Pregnancy Calendar: 36 Weeks Pregnant

How big is baby? Baby has grown to be about 5.75 pounds (2.6 kg) and measures 18.66 inches (47 cm) from head to toe tip. He or she is about the size of a head of romaine lettuce.

What’s new this week? Baby is gaining weight in preparation for delivery. By the end of the week, your baby will be considered early term, since his or her lungs will be mature enough to survive outside the womb.

What’s next? Do you know the three stages of labor? You should. Continue reading for a breakdown.

You’ve made it so far! And in just a few short days, your baby will actually be developed enough to survive outside your belly. But the preparation for baby does not end yet. It’s time to better understand the three stages of labor and the steps leading up to the big event.

What’s happening with my baby?

Baby is busy gaining weight, about an ounce a day! By the end of this week, your baby will be considered “early term.” This is great news and often a relief for moms-to-be.

Most babies have turned themselves to be in proper positioning (head down) for birth by week 36 of pregnancy. If not, your medical care provider will be able to sense this via physical exam and/or ultrasound and may recommend an external cephalic version. This is a physical manipulation of the abdomen to move baby into a head-down position.

How big is my belly?

You may or may not have grown since last week. Around this time your weight gain and expanding uterus will slow. You should also be approaching your maximum weight gain between 25 and 35 pounds (11.3 to 15.9 kg).

Passing the Mucus Plug

As you know, your cervix remains closed during pregnancy to protect your baby from the outside world. It is sealed with the mucus plug. As your cervix softens and expands, the mucus plug is expelled, which will allow your baby to pass through the cervix.

While this is the first step toward labor, it is not a clear indication of when labor will begin. It could be hours, days or even weeks as the cervix expands slowly. Many women do not even realize their mucus plug has passed, since vaginal discharge has increased during the last few months of pregnancy.

This event may be referred to as “bloody show.” With your mucus plug may come a small amount of blood or blood-colored mucus. This is simply the cervix effacing (becoming softer and thinner) and freeing any mucus or blood that gathered in the cervical glands.

If your discharge becomes bright red or exceeds an ounce (two tablespoons), contact your healthcare provider, as this may indicate a complication such as placental abruption or placenta previa (see below).

3 Stages of Labor

There are three distinct phases of labor. Understanding each of them will help you feel more comfortable as you progress through them and potentially make decisions less stressful should you need to make unexpected ones throughout the process.

Stage 1: Labor officially begins when the uterus begins contracting with enough intensity, duration and frequency to soften and dilate the cervix. This stage of labor ends when your cervix is 10 cm (about 4 inches) in diameter. It needs to be this wide to allow for baby’s head to pass through.

It is impossible to predict how long the first stage of labor will last for you. The average length of active labor is between 6 and 12 hours. However, first-time mothers may labor for up to 15 hours or even longer.

Stage 2: This phase of labor is the actual delivery of your baby. It can last anywhere from 30 minutes to three hours. Most physicians will not allow women to push for more than three hours. If your baby has not emerged during this timeframe, you medical care team may reassess the situation and recommend a Cesarean delivery.

Stage 3: Stage three is the passing of the placenta and membranes that surround your baby during pregnancy.

A nurse will put pressure on your belly once the placenta has been delivered. This is to help your uterus contract and shrink back into place. You may feel pressure, but this is helpful for a swift recovery. Some doctors refer to this as the fourth stage of labor.

Tip: Every pregnancy is different, and your experience will not be like your family members’ or friends’. Pain will be a real part, so make sure you have considered childbirth methods and practiced your chosen method’s techniques for pain management.

Placenta Previa

In one out of every 200 pregnancies, the placenta may lie low in the uterus, partially or completely covering the cervix. This is referred to as placenta previa.

The condition can cause you to lose a large amount of blood, which can be dangerous for both you and your baby. Your placenta could potentially separate from the uterus too early (placenta abruption), resulting in premature birth or birth defects.

The most common symptom of this condition is painless bleeding during the third trimester. You may also experience premature contractions or a larger-than-usual uterus. Baby may also be in breech position.

Once placenta previa is diagnosed, your medical care team would try to delay delivery, if necessary. Your doctor will likely recommend bed rest. If baby’s lungs are mature, he or she may be delivered via Cesarean. If he or she is younger than 36 weeks, steroid shots may be used to help mature baby’s lungs faster. If there is severe and uncontrollable bleeding, baby may need to be delivered regardless of fetal development.

If you are diagnosed, you may need to avoid travel, intercourse and pelvic exams. Bed rest may be frustrating. Talk to your medical care team about finding a support group of other mothers who are experiencing a similar trial.

Stalled Weight Gain and Max Amniotic Fluid

Some women continue to gain about a pound a week (sometimes this is simply water weight as you become more swollen!), but other women may experience a slowing in weight gain over the last few weeks of pregnancy. This is not unusual, but communicate with your medical care team if you have any concerns about your pregnancy or your baby’s development.

Additionally, the maximum amount of amniotic fluid now surrounds your baby. While he or she may still add a few pounds before birth, the uterus and the amniotic fluid will not really increase further. This may constrict your little one’s movements, and you may feel like he or she is moving less than before. While this is normal, if you have any concerns, always feel free to speak with your physician.