat to the pregnancy. You will need immediate medical attention if your kidneys have been impacted. The symptoms of a kidney infection include:
- High fever along with chills.
- Intense pain in the lower back.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Blood or pus in urine.
If you have any of these symptoms, you will need to be rushed to the ER without any delay. A lot of urinary tract infections result in preterm babies.
How Can You Keep UTI At Bay?
Following the steps listed below could reduce your chances of getting UTI:
- Never control your urge to pee. You might feel uncomfortable visiting the loo so often but it is better to be safe than sorry.
- Drink plenty of fluids and keep yourself hydrated.
- Never wipe yourself from back to front. Make it a habit to wipe from front to back after a bowel movement.
- Never use hygiene products that could alter your vaginal flora3. That would only lead to more bacteria accumulating there.
- Drinking cranberry juice is also known to be an effective way of keeping UTI away.
Treating UTI that has spread to the kidneys could be complicated. You will need to be hospitalized and put on intravenous antibiotics. You and your baby will be monitored closely. If you respond well to the first dose of IVs and your doctor feels that you are not at risk for preterm labor, he will discharge you with a set of oral antibiotics.
Once your treatment is over, you will be given another set of antibiotics to keep the infection from recurring. Urinary tract infections have a menacing tendency to recur and without suppressive medication, it is difficult to keep further infections at bay.
Pain Relief During Labor: Yes or No?
Every woman has different pain tolerance levels and while some can go through labor without realizing that they have just had a baby, some others find it impossible to reach the minimum amount of dilation required for the birth. We cannot really judge a woman on the basis of how tolerant they are of labor pain.
If you have attended birthing classes, you would know that there are different ways of childbirth and while some include usage of pain relief, some others advocate an absolutely intervention-free natural birth. If painless labor is what you are looking at but are not sure of how your body will take it, you will need to consider the pros and cons of both the choices.
While attending a birthing class, always ensure that your partner is with you. The topic of labor pain will be discussed in such classes and the options of pain-free labor will also be talked about. There are a number of ways in which pain can be alleviated without resorting to medicines. Breathing and relaxation techniques taught by your instructors will help you to decide if these could help you when labor is upon you.
Pain relieving options include epidurals, general anesthesia, spinal blocks etc. While an epidural is comparatively safer, it could take away the feeling of real labor. An epidural keeps away the pain in the lower half of your body but keeps you conscious throughout labor. You will be able to feel the pressure but not the pain. If you have always thought of childbirth as an empowering feeling, you would not be comfortable with the idea of resorting to epidurals.
A number of other techniques like hypnobirthing, deep breathing, hydrotherapy, massaging etc can help in keeping the pain away. Women who have tried alternate ways of pain relief swear by the efficacy of them.
However, if at the end of it, you find yourself struggling with pain, it is time to accept the fact that pain relief could be an option for you. Childbirth should be an exhilarating experience and if you continue to feel detached from it because the pain is too tough to handle, it does not make any sense to go the natural way.
If you do end up asking for pain relief, do not feel upset or embarrassed about it. You will be as much of a mother as a woman who did not opt for pain medication.
What Are You Eating This Week?
In the midst of planning for labor, childbirth and packing for the hospital, you could skip your meals and then feel dizzy all day. Never compromise on food at this stage of pregnancy. Your baby is drawing out nourishment from your body in all the ways possible and you need to have enough nutrients so that you don’t fall sick.
Continue to have food rich in iron because if you are anemic during childbirth, you could have a risk of hemorrhaging. This is why you need to stock up on your leafy greens, meat and supplements.
Will I Be Able To Bond With My Baby?
A number of questions could cloud your mind and one of them is whether you will bond well with your baby. This comes naturally to an expecting mother who is unsure of how her roles and responsibilities will span out in future.
The best way to bond with your baby immediately after birth is to breastfeed him. The golden hour after birth should ideally be spent in helping your baby breast crawl and getting the right latch. Breastfeeding is not only about the milk. In the initial days, you might not even have enough milk but all you will be giving your baby is the colostrum, rich in antibodies and the best form of immunization for life.
Co-sleeping is also an effective way to bond with the newborn. However, there are a number of factors that you need to remember before co-sleeping. You should be sober and not drunk at bedtime. Your bed should have a firm mattress that does not sink on sleeping on it. There should not be a number of pillows that could be suffocation hazards for your baby.
In the initial days, what matters the most is how much time you can spend with your newborn. If that is taken care of and if you have enough help at hand, bonding happens naturally.
What If I Can’t Bond With My Baby?
Postpartum depression3 is for real and a lot of women ignore the initial signs, only to start hating themselves later. If you feel severely detached from your baby or feel like causing harm to him or her, you should let your partner and your doctor know about it.
You could be given medication and counseled accordingly. PPD is not something that you should be ashamed of. Mental health is of utmost importance while taking care of a newborn and this is why depression should be addressed right away.
What Can You Do For Your Pregnant Spouse This Week?
With every week, you might be getting more and more impatient to meet your little one. While you seem to have everything planned out, something or the other keeps popping up. When the basics are taken care of, you can sit back and experience the last few weeks of pregnancy with your spouse and cherish each day as it comes.
At every prenatal visit, keep an eye on what the doctor suggests and guide your spouse as and when she needs you. This is the time when she will need you the most because she feels vulnerable and indecisive about several things in life. Holding her hand through this will strengthen this bond for a lifetime and beyond.