Week 36 of Your Pregnancy

Week 36 of Your Pregnancy

By week 36, your baby and your belly have grown quite large. It is almost time to give birth. Your baby could be born at any time between 37 and 42 weeks. Its lungs are almost ready to breathe air. The bones in its head are now firm enough to protect it, but soft enough to move down through the birth canal.

You may feel excited, happy, anxious, or scared. You may wonder how you will know if you are in labor or what to expect during labor. Try to be flexible in your expectations of the birth. Because each birth is different, there is no way to know exactly what childbirth will be like for you. This care sheet will help you know what to expect and how to prepare. This may make your childbirth easier.

Now would also be a good time to pre-register for Labor & Delivery and start the birth certificate process (English / Spanish).

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It’s also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

Know the signs of labor and when to call

  • You may be in labor and need to call your doctor if:
    • You have regular contractions. This means about 4 or more in 20 minutes, or about 8 or more within 1 hour, even after you have had a glass of water and are resting. Count from the beginning of one contraction to the beginning of another.
    • Your contractions last between 20 and 60 seconds and occur in a pattern.
    • You can no longer walk or talk through contractions.
    • Your contractions become much stronger when you are walking.
    • Your water breaks. You may have a gush of fluid or a slow leakage of fluid over a period of time from your vagina. The fluid is usually clear, pinkish, or straw-colored. Use a sanitary pad or towel, but not a tampon. You can take a shower, but do not take a bath. Do not have intercourse.
    • You start vaginal bleeding that is bright red or heavy. Use a sanitary pad, not a tampon.
    • Your baby has not moved 10 times in 2 hours, or has slowed for 24 hours.
  • You may not be in labor if:
    • You have single or several strong contractions with no pattern. These are called Braxton-Hicks contractions, and they often stop if you change what you are doing. They are "practice contractions," but they are not the start of labor.
  • Before labor, you may or may not:
    • Have your water break. This happens for about 15% of women before the start of labor.
    • Have your baby settle low in your pelvis. People often say the baby has “dropped." Not every woman has this happen.
    • Lose your mucous plug. If this happens, you will have a brownish pink discharge. You can lose your mucous plug up to 3 weeks before labor. Tell your doctor if you think you have lost your mucous plug.

Labor and delivery

  • The first stage of labor has three parts: early, active, and transition.
    • Most women have early labor at home. You can stay busy or rest, eat light snacks, drink clear fluids, and start counting contractions.
    • When talking during a contraction gets hard, you may be moving to active labor. During active labor, you should head for the hospital if you are not there already.
    • You are in active labor when contractions come every 3 to 4 minutes and last about 60 seconds. Your cervix is opening more rapidly.
    • If your water breaks, contractions will come faster and stronger.
    • During transition, your cervix is stretching, and contractions are coming more rapidly.
    • You may want to push, but your cervix might not be ready. Your doctor will tell you when to push.
  • The second stage starts when your cervix is completely opened and you are ready to push.
    • Contractions are very strong to push the baby down the birth canal.
    • You will feel the urge to push. You may feel like you need to have a bowel movement.
    • You may be coached to push with contractions. These contractions will be very strong, but you will not have them as often. You can get a little rest between contractions.
    • You may be emotional and irritable. You may not be aware of what is going on around you.
    • One last push, and your baby is born.
  • The third stage is when a few more contractions push out the placenta. This may take 30 minutes or less.
  • The fourth stage is the welcome recovery. You may feel overwhelmed with emotions and exhausted but alert. This is a good time to start breast-feeding.

Feeding your baby

  • Breast-feeding is best for your baby and good for you.
  • Breast milk has antibodies to help your baby fight infections.
  • Mothers who breast-feed often lose weight faster, because making milk burns calories.
  • Learning the best ways to hold your baby will make breast-feeding easier.
  • Let your partner bathe and diaper the baby to keep your partner from feeling left out. Snuggle together when you breast-feed.
  • You may want to learn how to use a breast pump and store your milk.
  • If you choose to bottle feed, make the feeding feel like breast-feeding so you can bond with your baby. Always hold your baby and the bottle. Do not prop bottles or let your baby fall asleep with a bottle.
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