Congratulations, sweet Mama. You have arrived! This is the month we’ve all been waiting for. By Week 36, your baby is considered “safe” to enter the world. Her lungs are healthy and she will most likely be able to take her first, deep breath of air without assistance if she is born anytime between now and Week 40ish.
Now, your biggest concerns are: When can I ever eat/pee/sleep normally again? When will she be born? and How will I know when I’m going into labor?
Your Ninth Month of Pregnancy: What’s Going On In There Now?
At this point in the game, your baby is dedicated to becoming more of who she already is. She’s growing a little bigger, maturing her organs a little more and putting on extra calories in the form of adorable baby fat.
That lanugo, or soft downy hair, she developed in utero – along with the waxy, vernix protective layer on her skin- are starting to fade away. Even so, she will probably be born with some of that hair, which will fall out soon after birth. Remaining vernix will probably also be apparent and some people believe that rubbing a little into her skin after she’s born helps to protect it from dry air and environmental particulates that her skin isn’t used to.
Back to the lungs: during this month, your baby is producing surfactants for the lungs that will make them strong enough to breathe air. With all that we know about the human body, scientists still don’t know what exactly triggers labor.
Some feel that a hormonal exchange between mother begins when the baby signifies her lungs are ready so this is an important process to respect. Inducing labor too early, a common occurrence as the result of easily mistaken due dates, can result in immature babies who wanted (and deserved!) to remain in the womb a little longer.
What’s Going On in Your Body?
Things are feeling pretty cramped in there and it’s no surprise why: by 36-weeks, your uterus extends right on up to your rib cage – so there really IS no room left in there. Your baby is like a yoga guru, all pretzeled out with very little room to stretch.
The good news is that by now, or very soon, your baby will “drop down” and engage her head deeper into the birth canal in preparation for childbirth. While this doesn’t always feel that great on your pubic bone, your lungs will appreciate the little bit of extra room.
Try to stay close to home these days and keep your extra-curricular activities to a minimum. You may feel more clumsy as the hormones preparing your pelvis for labor also lead to looser ligaments and tendons in general. You may also notice that your breasts are larger or leaking more colostrum, all par for the course as your body gears up to breastfeed.
Don’t stray too far from a restroom and consider buying pads and wearing them in case you accidentally leak. These will come in handy after the birth as well since your body will continue to shed lochia (low-key-ah) – post-birth bleeding similar to a period – for a little while after your baby is born.
You may find yourself in “nesting mode” cleaning the house non-stop and arranging/re-arranging the baby’s room. This is normal but make sure to take it easy and put your feet up as often as you can.
How Do I Know if I’m in Labor?
Good question. If you are a first-timer, all those Braxton-Hicks (practice contractions) that start up during the last few months can get confusing. For a more detailed explanation, check out, Is This Really Labor…?. Typically, you’ll know it is real labor if:
- Laying down doesn’t do anything to stop or slow the contractions.
- Your water breaks.
- Your contractions become so strong that you can’t carry on a normal conversation
- 5-1-1: Contractions come consistently every five minutes, lasting at least one-minute and this has happened for an hour.
- 4-1-1: Contractions come consistently every four minutes, lasting for a minute, and this has continued for an hour.
At any of these points, go ahead and call your OB/GYN or midwife and check in.
You have definitely arrived and Overlake OB/GYN wishes you, your new baby and your family the best of luck as you get to know one another all over again.