Being 31 weeks pregnant means you’ve entered the home stretch of your pregnancy journey. With only 9 weeks left until your due date, your body and baby are going through important changes as you get ready for delivery. This exciting yet challenging time comes with its own symptoms, developments, and things to focus on.
Knowing what to expect during your 31st week of pregnancy can help you stay informed and confident going into the final stages. This article will explore common experiences, milestone developments, tips, and key things to watch out for during your 31st week of pregnancy.
Key Things to Expect at 31 Weeks Pregnant:
- Continued fetal development as your baby gains weight and prepares for life outside the womb
- Ongoing discomforts like back pain, trouble sleeping, leg cramps, and other symptoms
- Planning for maternity leave and reviewing your birth plan
- Monitoring fetal movement and watching for any decreased activity
- Preparing for breastfeeding and taking breastfeeding classes
- Practicing relaxation techniques to manage third trimester stress and discomforts
- Increased vaginal discharge and possible discharge color changes
- Continued skin changes like stretch marks, itchy belly, and darkening nipples
- Making sure your hospital bag is packed and ready to go
Your Baby’s Development at 31 Weeks
During week 31, your baby continues to grow bigger, stronger, and more ready for delivery. Here are some developmental milestones your baby is likely reaching:
- Size: Around 16 inches long and 3.3 pounds
- Bones: Ossifying bones harden but skull remains pliable for delivery
- Organs: Lungs and digestive system mature in preparation for life outside the womb
- Movements: More active with kicks, stretches, and jabs as space gets tighter
- Brain development: Brain rapidly develops and adds fat for insulation and nourishment
- Sensory development: All 5 senses are developing and activated
- Sleep cycles: Spending over 90% of time asleep and following circadian rhythms
As your baby gains weight in these final weeks, their movements may become less pronounced and more subtle. You should still feel them move regularly. Notice any significant decreases in activity and contact your doctor immediately.
At 31 weeks pregnant, your baby is looking more and more like what they will look like at birth. They are practicing basic skills like breathing, sucking, gripping, blinking, and sensing light while cozied up in your womb.
Common Pregnancy Symptoms at 31 Weeks
Reaching 31 weeks pregnant means your body is coping with some significant discomforts as it works hard to help your baby thrive. Some common symptoms and experiences during this week include:
Fatigue and Trouble Sleeping
Exhaustion and difficulty getting comfortable at night are incredibly common complaints at this stage. The extra weight you’re carrying makes resting tough and your baby’s active sleep cycles may interfere too. Practicing good sleep habits is key. Sleep propped up, avoid screens before bed, ask for help to reduce activities, and nap when you can.
Extra weight, shifting posture, and loosening joints strain your back. Use support belts, avoid lifting, wear flats, and try heat or massage for relief. Changing positions regularly and exercising can also help ease achy back pain.
Leg cramps and charley horses are common as weight gain strains muscles and reduces circulation. Stretch legs frequently, massage cramped spots, hydrate well, and boost magnesium and calcium intake to help. Notify your doctor of persistent issues.
Shortness of Breath
Your growing uterus presses up under the lungs making deep full breaths challenging. Practice pursed lip breathing and use pillows for support. Contact your provider if you have any alarming chest pain, pressure or difficulty breathing.
Heartburn and Indigestion
Progesterone and baby’s growth slow digestion and pressure often causes acid reflux. Avoid problem foods, eat smaller meals, don’t lie down after eating, and use antacids as needed. Report persistent issues.
Occasional lightheadedness or dizziness can occur as blood vessels dilate and blood pressure drops. Rise slowly, stay well hydrated and be cautious moving about to avoid falling.
Ankles Swelling or Varicose Veins
Additional fluid and pressure from the uterus can cause swelling and varicose veins in legs and ankles. Rest with feet up, avoid tight clothing and long periods standing or sitting. Consult your doctor if you notice excessive swelling.
Straining from constipation and pressure from the baby often causes swollen, painful hemorrhoids. Try sitz baths, cold compresses, and topical creams or wipes for relief. Avoid constipation. See your provider if they don’t improve in a few days.
Frequent urination and occasional urine leakage when sneezing, moving etc continues. Do kegels, limit fluids at night, wear a panty liner, empty bladder frequently and avoid caffeine.
Braxton Hicks Contractions
You may notice more intense or frequent Braxton Hicks practice contractions. Stay hydrated, rest when they occur, and notify your doctor if more than 6 occur per hour.
Stretch marks, itchy expanding belly skin, darkened nipples, and linea negra continues. Use lotions, stay hydrated, and avoid scratching.
Your provider can recommend solutions for managing troublesome symptoms that persist. Don’t hesitate to bring up any concerning or disruptive discomforts at your next visit.
31 Weeks Pregnant Checklist
Here are some key things to do during your 31st week of pregnancy:
- Pack your hospital bag: Make your bag checked off and ready to grab when it’s time. Include toiletries, pajamas, nursing bra, outfit to go home in, and any other comfort items you may want. Don’t forget a car seat if you plan on driving yourself.
- Take a breastfeeding class: Take a breastfeeding basics class or workshop this week to prepare for nursing your newborn. The more education you can get beforehand, the easier the process may be. Many hospitals, lactation specialists and doulas offer classes.
- Discuss maternity leave: Talk to HR about your maternity leave benefits and get the paperwork in order so you can relax as your due date nears. Making arrangements with your employer for coverage while you are out can give great peace of mind.
- Review your birth plan: Look over your preferences for labor, delivery, and the postpartum period. Review pain relief options and ways your partner can provide support. Discuss your birth plan with your OBGYN or midwife at your next visit.
- Continue monitoring fetal movement: Notice if you feel at least 10 movements in 2 hours. Decreased activity may indicate a problem so contact your provider right away if concerned.
- Practice relaxation techniques: Continue learning calming exercises like meditation, pregnancy massage, visualization, prenatal yoga and hypnobirthing to manage third trimester stress and discomfort. A relaxed mindset can help as delivery nears.
- Select your pediatrician: Research pediatricians and schedule a consultation visit to find one you feel comfortable with. Ask about after hour care, insurance accepted, and get established as an official patient so they can examine your baby after birth.
- Organize your home: Declutter, clean, stock up on postpartum supplies, and take care of any home organization projects to make your return home with baby smoother. Freezer meals are also great to have ready.
Staying proactive with your to do list helps you feel ready for the exciting arrival of your baby as you navigate the discomforts of the ninth month.
What to Expect at Your Prenatal Visit
Your 31 week prenatal checkup will likely include:
- Belly measurement: Your fundal height will be measured to ensure it matches your gestational age.
- Baby’s heart rate: Fetal heart rate will be checked for reassuring signs of health.
- Position check: Your provider will feel your belly to see how baby is positioned for delivery.
- Blood pressure: Your blood pressure will be checked as high BP can be a sign of preeclampsia.
- Urine test: A urine sample tests for higher protein levels that may indicate preeclampsia.
- Screenings: You may have a group B strep rectovaginal culture done this week if not already.
- Concerns: Your doctor will ask about any troubling symptoms and address any concerns you’re having.
- Growth scan: A growth ultrasound may be done to check baby’s size and development.
- Immunity: Your immunity to rubella, varicella and Rh status may be rechecked.
- Tdap vaccine: If you didn’t get the Tdap vaccine around 27 weeks to protect your newborn from whooping cough, your doctor will likely recommend receiving it.
Come prepared with any pressing questions and concerns, especially about what to expect during labor, delivery, and recovery.
Nutrition Tips for Week 31
Your caloric needs remain high during your 31st week. Strive for around 2200-2500 calories daily from nutrient-rich whole foods. Fuel up your body and baby with plenty of:
- Lean proteins like eggs, beans, fish, poultry
- Whole grains like oats, brown rice, quinoa
- Fresh fruits and vegetables
- Calcium and vitamin D from dairy, fortified milks
- Iron sources like red meat, lentils, spinach
- Healthy fats from nuts, seeds, olive oil
Stay very hydrated with about 100 oz of water daily. Smaller, frequent meals can help alleviate digestive issues. Heartburn triggers like acidic, fried or spicy foods are still best avoided.
Consult your doctor or nutritionist about any special nutritional needs or recommended supplements. Continue taking your routine prenatal vitamin.
Things to Watch For at 31 Weeks
While worrying symptoms are not common at 31 weeks pregnant, it’s important to watch your body and baby’s health closely. Contact your provider right away if you notice:
- Extreme swelling in hands, face or just on one side
- Severe headache, changes in vision, upper abdominal pain
- Blood in urine or very painful urination
- Chills, fever, vomiting or other possible signs of infection
- Significant decrease in your baby’s normal movement
- Regular contractions 5 minutes apart or less
- Heavy vaginal bleeding or fluid leaking from vagina
- Abdominal or pelvic pain or cramping
- Extreme dizziness, fainting, or sudden shortness of breath
Any alarming or concerning symptoms could indicate potential complications like preeclampsia, placental abruption, or preterm labor that require prompt medical care. Better to have symptoms checked than wait if something seems abnormal.
Changes to Expect with Your Body at 31 Weeks
As you move through month eight, you can expect some ongoing physical changes and discomforts:
Your uterus continues expanding above your belly button. You may feel baby’s limbs stretching out under your tight skin. Use lotion to help avoid itching.
Increased Vaginal Discharge
Heavier milky white vaginal discharge is common as your body prepares for birth. Wear panty liners and avoid irritating soaps. Report any foul odor, green or bloody discharge immediately as it could indicate infection.
It’s increasingly hard to find a comfortable sleeping position between bathroom trips, back pain, heartburn, leg cramps, and baby’s movements. Listen to your body’s cues for extra rest.
Braxton Hicks Contractions
You may notice these practice contractions becoming more frequent, intense, and sporadic. Changing positions, walking, and hydrating can help ease them. Time any regular contractions and call your provider if you have more than 6 per hour.
Your milk supply is increasing which may cause occasional leaking or sticky yellow-tinged discharge from your nipples. Wear nursing pads and mention any changes or concerns about your breasts to your provider.
Shortness of Breath
Your expanding uterus presses up under your lungs and ribcage making taking deep breaths more challenging. Use pillows for support, practice pursed lip breathing, and change positions often for relief.
Clumsiness and Balance Issues
You may feel more clumsy, off balance and accident prone. Your center of gravity shifts as your belly expands. Take it slow, hold hand rails, wear flat shoes, and be mindful of spills or falls.
Constipation and pressure often cause swollen hemorrhoids. Treat with sitz baths, cold packs, topicals, make sure to stay regular, and notify your doctor if they don’t improve quickly.
Keep your OBGYN informed of any worrying or disruptive symptoms so appropriate solutions can be provided for your comfort and safety this week.
Coping with Common Discomforts
As an expectant mother at 31 weeks along, you may be feeling more aches, fatigue, stress and general discomfort. Utilize these tips to help ease some of the common complaints:
For backaches: Use heating pads, massage, or cool compresses for relief. Try swimming, prenatal yoga, or other gentle stretches. Wear supportive maternity belts and flat, supportive shoes. Sit with good posture and keep active.
For leg cramps: Stretch toes and calves frequently. Apply heat or massage cramped muscles. Stay hydrated and boost magnesium and calcium intake. Take warm (not hot) baths before bedtime.
For heartburn: Avoid spicy, fried, and acidic foods. Eat smaller meals more frequently. Stay upright after eating and prop up your upper body while sleeping. Chew gum or sip liquids to increase saliva. Ask about antacids if needed.
For trouble sleeping: Listen to your body and nap when needed. Use pillows for support. Avoid electronic screens before bedtime. Practice relaxation techniques. Keep the room cool and sleep propped up to ease heartburn.
For hemorrhoids: Use cold packs, sitz baths, and topical creams or wipes for relief. Stay hydrated, exercise, and avoid straining during bowel movements.
For swelling: Put feet up periodically, avoid long periods standing, wear compression socks, stay active, and limit sodium.
For stress: Talk openly with loved ones, practice mind-body techniques like meditation, exercise to boost endorphins, and don’t hesitate to reach out for professional support. Making relaxation and self-care a priority is key.
Remember you don’t have to tough out severe symptoms. Talk to your healthcare provider about any concerning or disruptive discomforts for guidance on finding relief.
Preparing for Breastfeeding
With your due date drawing nearer, this is an ideal time in your 31st week to start preparing for breastfeeding. Read up on techniques, benefits, and what to expect when nursing a newborn. Many hospitals, lactation consultants, and doulas also offer breastfeeding basics workshops or private sessions you can attend at this stage.
Learning proper holds, listening for swallowing, how to use a pump, and how to store breastmilk can give you confidence going in. Common concerns like painful nipples, worries about milk supply, and myths about diet can also be addressed. Involving any family members who will help with feedings in classes can be beneficial too.
While breastfeeding has challenges, particularly in those first few weeks, do your best to be patient and seek out support early and often if you need extra help. Reaching out to lactation consultants, nurses, doulas, your OBGYN, and other moms can provide the assistance needed to make your nursing journey positive.
Sex and Intimacy at 31 Weeks Along
You may notice your sex drive tapering off around 31 weeks as major discomforts arise. But if you’re feeling up for intimacy, know that it’s still safe at this stage unless your provider advises otherwise.
Discuss any concerns with your partner openly. Try positions like side-lying that feel good in your changing body. Allow time for closeness like holding hands, gentle touches, relaxed baths or massages together. Prioritize emotional intimacy through open communication, support and planning for your baby’s arrival together.
Orgasm can still cause mild uterine contractions but should not stimulate early labor. Only engage in intercourse if you feel up to it physically and emotionally. There are many ways to remain connected as a couple as you handle late pregnancy challenges together.
FAQs: 31st Week of Pregnancy
What if I notice decreased fetal movement?
If you don’t feel at least 10 movements after counting for 2 hours, hydrate and try lying on your left side. If movements don’t increase, call your healthcare provider immediately or even go to labor and delivery triage to get checked out. Changes in baby’s normal activity can sometimes be an early warning sign worth getting evaluated.
Is it safe to travel during my 31st week?
Occasional car trips to run local errands are fine. But longer trips or flights are not recommended this late in pregnancy. The best time to travel is before 28 weeks. Talk to your doctor about any unavoidable travel plans. Staying close to your delivery hospital is ideal just in case you go into early labor.
When will I have to start seeing my provider every week?
Weekly visits typically start around the 36th week of pregnancy. For some high risk pregnancies, they may start a little sooner. But for most routine, low risk pregnancies, biweekly visits are standard until the last month. Check with your OB or midwife about their weekly visit schedule.
What if I think I’m leaking amniotic fluid?
Leaking fluid may mean your water has broken prematurely. Lie down for 30 minutes, then check if underwear is still wet. Note if there is a foul odor, the fluid is green-tinged, or if you continue leaking notably. Call your doctor or go to L&D for an evaluation to check if your membranes have ruptured and if there is risk of infection. Most cases of leaking fluid end up being urine though, not amniotic fluid.
The Final Weeks: What’s to Come
You’ve made it through 31 weeks – only about 8-9 weeks to go! The final leg of the pregnancy journey brings exciting milestones but can also be the most challenging physically and emotionally.