Women's  Healthcare Topics is a website about pregnancy and your newborn baby.

Pregnancy: Week 33

Mom's Pregnancy Changes and Symptoms

Reviewed by James Brann, M.D.
Learn about your symptoms and changes during the 33rd week of pregnancy.

At 33 weeks pregnant, you are probably thinking about your baby's delivery. If you haven't already, you need to start preparing to go to the hospital at any moment. Even though your due date is 7 weeks away, you want to be prepared for any pregnancy complications that may occur, such as premature labor.

Who is at Risk for Preterm Labor?
You are at higher risk for delivering early if:

  • You have had a previous preterm birth in past pregnancies

  • You are pregnant with twins or multiples

  • You have certain uterine or cervical abnormalities.

In the next couple of weeks, as you and your partner gear up for your baby's birth, you may experience a few false alarms and false runs to the hospital. This is especially true if this is your first pregnancy. False labor pains, also called Braxton-Hicks contractions, can be difficult to tell apart for first-time moms. They are commonly felt in the third trimester, as your body gears up for labor and delivery.

Even if you have familiarized yourself with the signs of Braxton-Hicks contractions, these false labor pains can still confuse you. In the weeks before delivery, these contractions can become more frequent and seem relatively close together. They may even feel painful. However, unlike the real onset of labor, Braxton-Hicks contractions will cause your cervix to dilate only a little.

If you are concerned about any contractions that you are feeling, don't hesitate to contact your doctor or midwife. In some cases, what you think might be Braxton-Hicks contractions may be true labor. Not every woman experiences false labor.

Fatigue
At 33 weeks pregnant, it's probably a struggle to get anything done. Fatigue is probably hitting you hard. Carrying around the weight of a growing baby can really take its toll on your energy levels. Try to get as much rest as you can in this final trimester.

Swelling (edema) is common pregnancy symptom now. You might feel like your ankles and feet are never going back to the same size. Swelling is often worse if you live in a hot climate, or it's the middle of summer. Remember to elevate your feet whenever you can. This can help minimize your swelling.

Carpal tunnel syndrome can also be problematic now. You probably have carpal tunnel if there's any pain, numbness or tingling in your fingers and wrists. In the third trimester, the tissues supporting your hands and wrists can swell, and this can cause a condition resembling carpel tunnel syndrome. If you work in a job that requires frequent typing, your healthcare provider might suggest you wear a brace to help relieve some of your discomfort. You should also take frequent breaks from repetitive tasks to help reduce the discomfort in your hands and wrists.

Frequent urination is quite annoying now. Your uterus is adding pressure to your bladder and this makes you feel like you have to urinate all the time. Unfortunately, there's not much you can do to prevent this pregnancy symptom. Just keep in mind that it'll go away after giving birth.

Weight Gain

You may have gained up to 26 to 27 pounds by 33 weeks pregnant, though some women will have gained more. During this point in pregnancy, many women find that they gain weight faster than at any other time. This is partly due to the rapid growth your baby is experiencing and the extra water retention. Most babies will put on 5-9 ounces every week from this point out!


Pregnancy Health Section

Video: 33 Weeks
Video: Your Pregnancy Week 33
Learn about the 4 stages of labor.

Stages of Labor and Delivery

By 33 weeks of pregnancy most women, if not having a planned cesarean delivery, probably have started wondering a little bit about labor and delivery. Labor occurs in very distinct stages. Some doctors divide labor into three stages and include an 'early phase' whereas others divide labor into four stages, which considers the early stage as the first stage of labor. Below we have broken labor down into four distinct stages.

Stage One of Pregnancy
Stage One or Latent Phase
The initial phase of labor is termed the latent phase or stage one. It begins when you feel regular contractions. During stage one of labor; your cervix will slowly start dilating (opening) and effacing (thinning). False labor and stage one of labor initially share similar characteristics. However, the contractions associated with latent labor become stronger, more regular, and more frequent over time; whereas the Braxton-Hicks contractions associated with false labor diminish in frequency and intensity.

During stage one; you may notice what is called a “bloody show”. This is a mucous discharge that is tinged with blood, and it is a perfectly common occurrence during early labor. Other women will lose their mucous plug during this time. Some women consider loss of the mucous plug a sure sign that labor has begun, but a woman can actually start losing her mucous plug weeks before delivery. The bloody show is a much better predictor of imminent labor than loss of the mucous plug.

The latent phase or stage one of labor is often the longest. Generally during this time, the cervix will dilate up to 2 centimeters.

Stage Two of Pregnancy Stage Two or Active Phase
During stage two, you enter what is referred to as the active phase of labor. This is where all the fun begins. During this time, your body will be preparing aggressively to deliver your baby. Typically, you will start experiencing contractions that become more frequent, lasting longer, and stronger. This stage of labor is associated with a faster rate of cervical dilatation and usually begins when you are 2 to 4 cm dilated. By this point in time, you should call your doctor and head to the hospital.

During the active phase of labor you will want to concentrate on your breathing and relaxation techniques. You may find your contractions get strong enough that you are unable to talk through them. If you have taken any prenatal classes, you will find the techniques offered come in handy.

Many women opt for pain medication during the second stage of labor. At this point, medication is not likely to slow or contractions down.

After you have been in active labor for some time, your body will enter the “transition period”. During this time contractions become strong and typically come every two to three minutes. Most women will find their contractions last a minute or more. During this phase, the cervix will dilate from 8 to 10 centimeters.

The transition period can take anywhere from a few hours to a few minutes. Typically this is the most painful part of labor. If you don't have any pain relief, you may feel nauseous and dizzy during this part of labor.

Stage Three of Pregnancy Stage Three or Time to Push
Once your cervix is fully dilated, you will be ready to push and give birth to your baby. Stage three is the period of time when pushing begins. Most first time moms will push for an hour or more, though it isn't uncommon to only push for 20 minutes.

Many women find this stage of labor exhausting and exciting at the same time. Every push helps your baby through the birth canal. For some women, the baby will descend rapidly with a few pushes, whereas others it may require pushing for an hour or more.

Your baby's head will advance down the birth canal until the head becomes visible. This is referred to as “crowning”. At this point, usually everyone starts sharing tears of joy, as your baby is about to make his appearance in the world. Your doctor may note that your baby has a full head of hair, or may comment that your little one is as completely bald. Right after your baby's head is delivered, your doctor will suction the baby's mouth and nose. Typically with the next contraction, your baby's shoulders and body will be delivered.

Stage Four of Pregnancy Stage Four or Delivery of the After Birth
Believe it or not, you are still technically in labor after your baby is born. After your baby is born, your uterus will continue to contract to help separate the placenta from the wall of the uterus. Once this happens, you may have to gently push to help deliver the placenta. Typically, these mild contractions occur a few minutes after delivery. For most women, the entire process takes less than 15 minutes. Most women don't even pay attention to this stage of delivery because they are consumed with the sight of their beautiful newborn baby.

There you have it, all the steps of labor easily outlined. Now you can start thinking about your big day, just a few short weeks away!

Baby Section

Growth and Development of Baby

At 33 weeks pregnant, your baby weighs over 4 pounds and may be as long as 17.2 inches! As your pregnancy week by week continues, your baby is spiraling toward his birth weight and length! By the time you give birth, your little one may be as heavy as 7 to 8 pounds and over 20 inches long.

Your baby's brain is busy maturing and increasing in size. Parts of the brain are starting to function, including the auditory cortex (the area of the brain that's responsible for making sense of sounds), visual cortex (the region of the brain that processes visual information), and Broca's area (the part of the brain that's involved in speech and language processing).

Your little bundle of joy's fingernails might reach the tip of his or her fingers. Fortunately, there is no danger of your child accidentally scratching his or her precious face – his or her nails are very soft, as a result of their constant immersion in amniotic fluid.

Your baby's bones continue to harden with the help of the calcium from your diet. (If you don't have sufficient calcium in your diet, your baby will rob this nutrient from the reservoir in your bones.

At this point in your pregnancy, your baby is swallowing almost a liter of amniotic fluid every day. Amniotic fluid provides your baby with proteins and nutrients, and it also aids in helping his gut development.

Your baby's nose is almost fully formed. The bridge has formed and your baby no longer has that "button nose" appearance. Your baby's face is rounding out, and your little one may actually be a bit chubby from here on out.

By 33 weeks pregnant, your baby is often making faces in the womb. He or she may be smiling, sticking out his or her tongue, and making the goofiest expressions.

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