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Week 34

You will have a week 34 antenatal appointment this week. Remember to keep eating healthily, take gentle exercise, and rest often.

What's happening in my body?

Perhaps it feels as though some of your pregnancy symptoms have vanished. This can happen when your baby moves head down into the pelvis, in a staged process called "engagement".

This drop down is called "lightening". It frees up space in your abdomen, and gives your lungs a bit of a break, so if you've been feeling breathless, that should ease up.

It also reduces the pressure on your stomach, so symptoms such as heartburn could disappear as well.

This shift may feel like a relief, but it does not mean you're about to give birth, as you'll probably have to wait several more weeks for that to happen.

You may also find that you now need to pee more and walking could be more of a struggle.

When to take maternity leave

You could be finding work difficult right now, especially if you travel on public transport or have a job that involves standing up.

You have probably already chosen a date for your maternity leave to start. The earliest that you can usually start your leave is 11 weeks before the expected week of the birth.

However, if your baby comes early, then your leave will start the day after the birth. If you are off work with a pregnancy-related illness in the 4 weeks before your due date, it will start from then.

Some people find it suits them to keep working right up until the birth. If you think that suits you too, then do what feels right for you.

Speak to your midwife or doctor if you'd like advice about when to stop working.

If you want to change the date when you start your leave, then you will need to give your employer at least 28 days' notice, or let them know why this is not possible.

You have probably already chosen a date for your maternity leave to start. The earliest that you can usually start your leave is 11 weeks before the expected week of the birth.

Baby sling safety

Many parents use a sling or baby carrier instead of a pram to keep their baby close to them.

If you decide to use a sling, make sure you know how to use it safely, as a small number of deaths from suffocation have been linked to slings.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) advises the safest slings are the ones that hold your baby solidly against your body, in an upright position.

Make sure you can see your baby, that their face is not restricted, and their airways are always clear.

The "Ticks" rule to keep your baby safe when wearing a sling or carrier is:

  • T – tight
  • I – in view at all times
  • C – close enough to kiss
  • K – keep chin off the chest
  • S – supported back

Read more about sling safety and the "Ticks" rule on the RoSPA website.

3rd trimester pregnancy symptoms (at 34 weeks)

Your breasts could feel huge and may be leaking small amounts of yellowish colostrum. This is early milk that's rich in antibodies and will help to protect your baby from diseases if you choose to breastfeed.

If your breasts are sore, then it may help to wear a light bra at night and a more supportive bra during the day.

You should sleep on your side. Evidence shows that it's best for the baby, as it helps the blood flow to the placenta. You're also less likely to get backache.

Your signs of pregnancy could also include:

You may also experience symptoms from earlier weeks, such as:

Read Tommy's guide to common pregnancy symptoms.

What does my baby look like?

Your baby, or foetus, is around 45cm long from head to heel. That's approximately the size of a cantaloupe melon.

Your baby is curled up inside your uterus (womb), with their little legs bent up towards the chest.

There's not a lot of space in there, but you should still feel your baby shifting around and see your bump change shape too.

If you've got a little boy in there, then his testicles will be descending from his abdomen into his scrotum.

When he's born, his genitals may look quite enlarged. This is swelling caused by extra fluid or a late rush of hormones – it goes down after a few days.

Composite. One side shows a foetus attached to the placenta by the umbilical cord. The foetus is recognisable as a baby. Other side shows a person holding a cantaloupe melon in 2 hands.
Your baby is about the size of a cantaloupe melon.

Action stations

Read the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines to antenatal care. If you’re not happy with any aspect of your care, then speak up, and tell your midwife or doctor.

This week you could also...

Talk to your work

You have maternity rights. You can ask for a risk assessment of your work place to ensure that you're working in a safe environment.

You should not be lifting heavy things and you may need extra breaks and somewhere to sit.

You can also attend antenatal appointments during paid work time.

Start doing pelvic floor exercises

It's a good time to tone up your pelvic floor muscles. Gentle exercises can help to prevent leakage when you laugh, sneeze or cough.

Get the muscles going by pretending that you're having a pee and then stopping midflow.

Visit Tommy's for more information on pelvic floor exercises.

Antenatal classes

Ask your midwife or doctor about online antenatal classes – they may be able to recommend one. The charity Tommy's has lots of useful information on antenatal classes and preparing you for birth.

Ask your partner if they would like to take part in the antenatal classes. Even if you've had children before, antenatal classes are still worth going to as you can meet other parents-to-be.

The NCT offers online antenatal classes with small groups of people that live locally to you.

Smoking, drinking and caffeine in pregnancy

Do your best to stop smoking and give up alcohol, and go easy on the tea, coffee and anything else with caffeine.

Ask your midwife or GP for support.

Vitamins in pregnancy

To keep bones and muscles healthy, we need vitamin D.

From late March/early April to the end of September, most people make enough vitamin D from sunlight on their skin. However, between October and early March, you should consider taking a daily vitamin D supplement because we cannot make enough from sunlight.

Some people should take a vitamin D supplement all year round, find out if this applies to you on the NHS website.

You just need 10 micrograms daily (it's the same for grown-ups and kids). Check if you're entitled to free vitamins.

Exercising in pregnancy

It's recommended that you do 150 minutes of exercise a week while pregnant.

You could start off with just 10 minutes of daily exercise – perhaps take a brisk walk outside. Check out Sport England's #StayInWorkOut online exercises (scroll to the pregnancy section).

Listen to your body and do what feels right for you.

Healthy eating

There's no need to eat for 2.

Now you're in the 3rd trimester, you may need an extra 200 calories a day, but that's not much. It's about the same as 2 slices of wholemeal toast with margarine.

You just need to eat a healthy balanced diet, with a variety of different foods every day, including plenty of fruit and veg. Have a look at our guide to healthy eating in pregnancy.

You may be able to get free milk, fruit and veg through the Healthy Start scheme.

Emotional and mental wellbeing

How are you today?

If you're feeling anxious or low, talk to your doctor or midwife, who can point you in the right direction to get all the support that you need. You could also discuss your worries with your partner, friends and family.

You may be worried about your relationship, or money, or having somewhere permanent to live.

Don't keep it to yourself – it's important that you ask for help if you need it.


Getting pregnant again is probably the last thing on your mind right now. However, now is a good time to start planning what type of contraception you would like to use after your baby is born.

Getting pregnant again could happen sooner than you realise, and too short a gap between babies is known to cause problems.

Talk to your GP or midwife to help you decide.

Talk to your midwife about newborn screening

You will be offered newborn screening tests for your baby soon after they are born.

These screening tests are recommended by the NHS because they can make sure your baby is given appropriate treatment if needed.

Your decisions about whether or not you want these screening tests will be respected, and healthcare professionals will support you.

Ask your midwife or doctor for more information about newborn screening.

More in week-by-week

Week 35

Many choose to begin their maternity leave around now, and then use the next few weeks to prepare for the baby's arrival. Others prefer to work until the birth.

Do what feels right for you.

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