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‘Heavily Pregnant’. That’s how you would describe yourself during the 36th week of pregnancy as you near the finishing line of this nine-month-long marathon. While your baby is very much a personality now, your own body has undergone a host of changes during these weeks and not all of these are pleasant ones. Your life is changing and how!
Your Baby’s Growth During Pregnancy – Week 36
Your baby is rapidly growing and gaining weight at almost an ounce (28 grams) every day, gaining nourishment from all the wonderfully nutritious food that you eat through the day. All the hair that covered the baby has mostly been shed, while the wax-like substance that has protected its skin has worn off too. The baby’s skull bones are not fused together yet so that the baby’s head can pass through the birth canal.
What is Baby’s Size?
When you are 36 weeks pregnant, the size of the baby when measured from crown to feet is about a foot and a half, and it is growing and occupying more space as the weeks go by. The baby weighs about 6 pounds (2.7 Kgs). It is also losing its wrinkles as the body is filling up and getting plumper by the day. At this stage, there is a huge likelihood that your baby has moved head down. In some cases, however, the baby fails to turn. This is called the ‘breech position.’ Although breech babies can be delivered vaginally, most doctors prefer to perform a C-section if the baby still hasn’t turned when labour starts. At the end of 36 weeks, your baby is considered ‘early term’.
Common Body Changes
At this stage, you may feel that there is no more room for the baby to grow but remember that it continues to grow till the due date. You will have gained at least 24 to 36 pounds (11 to 16 Kgs) till the 36th week, which is quite normal. If you notice swelling in your face, hands, ankle and feet or sudden weight gain, give your doctor a call as this could indicate preeclampsia. This is a pregnancy complication which leads to high blood pressure, swelling in the hands and feet, and high amount of protein in the urine. It needs immediate medical attention.
A feeling of tiredness will prevail in you during this time. Apart from these body changes during pregnancy, you can expect a feeling of anxiety and growing exhaustion from carrying your baby around for almost 9 months now.
Symptoms of Pregnancy at Week 36
Contractions are the symptom that you will have to look out for at week 36. It could be a case of Braxton Hicks contractions, which are contractions that occur before actual labour, or your baby may have decided to announce its arrival early. Other symptoms such as constipation, gas and heartburn will be quite similar to all those you are already familiar with in the third trimester.
- Breast Leakage: You could experience a thin, yellowish fluid leaking through your breasts during this period. This fluid is known as colostrum. It provides nutrition to the baby during its first few days.
- Contractions: If your baby decides to make an early date with you, be on the lookout for contractions. These contractions feel like the tightening of the uterus and at times, in the back too, and feel just like menstrual cramps. It could be Braxton-Hicks contractions (false labour) too. Pay attention to note if the contractions are growing in intensity, peaking and then subsiding, as this could then be the real thing.
- Frequent Urination: As the baby descends into the pelvis, the pressure on your bladder will increase, and this means more frequent trips to the bathroom. While this is something you have been dealing with throughout pregnancy, it is likely to get worse at this stage.
Apart from these, heartburn and general fatigue are common symptoms during Week 36.
Belly at 36 Weeks of Pregnancy
Your belly will have a feeling of fullness throughout this week as your baby has now grown larger and is getting cramped for space. If you feel that the pattern of the baby’s movements has changed, though not slowed down, this is because it does not have access to as much space as earlier. What you will feel now will be sharp jabs or kicks rather than gentle movements. If you perceive any slow-down, it is important to try and trigger movement by drinking something cold or pressing the belly lightly. If the movements do not pick up, this may signal a problem, and it is advisable to contact your doctor who will then monitor the baby’s heartbeat and health.
At this time, the baby is ready to ‘drop’ into your pelvic cavity. This will induce a feeling of lightness, as the uterus’s pressure on the diaphragm is reduced considerably. Your protruding belly will make it difficult for you to walk but this discomfort can be reduced considerably by using a belly sling for support.
As the skin on your belly is stretched to the maximum, the itchiness you have been experiencing is likely to get worse. Combined with the surge of hormones, the skin becomes dry and uncomfortable. Make sure you moisturise regularly and take a warm oatmeal bath occasionally. A cold pack is a great remedy for an itchy belly too!
36 Weeks Ultrasound
By Week 36, your wait is almost over and you can get ready to meet your baby. Technology helps eager parents like you to take one more look at the baby before it announces its highly-awaited arrival in your world, and this is known as Ultrasound. This technique allows doctors to gauge the baby’s size and position just before it comes out. Ultrasounds are safer than X-rays as they do not expose the baby to radiation, and top the list amongst prenatal tests. You could also ask for a 3D image and see how your baby actually looks like.
One important test that is performed this week is the Group B Strep (GBS) test. A bacteria which is commonly found in the vagina of healthy women, GBS can be transferred to the baby during labour. It is thus important to screen for it and take remedial action if needed. The testing is done by examining a vaginal swab or through a urine test. GBS in pregnant women is treated with oral antibiotics, or by administering antibiotics intravenously during labour.
What to Eat
During the 36th week pregnancy, food and its choices may well be the last thing on your mind as life becomes increasingly chaotic and anxiety-driven. However, a healthy diet is necessary to help your baby gain the right weight and imbibe the desired nutrients. You may find that eating large quantities of your favourite food may be difficult, which is quite the case with other mothers-to-be too. Split your meals into 5-6 smaller meals to get the essential nutrition and pass it on to your baby. Make sure you are hydrated well by drinking fluids. This is necessary to maintain circulatory volume to prepare for labour.
Avoid rich and spicy foods, chocolate and citrus fruits. Include spinach (palak), fenugreek (methi), cauliflower, broccoli (green gobi), fruits like grapes, figs (anjeer) and pomegranate. Basically, try to include rich sources of vitamin K into your diet as the baby’s first feed – colostrum – is full of it. Vitamin K also helps to heal wounds and plays a major role in strengthening your baby’s bones.
Tips & Care
- Decide on who is going to be your baby’s paediatrician (it is generally someone from the clinic where you deliver the baby) as the baby will be checked as soon as it is delivered.
- Wear gloves and face masks while handling cleaning liquids, phenyls and other chemicals during cleaning or washing.
- Decide where you want to give birth, and be prepared to leave at a moment’s notice. Whether you decide to have a home birth or a hospital birth, you will need assistance as soon as you go into labour. Keep the phone number of your emergency contact handy, and put together a hospital bag for yourself and the baby.
- Read up on how to recognise signs of labour and how to prepare for it. The best way to do it is by joining a prenatal class, as it not only prepares you for labour but also gives you an idea of newborn care.
- Never work in closed rooms without enough ventilation as this could trigger panic attacks.
- Do not skip meals, and get all the necessary nutrients the baby needs in its last few days inside the womb.
- Avoid tobacco, cigarette smoke, colas and caffeine as it stimulates the heart and the brain and could be detrimental to the baby’s health.
What You Need to Shop for
At the first signs of labour, most expectant mothers and their equally eager fathers rush to the nearest mom-n-baby store and begin shopping in earnest. However, shop sensibly and do not buy things that may not be immediately needed. Here is a list to help you plan:
- A Breast Pump: Consider buying a breast pump so it can be handy in case it is needed right after the delivery.
- Nursing gear: Nursing bras and a nursing cover-up are other important items that should be on your shopping list.
- Sanitary pads: Sanitary pads are necessary if you don’t want to use the ones provided by the hospital.
- Baby Gear: A baby stroller is also another thing that you will need sooner or later along with an infant car seat. Put them on your list.
- Announcements: Get thank you cards to announce the new arrival to all those who attended and made your baby shower a hit.
The third trimester is a critical period for both the mother and the baby, and hence it is important to take the right steps to maintain and enhance your physical and mental health. A happy and joyful mother will ensure a stress-free delivery, so it is important for you to stay relaxed and focused.
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