In Week 31, you might feel that your delivery date is drawing near – does that make you a little nervous? Every contraction might have you feeling like a cat on hot bricks when the thought that “this could be it!” strikes you. However, it is more likely that these contractions are not true labor contractions. What are these contractions then, and what else should you take note of in Week 31?
31 Weeks Pregnant: Weight gain and decreased fetal movement
In Week 31 of pregnancy, the fundal height of the uterus is 11.0–13.8 in (28–35 cm) and the top of the uterus is about 4.5 in (11.4 cm) above your navel. As your belly grows bigger, you might experience palpitations or shortness of breath. This is because your uterus tilts upwards and pushes the diaphragm up, and this puts stress on your heart and lungs. Your heart and lungs aren’t the only parts of the body under strain – your back is bearing the brunt of supporting a bigger belly, and this can result in back pain. To reduce the pressure on your back, be mindful of your posture.
The recommended ideal weight for pregnant moms to put on by Week 31 is about 20–22 lbs (9.1–10.0 kg), but as the pace of weight gain is different for everyone, there will be moms who also don’t put on any weight. You will be able to find out whether Baby is putting on enough weight or not through your checkups with your practitioner, so attend each session diligently and don’t miss out on the chances given to you to check on Baby’s growth.
From Week 31 onward, fetal movement will decrease because your baby will continue to grow bigger and your baby won’t have much space to move in. Also, when your baby’s head settles in the pelvis (engages), they’ll move less frequently.
This decrease in fetal movement means your baby is slowly getting themselves ready for labor, so count your baby’s movements every day as you await the day you’ll finally get to meet Baby face-to-face. If you don’t feel any fetal movements from Baby in a 24-hour span, then something is wrong and you should contact your hospital without a moment’s delay.
31 Weeks Pregnant: Blood volume increases
When you’re pregnant, total blood volume in your body increases by 1.5 times. Your body produces more blood because blood is sent to the fetus and because your body stocks up on blood first to be able to make up for the significant amount of blood that will be lost later during labor and delivery.
Hormones levels change during pregnancy, and as a result, your nose and gums might bleed more easily and frequently even if there are no changes to your lifestyle habits. This is simply a physiological phenomenon and there are no adverse effects on the fetus, so don’t worry!
When blood volume in your body increases, symptoms like edema (swelling) develop more easily. You might want to try propping your feet up when you sleep as this will help to ease the swelling.
Symptoms: Braxton Hicks contractions
In Week 31 of pregnancy, you might feel contractions more often. However, the contractions you feel most likely have irregular start, stop and interval times, so if there is no pattern to your contractions whatsoever, it’s likely that they are Braxton Hicks contractions, also known false contractions. The Braxton Hicks contractions are pre-labor practices your uterus does in preparation for the labor, and which will increase in frequency from Week 36 onward.
You might however, be at risk of a preterm labor if the following signs are present: you feel abdominal tightness, your cervix starts to dilate (open), your water breaks or there is bleeding. If your contractions do not stop and continue to go on even when you take a rest, call the hospital and ask the practitioner for advice.
31 Weeks Pregnant: Sonogram of fetus in your belly
In Week 31 of pregnancy, the fetus is 16.5–17.3 in (42–44 cm) long, and weighs 2.9–4.2 lbs (1.3–1.9 kg). The appearance of the fetus right now does not differ too much from the infant you’ll meet on your delivery day. Baby is able to make more facial expressions as their skeleton continues to develop. Since all major organs excepting the brain, lungs, and digestive system are more or less complete, even if the baby is born this week, there are lower risks of the baby having congenital defects at birth than if they were born before Week 30.
- Fetus is able to detect light with eyes
- Toenails are completely formed
- Hair grows longer
- Auditory senses develop and fetus can hear loud sounds from the outside of the womb
- Head becomes bigger as the brain grows
- Gyrification: The cortex, the prominent outer layer of tissue on the brain, folds to create sulcus and gyrus (“valleys and hills”)
- The circulatory system, digestive system, and the urinary system are developed
How to turn a breech baby
Although only 3–4% of all pregnancies end with a breech baby,1 it’s natural that you can’t help but feel anxious if told your baby is in a breech position. Most babies correct their positions themselves, but you can try and coax your baby into a vertex position through specific exercises.
Exercises to turn a breech baby
Exercises like the knee-to-chest exercise, the breech tilt, or swimming, can help. Thinking “I’m definitely going to turn Baby around!” and going through the motions of exercise can inadvertently add to your stress. Instead, give these exercises a go with an “If it helps, good. If not, so be it” type of attitude.
- Knee-to-chest exercise
Things you need: A mat
Aim: To tip your baby back up and out of your pelvis
Note: Do this on an empty stomach
- Kneel on the mat
- Lean forward and rest your forearms on the ground
- Stick your butt into the air
- Tuck in your chin
- Hold this position for 5-15 minutes and do this twice a day
- Breech Tilt
Things you need: A few large pillows
Note: Do this on an empty stomach
- Lie on the ground
- Prop hips up with pillows and raise your hips about 12 in (30 cm) off the flood
- Repeat for 10-15 minutes, three times a day
Moxibustion is a traditional Chinese technique that involves the use of the herb called mugwort. It is believed that the burning of mugwort (or moxa sticks) close to needles stuck into the skin of both your fifth toes at the acupressure point BL67 encourages the baby to change their position. Do note that it is important that you find a licensed practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine to do this for you.
Acupressure is similar to moxibustion – the difference is that instead of using burning mugwort, pressure is exerted on the two acupressure points using one’s fingers for a breech baby. When pressure is applied at the wrong pressure points, or at the time when your baby isn’t yet ready to be born, it can cause contractions to occur and this can result in a preterm birth. Note that acupressure should only be administered by a qualified massage therapist from Week 30 onward.
External Cephalic Version (ECV)
An external cephalic version has to be performed by experienced doctors and is like an abdominal massage that aims to push the baby into a vertex position using external force. As physical force is exerted in the process of doing an ECV, this can cause stress to both mother and baby. In worst-case scenarios, the placenta might even separate from the lining of the uterus, or the water bag might even break. Consult your practitioner, and decide if you want to give this a go.
Remember that babies in their breech presentations can also be delivered vaginally (although riskier and not recommended by most practitioners) or through a Cesarean section. Let’s see what you can try out first – leave the worrying for another day!
31 Weeks Pregnant: Get ready to roll!
In Week 31, you might be feeling physically more tired and your belly is not only big but heavy. However, instead of staying home all the time, do things actively to try to refresh yourself mentally. How about going out with your partner or friends and doing some shopping? Pick a day you’re feeling better, go shopping and check off the items on your hospital bag list or your postpartum care kit list.
If you don’t feel well enough to brave the noise and bustle of the outside world, stay home and don’t force yourself to go out – with a few clicks of the mouse, online shopping will get you equipped with all that you need. As your delivery date draws closer, you don’t want to procrastinate too much – prepare what you can while you can! Get ready to roll!