You’ve almost reached the finish line! At 36 weeks pregnant, you’re in the home stretch of your pregnancy journey. This exciting stage brings continued physical and emotional changes as your body prepares for labor and delivery. While you may be eager to meet your baby, remember that every week still matters for their development.
This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know about week 36 of pregnancy so you can feel informed, prepared, and ready to take on these final few weeks.
Key Takeaways at 36 Weeks Pregnant:
- Baby is nearly ready for delivery, with lungs maturing and head likely descending into the pelvis.
- You may experience more pelvic pressure, contractions, and increased vaginal discharge preparing your body for labor.
- Focus on final preparations like installing car seats, packing hospital bags, and making sure your birth plan is in order.
- Your healthcare provider will monitor you and baby closely as you near your due date.
- Take time to relax and enjoy this special end stage of pregnancy. You’ll meet your baby soon!
Baby Development at 36 Weeks
At 36 weeks pregnant, your baby is almost ready for their arrival into the world. They are nearly fully developed and continue gaining weight rapidly in these final weeks.
- Size: Around 18.5 inches long on average and over 5.5 pounds, likely gaining half a pound per week.
- Appearance: Baby has chubbier cheeks and smooth, pinkish skin thanks to a thickening layer of fat. Their bones harden but skull remains soft and flexible for delivery.
- Development: Lungs and respiratory system keep maturing in preparation for breathing air. The brain develops billions more neuron connections.
- Movement: Baby’s movements feel more cramped in the limited space of your womb. They can turn their head from side to side and recognize familiar voices.
- Position: Your baby’s head may “drop” lower into your pelvis, a process known as lightening. This relieves pressure under your ribs so you can breathe easier.
At your next prenatal visit, your healthcare provider can give you an estimate of baby’s size and position based on feeling your abdomen. An ultrasound at this stage provides a detailed look at baby to ensure they are growing well.
Common Changes and Symptoms in Week 36 of Pregnancy
As an expectant mother, the physical and emotional changes you experience during the 36th week prepare your body and mind for labor while caring for your baby’s ongoing development. Here are some common changes and symptoms to expect:
- Braxton Hicks contractions: You may notice these “practice” contractions become more frequent, last longer, and feel more intense as your body gets ready for the real thing. Stay well hydrated and rest when they occur.
- Increased vaginal discharge: More vaginal discharge (clear, pink, or slightly bloody) is common as your cervix begins to thin and dilate in preparation for delivery. Wear a panty liner and call your doctor if it becomes foul smelling.
- Pelvic and back pain: Pressure and soreness in your pelvic area and lower back caused by baby’s head dropping lower into your pelvis. Try warm baths, stretching, and an abdominal support belt for relief.
- Trouble breathing: Your growing uterus presses up against your lungs and ribs, making it harder to take deep breaths. Focus on slow, steady breathing and sit up straight.
- Fatigue: Physical exhaustion as your body works hard towards the final stages of pregnancy. Listen to your body’s need to slow down and rest. Naps are your friend!
- Leg cramps: Sudden painful spasms in your calf or thigh muscles, especially at night. Stretch your legs before bed, hydrate, and massage cramped muscles.
- Heartburn: Surges of acid reflux and burning sensation in your throat and chest as your digestion slows. Avoid trigger foods, eat smaller meals, and sleep propped up.
- Swelling: Increased swelling (edema) in your hands, feet, ankles, and face from water retention and pressure. Limit sodium, soak in Epsom salt baths, and prop up your feet.
- Insomnia: Difficulty falling and staying asleep as anxiety about the birth increases. Practice good sleep hygiene, meditate, limit screens before bed, and take walks.
- Nesting instinct: A burst of energy and urge to thoroughly clean and organize your home before baby arrives. Listen to your body’s limits and recruit help as needed.
Stay in close contact with your healthcare provider about any worrying symptoms in these final weeks so any potential complications are caught early. But generally, the common discomforts described above are all normal and expected parts of late stage pregnancy.
Baby Position and Engagement at 36 Weeks
Around 36 weeks, your baby will take a head down position and drop lower into your pelvis, a process known as engagement. This important milestone helps optimize their position for delivery.
- Head down: In the vertex position, baby’s head is pointed downward with their back along your front. This allows the head to act as a wedge to open the cervix.
- Face presentation: Baby’s head is tipped forward with their chin tucked into their chest. A very common, favorable position.
- Back presentation: The back of baby’s head is facing down towards the pelvis rather than the face. This often corrects itself.
- Breech position: Baby is bottom or feet first, which typically requires a C-section delivery unless they flip before labor.
- Engagement: When the baby’s head descends deep into the pelvic cavity, often called the “lightbulb sign” based on pelvic exams. Relieves pressure under your ribs so you can breathe easier. Indicates labor may be closer, but engagement can happen weeks before delivery.
Confirm your provider regularly monitors baby’s position in the coming weeks. Most babies settle into an optimal position for vaginal birth, but breech or transverse positions may require external maneuvers or scheduled C-section to ensure a safe delivery.
Prenatal Care and Tests at 36 Weeks Pregnant
Prenatal appointments become more frequent during the final month of pregnancy, as your healthcare providers closely monitor you and baby leading up to delivery. Here are some things to expect from prenatal care around 36 weeks:
- Measuring fundal height: The distance from your pubic bone to the top of your uterus. Within about 3 cm of 36 cm at this stage.
- Checking baby’s heart rate: Normal range from 120-160 beats per minute.
- Inspecting extremities for swelling: Limb swelling can be sign of preeclampsia.
- Assessing cervix and pelvic anatomy: Looking for changes like thinning, softening and dilation that indicate upcoming labor.
- Group B strep test: A vaginal and rectal swab test done between weeks 35-37 to check for presence of GBS bacteria that can infect newborns.
- Additional lab work: Complete blood count, RBC indices, and platelet count to identify potential bleeding risks before delivery.
- Biophysical profile: Optional nonstress test combining ultrasound with fetal movement tracking and amniotic fluid measurement.
- Gestational diabetes monitoring: Repeating glucose tolerance test if you failed earlier or maintaining diet and blood sugar logs.
- Birth plan discussion: Review your preferences for labor, delivery, pain relief options, neonatal care, and postpartum recovery.
- Hospital preregistration: Many healthcare providers have you prefill admission forms with insurance and contact information.
Listen carefully at visits for any concerns about your or baby’s health to make necessary adjustments in the final stretch. Stay in close contact with your provider in between visits about any new symptoms.
How to Prepare for Labor at 36 Weeks
The exciting moment when you finally get to meet your baby will arrive before you know it! Here are some ways to help get prepared for going into labor around 36 weeks pregnant:
Pack Your Hospital Bag
Having a packed hospital bag ready to go around week 35 is ideal just in case you go into early labor. Include:
- Insurance cards and ID
- Comfortable loose clothes and nursing bras for mom
- Going home outfit for baby
- Toiletries like lip balm, lotion, and dry shampoo
- Maxi pads, underwear, nipple cream
- Electronics, chargers, and headphones
- Snacks and change for vending machines
- Camera to capture those first moments
Install the Car Seat Properly
Make sure baby’s rear-facing car seat is installed securely in your vehicle according to manufacturer’s guidelines well before your due date. Many police and fire stations will double check the installation.
Take Childbirth and Breastfeeding Classes
Participating in your hospital’s birthing classes helps you know what to expect during labor and delivery. Breastfeeding classes also get you off to the best start with nursing your newborn.
Discuss Your Birth Plan Preferences
Talk with your provider around 36 weeks about your preferences for pain relief, labor positions, essential newborn protocols, and other birth plan requests so the team understands and can accommodate your wishes when the big day arrives.
Choose Your Support Team Wisely
Decide who you would like to have present in the delivery room for emotional support and advocacy, whether your partner, family member, friend, or doula. Give them copies of your birth plan.
Exercise and Diet at 36 Weeks Pregnant
With your energy levels probably dipping lower and lower at this point, staying active and eating well take concentrated effort yet remain so important.
Exercise Tips for Week 36
- Focus on low impact activities like prenatal yoga, swimming, and walking.
- Hydrate well before, during, and after workouts.
- Stop exercise that causes pain, contractions, or vaginal bleeding.
- Avoid hot tubs and saunas that overheat your body.
- Try Kegel moves and stretches to strengthen pelvic muscles.
- Monitor your heart rate and don’t let it get too high.
- Wear supportive shoes and a bra to reduce strain.
- Get clearance from your provider before starting any new routines.
Healthy Eating Habits for Week 36
- Increase protein intake which is vital for your recovery and baby’s growth. Good sources include eggs, lean meats, dairy foods, nuts, beans, and tofu.
- Load up on fiber from whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and legumes to ease constipation woes. Stay hydrated.
- Enjoy calcium-rich foods like milk, yogurt, cheese, and kale to support bone health.
- Take your prenatal vitamin with folate, iron, vitamin D daily. Consider vitamin B6 for relieving nausea.
- Satisfy food cravings in moderation but avoid empty calories.
- Drink plenty of water. Dehydration can cause contractions.
- Curb heartburn by avoiding acidic and spicy foods that trigger it.
- Cut back on salt to minimize swelling.
Relaxation and Sleep Tips for Week 36
Rest and relaxation are essential now as your body works hard to support your baby’s continued development while preparing for delivery. But both can prove challenging. Try these tips:
- Take relaxing warm baths with Epsom salts before bed
- Practice mindful breathing exercises
- Listen to soothing music or nature sounds
- Get prenatal massages focusing on your back and legs
- Reduce screen time before bed
- Ask your partner for comforting back and foot rubs
- Slow down and take breaks as needed
- Nap while your baby naps
- Go to bed early to get a full night’s rest
- Use pillows for extra belly and hip support
- Avoid caffeine, heavy meals, and vigorous activity before bedtime
- Maintain a cooling, comfortable sleep environment
Don’t hesitate to ask loved ones for help around the house so you can focus your energy solely on self-care. You and your baby both deserve plenty of quality rest at this point!
When to Call Your Doctor at 36 Weeks Pregnant
You’re likely seeing your healthcare provider weekly at this point. But be sure to call them right away if you experience any of the following concerning symptoms in your 36th week:
- Contractions that grow more frequent and intense
- Vaginal bleeding or sudden gush of fluid indicating possible amniotic sac rupture
- Less fetal movement over a 2 hour period
- Visual disturbances like blurred vision, seeing spots, or flashing lights that don’t go away
- Severe headache that doesn’t resolve with rest and hydration
- Excessive nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
- Severe abdominal pain
- A fever over 100.4°F
- Heavy swelling in hands or face paired with excessive weight gain, protein in urine, and high blood pressure (signs of preeclampsia)
- Chills, body aches, loss of appetite (possible infection)
While still unlikely at only 36 weeks, premature labor and birth can happen which requires close medical supervision. Reaching out to your provider promptly if anything feels off ensures you and baby get the care you need right away.
FAQs About Week 36 of Pregnancy
What are the chances my baby will arrive around 36 weeks?
While each pregnancy varies, only about 7% of babies are born prematurely before 37 weeks. You still have at least a few more weeks to go. Stay tuned to potential early labor signs.
Is it safe to fly at 36 weeks pregnant?
Most airlines restrict travel over 36 weeks. The extra pressure is also hard on your body. But occasional short flights under two hours are usually fine before week 36 with your doctor’s approval. Stay hydrated and stretch your legs.
When do I need to stop working if pregnant?
It depends on the type of work and your health, but working until about 36-38 weeks is common if you have an uncomplicated pregnancy. Talk to your provider about when to begin your maternity leave based on your condition.
What if my baby is still breech at 36 weeks?
Your provider can suggest techniques to get them head down like positioning maneuvers andmoxibustion. If unsuccessful, external cephalic version (manually turning baby) or C-section are options. Most babies do flip on their own by week 36 though.
How can my partner help me through the end of pregnancy?
They can provide physical and emotional comfort, attend birth classes together, help finalize preparations, cook healthy meals, give massages, and take over household tasks so you can rest. Having a supportive partner makes a big difference!
The Final Weeks of Your Amazing Pregnancy Journey
You did it – only about a month left to go! Thirty-six weeks marks a major milestone. Try to enjoy sleeping in, relaxing, and spending quality time with loved ones amidst the flurry of final preparations during this special phase. Stay patient as your baby will be here before you know it!