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The Homestretch At 36 Weeks Pregnant—What To Expect For Mom & Bub

36 Weeks Pregnant

You’re so close to the big day! 

At 36 weeks pregnant, you probably feel like you’re ready to pop. 

Your baby has been growing rapidly over the last few weeks and is almost ready to enter the outside world. Still, it may be a couple more weeks until the big day. 

In the meantime, it’s important to keep up with self-care and learn what to expect when your baby arrives.

In this article, you’ll find all the information you need about this exciting stage of your pregnancy, from symptoms and symptom management to self-care tips to FAQs about pregnancy week 36. 

Ready? Let’s dive in.

Your baby at 36 weeks pregnant

At 36 weeks pregnant, your baby is about the size of a large papaya or a small watermelon, weighing around 5 to 6 pounds and measuring 18 to 19 inches long.

Here are some key milestones in your baby’s development at 36 weeks:

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1. Fully developed organs

Your baby’s organs, including the lungs, liver, and kidneys, are now fully developed and functioning.

2. More body fat

Your baby continues to put on body fat, which will help regulate body temperature and provide energy after birth.

3. Head-down position

Most babies will have moved into the head-down position – your baby’s head is facing the birth canal – getting ready for delivery.

4. Active brain

Your baby’s brain is active and growing, and it can now recognize familiar sounds, such as your voice.

5. Sleep-wake cycle

Your baby now has a regular sleep-wake cycle, and you may notice that they are more active at certain times of the day.

It’s important to monitor your baby’s movements and contact your healthcare provider if you notice any significant changes or decreased movement. 

At 36 weeks, your baby is considered full-term and can safely be delivered at any time. Still, it’s best to wait until labor begins spontaneously or until recommended by your healthcare provider.

36 weeks pregnant

Your symptoms at 36 weeks pregnant

At 36 weeks, you’ll experience various pregnancy symptoms as your body prepares for labor and delivery. 

Here are some common symptoms and tips on how to manage them:

1. Braxton Hicks contractions

You may experience Braxton Hicks contractions, mild contractions that can help prepare the uterus for labor. These contractions may be uncomfortable, but they should not be painful. 

To manage them, try changing positions or taking a warm bath.

2. Back pain

As your baby grows and your baby bump appears even larger, you may experience back pain or discomfort. 

Try stretching, taking a warm bath or shower, or using a heating pad to manage this.

3. Fatigue

You may feel more tired than usual as your body prepares for labor. 

Rest as much as possible to manage fatigue, and avoid overexerting yourself.

4. Shortness of breath

As your baby grows and presses against your diaphragm, you may experience shortness of breath. 

Try taking slow, deep breaths and practicing relaxation techniques to manage this.

5. Swelling

You may experience swelling in your feet, ankles, and hands.

 To manage this, try elevating your feet, wearing comfortable shoes, and avoiding standing or sitting for long periods.

6. Heartburn

As your baby grows and puts pressure on your stomach, you may experience heartburn or indigestion. 

To manage this, try eating smaller, more frequent meals, avoiding spicy or fatty foods, and sitting up straight after eating.

It’s important to talk to your healthcare provider if you experience any new or concerning symptoms, such as vaginal bleeding or severe abdominal pain. They can help determine if these symptoms require further evaluation or treatment.

Self-care at 36 weeks pregnant

Self-care during pregnancy is important for your physical and mental health, especially as you approach your due date. 

Here are some self-care tips and preparations to consider at 36 weeks pregnant:

1. Rest

Getting enough rest is crucial during the final weeks of pregnancy. Make sure to prioritize sleep and rest when you feel tired.

2. Stay hydrated

Drinking plenty of water can help reduce swelling, prevent constipation, and keep you and your baby hydrated. Aim for at least 8-10 glasses of water per day.

3. Exercise

Gentle exercises like walking or swimming can help improve circulation, reduce stress, and prepare your body for labor. Check with your healthcare provider before starting any new exercise routine.

4. Practice relaxation techniques

Practicing relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation, or prenatal yoga, can help reduce stress and anxiety.

5. Prepare for labor and delivery

Pack your hospital bag, finalize your birth plan, and make arrangements for childcare if necessary during your time in the hospital or birthing center.

6. Install car seat

Install your baby’s car seat so you’re ready to bring your baby home from the hospital.

7. Connect with your support system

Lean on your partner, friends, and family for support during this time. Consider joining a prenatal support group or attending childbirth education classes.

Remember to listen to your body and care for yourself during this time. If you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to contact your healthcare provider.

36 weeks pregnant

FAQs at 36 Weeks pregnant

What are 3 signs that labor is approaching?

Three typical signs that labor is approaching include:

  1. Increasing frequency and intensity of contractions: As labor approaches, you may experience more frequent and intense contractions that become longer and stronger over time. These contractions may start to feel more like menstrual cramps, and you may notice a pattern of regularity developing.
  2. Changes in the cervix: As your body prepares for labor, your cervix will begin to soften, thin out, and open up (dilate). Your healthcare provider can check the progress of your cervix through a vaginal exam.
  3. “Lightening” or “Engagement”: The baby drops into your pelvis and shifts into a more engaged position as labor approaches. This can cause pressure or discomfort in your pelvic area and make breathing easier as your baby moves away from your lungs. This change is often called “lightening.” It can happen several weeks before labor or just a few hours before it begins.

Does your body or the baby decide when labor starts?

The exact cause of labor is not fully understood, but it is believed to be a complex interplay between the mother’s body and the baby. 

Hormones play a significant role in initiating labor, and both the mother and the baby produce hormones that help trigger the onset of labor.

So, your baby’s position and size, as well as your personal health and medical history, can also affect the timing of labor. Your baby’s lungs must be mature enough to allow them to breathe independently, and your cervix must be sufficiently effaced and dilated to allow the baby to pass through the birth canal.

Ultimately, the start of labor is thought to result from a combination of signals from the mother’s body and the baby, with precise timing that is still not fully understood. 

However, once labor begins, the body’s natural processes take over to progress through the stages of labor and deliver the baby.

Why do doctors check your cervix at 36 weeks?

At around 36 weeks of pregnancy, healthcare providers may perform a cervical examination to assess the readiness of the cervix for labor.

This exam involves inserting two gloved fingers into the vagina to feel the cervix and check its position, consistency, and dilation.

Here are some reasons why healthcare providers may check the cervix at 36 weeks:

  1. To assess the risk of preterm labor: In some cases, healthcare providers may check the cervix to evaluate the risk of preterm labor. A thin or dilating cervix can signify the body preparing for labor earlier than expected.
  2. To evaluate the need for induction: If the cervix is found to be favorable for labor at 36 weeks, healthcare providers may discuss the option of inducing labor to avoid potential complications that can arise from continuing the pregnancy.
  3. To prepare for labor: Checking the cervix at 36 weeks can also provide information about the position and readiness of the cervix for labor. This information can help healthcare providers anticipate potential difficulties and prepare for safe and successful delivery.

It is important to note that not all healthcare providers routinely perform cervical exams at 36 weeks, and the decision to do so may depend on the individual circumstances of the pregnancy.

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How do you know if you are dilating?

Dilation is the opening and widening of the cervix, which is a key step in labor and delivery. While only a healthcare provider can accurately assess cervical dilation, there are some signs that you may be dilating:

  1. Contractions: As labor approaches, you may experience contractions that become stronger, longer, and more frequent. These contractions can cause the cervix to begin to dilate and thin out.
  2. Discharge: As the cervix begins to soften and dilate, you may notice an increase in vaginal discharge. This discharge may be thin, clear, and sometimes tinged with blood.
  3. Pressure: The descending baby is putting pressure on the cervix; you may feel pressure or discomfort in your pelvic area. This pelvic pain can indicate that your cervix is starting to dilate.
  4. Cervical changes: Your healthcare provider can assess cervical dilation and effacement (thinning) during a pelvic exam. During this exam, the provider will insert two gloved fingers into the vagina to feel the cervix and check its position, consistency, and dilation.

It’s important to note that dilation can occur gradually over several weeks or more quickly during active labor. Also, not all women will experience the same signs or symptoms of cervical dilation. 

Therefore, if you suspect you may be in labor or experiencing any unusual symptoms, it’s important to contact your healthcare provider for advice.

Can I deliver at 36 weeks pregnant?

Delivering at 36 weeks pregnant is possible but is considered premature birth. Most babies born at 36 weeks are healthy and do not experience long-term complications, but they may need extra hospital support and monitoring.

Conclusion

At 36 weeks pregnant, your body prepares for labor and delivery, and you may experience various symptoms. It’s just a few more weeks until your baby arrives, and it’s especially important to take care of yourself during this time by getting plenty of rest, staying hydrated, exercising gently, and practicing relaxation techniques. 

Preparing for labor and delivery, such as packing your hospital bag and installing your baby’s car seat, can help ease any worries.

Remember that every pregnancy is unique, and it’s normal to feel a range of emotions as you approach your due date. Feel free to contact your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns. 

Above all, be gentle with yourself and enjoy these final weeks of pregnancy. Your baby will be here before you know it, and the journey of parenthood will begin.

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