Pregnancy video: 34 weeks
Your baby at 34 weeks
Your baby now weighs about 4 3/4 pounds (about the size of a cantaloupe) and is almost 18 inches long. Her fat layers – which will help regulate her body temperature once she’s born – are filling her out, making her rounder. Her skin is also smoother than ever. Her central nervous system is maturing, and her lungs are continuing to mature as well. If you’ve been nervous about preterm labor, you’ll be happy to know that babies born between 34 and 37 weeks who have no other health problems generally do fine. They may need a short stay in the neonatal nursery and may have a few short-term health issues, but in the long run, they usually do as well as full-term babies.
Your life at 34 weeks pregnant
By this week, fatigue has probably set in again, though maybe not with the same coma-like intensity of your first trimester. Your tiredness is perfectly understandable, given the physical strain you’re under and the restless nights of frequent pee breaks and tossing and turning while trying to get comfortable.
Now’s the time to slow down and save up your energy for labor day (and beyond). If you’ve been sitting or lying down for a long time, don’t jump up too quickly. Blood can pool in your feet and legs, causing a temporary drop in your blood pressure when you get up that can make you feel dizzy.
If you notice itchy red bumps or welts on your belly, and possibly your thighs and buttocks as well, you may have a condition called pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy (PUPPP for short).
Up to 1 percent of pregnant women develop PUPPP, which is harmless but can be quite uncomfortable. See your healthcare provider so she can make sure it’s not a more serious problem, provide treatment to make you more comfortable, and refer you to a dermatologist if necessary. Also be sure to call her if you feel intense itchiness all over your body, even if you don’t have a rash. It could signal a liver problem.
Three questions about… c-sections
What are my chances of having a c-section?
About 33 percent of pregnant women in the United States give birth by cesarean section these days. In certain cases the surgery is scheduled in advance. In others, it’s done in response to an unforeseen complication.
Why might I need a c-section?
You may have an unplanned cesarean delivery for many reasons, such as if your cervix stops dilating, your baby stops progressing down the birth canal, or your baby’s heart rate gives your healthcare provider cause for concern. A planned cesarean may be recommended if:
- You’ve had a previous cesarean with a “classical” vertical uterine incision or more than one previous c-section. (If you’ve had only one previous c-section with a horizontal incision, you may be a good candidate for a vaginal birth after cesarean, or VBAC.)
- You’ve had some other kind of invasive uterine surgery, such as a myomectomy (the surgical removal of fibroids).
- You’re carrying more than one baby. (Some twins can be delivered vaginally, but all higher-order multiples require a c-section.)
- Your baby is expected to be very large (a condition known as macrosomia).
- Your baby is in a breech (bottom first) or transverse (sideways) position. (In some cases, such as a twin pregnancy in which the first baby is head down but the second baby is breech, the breech baby may be delivered vaginally.)
- You have placenta previa (when the placenta is so low in the uterus that it covers the cervix).
- Your baby has a known illness or abnormality that would make a vaginal birth risky.
- You’re HIV-positive, and blood tests done near the end of pregnancy show that you have a high viral load.
What should I expect during a c-section?
Typically, your partner can be with you during the surgery. If you don’t already have one, your medical team will start an IV and insert a catheter to drain urine during the procedure, and you’ll be given an epidural or spinal block, which will numb the lower half of your body but leave you alert and awake. A screen will be put up so you don’t have to watch the actual procedure.
Once the doctor reaches the uterus and makes the final incision, she’ll ease the baby out, lifting him so you get a glimpse of him before he’s handed off to be cared for by a pediatrician or nurse. While the staff is examining your baby, the doctor will deliver your placenta and stitch you up.
When your baby has been examined, the pediatrician or nurse may hand him to your partner, who can hold him right next to you so you can nuzzle and kiss him while you’re being stitched up. Or, your medical team may offer to place your baby on your chest at this point.
Closing your uterus and belly usually takes about 30 minutes. When the surgery is completed, you’ll be wheeled into a recovery room, where you’ll be able to hold your baby and breastfeed if you want to.
Activity: Take an infant CPR class
It’s a good idea to take a CPR class with a certified instructor before your baby is born. You’ll learn techniques for handling a life-threatening emergency – if your child is choking or isn’t moving or breathing because of a fall or a near drowning, for example. You’ll also learn accident prevention and childproofing measures. The techniques are different for babies and older children, so it’s important to learn both. Hospitals, community centers, and local chapters of the American Red Cross and American Heart Association offer CPR classes. To find a class in your area, visit the Red Cross website or call (800) RED-CROSS or (800) 733-2767.