If you have been waiting to get your first maternity shoot done, this is the time. 36 weeks is the time when your belly bump is as perfect as it could be, you are almost near the finishing line and you definitely need a good deal of distraction from people wanting to know when you would finally deliver. You will be meeting your doctor every week or more to check your baby’s position and whether the head is engaged or not. Your baby is likely to have moved further down into your pelvis and this will make breathing and eating food way easier for you. The intolerable acid reflux that used to plague you day in and day out will also reduce considerably. Your nesting instinct is likely to kick in this week and de-cluttering will continue to be on your mind all the time.
Your Baby This Week
Your baby continues to put on an ounce a day all through this week. Weighing in at almost 6 pounds and measuring around 18 inches in length, your baby is surely causing your back to ache even more. However, it is only a couple of weeks before your back will be relieved of the aches and pains and your baby will be nestled in your loving arms. Your arms and shoulders will probably have a tough time then, but that is another story for another time!
In the coming weeks, your baby’s growth will slow down so that she can fit into the birth canal conveniently and pass through it. She will also need to store up all the added energy to use after delivery.
Your baby was covered with a wax-like substance, called the vernix caseosa1, all through pregnancy. This was present to protect her gentle skin from the surrounding amniotic fluid. This week onwards your baby will be shedding most of it along with the downy hair that was present on her skin for a long time inside the womb. However, there will be traces of wax and hair present on your baby’s skin after she is born and they will eventually shed off with time.
You will be amazed to know that your baby swallows these substances that are shed from her body along with other secretions and small portions of amniotic fluid, in preparation for her first bowel movement, the meconium. It is a sticky, blackish mixture that is excreted right after birth and is almost always cleaned up by the attending nurses. If you happen to have a home birth, your might be able to witness it and clean it up yourself, if you have the energy.
Knowing The Term
If your baby is born this week, she will be called an “early term” baby. Babies born between 39-40 weeks are termed as full term babies. If your baby is born before between 36-37 weeks, she will be known as “preterm”. It is likely that your baby is laying heads-down in the cephalic position. It may take some more time for her head to be engaged.
Your doctor might suggest you to consider an external cephalic version that involves external manipulation by a certified professional to turn the position of your baby. While many women opt for this because they are tired of waiting and answering people, some others prefer to wait it out for things to take a natural course.
Not only are your baby’s skull bones waiting to be fused together, but also are most of the other bones in her body along with the cartilage. These remain softer than that of grown up children so that their journey through the birth canal is easier. These bones and cartilage will continue to grow and harden with time after the delivery and as your baby grows up.
Baby’s Digestive System
There is no denying the fact that by now most of your baby’s organs are well matured and are functioning optimally. Your baby’s blood circulation is up and running and so is her immune system. Her immunity is developed enough to guard her from the basic infections that are likely to happen to newborns. However, among other things that need further development, her digestive system is the one that needs some more time to mature fully.
Your baby’s prime source of nutrition has been the umbilical cord inside your womb. Although the digestive system has been in place for a while, it has not been fully functional because it has not been used yet. It will take a couple of years from birth for the digestive system to mature fully.
Your Body This Week
You will probably be walking like a penguin this week because your belly is bigger than it has ever been and you just can’t seem to straighten out your back. You might be feeling embarrassed because of this new gait but you will need to understand that your pregnancy hormones are quite on the rise. They are causing your connective tissues to loosen and soften. This is an important step towards your delivery because your baby needs to fit in through your pelvic bones and surrounding tissues so as to make a vaginal delivery possible. While this is the body’s natural course of pushing out a baby, you might be feeling quite worked up with all the stretching, pulling and tugging of joints and muscles.
New Episodes Of Pain
With the loosening of pelvic and surrounding tissues and joints, there are new aches and pains that are plaguing you like never before. Pelvic pain is a factor that every pregnant woman dreads and it could actually get quite severe. The final trimester is almost like a nightmare for many women; especially the final weeks before delivery when the baby drops further into the pelvis.
Two to four weeks before your due date, your baby drops into the pelvis in preparation for birth. This is called “lightening2”. While some women experience it beforehand, most women feel this occurring in the first stage of labor.
However, pelvic pain can occur at any point in time and could be quite severe. The impact ranges from mild twinges to intense cramps that run down your back. The idea is to know the difference between pelvic pain and pelvic pressure. How would you identify if you are experiencing labor? The factors listed below might come in handy when one of those cramps is upon you:
- Pelvic pain feels more like wrenching; as if your pelvis is about to come apart and this is because your baby is burrowing its head in the birth canal and engaging it for birth.
- Pelvic pressure, on the other hand, feels more like menstrual cramps around the rectum and groin area and could signify the initial stages of labor and dilation.
Apart from loosening of ligaments, there can be another reason for pelvic pain. This is known as Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction3. This kind of pain does not shoot down through your legs like sciatica pain does. It is more localized and restricted to the pubic area.
How Can You Help Yourself?
While pelvic pain can be mild to moderate for some, it can be quite intense and annoying for many. The best way out is to understand how to deal with this pain and find ways to reduce the discomfort. Listed below are some of the ways you could adopt:
- Pelvic floor exercises are known to be highly beneficial to reduce pelvic pain. You can try Kegels or pelvic tilts from your initial days of pregnancy to avoid pain in the future.
- A warm and relaxing bath with your favorite perfumed oils infused in water can help ease the effect of gravity on your body.
- There are maternity belts and slings available that can take a considerable amount of weight and pressure off your body.
- Appoint a certified therapist who is aware of the techniques of prenatal massages.
- Alternative therapies also work wonders and can ease off the pain.
- A lot of pregnant women swear by the benefits of acupuncture.
Lightening And Lesser Heartburn
While your back might be killing you and everything hurts in your body at the moment, you have one thing to look forward to. You will experience a significant reduction in acid reflux and heartburn as your baby drops into the pelvis.
You might even start relishing your normal-size meals because there is more room in your stomach cavity for your digestive system to work effectively. However, it is advisable that you continue to have smaller and frequent meals because you will never want a bloated tummy because you went overboard with your cravings.
You will also find breathing way easier than it used to be before. This is because your baby no longer pushes against your diaphragm and your lungs can function effectively. Your lungs will finally be back to expanding fully and that helps in inhaling and exhaling more conveniently. All that huffing and puffing will be mostly gone.
However, with all these things that have eased up, you will have a couple of added discomforts from this week onwards. Now that your baby has dropped into your pelvis, you will find walking around quite uncomfortable. With more pressure on your bladder due to the dropping of the baby, you will also need to pee frequently, which is yet another reason to feel uncomfortable.
Added to this, if you have a low-lying placenta4 or a low-lying baby, your discomfort goes up a notch higher since you will keep experiencing vaginal pressure and an even more frequent urge to pee. It might feel like carrying your baby in between your legs even before you have delivered.
Your Braxton Hicks contractions will become more intense this week. If your doctor has already informed you about the signs of labor, you would know the difference. If he has not, you might want to get an update from him about the same so that you don’t end up unaware in the second stage of labor.
If your contractions continue to be intense but are not quite close, it might not be labor. If your pregnancy has been rather uncomplicated, your amniotic sac is intact and you show no signs of labor, your doctor will suggest you to wait it out.
The red flags that you should bear in mind are reduction in baby’s movement, vaginal spotting or bleeding, leakage of amniotic fluid, abdominal cramps or pain and blurred vision. In any of these cases, you should let your doctor know immediately about your condition so that he can take a decision accordingly.
When The Nesting Instinct Strikes
The nesting instinct is quite common in the animal world and if you had no clue about it, you might experience it yourself sometime around this week. Preparing your home or “nest” for the newest member of the family comes naturally to most expecting parents. This might take you by surprise if you have been essentially unorganized earlier.
While human nesting instinct differs from our animal counterparts, it is Nature’s way of gearing you up for nurturing a baby. Research shows that there is a surge in adrenaline levels in between Week 38 and Week 39 that causes this instinct to build up. Apart from this factor, emotions also play a significant role in causing us to feel the need for de-cluttering.
While it could be stressful if you already have an aching back, it could be your perfect excuse to do away with all that has been unnecessarily piling up in your home. You and your partner need to distribute the work among you two so that you don’t end up more exhausted than ever before.
The only couple of things that you need to remind yourself before taking over the house are not to strain yourself, not to climb up ladders, not to reach for something that needs you to stretch out and to unwind as soon as you feel the tiniest amount of exhaustion. Always take snack breaks in between and keep yourself hydrated through all your activities. What are the activities that you could safely do?
Once the baby is here, you would thank yourself for keeping your food essentials stocked up beforehand. Make the most of your nesting instincts and start clearing up your fridge space. Throw out outdated food items and get new ones like cheese, salad greens, fruits, milk, pre-roasted chicken, fish filets etc. Remember to stock your fridge with items that you can quickly warm up or stir-fry and consume. In the initial days after the baby comes home, you and your partner might be too exhausted to cook full course meals.
There is nothing like those hunger pangs that might strike you at odd hours, especially if you are breastfeeding. Remember to stock up your pantry with wholegrain cereal, pastas, dried fruits, nuts, brown rice, vegetables and instant soups. All of these might not be healthy options but these could very well save the day when your baby refuses to be put down for a nap.
Who could possibly turn down a homemade meal, especially if you have been subjected to bland hospital food during labor and delivery? It is very convenient to flash cook frost-friendly food items like sausages, veggies, pancakes, muffins, pastas, meatloaves etc. All you have got to do is heat the food in your microwave and you are sorted for the day. You can keep separate batches of food for separate days by dividing them into portions.
While you might as well be delivering in the winters, your deep cleaning needs could almost resemble spring cleaning. You might want to clean the windowsills and blinds, vacuum the sofa cushions and dust the photo frames. Be careful about doing these if you are allergic to dust; it might as well aggravate your condition.
If you have still not been able to stock up clothing essentials for your post-baby body, this is the time. You will need nursing pads, nursing bras, gowns and nursing pillows if you plan to breastfeed. You will also need oversized underwear but remember not to invest too much in them because they might be stained with blood and discharge in the initial weeks and you might need to throw them away.
Your baby will not just need clothes but a hundred other things. Stock diapers, baby soaps, rectal thermometer, nasal syringe, baby soap, baby shampoo, bottles, nipples etc are baby essentials that you need to stock well in advance.
Have You Made Birth Announcements Yet?
Have you decided how you intend to announce your baby’s arrival? Calling, texting, tweeting, e-mailing, messaging and updating status on social networking sites are the commonest ways that most people adopt. Knowing in advance what exactly you are looking for can help do away with last minute preparations.
If you are looking for a formal announcement, you could send out online or paper notes. You might also want your extended family members to know about your baby’s arrival. This can be taken care of by keeping numbers and e-mail addresses at hand and they can be informed as soon as the baby arrives.
Don’t be alarmed if you notice vaginal discharge streaked with blood. It is also likely that your discharge will get thicker and increase in volume from this week onwards. If you have sex this week or a vaginal examination, the likelihood of a blood streaked discharge is enhanced.
All these symptoms could mean that your cervix5 has started dilating although you could be days away from real labor. Keep a check on your contractions, the movements of your baby and your discharge. If the discharge looks watery or too runny, you could be leaking amniotic fluid and that needs to be reported to the doctor right away.
One of the several things that might give you sleepless nights this week onwards is increased urination. Now that your baby has dropped into the pelvis, your bladder will bear the brunt of the uterus as well as your fully grown baby. A sip or two of water might send you to the washroom every half an hour but that does not mean you should cut back on fluids.
Now is the time when you will need to stay hydrated more than ever before. Your body needs fluids to keep up energy levels and prevent urinary tract infections. Try and cut down on processed juices, caffeine, carbonated beverages that stimulate urine production. Keep drinking to thirst and never control the urge to urinate. This leads to urine infections because the bacteria stay back in the urinary tract longer than it should. While urinating, try and lean forward so that you are emptying the entire bladder at a time.
Helping Your Spouse This Week
There will be a number of things to do this week and you and your partner will probably be busier than ever before. Share your responsibilities so that one of you doesn’t feel touched out by day end. Help your wife make or arrange for baby announcements. Go through the member lists carefully so that you don’t miss out anyone. Your wife might still be a victim of pregnancy induced dementia and you will need to remind her of the names she could have forgotten.
Batches of food in the refrigerator will save the day when you and your wife will take turns to manage a colicky baby. Help your wife with the meal preparations and if you can, cook a couple of meals yourself. Check on the pantry supplies and ensure that there is enough to last a couple of weeks after the baby is here.
Get your last-minute work schedule in place so that you can make the most of your paternity leave. You wouldn’t want to attend client calls and conference calls while waiting for your wife in the hospital. Keeping your work schedule updated and letting your employer know about the exact dates of your leave can help you plan your innings efficiently.