Many women begin their maternity leave around now, and then use the next few weeks to prepare for the baby’s arrival. Others prefer to work until the birth, and carry on issuing orders between the contractions. You do what’s right for you!
You’re probably busting out of your bras, as your breasts prepare for the birth. The first milk you’ll produce is colostrum, which is a yellowish liquid that is rich in antibodies. Some pregnant women start to make it weeks or even months before the birth. If you’ve spotted any stains in your bra, then that’s probably colostrum. This early type of milk is a superfood for babies and sometimes referred to as ‘liquid gold’. When you breastfeed, this will helps to protect your little baby from stomach bugs and other infections.
Around three to five days after the birth, your milk will come in, and your breasts will look even bigger. Make sure you’re ready for this by getting measured for a feeding bra that will allow a bit of growth. You could also stock up on breast pads to soak up any extra milk, so that you don’t stain your clothes.
Not everyone can breastfeed, and it takes a bit of practice, but if you can, then it gives your baby a flying start in life. You can find out more about breastfeeding here.
There are lots of very effective ways for managing pain during childbirth. Don’t feel that you’ve got to pick just one of them. You could start with one, and then move onto another…
This is the use of relaxation techniques, moving around, and feeling empowered through knowing what is likely to happen during labour.
You’re in control and there are no side effects.
It doesn’t work for everyone.
This involves breathing in a mixture of oxygen and nitrous oxide gas through a face mask or mouthpiece.
You’re in control and it works very quickly.
It can make you feel sick, and doesn’t take the pain away completely.
This is an injection of a drug into your thigh or bottom.
It works well and can help you relax. The effects last for two to four hours.
It takes about 20 minutes to work and can make you feel sick. It’s not suitable for the late stages of labour, as the drugs can interfere with the baby’s feeding and breathing.
This is a local anaesthetic that numbs the nerves that tell your brain that you’re in pain. You are given an injection into the space outside your spine. Your baby’s heart will need to be monitored throughout.
It can work well during long, difficult labours. For many women, it gives complete pain relief. It won’t make you feel sick.
It needs to be given by an anaesthetist, so it’s not available everywhere. It could slow down your labour. You’re more likely to need further intervention, such as a forceps delivery. Also it doesn’t always work. Around 1 in 8 women who have an epidural will need to use other types of pain relief too.
This is where you give birth in a special pool that’s kept at a comfortable temperature. Many hospitals and birth centres have birthing pools and you can also hire them for homebirths.
The warm water feels soothing and it’s easy to move around. You’re less likely to need drugs and further interventions. Your partner may be able to go in with you (although some women don’t like that!).
If you go into the pool too early, it can slow down labour. If there are complications, you will need to leave the pool and get immediate medical help.
TENS stands for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation – which is a big name for a little machine that deliver small amounts of electrical currents through pads on your back. It’s believed to encourage the body to produce more of its own natural painkillers (endorphins).
There are no side effects. It’s drug-free and you’re in control.
You may need to hire or buy your own machine. It might help with early labour, but not for the later stages.
Some women choose complementary treatments such as acupuncture, aromatherapy and homeopathy. Talk to your doctor or midwife if you’re planning to give birth at a hospital or midwifery unit, and would like a therapist to accompany you in labour.
Some women find the treatments relaxing and useful as a distraction. There are no side effects for most of them.
There’s no strong evidence that they work. It’s also up to you to find a skilled practitioner, who’ll be on call whenever you need them.
Discuss your ideas with your midwife, doctor and partner. Then write your preferences in your birth plan. Remember – you can change your mind on the day!
You can read more about pain relief here.
You may be getting sore ribs now. That could be because your baby is head down, and kicking away. If the pain is really bad, or under your ribs, then talk to your midwife or doctor, just in case it’s a sign of a dangerous condition called pre-eclampsia. However it’s far more likely that your little one is just doing a bit of football training.
Your signs of pregnancy could also include:
Painless contractions around your bump, known as Braxton Hicks contractions.
Tiredness and sleeping problems
Pains on the side of your baby bump, caused by your expanding womb (round ligament pains)
Swollen hands and feet
Darkened skin on your face or brown patches - this is known as chloasma or the ‘mask of pregnancy’
Greasier, spotty skin
Thicker and shinier hair
Symptoms from earlier weeks, caused by pregnancy hormones, such as mood swings, morning sickness, weird pregnancy cravings, a heightened sense of smell, sore or leaky breasts, a white milky pregnancy discharge from your vagina and light spotting (seek medical advice for any bleeding)
Tommy’s, the baby charity, has produced a pregnancy guide with a further list of symptoms.
Your baby, or foetus, is around 46.2cm long from head to heel, and weighs about 2.4kg. That’s approximately the height of two bananas and the weight of a honeydew melon.
Your baby is getting chubbier, which will help them to stay at the right temperature when they’re born. It’s getting rather cramped in your womb now, but your baby should still be moving around, and you should feel movements as strongly and regularly as you have done in previous weeks. If the movements change or stop, then talk to your doctor, midwife or call NHS 111.
Have you had the whooping cough jab yet? It’s usually offered to pregnant women between 16 and 32 weeks – but it’s not too late to have it now. This vaccine will protect your tiny baby from this dangerous disease for the first few weeks of their life. Talk to your midwife or doctor about the jab, if you haven’t already.
This week you could also...
You have maternity rights and if you’re worried about your safety at work, then talk to your employer. You shouldn’t be lugging anything around, and you may need extra breaks and somewhere to sit. You can also attend antenatal appointments during paid work time.
It’s a good time to tone up those muscles ‘down under’. Gentle exercises can help to prevent leakage when you laugh, sneeze, cough or jump around on your future baby’s trampoline. Get the muscles going by pretending that you’re having a wee and then stop the ‘urine’ in midflow.
Attend antenatal classes to prepare you for the birth and beyond. If possible, ask your partner to come with you. Even if you’ve had children before, and been there, done that, they’re still worth going to as you can meet other parents. Also don’t expect this pregnancy to be just like your others - your baby could have other plans.
Get moving! It’s recommended that pregnant women do 150 minutes of exercise throughout the week. Perhaps take a brisk walk in the park, or go for a swim. If you start any classes, make sure the instructor knows that you’re pregnant. Don’t overdo it though - listen to your body.
Have a fit pregnancy and sign up for a free personal activity plan.
Don’t eat for two! Eat for you. Now you’re in the third trimester, you may need an extra 200 calories a day, but that’s not much. It’s about the same as two slices of wholemeal toast and margarine.
How are you today? If you’re feeling anxious or low, then talk to your midwife or doctor who can point you in the right direction to get all the support that you need. You could also discuss your worries with your partner, friends and family. You may be worried about your relationship, or money, or having somewhere permanent to live. Don’t bottle it up – you’re important, so ask for help if you need it!
Getting pregnant again is probably the last thing on your mind! However now is a good time to start planning what type of contraception you would like to use after your baby is born. Making this decision when you’re pregnant will give you one less thing to think about when you’re looking after a newborn baby. Getting pregnant again could happen sooner than you realise and too short a gap between babies is known to cause problems. Talk to your GP or midwife to help you decide and get everything in place.
If you feel like an elephant, then turn yourself into a dolphin, by going for a swim in your local pool. You’ll get an amazing feeling of weightlessness, as the water supports your body. You can search for Swim England approved pools here. Regular swimming could improve your muscle tone, give you more energy, help you sleep, and even prepare you for labour. Ask if your pool runs aquanatal classes for pregnant women, or special sessions for mothers and babies, and check that they’ve got a qualified instructor. These classes are a great way to meet other local families.
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