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36 weeks pregnant and counting

28 days until you're due and your weekly checks now include seeing what's happening to your cervix

Posted: 17 September 2008
by Maria Muennich

Welcome to your last month of pregnancy! You're 36 weeks pregnant.

Sometime in these last few weeks of pregnancy many mums-to-be feel their baby drop down into the pelvis, shifting weight and pressure downwards to your lower half, this is called 'lightening'. This could happen as early as now, but it's also not unusual for you to have to wait a few more weeks yet. Not everyone is aware of lightening: some mums will feel it distinctly while other may simply notice that there is less pressure on their stomach and lungs and more on their bladder and nether regions. So, you may soon find that any heartburn and indigestion problems are easing, but on the other hand you find yourself frequently waddling in the direction of the loo. In the meantime you'll probably still be getting short of breath relatively easily and suffering from digestive discomforts of one kind or another, but take heart from the fact that relief shouldn't be far off.

At your next ante-natal appointment your midwife or doctor may check your cervix with an internal exam to see whether it is beginning to ripen ready for the birth. Don't be too shocked if s/he says that it is already beginning to soften: While in some women this is a very fast process, for others it can take as long as weeks and so it isn't necessarily a sign that labour is around the corner. Your midwife will also check to see if your baby's head has dropped down or started to 'engage' in your cervix.

If your baby is still in breech position there is no need to worry about this yet, she may not turn for another couple of weeks yet. However, you can start trying to encourage her to turn if you want to. There are simple exercises that you can do at home or you could consider moxibustion, which is a kind of acupuncture - you can find contacts for qualified acupuncturists here. Some mums report success by playing music through headphones positioned down near your pelvis, shining a torch on the lowest part of the bump or getting dad to speak to baby through the lowest part of the bump, all of which are designed to get baby to bring her head down to see/hear better what's going on.

You're probably finding that you tire physically quite quickly these days. Of course there are a very few women who are still out running regularly in their ninth month of pregnancy, but most of us are happy if we can manage a long-ish walk, or simply get through a normal day. You may well be finishing your days earlier than usual (bringing back memories of the first trimester?), and it's not at all unusual to find that you don't have much mental energy left in the evenings either. On the other hand, if the nesting instinct has already kicked in you'll probably find that you have sudden bursts of energy coupled with a burning desire to re-arrange, scrub, clean, wash and fold. You might find this very strange, particularly if you're not usually the domestic type, but it's a perfectly natural instinct to prepare your home for your new baby. Do make sure that you listen to your body when you get tired though, then put down the cloths and mop and go and put your feet up for a while with a drink, listen to some music, read or take a soak in that newly-scrubbed bathtub.

As both your weight and the way you carry it have changed, and as your loosening joints give you less control over your body, comical clumsiness can result. Of course, it's only comical if you don't actually hurt yourself as you walk into walls, trip up over your own feet or drop things for no apparent reason, so do adjust to take a little more care about what you do and how you do it. Your concentration is also often affected by late pregnancy, and so a certain mental clumsiness is very common. You might find that this worsens in these last few weeks as you seem absolutely unable to leave the house without forgetting something, you try to start the car with a pen, leave your keys outside in the lock again or toast your plate instead of the bread. Try to take all this in good humour and follow the prompt to simplify your life a little. Yes, you're a great multi-tasker, but give your brain a bit of a break by slowing down a little.

You might feel that your bump really can't get any bigger now, but for many women at least a little more growth is usual as baby's main job in these final weeks is putting on the fat that will give her good insulation after birth. With my first I seemed to balloon to monstrous proportions in the last few weeks but every pregnancy is different and it's also quite common for women to find that their actual weight gain levels off around this time, which can come as something of a relief!

Trouble sleeping is quite usual at this stage of pregnancy, not only because of physical discomforts, but also because you're probably excited / nervous about the impending birth. If you're affected then follow our pointers for getting a good night's sleep and try to rest when you can during the day to make sure you're in good physical form for labour. On the positive side, think of it as your body preparing itself for the unsettled sleep patterns which will be par for the course once baby arrives.

Things to do this week

  • Sort out the car seat - If you haven't already got a car seat for your newborn then remember that the hospital won't let you drive away with her without one. You can find all the info you need to get you started here.

  • Go out! - Very soon you'll be wishing you had all this time to get out of the house and enjoy yourself without taking along nappies, burping cloths and changes of clothing. Think of the things you enjoy which will be hardest to do when baby arrives and make sure you get out and do it at least once this week.

  • Set up baby's bed - You probably have another few weeks to wait yet, but you don't want to be worrying about basic furniture too late in the day. If you're buying new bed linen for your baby then make sure you get something suitable. In addition to somewhere cosy, flat and secure to sleep your baby will need: The right size mattress for their bed, fitted with a waterproof cover and soft fitted cotton or flannel sheets. To cover baby you can use either layers of cellular cotton blankets or a baby sleeping bag that she can't wriggle down under. As with baby's clothes it's best to wash all the bed linen before using it.

  • Make sure your birth partner has read up on labour - It's not unusual for your partner to be a little slower in reading up on labour, but you will need him to be well prepared if he's going to be of best help to you. Ear-mark pages in books for him or print off relevant articles and encourage him to catch up this week if need be. If he's still slow, try pointing out to him that there's only one more week before baby is considered fully 'baked'!

  • Prepare a plan for older siblings - If you have older siblings then make sure you've got a plan A, and preferable plan B for how they are going to be looked after when you go into labour. There's more advice on preparing your older children for labour here.

Fetal Development

See here for more on how your baby will develop in week 37.

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