Women's Healthcare Topics
James Brann, MD. Ob/Gyn

31 Weeks Pregnant

Pregnant Belly Changes

At 31 weeks pregnant, your uterus will measure roughly 4.5 inches above your belly button. You currently have less than ten weeks to go before your baby will be born.

Although your due date is around 40 weeks, your baby may be born anytime between 37 and 42 weeks and be considered term and healthy. Term is divided into:

  • early term ( between 37 weeks 0 days and 38 weeks 6 days )

  • full term ( between 39 weeks 0 days and 40 weeks 6 days )

  • late term ( between 41 weeks 0 days and 41 weeks 6 days )

  • post-term ( between 42 weeks 0 days and beyond )

In fact, did you know that only 5 percent of babies are born on their actual due date? That is some food for thought as you start to mentally and emotionally prepare for your labor and delivery.

Prenatal or Childbirth Class
If you haven't already, you should sign up for a prenatal or childbirth class. Though it may be too late for certain natural childbirth classes (such as Lamaze or Bradley), which require a longer time commitment, your hospital or birthing location may offer childbirth preparation classes with shorter time requirements.

Childbirth classes will give you a general overview of what to expect during your labor and delivery, including your options for pain relief versus more natural methods, vaginal birth versus cesarean section, and related subjects. In addition to offering you valuable information, these classes will alleviate many of the fears that you may have about giving birth. Plus, childbirth and prenatal classes in the third trimester offer a wonderful way for you to make friends with other pregnant couples.

Belly Button
Along with your growing belly, you may have noticed that your belly button sticks out more than it did before. This is a normal pregnancy change, caused by the pressure of your expanding uterus pressing against your belly. Some women find their protruding belly unattractive, so they try to hide it. You, on the other hand, may celebrate this pregnancy change.

If you don't like how your navel looks now, just remember that your belly button will go back to its pre-pregnancy appearance a few months after your baby is born.

Breasts Changes
With your baby's due date approaching in just a few weeks, you may notice that your breasts are undergoing dramatic changes as they prepare for breastfeeding. Your breasts may feel fuller, heavier than before. The areas around your nipples (called the areolas) are much darker than they were before you got pregnant. You may even feel lumps or bumps in your breast as your milk glands starts to produced colostrum. All of these are normal changes in the third trimester.

Breast leakage, may become a problem now. Some pregnant women start to leak colostrum – which is the pre-milk that will nourish your newborn in the first couple of days after birth. Colostrum can be clear in color, or it may be slightly tinged with yellow. If your breast leakage bothers you, make sure that you invest in some nursing pads.

Heartburn and Indigestion
At 31 weeks pregnant, your internal organs have shifted to make room for your uterus and ever-growing baby. As a result, you are going to feel uncomfortable and experience gastrointestinal problems, such as heartburn and indigestion.

Heartburn and indigestion can be very uncomfortable, and it's caused the large size of your uterus crowding your abdominal cavity. This slows down your digestion, and it can make it harder for your body to digest large meals, or certain types of food. You may also experience heartburn (that burning sensation in your chest) due to your baby's huge growth. To minimize your discomfort from these third trimester pregnancy symptoms, make sure that you eat smaller meals throughout the day and avoid any foods that might trigger indigestion or heartburn.

Blurry vision may be a symptom that you experience. Water retention, hormones, and change in your blood circulation can affect your eyes and make you more nearsighted. These vision changes are normal, and your eyes should go back to normal after your baby is born.

Weight Gain

It's amazing how much weight you've gained since you first discovered you were expecting. For the average-sized woman, her weight gain at 31 weeks pregnant is roughly 24 to 25 pounds – more or less. Some women may be lagging behind, while other pregnant women will have gained more. Don't expect your weight gain to slow down anything soon. You are probably going to gain at least five to ten additional pounds before you deliver.

Pregnancy Health Section

Maternal Request Cesarean Delivery

Maternal Request Cesarean Delivery.

As you approach your due date, you are probably starting to think about the different ways to give birth. While some women prefer to have a natural vaginal birth, others prefer to give birth by cesarean section.

Cesarean section deliveries that are performed because you want to give birth this way are called "maternal request cesarean deliveries". The right for you to be able to choose your mode of delivery is now widely accepted by physicians. It is estimated that 1 to 3 percent of all cesarean deliveries in the United States are “maternal requested cesarean births”.

A planned c-section gives you more control of your baby's birth. You will already know your baby's birthday ahead of time, so that you can better plan for your little one. You are also at decreased risk of a pelvic floor injury or urinary incontinence (inability to hold urine) after your baby's birth.

These pros of a cesarean may sound wonderful, but remember: a c-section is a major abdominal surgery that does come with certain risks and complications.

You are at increased risk of serious health problems after a c-section. This includes heart attacks, wound hematoma (mass of clotted blood underneath the site of the incision), blood clots in your veins, hemorrhage, and numbness or pain in the area of the wound.

Your baby also faces the risk of being nicked or cut by the doctor's scalpel during the surgery. Your little one may face more respiratory problems that babies born vaginally. He or she may also be delivered premature; if you’re estimated due date was not calculated correctly.

Focus on Twin Pregnancy

Twins at 31 Weeks Pregnant.

If you are pregnant with twins, you probably can't wait until your babies are born. You are absolutely huge at this point in your pregnancy, and your pregnancy weight gain may be anywhere between 27 and 30 pounds! All that extra weight in the third trimester also means a double dose of those annoying pregnancy discomforts, including back pain, fatigue, and heartburn!

Twin Pregnancy & Complications
Women carrying twins also face an increased risk of preterm delivery (babies born before 37 weeks). The limited space in your womb is often a factor in this. According to the March of Dimes, an estimated 60 percent of twins are born premature. On average, twins are born at 35 weeks. Because of this high risk of preterm birth, pregnant women carrying twins or multiples should be on the lookout for the red flags of pre-term labor!

Signs of Preterm Labor
Warning signs of Preterm-Labor.html include:

  • A low, dull backache

  • Cramps that feel like menstrual cramps

  • Abdominal cramps that come with or without diarrhea

  • Pelvic pressure

  • Contractions that occur every 10 minutes or more frequently

  • Excessive fatigue

Twin Survival Rate at 31 Weeks Pregnant
Although pre-term delivery does come with certain health concerns for your babies, your twins have a high survival rate at 31 weeks, due to the latest advancements in neonatal intensive care. Giving Birth to Twins
In addition to pre-term labor, having a twin pregnancy can put you at risk for complications during the labor and delivery process. You have a higher risk of delivering via cesarean section, if your babies are in lying in a non-optimal birthing position.

You may be able to deliver vaginally if both twins are in the head-down position. However, in some cases, one baby may be in a head-down position and other twin is in a transverse (lying sideways) or breech (feet or buttocks down and head upward) position. These positions can make it difficult for a vaginal birth.

At 31 weeks pregnant, you cannot control what birthing position your babies are in, so you may not have a choice in whether you deliver vaginally or with a C-section. However, you want the best outcome for your babies, so try to relax and take it easy in the next few weeks. Take naps during the day and continue to eat a healthy and balanced diet.

Baby Section

Growth and Development of Baby

At 31 weeks pregnant, your baby is almost fully formed. He or she weighs almost 3.3 pounds, and may be 16 inches long from head to heel. Your little bundle of joy is quickly approaching his or her birth weight and length.

Your baby is busy plumping up. Layers of fat are accumulating underneath his or her skin. In the next few weeks, your child's arms, legs, and body will start to fill out, and his or her skin will become less wrinkly.

Your little one's skin is still covered with fine lanugo hair and vernix, but most of this will be shed in the final weeks of your pregnancy.

Space in your womb is getting tighter and tighter. As your baby runs out of room to move about, you may find that every little kick is slightly painful or uncomfortable. Kicks and sudden movement changes may cause you to gasp unexpectedly, much to the delight and amazement of onlookers. Although your baby's movements should continue to be strong, they won't be as dramatic from now and onward.

Many babies will have turned into the head down position for birth. This is the best position for delivery. However, around 25 percent of babies are still in the breech position (with the head up and the legs or buttocks at the bottom). Fortunately, a majority of these babies will turn before you deliver.

Now your baby has an established cycle of sleeping and waking. Your baby alternates between periods of quiet rest, REM sleep (the dreaming stage of sleep), being awake with activity but no eye movement, and being awake with lots of activity and eye movements.

Your baby's umbilical cord now contains "cord blood," which is rich in stem cells. After your baby is born, you have the option of donating this cord blood to research or storing them in a private facility, in the event that a family member gets sick and may be able to use them.

Stem cells are found to be effective in treating over 70 diseases, including cancers, heart disease, juvenile diabetes, brain injury, and more. (next week)


Doctor's Corner

Pregnancy Week by Week - Women's Healthcare Topics