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36 Weeks Pregnant - What to expect

36 weeks pregnant

At 36 weeks pregnant, your baby’s already got a personality, even though she’s yet to be born, and things are feeling more real than ever. Here’s everything else you need to know about your 36th week of pregnancy…

How big is my baby at 36 weeks?

At the end of this week, your growing tot will be considered full term – she’s now six pounds, and 18 and a half inches long. We couldn’t get to the end of your pregnancy without comparing your little one to a fruit, of course, so this week, she’s the size of a canary melon.

What’s my baby doing at 36 weeks?

Your baby’s head may engage any time now (which means it drops into your pelvis), and excitingly, some of her personality traits are already formed. Studies on the heart rate and movement of 31 foetuses before and after birth have shown that the more active they were in the womb, the grumpier they were when they hit the world. Eek! Let’s hope for your sake that your baby is one of the cheerful ones. 

By now, your baby should be sleeping between 60 and 80% of the time, but if she’s not, when she’s born she’s likely to sleep badly, too. These researchers suggest that it’s women’s hormones that influence personality traits in their babies. Their recommendation? That you take some time out before the birth so you can reduce your stress. Talking to your growing bump in a very soothing, calm manner can help too.

Your baby is getting ready for the birth by shedding most of the downy hair that once covered her body, as well as the waxy substance that covered and protected her skin during her time in the womb, known as the vernix caseosa. Both of these substances will be swallowed by your baby, along with other secretions, which will result in a blackish mixture called meconium that will form the contents of her first bowel movements. 

At the end of this week, your baby is considered early term, with full term considered to be between 39 and 40 weeks, and post-term used to describe babies who are born after 42 weeks. Your baby is probably already facing head down, but if she’s not, your doctor or midwife may apply pressure to your abdomen to get your baby to move into a head-down position.

While so many of your baby’s systems have developed well, one which still needs a bit of work is the digestive system, as your baby’s reliance on the umbilical cord for nutrition means that it will still take a year or two for this system to catch up.

What is my body doing at 36 weeks?

You might be starting to feel really exhausted again so try and rest as much as you can – it’s handy that around this time you’re probably about to go on maternity leave. But some lucky mums-to-be have a real burst of energy around now. If you want to, it’s totally safe to have sex. If you’re nervous about it, talk to your midwife for advice - and don’t be embarrassed, as they’ve most certainly heard it all before.

By now your belly will be stretched so much that the skin will be feeling very dry and probably extremely itchy. Use soothing creams containing cocoa butter or Vitamin E for the best results. Or why not get your other half to rub the cream in and get him to talk gently the baby while he does it? It’s a really lovely way for him to bond with his developing baby.

Common symptoms to look out for:

  • Not feeling hungry: It certainly makes a change from those cravings earlier in your pregnancy, but now that your baby takes up so much room, it might be hard to eat a normal-sized meal. It’s often better to eat smaller meals more frequently rather than trying to handle large portions a couple of times a day. 
  • Pelvic pain: Thanks to increased joint flexibility, a heavier uterus and the pressure from your baby’s head, you might now be experiencing unpleasant pelvic pain. Treat yourself to a massage to relieve the symptoms, or try to take a warm bath or to do some pelvic exercises if you can’t quite treat yourself to a spa day every time the pain kicks in!
  • Lightening: Yippee! Finally, a pregnancy symptom we’ve been looking forward to. As your baby drops into your pelvic cavity, the pressure on your diaphragm is released, and lightening happens. This means your stomach won’t feel quite so squashed anymore, and that you’ll be able to take bigger breaths and maybe even be able to eat more comfortably than before. 
  • Mucus plug: Be prepared for losing your mucus plug. It happens at a different time for every woman, but can happen weeks, days or hours before labour begins, and looks like a yellow discharge tinged with blood.
  • Nesting: Another lovely pregnancy symptom should be prevalent this week: the nesting instinct, where you’ll feel the urge to get organised for the baby. Enjoy these moments before life becomes hectic with a newborn, and make sure you’re preparing safely, avoiding anything risky like ladders, heavy lifting or overdoing it too close to labour. Take advantage of this desire to organise to make sure your baby bag is all packed, just in case the baby decides to show up a little earlier than expected.

What to do this week:

If you haven't chosen a baby's name yet, it’s high time you started thinking about it! Make a list and discuss your favourites with your partner. Need some more inspiration? Why not use our baby name generator to find the name perfect for you? Alternatively, have a read of this years' Top 50 Baby Boy Names and Top 50 Baby Girl Names

Take me back to week 35

Take me to week 37

Read next: The hospital bag essentials for you and your baby: 

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Newborn vests and sleepsuits 

Try and find some with added scratch mits. There’s no need for a hat and jacket for indoors, but pack them for outdoors if it’s chilly.
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A blanket for the baby 

A good tip beforehand: try and snuggle the blanket so it smells of you. 
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Nappies 

Take WAY more than you need - newborns can poo after every feed. 
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Muslins 

The new-mum-must-have! You'll only need one in your hospital bag, but you'll soon learn how invaluable these amazing little muslins are. 
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Snacks 

Anything that will keep your energy up! We asked our mums what they ate during labour and came up with this list of the 15 best snacks to pack in your hospital bag. 
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Cotton wool or water wipes 

Newborns shouldn't have anything on their delicate skin at first, so just stick to water and cotton wool.
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Bottles with formula 

Even if you plan to breastfeed, it's worth having a few on standby. 
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Something to wear in labour 

Think comfort here - baggy vest tops, loose maternity and nursing nightwear or just a robe. If you're planning a water birth, you might want to pack a bikini top too. 
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Hair ties, a hair band or a head scarf 

Anything that will get your hair out of your face during labour! 
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Slippers 

Even if it's summer, the floors of the postnatal ward might be chilly. 
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Lip balm

All that gas and air can make your lips try, so keep one in your hospital bag. Whilst we're talking balms, chuck a nipple balm in too. 
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Lavendar or essential oils 

Lavendar oil can be useful during labour both as a massage oil or by putting a few drops on a flannel on your forehead to try and keep you calm. Other essential oils can also be comforting, but make sure you check they are suitable for use during pregnancy first. 
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Pads - both maternity and breast 

Another top tip from midwife and author of 'How to Grow a Baby and Push it Out', Clemmie Hooper, is to pack incontinence pads rather than dealing with sanitary pads and knickers. 
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Earplugs 

Postnatal wards aren't generally all that peaceful. Don't worry about not hearing your baby cry - mothers' have a sixth sense when it comes to that. 
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Earphones and an iPod 

Get that labour playlist ready now. Take a look at the best songs to listen to during labour here. 
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A phone charger 

It's something you're likely to forget as you leave in a hurry, so buy a spare and make sure it's in the bag. 
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A clean t-shirt/pants for your birthing partner 

If he's not able to pop home, he'll definitely appreciate this. It's also worth packing him some snacks too! 
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A camera

Sure you've got one on your phone, but what happens if you forget the charger? It might be worth chucking a digital one in there too. 

 
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