You’re entering the home stretch. You’re 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.
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.
However, this probably won’t be a problem once your uterus stops pushing against your bladder after you deliver. For some women, though, pregnancy’s strain on the pelvic muscles weakens those muscles, so 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, this complication.
Leakage of another sort may also be a problem around week 31. A creamy liquid called colostrum can start to leak from the breasts before and soon after delivery. It’s thicker than breast milk, so buying some breast pads for inside your bra 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. They are looking more and more like a typical newborn as more fat is settling under the skin. Get ready for big increases in your baby’s length and weight 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. Your baby’s eyes can focus now and reflexes such as thumb sucking are probably occurring. Also, the lungs and nervous system are nearly developed.
Your babies’ nervous systems are now well-developed. They can regulate their own body temperatures if they’re born at this stage. Even if they were born during week 31, they may need medical help, but would have a great chance of survival.
During week 31 you may experience the following symptoms:
- frequent urination
- leaky breasts
- leg cramps and/or back pain
But as mentioned earlier, breathlessness, frequent urination, and leaky breasts will go away once you deliver the baby. For dealing with leg cramps, back pain, and hemorrhoids, here are some tips:
Leg and back pain
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 leg cramps and back pain become unbearable, consider finding a massage therapist who specializes in prenatal massage. Do not massage your legs if there are any painful spots that are warm or red. The chance of blood clots increases in pregnancy. Stay active and drink plenty of fluids.
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 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 may require a minor 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
If you’re still setting up the nursery, try to wrap things up soon so you’re not overworked right up until delivery. You’re going to want to rest up before the big day.
This could also be a good time to arrange for maternity leave from your job. Research the process and be sure to sign all the necessary paperwork. Talk with your boss and co-workers about the time off you’re taking. 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 day care and you haven’t made arrangements, visit some day care facilities this week. This is 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 anything has opened. Consider an in-home nanny or a nearby stay-at-home mother who is licensed to care for children.
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. 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 or are becoming more frequent and stronger, tell your doctor. 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, but will be in neonatal intensive care. Babies do best when born at 40 weeks.
Preeclampsia can also develop this week. This is a potentially serious pregnancy complication for you and your baby. Unfortunately, this condition doesn’t always produce 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.
Preeclampsia 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 upper right abdomen, and vision changes or nausea, tell your doctor immediately or get to an emergency department.