36 Weeks Pregnant
It’s month nine already? Time is flying! Since baby really could decide to arrive any day now, try to put in your final prep work at 36 weeks pregnant. For example, if you took a childbirth class a few months ago, reread the materials you were given and practice the breathing techniques you learned with your partner. Go over your plan for getting to the hospital and all the what-ifs. Update your boss and colleagues on the status of all your work projects so they know where to take over if you’re suddenly out of the office. Week 36 of pregnancy is also a good time to enjoy a date with your partner.
At 36 weeks pregnant, baby is as big as a papaya, measuring about 18.7 inches from crown to heel and weighing in around 5.8 pounds.
At 36 weeks, you're now nine months pregnant! With just four weeks to go until your due date, you’re in the home stretch. Remember, pregnancy is 40 weeks long, which is actually a bit longer than the nine months most people assume pregnancy to be.
When you have just four weeks to go, pretty much all your symptoms have to do with the fact that baby is almost here. Your 36 weeks pregnant symptoms may include:
- Improved breathing. As baby descends into your pelvis, your lungs will have more space and you’ll be able to breathe more deeply. Great news if you’ve been struggling with shortness of breath!
- Pelvic discomfort. You’re feeling this one for the same reason you can breathe again! Baby is down low, putting pressure on your pelvis. Look out for signs of labor, though, including regular, persistent contractions.
- Trouble sleeping. Finding yourself up at 3 a.m. writing thank-you notes or reorganizing the closet? We’ve been there! Find some ways to relax even if you aren't getting much shut-eye.
- Heartburn. Your growing baby is crowding your digestive system, preventing it from working the way it did when you weren’t pregnant. Antacids can help your heartburn (as long as your doctor has okayed them).
- Swollen ankles and feet. Minor swelling is totally normal at 36 weeks pregnant and you’re even more likely to have it if you’re 36 weeks pregnant with twins. You might find that almost as soon as you deliver your baby, it completely disappears. Seriously! But severe or sudden swelling can be a sign of a serious problem, so let your doctor know ASAP.
- Changes in vaginal discharge. At 36 weeks pregnant, discharge may increase as your body readies itself for birth. But look out for watery discharge (which could be amniotic fluid—call your doctor!), blood (a sign of preterm labor) or mucus-like or blood-tinged discharge, which could be the mucus plug. Losing the mucus plug is a sign labor is very near. Just how near though, we can’t say!
- Braxton Hicks contractions. You’re probably still experiencing tightening in your abdomen, and it might be getting more intense. In fact, some pregnant women show up at the hospital thinking they’re in labor only to get turned away. Note that at 36 weeks pregnant, cramps that are at least as painful as menstrual cramps aren’t due to Braxton Hicks. If you’re experiencing something more severe, tell your OB right away.
There are a few key signs that baby is ready to meet you! The first signal that you may have a baby at 36 weeks is your water breaking. Whether it’s a trickle or a gush, that means it’s time to get moving. Regular contractions (not the Braxton Hicks kind) are another clue labor is starting. Finally, there’s back labor, which is constant and can hurt much more than your regular pregnancy pains.
At 36 weeks pregnant, the signs of labor can be tough to tell apart from regular pregnancy discomforts, so you’ll want to notify your doctor if anything seems out of the ordinary. It’s worth the call—and yes, even a trip to the hospital—to find out it’s false labor. The worst that could happen is you get sent home to relax and wait.
At 36 weeks, your pregnant belly probably won’t seem to change much from week to week. You’ve probably gained close to 25 to 35 pounds total—the recommended total amount of pregnancy weight gain for women of normal BMI. That’s likely making it challenging to move (or really, waddle) around. You won’t be putting on too much weight from here on out—probably only about a half-pound each week until baby is born.
If you’re 36 weeks pregnant with twins, you’ve probably gained 35 to 45 pounds total. To say your belly is crowded is an understatement. While many twin moms deliver around week 36, there’s a chance you and your pair might hold on for a few more weeks. Remember that the longer you go, the less likely it is that your babies will need NICU time after birth. So even if you’re feeling super uncomfortable, hang in there and remember this extra time in utero is so good for the twins!
Ideally, baby would wait a few more weeks. A baby born at 36 weeks generally has very good chances of being completely healthy; however, because it’s still late preterm, there is a risk that there could be some health issues, such as low birth weight or respiratory distress syndrome. Don’t worry—your OB will take great care of you and baby during the delivery, whenever it happens.
At 36 weeks pregnant, baby’s liver and kidneys are in working order. Circulation and immune systems are basically good to go. Now, baby is getting closer and closer to being able to breathe on their own. Plus, your 36-week fetus’s skin is getting smooth and soft, and their gums are rigid. At your week 36 prenatal appointment, your OB may check baby’s position. At this point, baby should already be in a head-down position. If not, they’re considered “breech.” Don’t panic if your baby at 36 weeks is breech. There’s a chance baby will turn naturally.
Or, your OB may want to do a version procedure for a breech baby. A version is an attempt to turn baby by pushing and/or lifting your pregnant belly. Sounds rough (and we hear it doesn’t feel great), but don’t worry. It’s a low-risk procedure and it works more than half the time. Beforehand, you might be given medication to relax your uterus. You’ll have a 36 weeks pregnant ultrasound, so the doctor can clearly see baby’s position and the location of the placenta. Ultrasound will also be used during the procedure to guide the doctor’s movements. And baby’s heart rate will be monitored before, after and possibly even during the version to make sure all seems well. Fingers crossed things are soon looking up… er, down?... for baby.
You’ll also get a Group B Strep test around week 36 of your pregnancy. This is a test to see if you have a common bacterium called (you guessed it) Group B Strep in your body. If you do, you might never even notice it, or it might cause a problem such as a UTI. For baby, though, the bacteria could cause more severe problems and even be life threatening. About 10 to 30 percent of pregnant women test positive for Group B. Treatment is simple: You’ll need an antibiotic drip during labor to significantly reduce the chances of transmitting the bacteria to baby.
If you’re 36 weeks pregnant with twins or have a high-risk condition such as high blood pressure or kidney or heart disease, you may have a biophysical profile this week. This combo of ultrasound and non-stress test gives your doctor a pretty good picture of how baby is doing and rules out the need to deliver early.
Is baby fully developed at 36 weeks?
Baby is almost done growing inside you and will be ready to come into the world soon. However, baby still needs to grow a little more at week 36. That includes gaining more weight and letting the brain, lungs, liver and other organs fully mature. That’s why it’s ideal for baby to stay in your belly a few more weeks.
Skip the spiciness
Craving chips and salsa? If you’ve been suffering from heartburn recently, you may want to hold off on indulging. Bland food can be on the boring side, but you’ll be glad when you don’t have that telltale discomfort later. Also, try to avoid foods heavy on citrus or vinegar, as well as those that are fried. (No matter how good they may taste in the moment!)
Order the early-bird specials
Don’t wait too late to eat dinner—a big meal close to bedtime can keep you up at night, causing you to lose precious hours of sleep. (It may also trigger your heartburn.) Stop eating at least a couple of hours before bedtime. And that means no snacking, either.
Elevate your feet
Swollen feet and ankles get much-needed relief when you rest for a bit—and rest is always welcome at 36 weeks pregnant! While you’re lying down, prop a pillow under your feet so they stay above heart level to ease swelling.
Try a belly sling
If baby is weighing on your pelvis, you may want to invest in a sling or band that offers support and takes some of the pressure off you. Only wear it for brief periods (and not too tight), so you don’t restrict blood flow.
Reminders for the week:
Medical content was reviewed November 2020 by Sherry A. Ross, MD, an ob-gyn and women’s health expert at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, and author of she-ology and she-ology, the she-quel: let’s continue the conversation.