You’re entering the home stretch. You’re basically three-quarters of the way through your pregnancy. You may be feeling a bit breathless, but not just out of excitement from reaching this milestone. Your expanding uterus may be applying some pressure to the underside of your diaphragm (if not all of your internal organs), and that may make it harder to catch your breath. But hang in there. Your journey is likely less than 10 weeks from its exciting conclusion.
Changes in Your Body
Along with pressure on your diaphragm from the upper end, your uterus is also pushing against your bladder down on the lower end. As a result, you may feel like you have to urinate frequently. And you may urinate just a little when you sneeze or laugh too hard. While that may be embarrassing or annoying for now, it probably won’t be a problem after you deliver. Once your uterus stops pushing against your bladder, the accidental peeing episodes should also stop. For some women, though, pregnancy’s strain on the pelvic muscles weakens those muscles so that a little incontinence when laughing or coughing continues after the pregnancy. Doing Kegel exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles during and after pregnancy may help prevent or at least minimize such complications.
Leakage of another sort may also be a problem around week 31. A creamy liquid called colostrum can start to leak from the breasts prior to and soon after delivery. It’s thicker than breast milk, so buying some nipple shields may be a good idea. Colostrum may only leak at times, or it may never appear during pregnancy. Both situations are normal. Colostrum discharge is just a sign your body is getting ready to deliver and then nurse a newborn baby.
Your baby is also getting ready for the big day. At around 15 inches and nearly 4 pounds, on average, your baby is growing longer and heavier by the day. He or she is looking more and more like a typical chubby newborn infant, as more fat is settling in under the skin. Get ready for big increases in length and weight — the baby’s that is — with every new doctor visit in the weeks ahead.
Other changes for your baby this week include the gradual loss of lanugo, the fine hair that covered most of the body. The eyes can focus now and reflexes such as thumb sucking are probably occurring as well. Also, the lungs and nervous system are nearly completely developed.
Twin Development at Week 31
Your babies’ nervous systems are now well-developed. They can regulate their own body temperatures if they’re born at this stage. They may still need medical help, but they have a great chance of survival if they’re born at this stage.
At the end of a long day moving around with your baby, you may want nothing more than to stretch out in bed and rest. Unfortunately, leg cramps are common at this stage in pregnancy, especially at night. Lie on your side with your knees bent and a pillow between your legs. Place a pillow under your tummy for extra support. This position may also relieve back pain if you’re starting to experience that, too.
If leg cramps and back pain become truly unbearable, consider finding a massage therapist who specializes in prenatal massage.
The third trimester is also a time when you may experience hemorrhoids, which are swollen (and usually painful) veins near the rectum. Ask your doctor about over-the-counter creams or pads that are safe for use during pregnancy. Witch hazel pads may also provide relief, but remember to change pads regularly. If you have to sit for long periods of time, try to get up and walk around frequently to take some of the pressure off your backside. If you have a painful hemorrhoid that keeps bleeding or bulges out from the anus, this may be a thrombosed hemorrhoid, which requires a minor, but urgent, surgical procedure. Constipation, another common symptom of pregnancy, can make hemorrhoid pain worse, so make sure you’re consuming enough fiber and water each day.
Things to Do This Week for a Healthy Pregnancy
If you’re still setting up the nursery, try to wrap things up soon so you don’t become overworked right up until delivery. You’re going to want to rest up a little before the big day.
This could also be a good time to arrange for maternity leave from your job. Sign any papers that your employer requires. Talk with your boss and co-workers about the time off you’re taking and your plans, if any, for returning to your job. Having that settled now will be one less thing to think about as delivery day approaches.
If you’re going to put your baby in daycare and you haven’t yet made arrangements, visit some potential facilities this week. This is definitely not a decision you want to make at the last minute, and visits will be easier without your little one in tow. If you were put on a waiting list weeks ago, check back now to see if any openings have emerged.
When to Call the Doctor
You should notify your healthcare provider any time you experience severe pain during your pregnancy. You may start to feel Braxton-Hicks contractions this week, if you haven’t already begun experiencing them. These harmless contractions occur when the uterus tightens. They are simply “practice” contractions that get your body ready for delivery. Braxton-Hicks contractions usually last a minute or two, but if they last longer than that or are becoming more frequent, tell your healthcare provider promptly. It may be a sign of early labor. Keep in mind that even though it’s not ideal, most babies born after 31 weeks stand an excellent chance of surviving and thriving.
Pre-eclampsia can also develop this week. This is a potentially serious pregnancy complication for you and your baby, but it unfortunately doesn’t always have any obvious symptoms. If you take your blood pressure regularly at home and you have a blood pressure reading of at least 140/90 mm Hg twice within four hours, get to a doctor. Pre-eclampsia is more than just high blood pressure. It can result in damage to your organs, especially the kidneys. If you don’t have a home blood pressure monitor, which you should, and you notice symptoms such as severe headaches, pain on your right side, and vision changes or nausea, tell your doctor immediately or get to an emergency department.