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Pregnancy: Week 34
Development of Baby
By 34 weeks pregnant, your baby weighs roughly 4.5 to 5 pounds (depending on the individual baby), and he or she may be as long as 18 inches! Your baby is quickly reaching his or her birth weight and length.
Your baby is filling out as your pregnancy continues. Fat layers are making your baby rounder and giving his or her skin a smoother appearance. These fat layers will help regulate your baby's body temperature after birth.
By now, your baby has settled into his or her birth position. The occiput anterior position (head down, head slightly turned to the side) is the most common position and it is the easiest position for a natural, vaginal delivery.
Your baby's digestive system is mature now. If your baby were born this week, he or she would be able to digest food. The digestive enzymes in your baby's gut are now functional.
By pregnancy week 34, the level of amniotic fluid in your womb has reached its maximum amount and will stay the same until you reach 37 weeks pregnant, when it will slowly decrease.
Mom's Pregnancy Changes and Symptoms
At 34 weeks pregnant, your baby's due date is creeping up on you. It won't be too long now. Only three more weeks until your baby is early-term and six more weeks until your estimated due date!
If you are expecting twins or multiples, you should expect them to arrive any minute now. Although the ideal length of a term twin pregnancy is between 37 and 42 weeks, over 50 percent of all twins are born premature (before 37 weeks).
As you close in on the final weeks of your pregnancy, you may find yourself consumed with thoughts of your labor and delivery. You may be nervous about the pain of labor, or perhaps you are worried that your labor will drag on for hours and days.
In the last month of your third trimester, try to educate yourself on the labor and delivery process, what your pain relief options are, and what the hospital's procedures are for complications that arise. Education will alleviate many of your fears.
You should also keep in mind that stress and anxiety can make your labor last longer, and it may also make you experience more pain than you would if you were totally relaxed.
You may want to practice the breathing and relaxation techniques that you learned in your prenatal classes to help you relax and prepare for labor and delivery.
Along with the anxiety of your impending birth, you may find that you're feeling very uncomfortable. Not only are you feeling more Braxton-Hicks contractions, but you may also find that your baby is moving around more frequently than before.
Space is running out in your womb, so whenever your baby moves this way or that, parts of his body may start to stick out from your belly. If your little one is in the head down position, his or her little feet may push against your ribs, causing you some discomfort.
You may also notice that your baby has "dropped" into your pelvis. This is called "lightning," and it typically occurs several weeks before your labor begins. (However, in some cases, lightning can occur a few hours before the onset of labor).
Lightning can make some of your pregnancy symptoms worse, while it improves other pregnancy discomfort. For example, you may notice that you have to urinate more often, due to your large baby and growing uterus pressing against your bladder.
Some women also get an uncomfortable feeling of pressure deep in their pelvis, making it uncomfortable to walk normally. You might even start to waddle a bit.
On the other hand, lightning takes the pressure off your stomach, because your baby has descended into your pelvis, so you may find that you can eat more without having heartburn or indigestion. You will also get some relief from feeling short of breath.
Now that you are getting closer to your due date, you should be on alert for any of the warning signs of labor, such as your water breaking, the discharge of your mucus plug, and contractions.
Backaches and low back discomfort is a regular pregnancy symptom at 34 weeks pregnant that you must struggle with. The heavy weight of your uterus, as well as hormonal changes relaxing the ligaments and muscles in your body, can lead to extra strain on your back.
Three out of four pregnant women will suffer from backaches and back pain during pregnancy. To cope with this uncomfortable symptom, try to be aware of your posture at all times and use a heating pad or a cold compress to give you some relief.
Fatigue is another pregnancy symptom to expect. Although you had a temporary break from exhaustion in the second trimester, fatigue is back in full force now. Your tiredness and exhaustion is due to the physical strain your body is undergoing from carrying all that extra weight. Stress and all those nighttime runs to the bathroom to urinate aren't helping your energy levels either.
"Lightning" (baby drops into pelvis) may occur anytime now. Dropping usually takes place several weeks before the onset of labor, but it can also occur several hours before labor starts. When your baby drops into your pelvis, you will notice that your bump is situated lower in your abdomen. You might also realize that it's easier to breathe, since your uterus is no longer pressing against your diaphragm and lungs. Any rib pain that you've experienced will disappear.
While some pregnancy symptoms will get better after your baby drops, you may start to develop some uncomfortable new symptoms, too.
Pelvic pressure is a common experience after your baby drops. You may start to waddle as a result. Walking normally may be too uncomfortably. Although you may worry that your baby is going to fall out, he or she is perfectly safe as long as your cervix has not started to efface or dilate.
Regardless of whether you are expecting twins or just a single baby, you are rather big at this point in your pregnancy. You probably feel like there is no more room for your baby to grow. Your pregnancy weight gain at 34 weeks for a single baby may be between 27 and 28 pounds, or over 30 lbs. if you are carrying twins.
Pregnancy Health Section
Braxton Hicks Contractions
As your pregnancy continues and you get closer to your due date, it may be difficult to tell Braxton-Hicks contractions apart from true labor contractions. As a rule of thumb, if your contractions are irregular and come and go with no rhyme or reason, then you're having Braxton Hicks contractions. True labor contractions strike at regular intervals, and they get closer together and become more intense with the passing of time. Braxton-Hicks contractions are typically felt in the front of your abdomen, while true labor contractions usually begin in your lower back and they eventually move to the front of your abdomen.
At 34 weeks pregnant, you should not be having real labor contractions. If you experience contractions that are accompanied with pressure in your vagina (or the sensation that your baby is pushing down), menstrual-like cramping that is becoming stronger, vaginal bleeding, fluid leakage, or flu-like symptoms (such as diarrhea, nausea or vomiting), contact your doctor right away. This may be a sign that you're in premature labor.
An Episiotomy is Unnecessary
At 34 weeks pregnant, as your baby's birth approaches, many women start wondering about whether or not they will need an episiotomy. Recent studies have shown that while episiotomies are common, they are an unnecessary medical procedure that many new mothers unknowingly have done at the time of giving birth.
An episiotomy is an incision (cut) that your doctor will make from the bottom of your vagina to the top of the rectum in an effort to avoid you tearing when giving birth.
Supporters of the procedure claim that it may help prevent unnecessary tearing in your birth canal (vagina). However, there are many women who have complications, unnecessary pain, and even those that require reconstructive surgery after having an episiotomy. Many times, an episiotomy will result in a longer period of pain after giving birth then delivering without one.
There are certain risks associated with having an episiotomy including:
- Increased risk of blood loss during delivery
- Increased risk of infection
- Increased healing times
- Increased risk of a severe tearing during birth
In some instances, an episiotomy may be a lifesaving procedure. It can be medically necessary, particularly during times when the baby is in distress and needs to be delivered quickly.
Baby’s body size doesn't really have anything to do with the amount of tearing you might experience without an episiotomy. The size of the baby's head is what actually determines whether or not you will tear while giving birth.
Is there anything you can do to avoid an episiotomy? Some doctors encourage gentle stretching or massaging the birth canal before the head is delivered. This is often referred to as a perineal massage.
It is the doctor’s responsibility to avoid tearing while you are giving birth. The best way to avoid tearing is when your doctor controls the delivery of the baby’s head. If the decent of the head through the birth canal is steady and does not burst out, then you should not have any tears. If you work with a qualified healthcare provider, you will have the best chance of delivering your baby with minimal damage to your vagina and surrounding areas.