Week 34 – your third trimester

You’re doing fantastically well, so keep on doing what you’re doing. Eat healthily, take gentle exercise, be kind to yourself and rest when you can. Also, don’t forget to attend your antenatal appointments as they’re important for you and the baby, and will make sure that everything’s on track for the big day.

What’s happening in my body?

You may be feeling all squashed up inside… or something magical might have happened, and some of your pregnancy symptoms could have vanished almost overnight. This can happen when your baby moves head down into the pelvis, in a staged process called 'engagement'. It frees up space in your abdomen, and gives your lungs a bit of a break, so if you've been feeling breathless, then that should ease off. It also reduces the pressure on your stomach, so symptoms such as heartburn could disappear as well.

This drop down is called 'lightening', and for many women, it's a welcome relief. However it doesn't mean you're about to give birth, as you'll probably have to wait several more weeks for that to happen. Also, you may find that you now need to wee more, and walking could be more difficult. But at least you can eat more, without feeling ill, so take the rough with the smooth!

Enough already: when to take maternity leave

Are you struggling at work? You could be finding it very hard now, particularly if you need to use public transport, or have a job that involves standing up.

You've 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. It will also automatically kick in if you're off work with a pregnancy-related illness in the four weeks before the week that your baby is due.

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 isn't possible.

Many women will carry on working, right up until the birth, and that suits them – you need to do what's right for you.

Talk to your partner, and midwife or doctor, and ask for their advice if you need help deciding when it's time to stop. Above all, listen to your body – as mother always knows best.

If you're unsure about your rights to maternity leave and pay, then use the Government’s calculator or contact your local Citizen’s Advice.

Tip of the week

Your top tip is to sleep on your side! Evidence shows that it’s best for the baby, as it keeps the blood flow to the placenta turned up to max. You’re also less likely to get backache, which is good news for you, and less likely to snore, which is great news for your partner. That’s win, win, win!

Third trimester pregnancy symptoms (at 34 weeks)

Your breasts could feel huge and they may be leaking small amounts of yellowish colostrum. This is an 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.

Your signs of pregnancy could also include:

Tommy's the baby charity has produced a pregnancy guide with a further list of symptoms

What does my baby look like?

Your baby, or foetus, is around 45cm long from head to heel, and weighs about 2.1kg. That’s approximately the size of a school bag and the weight of a cantaloupe melon.

Your baby is curled up inside your womb, with the 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. Can you work out where their bottom is?

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.

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Action stations

Get a drink, put your feet up, and read all about the kind of care that you should expect when you have your baby. This information was published by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). 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...

You have maternity rights and if you’re worried about your safety at work, then talk to your employer. You shouldn’t be lugging anything around, and you may need extra breaks and somewhere to sit. You can also attend antenatal appointments during paid work time.

It’s a good time to tone up those muscles ‘down under’. Gentle exercises can help to prevent leakage when you laugh, sneeze, cough or jump around on your future baby’s trampoline. Get the muscles going by pretending that you’re having a wee and then stop the ‘urine’ in midflow.

Attend antenatal classes to prepare you for the birth and beyond. If possible, ask your partner to come with you. Even if you’ve had children before, and been there, done that, they’re still worth going to as you can meet other parents. Also don’t expect this pregnancy to be just like your others - your baby could have other plans.

Do your best to stop smoking, give up alcohol and go easy on the cappuccinos. We know that’s easy to say, but hard to do. Ask your midwife or GP for support.

During the winter, consider taking a daily dose of the sunshine vitamin, Vitamin D. It’s recommended that you take 10 micrograms every day when you’re pregnant and breastfeeding. Find out if you’re entitled to free vitamins.

Get moving. It’s recommended that pregnant women do 150 minutes of exercise throughout the week. Perhaps take a brisk walk in the park, or go for a swim. If you start any classes, make sure the instructor knows that you’re pregnant. Don’t overdo it though - listen to your body.

Have a fit pregnancy and sign up for a free personal activity plan.

Don’t eat for two! Eat for you. Now you’re in the third trimester, you may need an extra 200 calories a day, but that’s not much. It’s about the same as two slices of wholemeal toast and margarine.

Try to eat healthily with plenty of fresh fruit and veg, and avoid processed, fatty and salty foods. You may be able to get free milk, fruit and veg through the Healthy Start scheme.

How are you today? If you’re feeling anxious or low, then talk to your midwife or doctor 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 bottle it up – you’re important, so ask for help if you need it!

Getting pregnant again is probably the last thing on your mind! However now is a good time to start planning what type of contraception you would like to use after your baby is born. Making this decision when you’re pregnant will give you one less thing to think about when you’re looking after a newborn baby. 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 and get everything in place.

This week’s treat

Enjoy a ‘babymoon’ with your partner and take time out to unwind together. This could just mean relaxing at home together, but if you’re thinking of going abroad, most airlines will allow you to fly up until 37 weeks (or 32 weeks if you’re having twins or more babies).

Go back to week 33

Go to week 35

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