Welcome to Week 35! With still five weeks to go until full term, this is the week that many babies finally stop getting longer (or at least slow down a lot). This doesn’t mean your baby won’t get any bigger—he or she will still be packing on the fat—but it does mean that your baby has likely maxed out the available room in your uterus to get longer. From now until the end, things are going to be cramped for both you!
For many women, these last weeks of pregnancy are like the final 10 miles in a 1,000-mile car ride. In other words, welcome to the hard part at the end. This is the time when the symptoms can seem like they’ll never go away. You might feel like you’ll be running into the bathroom to pee every 15 minutes for the rest of your life, or maybe you can’t even remember what a comfortable night of sleep is like.
If you are feeling like this, remember to try being gentle to yourself. Your body is doing a lot of really hard, miraculous work right now! Everything you’ve done all these months—the giant prenatal vitamins, the healthy diet and exercising, the preparation and reading, the planning—has been with the final goal in mind: giving yourself and your baby every opportunity for a healthy delivery and a healthy start in life.
If you’re not already on weekly visits, your healthcare provider will probably soon recommend switching to more frequent visits. The routine during these visits is pretty simple but can vary depending on your healthcare provider. At every visit your blood pressure and urine will still be checked, with the goal of identifying preeclampsia if it develops. Since this affects 5-8 percent of pregnancies and usually develops towards the end, that is one rationale for the increased prenatal check-ups. Somewhere between 35 and 36 weeks, you’ll be tested for the group B strep (GBS) bacteria. This bacteria doesn’t hurt adults, but if present, it can cause complications for your baby during and after delivery. Fortunately, even if you have it, the solution is fairly simple: you’ll get antibiotics delivered through an IV during delivery.
If you haven’t already, this is also a good time to pack your labor and delivery bag. Although it might seem like you have time, it can give you great peace of mind to know your bag is ready at a moment’s notice. Here are some of the essentials:
- The basics, like your wallet, ID, insurance card, and essential phone numbers.
- Something to do. It might seem hard to believe, but labor can be drawn-out and boring. Books, music, and movies can help.
- Your camera, video camera, and anything else you want to record the big event. And don’t forget your charger!
- Your birth plan.
- Comfy clothes. Most hospitals are very good at providing everything you need, but if you have a favorite robe, slippers, or pajamas, take them along! Don’t forget toiletries as well.
- A going-home outfit.
Your baby is now 33 weeks old and weighs more than 5 lbs. and measures about 20 inches in length. The main development still happening is in the brain: your baby’s brain is still developing neural connections at an astonishing pace. This rapid development won’t stop after delivery: your baby’s brain will form more connections in the first year or two of life than it will for the rest of his or her life.
Along the same lines, your baby’s skull is still soft and pliable. During development, the plates that form the skull do not fully fuse but instead remain somewhat flexible. There’s a very good reason for this: to fit through the birth canal during delivery, your baby’s head will get a little bit smooshed (this explains why most babies are born with a slight cone head). The soft skull makes this possible. In fact, your baby’s skull plates won’t be fully fused until months after delivery.
Besides the brain and skull, almost everything else is fully developed. Your baby’s muscular and skeletal systems are completely developed, and the major organ systems are also formed. The lungs remain an exception, but that’s mostly because they aren’t designed to be used until delivery. The lanugo, or fine hair that developed earlier, is gone now in most cases (although in some babies, it doesn’t completely disappear until after delivery). And your baby is quickly gaining fat now.