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Week 36

You'll have an antenatal appointment around now with your doctor or midwife. This will check on your blood pressure, urine, and the size of your bump.

You may not feel like going, as it's such an effort to get anywhere, but make them a priority.

These appointments save lives as they can pick up on changes in your body that you might not be aware of, such as very high blood pressure.

What's happening in my body?

Your baby may already have moved head down into your pelvis, which means that they're in position for labour (or "engaged"). However, this doesn't mean that labour's on the way – it could still be weeks away.

If your baby's not head down yet, then you may be offered external cephalic version (ECV).

This is where your doctor or midwife gently applies a helping hand to your bump to encourage the baby to turn – it's successful around half the time.

Common ways that babies are born

Here are the main ways of giving birth.

Vaginal delivery

Around 6 out of 10 births in England are vaginal births. This is the most common way that babies are born.

You may need help getting the labour started. This is called induction and can be done by breaking your membranes and/or drugs. You will then go through 3 stages of labour:

  1. You will feel contractions as your cervix opens up (“dilates”) to around 10cm. This stage lasts 6 to 12 hours.
  2. Your baby moves down the birth canal towards the opening of your vagina. You may get the urge to push. Then your baby comes out. This stage lasts up to 3 hours if it's your first baby, or 2 hours if you've had a baby before.
  3. Your womb contracts and the placenta comes out through your vagina. This could happen naturally, or you may need an injection of a drug called oxytocin to speed it up. This stage is usually over within 30 minutes.
Caesarean section

Nearly 3 out of 10 babies are delivered by caesarean. This is a procedure that is ideally planned, but it can also be carried out in an emergency. A 10 to 20cm cut is made in your stomach and womb.

Your baby is delivered through the opening and brought over to you, which will require stitches. You will be offered an injection of oxytocin to help your womb contract and reduce blood loss. The procedure takes 40 to 50 minutes. You may need to recover in hospital for a few days.

Assisted delivery

Just over 1 in 10 births are "assisted", which means that the baby needs some help getting out with the use of a ventouse (suction cup) or forceps (surgical tongs). You will be offered a local anaesthetic or epidural (injection in the back) for pain relief. Some women will need an episiotomy (cut) to make it easier to get the baby out. If you tear, or need a cut, you will need stitches.

Vaginal birth after a caesarean section

It is possible to have a vaginal birth after a caesarean section – it depends on why you needed a caesarean before.

If there's no medical reason to stop you, then your chances of having a vaginal birth this time around are very good. Talk to your doctor or midwife about the pros and cons.

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 36 weeks)

Have you noticed a bit of wee leaking out when you laugh or cough? This is your body's way of preparing for the birth by relaxing the pelvic floor muscles around the bladder.

It may help to wear maternity pads – it's a good idea to stock up now as you'll need some after the birth. Also try to practise your pelvic floor exercises.

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 47.4cm long from head to heel. That's approximately the size of a romaine lettuce.

By now, your baby's lungs are probably mature enough to breathe outside the womb without any help.

Your baby will also be able to suck and digest breast milk. If you're not sure about breastfeeding yet, read about the benefits of breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding is good for your baby, as it helps to fight off infections. It's great for bonding and also burns around 300 calories a day. There's no reason the size of your breasts should affect your ability to breastfeed.

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 large romaine lettuce in 2 hands.
Your baby is about the size of a romaine lettuce.

Action stations

You should start to prepare the things you will need during the birth now.

Make sure that your bag is packed and you have written down your hospital reference number and important phone numbers. Keep your notes where you can quickly grab them.

This week you could also...

Think about stopping work

You may be on your maternity leave now or about to stop work.

Find out how much maternity leave and pay you're entitled to.

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 healthily, with plenty of fresh fruit and veg, and avoid processed, fatty and salty foods. 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.


You and your family should follow the government and NHS guidance on COVID-19:

To find out about COVID-19 and pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding, have a look at advice on the:

This week's treat

How would you like to take a little holiday today?

One way of escaping, without leaving home, is to practise anxiety control. This can help you to relax your body and mind, and give you a release from the stresses of life.

Our Mental wellbeing audio guides will teach you the basics. Listen to this every day – and soon you'll find that you can take a mini break, whenever you choose.

Bon voyage!

More in week-by-week

Week 37

Your baby could come any day now – and this would not be considered early. Your baby is now "full term", which means that they're probably big enough, and mature enough, to survive in the outside world!

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