Welcome to Week 33! You’re now less than two months away from your due date. It won’t be long until you’re on weekly visits to your healthcare provider, and it will seem like everything is about to happen all at once. Until then, remember to practice good self-care, and don’t be afraid to ask for help from your support network when you need it.
At this point in your pregnancy, the focus will begin to shift toward delivery—and looking for signs of possible premature delivery. Any labor that begins before Week 37 is considered premature labor. About 12 percent of babies born in the United States are considered preterm.
It’s important, however, to separate out signs of true premature labor from Braxton Hicks contractions. Braxton Hicks contractions are a normal type of contraction that women experience before actually going into labor. While they feel like actual contractions, they are much less strong, are usually more irregular than labor contractions, and don’t cause your cervix to dilate or lead to premature labor.
A number of factors will cause a true preterm labor and possibly delivery, although it’s worth noting that many women who go into preterm labor will still deliver at 37 weeks. If you do go into preterm labor, you should contact your healthcare provider immediately, so he or she can recommend your next steps. This might include going into a hospital for monitoring and an exam to make sure that you’re not dehydrated, that your bag of water isn’t broken, and that there are no infections or bleeding. If it looks like you’re actually going to deliver, you’ll also be given steroids that will help mature your baby’s lungs and better prepare your baby for delivery.
While this can be alarming, try not to interpret every new symptom as a sign of premature labor. For example, numbness in your feet and legs around now is common and caused by your uterus compressing your nerves. It is not usually a sign of a deeper, underlying issue.
Finally, there is one last piece of good news: if you’re still feeling up for sex, there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy it. You and your partner will likely have to make some adjustments to avoid putting pressure on your belly, but sex is still possible all the way up until your water breaks.
With a fetal age of 31 weeks, your baby can weigh as much as 4 lbs. and measure almost 18 inches from head to toe. With his or her arms and legs tucked in, your baby is just about the size of a pineapple.
Your baby’s main job now is to grow and put the final touches on the lungs, circulatory system, and brain and nervous system. You can expect your baby to gain about a half a pound a week from now until delivery; the average newborn is just over 7 lbs.
As your baby has continued to grow, the amount of amniotic fluid has steadily decreased. By now, the baby is surrounded by only a pint or two of amniotic fluid.
“Things like skin-to-skin and breastfeeding can absolutely be done when your baby is in the NICU, and have actually been shown to get your baby healthier more quickly.”
Reviewed by Dr. Jen Lincoln, April 2020