Only four weeks to go until you reach your due date, so what can you expect now that you're 36 weeks pregnant? Here's what's happening and what you should be thinking about doing at this stage of your third and final trimester.
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What’s happening at 36 weeks?
Here are the key things you can expect from your pregnancy at this stage:
- Your baby's getting big! You might feel like you're running out of room in there.
- You might be running to the loo more often.
- It's the perfect time to buy nursing bras.
- If you've chosen to have private screening for group B strep, now's the time to send it off.
How big is your baby?
By 36 weeks, your baby’s around the same weight as a 2.5kg jar of boiled sweets, measuring about 47.4cm – you probably feel like you’re running out of room to accommodate them!
Fortunately, this week marks the end of your baby's latest growth spurt, but they'll continue to put on a little bit of weight before the birth.
By now, your baby's lungs are almost fully formed and the digestive system is prepped and ready for dealing with breastmilk.
Your baby is already swallowing amniotic fluid, bile and mucus, which form what is known as meconium, and will be their first bowel movement. This can be pretty sticky and hard to clear up, but don't worry; nappy changes will get easier after the first day or so.
This is also the last week that your baby would be considered premature if you go into labour.
Can you tell what position your baby is in by feeling your bump? If they're in a head-down position, that's a great sign!
If your baby is in a breech position (bottom-down), you may be offered an ECV (external cephalic version) to try to turn your baby around. A doctor will try to turn your baby by using pressure on your belly.
The procedure can be uncomfortable or even painful, but it works about half the time, which can reduce the chance of you needing a C-section.
Even if your baby remains breech though, some women are still able to have a vaginal birth. Talk to your midwife about your options.
What's going on with your body?
If it hasn't already, your baby's head could ‘engage’ (drop into your pelvis in readiness for labour) any time now if it's your first pregnancy. Subsequent pregnancies tend to engage closer to the due date, often not until labour has started.
This should hopefully mean less huffing and puffing in the final weeks of pregnancy, as you’ll get some lung capacity back.
On the other hand, the pressure on your bladder could mean even more trips to the loo. Who knew that was even possible?
Suffering from back pain or pelvic pain in the last weeks of your pregnancy? Carrying an almost full-grown baby around all the time is bound to take its toll on your body. Try these tips to get more comfy:
- Keep an eye on your posture. Try to stand up straight, and use plenty of pillows to support you in a comfy position when you're sitting or lying down. Specially designed pregnancy pillows can be particularly helpful; and don't worry about buying one so late in your pregnancy – they're also handy for feeding your baby after the birth (plus, who doesn't love cuddling up to a massive pillow at any time?).
- Invest in a pregnancy support belt. This can help to support your bump, taking pressure off your lower back and joints.
- Avoid lifting heavy objects. If you do have to lift something, keep your back straight and lift from your knees. When carrying things, try to keep the weight evenly balanced, so you're carrying the same amount in your left hand as your right.
- Ditch the heels and opt for flat shoes instead.
- Try a warm bath (just don't make it too hot, as that's not safe for your baby. As a rule of thumb, if your skin goes bright pink, it's too hot).
- Get plenty of rest whenever you can. But try not to sit or stand for too long in one position; move about a bit every now and then.
- Take care when getting in and out of bed, climbing stairs, or any activity which requires standing or sitting in different positions. Avoid standing on one leg, bending and twisting as much as possible.
- Unless your doctor or midwife has said otherwise, you can also use paracetamol to help with late-pregnancy aches and pains. Don't take ibuprofen at this stage in your pregnancy unless advised to by a doctor, as it's not safe for your baby.
As always, keep an eye on your baby's movements. If you think they might have slowed down or stopped – or if you have any other concerns about your health or your baby's health – contact your midwife straight away.
What to expect this week: group B strep test results
Although the NHS doesn't routinely test all pregnant women for group B streptococcus (GBS) , it is possible to do a private test to see if you're GBS positive if you want.
Group B streptococcus is a common bacteria – up to two in five of us have it living on our body. It's normally harmless, but if you have it during pregnancy, there's a small chance that it could pass to your baby and make them ill. This only happens in about 1 in every 1,750 pregnancies.
Women who know they have group B strep are usually advised to give birth in hospital (rather than at home or in a birth centre). They may also be offered antibiotics during labour, or extra health checks for their baby after the delivery.
If you've already arranged to do a private GBS test, this week is a good week to do it. This usually just requires taking two swabs as directed by the GBS kit you'll have been sent.
Just post it off and you should expect to get the results within a few days of it being received.
Not sure if you want to be tested for GBS yet? Read up on GBS in pregnancy here . It's not too late to send off for a test if you choose to have one. You can get these sent out to you quickly (sometimes next day) for about £35.
Why doesn't the NHS screen for group B strep?
The NHS doesn't screen for group B strep for several reasons. One is that group B strep can come and go, so even if you have it now, that doesn't mean you'll have it when you go into labour.
Another reason is that most women who have group B strep have a healthy baby. If your baby does catch group B strep, they can usually be successfully treated with antibiotics.
If all women were screened for GBS, then two out of every five pregnant women would need to take antibiotics before the birth. For most of these women, the antibiotics would be unnecessary.
The World Health Organization says that using antibiotics when they're not necessary contributes to antibiotic resistance (where bacteria evolve so that antibiotics no longer work on them). They also list antibiotic resistance as one of the top threats to global health.
Nonetheless, the charity Group B Strep Support is campaigning for all pregnant women to be offered group B strep screening in late pregnancy. For now, it's completely up to you whether you want to get the test or not.
What to do this week: get fitted for a nursing bra
Pop along to your local department store to get measured for your nursing bra.
Big name stores like M&S and John Lewis have expert fitters who'll know what size you'll need and can recommend comfy styles.
Nursing bras tend to be non-wired and stretchy to allow for your boobs to go up and down in size as your milk comes in, and accommodate changes before and after feeds.
They'll either have zip-open cups or drop-down ones that detach from the straps and make it easy to breastfeed your baby.
Try each type to see which you prefer as some new mums find one style easier to open and close one-handed than another.
Read our guide to finding the right maternity bra.
Once you've found one you like, you may want to practise opening and closing it with one hand. Many women find that they're much more confident with breastfeeding – especially in public – once they've got the hang of nursing bras and tops.
Your 36 week to-do list
1 Send off your GBS test this week – see above if you don't have a testing kit yet and would like to know if you're GBS positive.
2 Look into hiring a TENS machine to help with pain relief in the early stages of labour. Find out more about TENS machines and other methods of pain relief for labour .
3 Do your pelvic floors! You'll seriously thank yourself after the birth.
4 Spend a couple of minutes a day (or every other day) doing your perineal massage .
5 If you fancy it, now could be a great time to get a haircut, to help keep your hair out of your way during labour and the early weeks with your baby. Most babies love pulling hair!
What to watch this week...
Get expert tips on what to expect at 36 weeks pregnant from our midwife.
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