Week 36 – your third trimester

Do you feel an urgent need to clean the cooker, tidy the cutlery drawer, and sort your baby's clothes into alphabetical order? This is typical nesting behaviour – and something that many women and their partners report around this time. It can be therapeutic and very useful… but don't overdo it. Put your feet up in between bouts of activity. Enjoy this week!

What's happening in my body?

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.

Your baby may already have moved head down into your pelvis, which means that they're good to go (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.

Happy birth day

Wondering what will happen on the big day? Here are the main ways that women give birth…

Vaginal delivery

This is the most common way that babies are born, and accounts for around 6 out of 10 births in England.

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 6-12 hours.
  2. Your baby moves down the birth canal towards the opening of your vagina. You may get the urge to push… and 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.

Read more about what happens during labour.

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 10-20cm cut is made in your stomach and womb. Your baby is delivered through the opening and brought over to you. Then you'll be stitched up and offered an injection of oxytocin to help your womb contract and reduce blood loss. The procedure takes 40-50 minutes. You may need to recover in hospital for a few days.

Read more about C sections.

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, then you will be stitched up again.

Find out more about assisted delivery.

Q: Can you have a vaginal birth after a caesarean section?

A: Many women do. 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.

Third 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. If it's a problem, then try wearing maternity pads – you might as well stock up, as you'll need some after the birth. Also practise your pelvic floor exercises (see Action Stations). You'll thank us later…

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 47.4cm long from head to heel, and weighs about 2.6kg. That's approximately the size of a romaine lettuce and the weight of a small turkey.

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

Your baby will also be able to suck and digest breast milk. If you're not sure about breastfeeding yet, then check out the benefits. Breastfeeding is good for your baby, as it helps to fight off infections, and it's good for you too, as it burns around 300 calories per day. It's also great for bonding. Some women think that their breasts are too small, but that's a myth – your baby will be very happy, whatever size and shape you are!


Action stations

Here's a quick quiz to help you work out if you're ready for the big day...

  1. Is your bag packed for the birth?
  2. If you went into labour right now, would you have all the phone numbers that you need plugged in your phone, or in your handbag?
  3. Do you know where your notes are and what your hospital reference number is?

If you can answer yes, yes and yes, then well done for being so organised, carry on as you are!

If you answered 'no' to any question, then get on the case right now!

This week you could also...

You may be on your maternity leave now or about to stop work. Find out how much leave and pay you're entitled to.

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. Tommy's has more ideas on pelvic floor exercises.

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. Don’t overdo it though - listen to your body.

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 and 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

How would you like to take a little holiday today? One way of escaping, without leaving your front room, 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 Moodzone audio guide 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!

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