Welcome to Week 35! With five weeks still to go until full term, this is the week that many babies finally stop getting longer (or at least their growth slows down a lot). This doesn’t mean your baby won’t get any bigger, he or she is likely to still be storing fat, but with space in your uterus now severely limited, there is scant room for further lengthening. From now until the end, things are going to be cramped for both of you!
For many women, these last weeks of pregnancy can feel never-ending; like the final 2 miles in a marathon, the end is almost within sight, but a final push is needed to make it through. This is the time when those niggling signs of pregnancy can seem particularly challenging. The sensation of needing the bathroom every 15 minutes, or not being able to get comfortable enough to get to sleep; all the aches and pains that have sprung up over the preceding weeks. It might feel like the list of complaints will never end.
If you are feeling like this, remember to try being gentle to yourself. Your body is doing a lot of really hard work right now! Everything you have done to prepare over the last 8 months; the healthy diet and exercising, the preparation and reading, the planning and organising; has been with the final goal in mind: giving yourself and your baby every opportunity for a healthy delivery and a healthy start in life.
If you are not already on weekly visits, your healthcare provider will probably soon recommend that you switch to more frequent visits. These routine appointments should be fairly quick and simple. Your blood pressure and urine will be tested, to check for possible preeclampsia. This is a condition that affects between 5 and 8% of pregnancies and usually develops towards the end, hence the increased surveillance at this stage of your pregnancy. Usually between 35 and 36 weeks, your doctor will also offer to test you for group B strep (GBS) bacteria. This bacteria doesn’t hurt adults, but if present, it can cause complications for your baby during and after delivery. Fortunately, even if you test positive, the solution is fairly simple: you’ll be given intravenous antibiotics during labour.
If you haven’t already done so, around week 35 is a good time to pack your hospital bag. Although it might seem like you still have plenty of time, it can be reassuring to know that your bag is packed and ready to pick up at a moment’s notice. Here are some of the essentials:
- The basics, like your wallet, ID, medical insurance card and essential phone numbers.
- Something to do. It might seem hard to believe, but labour can be drawn-out and boring. Books, music, and movies can help pass the time between contractions.
- Your camera, phone and any other equipment you might need to record the big event. Don’t forget spare batteries and your charger!
- Your birth plan.
- Comfortable clothes. Most hospitals can provide the basics, but there might be added charges and you may be more comfortable in your own clothes. A robe, large underpants, slippers and loose fitting pyjamas are useful additions to a hospital bag. Don’t forget toiletries as well.
- A going-home outfit.
Your baby is now 33 weeks old and weighs more than 2.2 KG. He or she is likely to measure about 50cm in length by week 35. The main development still happening is in the brain: your baby’s brain is still developing neural connections at an astonishing pace. This rapid development won’t stop after delivery: your baby’s brain will form more connections in the first year or two of life than it will for the rest of his or her life.
Whilst we are thinking about the brain it is worth considering the bony structure that contains and protects it so well. We usually consider the skull to be hard, tough and inflexible, but at this stage, your baby’s skull is still soft and pliable. As the skull forms, the plates that form it do not fully fuse but instead remain somewhat flexible. There’s a very good reason for this, to fit through the narrow birth canal during delivery, your baby’s head will get a little bit squashed (this explains why most babies are born with a slight cone head). The soft skull makes this possible. In fact, your baby’s skull plates won’t be fully fused until months after delivery.
Apart from the brain and skull, by week 35 almost every other part of your baby is fully developed. Their muscular and skeletal systems are completely formed, and the major organ systems are in place and functional. The lungs remain an exception, mainly because they aren’t designed to be used until after delivery. By now, many babies have lost the layer of fine hair (the lanugo) that has covered their bodies up until this point; however, some babies still have remnants of it at delivery. Your baby is quickly gaining fat now.
“It’s time to consider who you want with you at the hospital when you deliver. Check on your hospital’s visitor policy as some limit it to a certain number of support people in the delivery room.”
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