It is not just your belly that’s continuing to grow but also your baby who is now making rapid strides towards the due date. With 5 weeks to go for a full term pregnancy and 8 weeks for the 40th week mark, things are probably busier than you had expected. However, you can also expect time to move very slowly now because while you can’t wait for your due date to be here, it just doesn’t seem to arrive. Along with your baby, you are also putting on weight at a regulated pace. However, you should always keep an eye on your weight gain to keep issues like gestational diabetes and preeclampsia at bay. Your baby is practicing all her moves so that when she is outside the womb, she can survive with her well-developed skill sets.
Your baby weighs almost around 4 pounds this week and is around 17 inches long. There are a number of skills that she is practicing all the while she is awake. These are survival skills that she will need when she is born. Swallowing, kicking, sucking and breathing are the skills that will keep your baby at her fittest when she is outside your womb. She will need to take in the first breath of air right after birth for the final step of her lung maturity. Your baby is receiving all her nutrition via the umbilical cord1 but right after birth, there will be a transition to mouth feeding. This is why your baby’s digestive system is rapidly developing to ensure that when your baby is ready to nurse, she is able to digest breast milk with absolute ease.
With more fat stores adding to your baby’s body, she is starting to look more familiar to a newborn than ever before. Her skin is no longer transparent. It is opaque and you will no longer be able to look into those veins if you could peep inside your womb now.
You will be gaining a pound per week from this week onwards and almost half of that weight will go to your baby. Your baby finally has a head full of hair which is still quite fuzzy but you could call it real hair, if you wanted to. Along with toenails, fingernails and a gradual plumping up of her body, your baby is all set to meet you and melt your heart at the first sight.
Defined Sleep Cycles
Your baby’s sleep cycles are more or less predictable by now because she sleeps for longer stretches without making much movement. When you are busy, you can expect her to unwind and sleep and just when you are about to lie down for a while, she might begin to move about.
You should make the most of your downtime since the arrival of a baby and the responsibilities thereafter can be quite baffling. While your baby has more or less defined sleep cycles now, you can expect her to be less sleepy once she is born. A number of factors like hunger, colic pains, need to be in touch with mother’s body and peeing cycles can come into play, after birth, jeopardizing both your own and your baby’s sleep hours.
Is Your Baby In The Birthing Position Yet?
Instead of the constant kicks and nudges that you have been feeling all these weeks, you will now feel more of squirming and tapping. This shouldn’t come as a surprise since you are aware that your baby has taken up way too much space in your uterus and there is hardly much space left to practice those somersaults.
She is probably being able to roll around occasionally. You must have heard about birthing positions by now. Your baby should ideally be in a heads-down, bottoms-up position (cephalic position) to ensure that birth is natural, smooth and intervention-free. This position is ideal because your baby’s head has the perfect shape to fit into the pear-shaped uterus and pass out without much trouble.
However, if your baby is yet to settle down into the cephalic presentation2, do not worry because most babies are not ready before the 36th or the 37th week. Only five percent of babies remain in the breech position till the last moment. This implies that it is likely for your baby to flip right before labor begins even within the restricted space of your uterus.
Your Body At 32 Weeks
As your baby continues to grow, her requirements keep escalating. To ensure that all her requirements are met, your blood volume increases by 40-50% from the time you had conceived. Along with this, your growing uterus places a good amount of pressure upward on your diaphragm because your stomach cavity is already crowded. All these symptoms lead to shortness of breath and the return of reflux.
To relieve yourself of the discomfort, you can use propped up pillows. Propping up pillows helps in keeping the stomach acids in the lower half of the esophagus. This will relieve you from acid reflux and help you sleep at night.
The other factor that helps to a good extent is eating small and frequent meals. Smaller meals are easier to digest. Frequent meals will keep your blood sugar stabilized. You will not feel bloated or too full if you are having smaller proportions each time you sit down to eat. Yet another way to keep yourself feeling comfortable is to avoid drinking water immediately after meals. This is important because intake of water right before or after meals enhances your chances of getting reflux.
Back Pain And What It Could Mean
While you could have lower back pain as a normal symptom of third trimester, a sudden pain could also mean preterm labor. You will need to watch out for signs and symptoms that indicate the difference between a normal backache and labor pain.
As your baby bump grows even more, it tends to place a good amount of pressure on your lower back. Your back arches out to support your belly so that the balance of your body is maintained. In this adjustment, your back bears the brunt all the way. It is normal for a pregnant woman to develop lower backaches towards the end of pregnancy.
However, if these backaches are associated with cramp-like pains, leakage of fluid from your vagina, loss of the mucus plug, nausea, loose motions etc, you will need to let your doctor know about it so that he can rule out the chances of a preterm labor.
If preterm labor is ruled out, you will be made to understand why these pains set in. your uterus is not only growing out but is also stretching and weakening your abdominal muscles. This changes your posture, strains your back and also tends to affect your gait.
Along with these changes, the changing hormones have already loosened and relaxed your joints and muscles. This can lead to further pains and strain in your pelvic area. You will eventually tend to feel less balanced while walking, sitting for longer periods and then getting up etc. The idea is to change positions slowly and steadily so that your body gets adequate amount of time to respond accordingly.
Is Your Skin Itchy And Scratchy All The Time?
An itch that you can’t get rid of is a terrible feeling. Pregnancy associated itches are worse because your eyes can’t reach exact positions to aid mind and body co-ordination. While skin irritation and sensitivity are common to most pregnant women, not all feel the same amount of itchiness.
As your pregnant belly grows, the skin on it expands beyond its limits. In most cases, this leads to deep epidermal tears that surface on the skin as stretch marks. While stretch marks can look deadly in pregnancy, they gradually fade a lot after delivery but they can never be got rid of.
To relieve yourself of the irritation, it is important to stop scratching right away. You will need to use a dab of cotton to rub over the areas in order to feel comfortable. Wearing loose, cotton and unrestricted clothing can immensely help with the itchiness.
Reasons For An Itchy Belly
The skin on your abdomen expands more than it ever has and that tends to deprive it of the much-needed moisture. Naturally, it gets drier and you feel itchy and uncomfortable over a period of time. The other areas of your body that might feel dry and itchy are your butt, thighs and arms, if you are putting on weight rapidly.
When An Itch Is More Than Just An Itch
While itchy and dry skin can be attributed to the expansion of skin in pregnancy, there are times when it could also mean other underlying conditions. There are factors like PUPP3, excessive gall in your body that is not releasing as it should etc. You should visit or call your doctor if you feel that any of the symptoms listed below is happening to you:
- If the itch is not restricted to the expanding parts of your body only.
- If there is an unexplained rash on your body.
- If your entire body seems to be itching.
- If the rash or itch is on your belly.
A rash or itch on your belly could be a sign of PUPP. PUPP is a very annoying symptom that could crop up in the third trimester. While it is completely treatable, it could be quite irritating and needs to be diagnosed at the earliest so that you are not sleep-deprived because of it.
How Can You Relieve Your Itch?
Listed below are few simple ways of keeping that annoying itch away:
It can be extremely tempting to scratch your belly but you will need to remember that the more you scratch, the worse it gets. Your skin will get itchier and you could also get injured if your nails are not trimmed.
Regularly moisturizing your skin can keep the itch under control. Since your skin is being deprived of moisture, using a gentle, fragrance-free moisturizer can help retain the hydration it needs. Creams containing shea butter helps to a good extent.
Creams To Control The Itch
You will find a number of anti-itch creams over the counter that can control the annoying itch. However, if you have a sensitive skin and could be allergic to new ingredients, it is recommended that you avoid OTC medication and stick to what your doctor recommends.
Oils Containing Vitamin E
Vitamin E is considered as a magical solution to a number of things. It heals wounds, injuries and curbs itchiness very effectively. Using light oils containing Vitamin E gently on your itchy belly will ease you.
Oats is not just good for your stomach but also for your skin. Oatmeal baths can work wonders for your itchy skin by curbing the itch and moisturizing it, leaving it smooth and velvety. Just ensure that the warm water you are using is of a comfortable temperature for you.
Intensified Braxton Hicks This Week
You might have been experiencing these mild pains that don’t last more than a few seconds for some weeks now. From this week onwards, you will feel more intense contractions. This is because your body is preparing itself for labor and for that to happen effectively, the muscles need to be flexed well. The brunching together and hardening of uterine muscles are actually practice contractions that are irregular in the beginning but become more regular and stronger as your due date approaches.
For first timers they might not be as intense but for second or third timers, Braxton Hicks contractions are way more intense and start earlier than their previous pregnancies. The feeling is like a tightening sensation that begins at the fundus and spreads downwards. Initially, they may last for a few seconds and later for more than two minutes.
Learning to differentiate between Braxton Hicks and real labor is the real challenge that many women fail at. The first thing to notice about these contractions is that they will stop as soon as you change positions. If you have been lying down or sitting for a while, try getting up and walking around. If they reduce in intensity, they are in all probability, Braxton Hicks. However, if the pain continues to intensify and the contractions become stronger, you are likely to be in labor.
If you feel that labor is upon you, contact your health practitioner at the earliest. Till then, you can ease yourself in a warm bath or try breathing techniques that your prenatal classes had taught you.
Are Ultrasounds Worth It?
Ultrasounds are the most effective ways of taking a peek into your womb. However, they have come a long way from being unclear, medical records that only a certified doctor will be able to make out. We have 3D and 4D ultrasounds these days that let you take a closer and more detailed look at your baby.
The question in contention is whether these ultrasounds are safe enough. To begin with, it is not just about the safety of this procedure. It is also about how they can cause misleading thoughts and ideas. A lot of times, these procedures lead to inaccurate findings and can unnecessarily traumatize parents. If there is anything that needs to be ruled out, your doctor would know what to do about it and will suggest ultrasounds as and when needed.
Secondly, it is believed that too many of these ultrasounds could have an impact on your baby. While this has not been proven scientifically; taking chances for the sake of fun is not a good idea.
Who Gets To Be With You During Labor?
While your entire family could be making extensive plans to be with you in the labor room, it is you who gets to decide whom you would want to include inside that room. There is no denying the fact that childbirth is your personal experience that you might not feel comfortable sharing with others. You might want your partner along or you might want the closest people around. Listed below are some factors that could help you in taking the decision:
- Bring whoever makes you feel comfortable. That person might be your partner, your best friend, your colleague, your mother or your midwife. It has been seen that most women prefer bringing their partners along because that gives them an emotional support no one else can.
- While you would most definitely want your partner to be with you in the birthing room, ensure that he is on the same page as you are. He might be slightly confused about his role in your birth plan. If he conveys that he might not be comfortable being with you in the labor room, cut him some slack. You could try conveying how much his presence is desired by you but if he is still unsure about his participation, bring along the next best person.
- Your relatives might be extremely eager to welcome the newest member of the family. If the presence of your mother or your mother-in-law freaks you out, you could always involve the hospital staff in ensuring they are not allowed inside the labor room. All is fair in love, war and childbirth.
- The presence of your doula or midwife can be a highly comforting experience for you. She will help you keeping calm and practicing the breathing techniques you have been learning all these days. It has been seen that the presence of a birthing partner reduces the number of birth complications and also increases the chances of a natural birth.
Are These My Breasts?
You will find yourself asking this question a number of times all through your pregnancy. This is because your breasts will go through a lot of changes in different phases of pregnancy. Towards the end of pregnancy, you will start noticing that your breasts leak at times. A thin, yellowish fluid, called colostrum; it is the first milk that your baby will receive and contains more protein and lesser fat and sugar than mature milk. Mature milk comes in later and till then colostrum, which is loaded with antibodies, helps nourish and protect your baby from a number of germs.
Breast milk comes in after quite some days of delivery and colostrum is more than enough to nourish your baby till then. If you are curious to know what exactly is colostrum you could pinch your breasts gently. The few drops of yellowish fluid that comes out is colostrum. You may or may not leak colostrum but that is not an indicator of whether your breasts will make milk or not.
You might feel slightly conscious of your leaky breasts because it might happen all of a sudden. Wearing washable or disposable nursing pads can help keep your clothes dry. However, it is important to know that pregnancy and childbirth come along with wet bras, nightgowns, engorged and leaky breasts and it is all natural to happen.
Count Your Helpers
It is not for nothing that people say how raising a child requires an entire village. Rearing a baby is tougher than bearing one. If your friends and family members are more than willing to take up roles and responsibilities, then there is nothing like it. Start distributing their responsibilities from the very beginning.
Set up a friend to take over meal plans. Appoint someone who is responsible enough to understand the kind of nourishment you would need while breastfeeding your baby and recovering from childbirth.
Your family members could take over an older child so that your hospital trips don’t disrupt their schedules.
If you have pets, this is a time when someone needs to be there to take care of them. Ensure that someone responsible is present to walk and feed them on time.
Helping Your Spouse This Week
Understanding your wife’s body and its needs is very important from now onwards. Her body is preparing itself for birth and you will need to keep reminding her of the strength and beauty it stands for. She will constantly seek your support in this and it is your responsibility to help her through this significant phase of life.