Welcome to week 36. Only one more month to go!
Your baby is growing from a spaghetti squash to about the size of a bunch of romaine lettuce this week. They measure 18.6 inches (47.3 cm) long and weigh 6.2 pounds (2.8 kg).
At 36 weeks, your baby’s skull bones are not fused yet. This allows for an easier journey as your baby squeezes through the birth canal. Most of their bones and cartilage will harden over the first few years of life.
At this point, your baby’s blood circulation system is in place, and its immune system has matured enough to protect them from infections outside the womb. Your baby’s digestive system is still developing. The first year or two of digesting milk and getting accustomed to solid foods will help mature their digestive system.
94% of babies will move to a head-down position by week 36. Of the 6% still breech, nearly 1 in 4 will move head down in the next two weeks. If your baby is breech, discuss your options with your doctor or midwife.
Beginning in week 36, you see your care provider weekly. Take advantage of more frequent appointments to knock out any questions about labor and birth.
One in five women has herpes simplex virus type 1 or 2. Although transmission rates to a baby during pregnancy and birth are low, neonatal herpes is a serious condition that can have detrimental effects. ACOG recommends that expecting mothers with genital HSV take an antiviral from week 36 until birth. See this episode to learn how the herpes simplex virus can affect you and your baby during pregnancy, what medications are safe to use, and how to prevent transmission to your baby.
Group B strep or GBS is short for group B streptococcus, a bacterial infection. This bacterium naturally lives in the gastrointestinal tract and is present in the vagina or the rectum. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the prevalence in pregnant women is between 10% and 30%. Most women with group B strep do not experience any symptoms, and usually, this is not a big deal but can become an issue when pregnant.
In the United States, it is standard practice to test all expecting mothers in week 36 or 37 for group B strep. This test involves a swab of your vagina and rectum and sending the sample to a lab. If the culture tests positive for GBS, the treatment is the administration of antibiotics during labor. This episode covers prevention, testing, treatment, and reducing risks.
The research is promising on the benefits of eating dates towards the end of your pregnancy to reduce the duration of labor and use synthetic oxytocin during labor. Based on the research, expecting moms in the intervention groups ate about 6-7 dates per day (60-80 grams). One study had participants consuming dates from 36 weeks, and all others started at 37 weeks. No study has determined the exact quantities and timeframes to eat dates. See the episode on the research on eating dates, the proposed mechanism of action, and recommendations for including these in your diet.
Ideally, you wrap up all of your big to-do items this week, so you are heading into week 37, ready for labor. You should have packed your hospital or birth center bag or purchased supplies for your home birth. Hopefully, if you are in a birth class, it is wrapping up this week.
You may consider making Padsicles which are postpartum healing pads. These are easy to make by adding a few ingredients to feminine pads and freezing them. This episode answers a question about what recipe to use and gives you simple step-by-step instructions to make postpartum healing pads.
There are many reasons why your doctor or midwife may recommend an induction and several methods they can employ to try and induce labor. Each method of induction has pros and cons. See the episode on inducing labor for the evidence on each technique. This includes stripping and sweeping membranes, misoprostol (Cytotec), dinoprostone (Cervidil & Prepidil), synthetic oxytocin (Pitocin), using a laminaria or balloon catheter, and breaking your water.
Tip for Dads and Partners
73% of car seats are not installed correctly. Your child should be in a rear-facing seat for a minimum of one year. Once installed in your vehicle, the seat should not move more than 1 inch side-to-side and front-to-back. Harness straps should be at or below your baby’s shoulders. The chest clip of the harness should always be at armpit level. The recline of the car seat is critical, especially for infants. An overly upright seat may allow an infant’s head to fall forward, obstructing their breathing. Seats have an indicator to let you know when you position them correctly. If you are in the U.S., you can check out this website to find out where to get your car seat checked.
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