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As you approach the home stretch, a natural instinct called nesting may help you get very organized! Many women are pleased to find a burst of energy that allows them to attend to shopping list, errands, cleaning and organizing your home. For many working women, this also provides the benefit of taking care of loose ends and details at the office, so you can prepare for your maternity leave without concern for your professional/workplace obligations.
At about 36 weeks, your baby's head should drop into your pelvis. This will give your lungs a little more room and make your breathing easier. Most babies snuggle into a head down position by this point, and this causes mom to experience increased urinary frequency with the baby “dropping” into the pelvis.
Approximately 5 in 100 babies aren’t head down by the end of the ninth month – and this is called a breech presentation. Fortunately, there are special exercises that you can do to help the baby turn naturally. If that isn’t successful, many clinicians offer an “external cephalic” version. This procedure is done in the hospital or birthing center, just in case there are complications. First a medication is given to you to relax the uterus and then the clinician uses their hands to move the baby by pressing on your abdomen and uterine fundus. The baby is now considered full-term and if you go into labor, even in the beginning of the ninth month, there is probably very little medical intervention that would stop you from delivering.
Several days before labor you may experience an increase in vaginal discharge, or one big glob of clear or pinkish mucus. This is the expulsion of the mucus plug that sealed off and protected the uterus. Some women do not expel the plug until they are in labor.
The sac of amniotic fluid the baby is floating in may rupture about 24 to 48 hours before labor starts. Warm, clear fluid will gush or trickle out of your vagina. If you’re not certain whether this is a little urine leak or a break in the water sac, empty your bladder, put a fresh sanitary pad on and lay down for 30 to 45 minutes. If your water broke, the fluid will pool in your vagina and be released when you stand up. Amniotic fluid is usually clear or straw-colored, rarely is it a dark green or brown color.
When actual labor begins, you may feel nagging low back discomfort or menstrual-like cramps. Some women have a loose stool or diarrhea as well. Usually any contractions you have will become regular at intervals you can time, and gradually they will increase in strength and duration. Some women, especially those with previous births, may progress through early labor quickly.
Be sure to follow your physician’s instructions as to when its time to go to the hospital – and account for bad weather, high traffic and distance. Whenever in doubt, its best to play it safe – check in with your physician or clinician.
How baby is growing
The weight gain for the baby at this point is about a 1/2 a pound a week. The uterus is almost at full capacity, and the baby has dropped down into the pelvic inlet or birth canal. The fetus will shed some of the protective lanugo (fine body hair) and cheese-like skin coating.
To assist with getting labor started, the fetus produces high amounts of the hormones — oxytocin, cortisol and prostaglandin — around the time of delivery. These hormones stimulate contractions of the uterus. The average weight is 6-9 pounds and length is 20 or more inches.
Learn more about labor and delivery for you and your baby!