36 Weeks Pregnant: Fetus, Belly, Symptoms and Weight Gain

Week 36, the first week of the last month of pregnancy! The real countdown has begun, hasn’t it? The end of the nine-month-long maternity life and the start of parenthood beckons. Your baby, who has grown so much over the course of the whole pregnancy, will drop when pregnancy enters the last stage. Your body is also busy preparing itself for the final, pre-delivery stage. Besides the actual labor and delivery itself, what else can you look forward to this week?

36 Weeks Pregnant: Weight gain

pregnancy weight gain

The uterus, which was pushing up against the bottom of the stomach, gradually drops down sometime in Week 36 or onward. This is because baby’s head drops down in a process known as lightening. The pressure on the viscera and other organs is now gone, and you will find yourself similarly freed from the slight discomforts you’ve been putting up with.

After your baby drops, you might see your appetite returning, and see your weight increase. Note that in comparison to your pre-pregnancy state, you only need about 300 kcal more each day in the third trimester, so do your best to have a balanced diet.1Moms in general put on less than 1 pound this week.

36 Weeks Pregnant: Cervix opens

pregnant woman big belly

The cervix, also called the neck of the uterus or the uterine cervix, is completely opened when the mucus plug is lost and the opening of the cervix is no longer blocked. As your Expected Delivery Date approaches, the ligaments and the joints of the pubic bones loosen and the fetus’ head is engaged. The cervix dilates and effaces.

If the tip of one finger can fit into the opening of the cervix, the cervix has opened by 1 cm. If the tips of two fingers can fit, then that means the cervix has opened by 2 cm. If your cervix opens quickly, your cervix could dilate by about 1 cm, but in most cases, most moms won’t see their cervixes open this week.

36 weeks pregnant: Nonstress test (NST)

obgyn checkup

From this week onward, as it is not at all uncommon to experience many contractions, some moms will opt to visit their practitioner once a week. During the checkup, your practitioner will check your history, use ultrasound, do an internal check and also do an NST – nonstress test, a noninvasive method of checking on the baby by recording movements, heartbeat, and contractions. This helps to check on both the mother’s and baby’s physical conditions.

Doing the NST simply means you strap two belts around your belly – one will measure the fetus’ heartbeat and fetal movements, and the other will measure your contractions. A usual NST test will take about 20 minutes if your baby is awake, if not it can take about 40 minutes. Try to go down to your practitioner’s on a day when you have relatively some free time to spare as you never know how long the test will take.

Exercise makes an easier labor

maternity yoga

In the last month of pregnancy, your practitioner might advise you to do some light exercises in preparation for the labor. This is because when you do exercise, the cervix actually opens up with more ease.

Exercise helps loosen your hip joints and also strengthens your body. Some moms might find it difficult to move their bodies around too much because of the size of their bellies, or be discouraged by the back pain and edema they have that they do not feel like exercising at all.

You can start by making use of the short periods of free time you have throughout the day and do exercises like rotating your joints or squatting down. Make a conscious effort to use the stairs when you can – that counts as exercise too!

36 Weeks Pregnant: Sonogram of fetus in belly

Week36 scan

Week 36 babies are in general 17.7 to 18.5 (45 to 47) cm long and weigh 4.4 to 6.4 lbs (2 to 2.9 kg). How big your baby actually is dependent on many independent factors, and so it’s difficult to say your baby should be of a certain size.

However, it goes without saying that there is hardly any space left in the uterus. Your baby might be one energetic baby and be constantly moving their limbs. It’s possible to see bulges on your belly when your baby suddenly gives you a push or a kick with its palms or soles flat against the walls of the uterus.

As your baby does not yet have enough fat, they continue to accumulate more, but apart from that, they have all that they need for survival and can do so even if they are born prematurely.

Fetus’ growth

  • The heart, lungs and organs of the respiratory and digestive system are completely formed

  • Kidneys are able to filter the blood in the body

  • The crumpled-looking skin begins to straighten out and becomes more tightly drawn

  • The vernix caseosa that protects the body start peeling away and the protective layer is now constituted by pinkish skin

  • With exception to a part of the back, the vellus (short, fine hair) on the body drops off

  • Strength to grab things increases

  • Fetus shows signs of having the orienting reflex: Responds to light by turning towards it

Braxton Hicks contractions

pregnant woman pain contractions

You might feel fetal movements or tightness in your belly more strongly when the growing baby drops and pushes your stomach down. The Braxton Hicks contractions that help your uterus get the real-life practices it needs will add to the abdominal cramps you feel.

Braxton Hicks contractions are not regular nor strong in comparison to true labor contractions, and they usually subside when you lie down or change your position.

Once you feel contractions taking place, take it as practice and start timing the intervals in-between the contractions – in this way, even when the true labor contractions start, you will be able to handle it calmly with a been-there-done-that attitude.

36 Weeks of Pregnancy: Counting down to a term pregnancy

pregnant woman belly number counting down

A term pregnancy (37 weeks, 0 days to 41 weeks, 6 days) can be further categorized into an early term pregnancy (37 weeks 0 days to 38 weeks, 6 days), a full term pregnancy (39 weeks, 0 weeks to 40 weeks, 6 days) or a late term pregnancy (41 weeks, 0 days to 41 weeks, 6 days).

Therefore, a delivery in Week 36 is not a term pregnancy, but a preterm birth. Most premature babies do not yet have all their bodily functions up and running, have minor difficulties in breathing well or keeping their bodies warm enough. There is a need to place such newborn babies into the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).

Low birth weight babies who weigh no more than 5 lbs 8 oz (2.5 kg) are at a higher risk of developing cerebral palsy, showing cognitive and motor delay, or having respiratory problems. Risk factors in the mother that contribute to the risk of having a low weight birth infant include multiple pregnancies and maternal age – the older the mother is, the more risk the baby is at.

Although your Expected Delivery Date (EDD) is approaching fast, don’t let your guard down just yet. Continue to note the changes in your body with extra precaution. If you give birth sometime between Week 37 and Week 42, then your pregnancy is considered a term pregnancy.

Note that although a term pregnancy denotes that it’s a period deemed safe for your baby to be born, but your child needs the optimal minimum of 39 weeks in your womb to be able to have a healthy start to life.

36 Weeks Pregnant: Preparation

pregnant woman packing

When Week 36 of pregnancy is over and your pregnancy is now officially a term pregnancy, you might really go into labor anytime.

One thing you can do it this – pack your hospital bag, and leave it next to the front door for the next few weeks. In this way, once you start feeling the onset of the contractions, you can pick it up on your way out with no worries excepting getting to the hospital as fast as you can.

The finishing touches

pregnant woman relax

Finally, you’re in the last month of your pregnancy, and the time that baby has have left in your belly is also dwindling. Have you done all the preparation or paperwork necessary to welcome your baby? You might want to get it all out of the way so that you can simply have a good rest in the hospital after the delivery.

You might be on tenterhooks all day worrying ceaselessly about when your contractions might start, and once you go into the delivery room your life will never be as quiet as it was before – so take some time to rest up. You only have this one week left before your pregnancy becomes a term pregnancy, so anything that leaves you drained should be taken out of the picture. Give yourself a good break this week.