After 36 weeks, you’ve officially reached 9 months of pregnancy and are finally in the home stretch.
From growing fingernails to developing strong, healthy bones, your baby is growing rapidly during your last month of pregnancy and starting to get ready for birth.
You can take several steps to ensure you’re fully prepared as well, from packing a birth bag to picking a pediatrician.
In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know once you’ve reached 36 weeks of pregnancy, including how your baby is developing, what symptoms you should expect, and how you can prepare for a safe and healthy delivery.
Changes in your body
Does it feel like there’s no more room at the baby inn? It may feel like that, but your baby will continue to grow until your due date arrives — a date only your baby knows, which might be driving you mad with uncertainty.
Whenever you feel tired from your pregnancy, just remind yourself that your baby will benefit from every last moment it spends in your womb.
As of next week, your baby will be considered early term, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). Full term is now considered 40 weeks.
Try to enjoy these last few special weeks of your pregnancy, because your baby will be here before you know it.
That said, you’re no doubt exhausted from carrying around your growing belly, and you might be weary with worry. Even if this isn’t your first pregnancy, every pregnancy and every baby is different, so feeling a little anxious about the unknown is totally expected.
If you find that your anxiety is impacting your daily life or your relationships, you should bring it up with your doctor.
Overall, you’ll probably continue experiencing many of the same symptoms you’ve encountered throughout your third trimester, such as:
Many pregnant people experience breast leakage in their third trimester.
This thin, yellowish fluid, known as colostrum, will provide your baby with nutrients in the first days of life. Even if you aren’t planning to breastfeed or chestfeed, your body will still produce colostrum.
If you’re finding the leakage uncomfortable, try wearing nursing pads. You could stock up on these anyway, as you’ll likely need them post-delivery (whether or not you breastfeed), and there’s no reason you can’t use them now.
Nursing pads are relatively inexpensive and available at most major retailers that sell baby products. They can also be purchased in bulk and will come in handy after the baby is born and nursing.
Sometimes babies decide to come early, so you should be on the lookout for contractions.
These feel like a tightening or cramping in your uterus, similar to menstrual cramps. Some women feel them in their back as well. Your stomach will feel hard to the touch during a contraction.
Each contraction will grow in intensity, peak, and then slowly subside. Think of it as a wave, rolling into the shore, then gently making its way back out to sea. As your contractions become closer together, the peaks will occur sooner and last longer.
Some women confuse contractions with Braxton-Hicks contractions, which are sometimes referred to as “false labor.” Braxton-Hicks contractions are intermittent, don’t have a pattern to them, and don’t grow in intensity.
If you’re experiencing contractions, it’s important to time them. There are many mobile apps available that make it easy to time and record your contractions. Alternatively, you can track them the old-fashioned way, using a watch or timer (or counting the seconds out loud) and a pen and paper.
If your water breaks, make note of the time and head to the hospital.
If you’re uncertain about what pains should warrant a call to your doctor or a trip to the hospital, ask your doctor now so you’ll be prepared when the time comes.
If you start to experience contractions that last for about 1 minute and come every 5 minutes for at least an hour, you’re likely on your way to your baby’s birth.
Somewhere around 18 inches in length, your baby weighs between 5 and 6 pounds at 36 weeks.
During this time, your baby’s bones will begin to harden as the lungs, reproductive organs, and nervous system continue to develop, according to ACOG.
As more fat begins to build up under the skin, your baby’s limbs may begin to look chubby. Your little one also starts having more hair on their head and grows fingernails that extend to the ends of their fingers.
Around this time, your baby may also turn into a head-down position to prepare for birth. After 37 weeks,
Soon, your doctor will probably check whether your baby is readying for delivery. To check this, your doctor will look to see if your baby’s head is down by your cervix.
Your baby should move into this position by 36 weeks, but don’t fret if they haven’t turned yet. Most babies will turn toward the birth canal in the last weeks of pregnancy, but
If your doctor suspects your baby is breech, you’ll likely be sent for an ultrasound to confirm. After that, your doctor may recommend one of several ways to help baby move downward, such as external cephalic version (ECV). ECV is a nonsurgical method sometimes used to try to turn your baby.
If you’re worried about the potentials of a breech delivery, share your concerns with your doctor. Your doctor should be able to ease your concerns with all the resources available for breech pregnancies.
In an ideal world, you’d probably like to already have everything ready for your baby’s arrival. Realistically, though, there may be several things left on your to-do list, and that’s fine. You still have time. Here are some things to focus on this week.
Pick your pediatrician
If you haven’t chosen a pediatrician for your baby yet, you’ll want to pick one soon. While you likely have a few more weeks before your baby arrives, that time isn’t guaranteed.
Ask local friends or family members for referrals, and be sure to call ahead to schedule a tour. It’s not only easier to gauge your comfort with a doctor and the office environment in person, but you’ll likely feel less stress now that you’ve checked one more thing off your to-do list.
Pack a birth bag
Another to-do list item you should probably check off soon is packing your birth bag.
You can find countless recommendations of what to include from people who have gone through this before. To find what’s best for you, ask loved ones for their advice, then stick with what you find most important.
In general, you’ll want to pack items that will make you, your partner, and your baby comfortable. Some things you might want to pack for yourself include:
- insurance information
- a copy of your birth plan
- a toothbrush
- comfortable pajamas and slippers
- things that will help you relax during labor
- a book or magazines
For your baby, a car seat is a must. If you haven’t already, call your local police or fire station to see if they do car seat checks. Installing a car seat can be tricky, and it’s the last thing you’ll want to have to worry about when you’re in labor.
Get a new car seat to be sure it was manufactured with the most current safety guidelines. Car seats are meant to protect the child from one accident and then be discarded. If you buy one at a garage sale, you may not know if it has been in a motor vehicle accident.
Pack an outfit to bring baby home in, but skip the frills and pick something that will be easy to put on and take off in case of a diaper change. You may also want to consider packing a backup outfit, just in case your baby has an accident that makes its way out of the diaper.
Think about your baby’s comfort when picking an outfit as well. If you’re delivering in the winter, pick something that will keep your baby warm. If it will be in the 90s, consider a lightweight outfit. The hospital should provide most other basics for the baby, such as diapers.
And don’t forget your partner! Their comfort will likely be far from your mind when you’re breathing through labor pains, but now is when you can show them that their comfort matters, too.
- snacks you can share
- a camera
- a charger for your phone and other electronics so your partner can text or email everyone when your baby arrives
- headphones, for what could be a long day or night
- list of contacts so your partner knows who to call or email once your baby arrives
- a jacket or sweater for your partner (hospitals can get cold)
If you’re experiencing contractions or think you may be experiencing them, call your doctor or head to the hospital. You should also call your doctor if you experience vaginal bleeding, fluid leakage, or severe abdominal pain.
As your baby continues to grow, there’s less room for them to move. While baby’s movements have probably slowed down some, you should still feel them.
If you notice a decrease in movement (fewer than 10 movements in an hour) or if you’re concerned about your baby’s movement, contact your doctor.
While a decrease in movement could be nothing, it could also be a sign that your baby is in distress. It’s always better to play it safe and contact your healthcare professional.
Is it safe to deliver at 36 weeks?
Babies are considered late preterm at 36 weeks. While it’s best to wait until at least 39 weeks if possible, some babies are born prematurely and early delivery may even be necessary in some cases.
Although the risk of complications is significantly reduced after 36 weeks, late preterm infants are still at risk for several health concerns, including:
- feeding difficulties
- neurodevelopmental delays
- hyperbilirubinemia, or high bilirubin levels
- respiratory troubles
- low blood sugar
- temperature instability
Your doctor can help you determine the risks associated with preterm delivery for your baby and develop a plan to ensure a safe and healthy delivery.
What are the chances of going into labor at 36 weeks?
According to the
What should I avoid at 36 weeks pregnant?
You should avoid alcohol use and smoking during pregnancy to reduce the risk of issues like miscarriage, early delivery, and fetal alcohol syndrome.
You should also steer clear of unpasteurized dairy products and raw or undercooked meat, eggs, poultry, and fish to prevent foodborne illness.
You are almost at the finish line. Remember to enjoy these last couple of weeks. Take naps whenever you can, and continue eating healthy, balanced meals. You’ll be thankful for the extra nutrients and energy once your big day arrives.