Pregnancy Calendar: 34 Weeks Pregnant

How big is baby? Baby has grown! He or she is clocking in at just under 5 pounds (2.15 kg) and measures 17.75 inches (45 cm) in length. Your baby is about the size of a cantaloupe.

What’s new this week? Soon, your baby will “drop” into your lower abdomen in preparation for delivery. It could be this week or it may not be until right before labor begins.

What’s next? You may experience Braxton Hicks contractions within the next few weeks. Make sure you know the difference between false labor and real labor.

Baby continues to grow and mature every day, and he or she will soon be able to survive on their own outside the womb. This is a relief for many moms-to-be! However, you must now be on the lookout for signs of true and false labor. Learn the signs of each below.

What’s happening with my baby?

Baby’s central nervous system and lungs continue to mature, preparing him or her for the outside world. Week 34 of pregnancy marks a major milestone: babies born between 34 and 37 weeks of pregnancy, and who have no other health concerns, usually do just fine outside the womb. They may need a little extra care in the neonatal nursery, and they may have some issues that need resolved before heading home, but overall, babies delivered during this time end up in just as good health as full-term babies.

How big is my belly?

Your uterus has now expanded to about 5.5 inches (14 cm) above your bellybutton. Your physician will continue to monitor the size of your uterus to ensure your baby is growing appropriately. If your uterus is not the exact size mentioned here, that is OK. What is most important is that your belly is growing at an appropriate and steady rate.

Has Your Baby Dropped?

You may notice your baby (and belly) feel lower than it used to. Or complete strangers may comment on how it looks like “baby has dropped.” Referred to as lightening, this is one of the first steps your body takes in preparation for delivery. Your baby’s head actually drops lower into your pelvis, residing between your pubic bones. (If baby is floating below your hips, you may feel like you are walking around with a bowling ball between your legs!) This is baby’s first step in his or her journey through the birth canal.

The timeline of baby dropping is different for every woman. It may occur several weeks before labor begins or just a few hours. You will notice a difference in the way baby feels in your abdomen. You may feel more pressure once baby has dropped. Don’t be surprised if you start walking with a waddle. The good news is you will likely be able to breathe easier, as baby is no longer pressing on your diaphragm. Additional signs of baby dropping are increased discharge, increased need to urinate and increased pelvic pain.

If you feel baby lightening, let your doctor know. It will be helpful for your medical care team to start estimating your baby’s timeline toward birth.

Tip: If you have been wearing high heels or flip flops thus far in your pregnancy, you may want to trade them in for more supportive, non-slip shoes. In fact, you may not have a choice if your feet start swelling! Look for comfortable, shoes with a thick sole. You won’t be sorry.

Braxton-Hicks Contractions and False Labor

Throughout pregnancy, your uterus is contracting in preparation for labor. Most of these contractions, known as Braxton-Hicks contractions, are painless and go unnoticed by the mother. Sometimes in later pregnancy, they may become more intense and be mistaken for labor. They will subside on their own; lie on your side and drink a glass of water. If your contractions last for more than an hour, call your doctor.

False labor may also occur. These are contractions often in irregular intervals and shorter than 45 seconds each. You may feel a dull pain or discomfort in the groin, lower abdomen or back. However, these contractions stop on their own. (Don’t worry, they do not cause any harm to your baby.)

True labor is identified by contractions that happen on a regular cadence. Time between each contraction will grow shorter, and they will increase in length and intensity over time. You can also tell true labor has begun if pain starts at the top of the uterus and spreads over the entire belly through to the lower back and into the pelvis.

Talk to your physician about when you should head to the hospital. He or she will give you a point your contractions reach when you should head in. For example, you may need to wait until your contractions are five minutes apart before your hospital will admit you.

Tip: Take a moment to savor your pregnancy. You currently have a baby in your belly that could, essentially, live on its own. You have grown and sustained a life. Take a moment each day to bond with baby and remember what it is like to have another person be a part of you.

Sex During Late Pregnancy

You already know sex during pregnancy is safe, but you may become concerned about intercourse during late pregnancy. However, sex during your last trimester is perfectly safe on most cases. You may just need to find a few new positions to try!

If, however, you you have placenta previa (your placenta covers the cervix), you are experiencing vaginal bleeding or your water has broken, it is safest to abstain from sex.

You may have heard sex can trigger labor. While the medical community does not have a conclusive statement on this, there is some proof sex can help induce labor. Semen can help soften the cervix, and nipple stimulation can cause a release of the hormone Oxytocin, which may help to begin labor. Additionally, an orgasm can actually cause the uterus to contract.

If you get to week 39 of pregnancy, and are anxious to meet your little one, having sex is a fun way to potentially get the ball rolling. But for now, you are safe to enjoy some one-on-one time with your partner.