Your baby is quickly reaching his/her birth weight and height! At pregnancy week 34, he/she is just shy of 18 inches long from head to heel, and he/she weighs 4.7 pounds – almost 5 pounds!
(Keep in mind that the weight and length presented in these newsletters are only estimates. Some babies will be heavier, and others lighter. Likewise, some babies may be longer or shorter. Every baby is unique.)
* Your baby continues to grow and fill out this week. The fat layers underneath the skin, which will regulate your baby’s body temperature after birth, are giving him/her a rounder appearance.
* The central nervous system and your baby’s lungs are maturing this week. The lungs will not be fully functional until after your baby is full-term (after 37 weeks).
* By week 34 of pregnancy, your baby has settled into his/her birth position. The occiput anterior position (baby’s head down and slightly turned to the side) is the best position for a vaginal delivery. If your baby is in a breech or transverse position, your doctor may try to manually rotate the baby.
* Your baby’s digestive system is now fully functional. If your baby were born this week, he/she would be able to digest food.
If you were to go into premature labor at 34 weeks pregnant, your doctor would give you a steroid injection to speed up the maturity of your baby’s lungs to prevent breathing problems after birth.
Your baby’s due date is creeping up on you. Only about six weeks left to go! If you are pregnant with twins, you should expect them to arrive any day now. Though the ideal length of a twin pregnancy is between 38 and 40 weeks, over 50 percent of twins are born premature, or before 37 weeks.
At 34 weeks pregnant, your uterus is about five or six inches from the top of your belly button. And you may have gained anywhere between 25 and 30 pounds, though some women gain more and others less.
Fatigue will continue to haunt you this week. It may not be the same coma-like exhaustion that you experienced in the first trimester, but it is still draining nonetheless. Unfortunately, your fatigue is also accompanied by other physical discomforts, such as back pain, pelvic aches, and hip pain.
Though you are feeling increasingly uncomfortable at 34 weeks pregnant, just keep in mind that these discomforts won’t last forever. They will go away once your baby is born. It’s important that you try to get as much rest as you can. You need to save your energy for the “big day” and for the weeks and months that follow. (Taking care of a newborn is hard, exhausting work!)
Have you noticed that you need to pee more often than before? The frequent need to urinate comes back in the third trimester, thanks to your growing uterus and the pressure of your baby’s head on your bladder.
If you need to go to the bathroom and you’ve been sitting or lying down for a while, don’t immediately jump to your feet. This may cause blood to pool in your feet and legs, leading to a temporary drop in your blood pressure. This can make you feel dizzy or light-headed. So take your time getting up.
At pregnancy week 34, you may start to wonder when your baby will “drop” into your pelvis. If this is your first pregnancy, this descent into your pelvis, a process called “lightning,” typically occurs several weeks before labor begins, though for women, it can occur days before labor. (In future pregnancies, lightning often doesn’t happen before labor starts.)
Because every pregnancy is unique, it is hard to pinpoint what week this “drop” might occur. For some women, it may happen this week. For others, it might occur next week, or the one after that.
After your baby drops into your pelvis, you may notice that your baby is resting lower in your abdomen. You may feel some pressure in the vagina. If the pressure is excessive, or if you feel that your baby is “pushing down,” call your doctor so that he/she can evaluate you for preterm labor.
Once lightning occurs, you will find that it’s easier to breathe now. You might get relief from heartburn, and with less pressure on your stomach, you can eat more without feeling uncomfortably full.
An Overview of the Stages of Labor and Delivery
With your baby’s arrival just around the corner, you should take some time this week and learn about the stages of labor and delivery. The process of childbirth is divided into three stages.
Stage 1: Early and Active Labor – During early labor, you will feel regular contractions that come every five to twenty minutes, and they last anywhere between 30 and 60 seconds. As you have contractions, your cervix gradually effaces (thins out) and dilates (opens up). You may have a bloody show (vaginal discharge that is tinged with blood) during early labor.
Early labor can last anywhere from a few days to a few hours. You typically stay home during this part of labor. When you are 4 centimeters dilated, you move into active labor. You will need to go to the hospital during active labor.
Once you are in active labor, your contractions will grow stronger, last longer, and they will get closer together. You will no longer be able to talk through your contractions. You will feel pressure in your lower back. If you desire pain relief, you will receive your epidural or spinal block during active labor.
The last part of active labor, when your cervix dilates from 8 to 10 centimeters, is called “transition.” When you reach 10 centimeters dilated, you move out of active labor into the second stage of childbirth: the birth of your baby.
Active labor typically lasts four to eight hours for a first baby. But if you receive oxytocin (Pitocin), active labor may progress even quicker.
Stage 2: The Birth of Your Baby – When you are fully dilated (10 centimeters), you will feel pressure on your rectum as your baby’s head moves through the birth canal. You will have a strong urge to push. You may receive an episiotomy at this point, though most women don’t need one.
Once your baby head shows (called crowning), your doctor or healthcare provider will guide the baby out. The umbilical cord will be cut, and your baby will be cleaned up.
The second stage can last anywhere from a couple of hours to a few minutes. If you are a first-time mom, it may take longer for you to push out your baby.
Stage 3: The Delivery of the Placenta (Afterbirth) – As you are bonding with your newborn baby, your uterus will contract again as the placenta separates from the wall of your uterus. You may be asked to gently push to expel the placenta from your body. This stage typically occurs less than 30 minutes after your baby is born.