Your baby's development in late pregnancy
By 33 weeks of pregnancy the baby's brain and nervous system are fully developed. Your baby's bones are also continuing to harden, apart from the skull bones. These will stay soft and separated until after the birth to make the journey through the birth canal easier – the bones can move gently and slide over each other so that the head can be born safely while still protecting the brain.
From around now, you may be aware of your uterus tightening from time to time. These are known as Braxton Hicks contractions, and are a normal part of pregnancy – your uterus is 'practising' for the tightenings, or contractions, of labour.
Your baby is curled up in the uterus now, with legs bent up towards the chest. There is little room to move about, but he or she will still change position, so you'll still feel movements and be able to see them on the surface of your bump.
If your baby is a boy, his testicles are beginning to descend from his abdomen into his scrotum.
By 36 weeks your baby's lungs are fully formed and ready to take their first breath when he or she is born. He or she will also be able to suckle for feeds now, and the digestive system is fully prepared to deal with breast milk.
Your body in late pregnancy
You need to slow down because the extra weight will make you tired, and you may get backache.
From about 34 weeks pregnant, you may be aware of your womb tightening from time to time. These are practice contractions known as Braxton Hicks contractions, and are a normal part of pregnancy. It's only when they become painful or frequent that you need to contact your midwife or hospital.
Only around 5% of babies arrive on their due date. You can find out more about labour signs and what happens in labour.
If you have children already, you may want to make childcare arrangements for when you go into labour. Pack your bag ready for the birth if you are planning to give birth in hospital or a midwifery unit.
When you are around 36 weeks pregnant, make sure you have all your important telephone numbers handy in case labour starts.
Find out more about your options for where to give birth, and the signs of labour.
You can also read guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) on the care of women and babies in labour (PDF, 212kb).
Tips for late pregnancy
Pain relief during labour
Be prepared by learning about all the ways you can relieve pain during labour, so you can decide what's best for you.
Make your birth plan
Think about your preferences for labour, such as pain relief and positions you might want to be in. You can save your birth plan online, or print out a blank form to fill in and discuss with your midwife.
You can save a to-do list online to keep track of all the essentials for your pregnancy.
If labour starts early
Labour that starts before 37 weeks is considered premature. If your baby is born early, he or she may need special care in hospital.
Warning signs during late pregnancy
Bleeding from your vagina may be a sign of a serious problem, so seek help.
High blood pressure and pre-eclampsia
High blood pressure and protein in the urine are signs of pre-eclampsia, which can be life-threatening if untreated.
Severe itching at any stage of pregnancy can be a sign of the rare liver disorder obstetric cholestasis.
Pregnancy week by week
Find out what's happening to you and your baby at:
0-8 weeks pregnant
9, 10, 11, 12 weeks pregnant
13, 14, 15, 16 weeks pregnant
17, 18, 19, 20 weeks pregnant
21, 22, 23, 24 weeks pregnant
25, 26, 27, 28 weeks pregnant
29, 30, 31, 32 weeks pregnant
37, 38, 39, 40 weeks pregnant
Over 40 weeks pregnant