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36 Weeks Pregnant: Your Baby’s Development

Your baby will likely have gained about two pounds over the past few weeks, and he’s probably already reached the length he’ll be when he’s born.

He’s plumping up, becoming less wrinkled, and is generally starting to look more like the baby you’ll meet in just a few weeks. All that growth means he doesn’t have quite as much room to move around at this point, because he’s now taking up most of the available space inside the amniotic sac. However, you’ll probably still feel plenty of movement in there from time to time.

So, just how is your not-so-little guy going to make it through the birth canal when you go into labor? At this point, his skull bones are developed, but they haven’t yet fused together. This means they can move and overlap, allowing the head and body to pass through your cervix and pelvis a little more easily. For this reason, if you give birth vaginally, his head may look slightly misshapen when he’s born but will return to a more normal, rounded shape in a few hours or a few days. The skull bones will then fuse together over the first two years of his life.

How Big Is Your Baby at 36 Weeks?

Your baby is the size of a head of Romaine lettuce. A typical baby weight at 36 weeks pregnant might be about six pounds.

pregnancy week 36 fetus

Mom’s Body at 36 Weeks Pregnant

You’re now 36 weeks pregnant, so just how many months along are you? Because the weeks of your pregnancy don’t always fit neatly into months, you could be in your ninth month (or even your tenth!) as you begin this final stretch of pregnancy.

From now until you give birth, you may be going for checkups with your healthcare provider every week. During these appointments, you can expect to have your weight, blood pressure, and fundal height checked. Your provider may check your cervix to see if it’s preparing for labor. She may also check your baby’s position — whether he’s head down or not.

You may have started to notice extra pressure on your pelvis and bladder lately as your baby settles lower in your pelvis in preparation for birth. The upside of this change is that there is now less pressure on your diaphragm and lungs, which is why this change is sometimes called "lightening." Though you may be uncomfortable as your baby drops, at least you’ll be breathing a little easier!

36 Weeks Pregnant: Your Symptoms

  • Frequent urination. As your baby drops lower into your pelvis, you’ll likely find yourself heading for the ladies’ room a bit more frequently. You may even be waking up to pee several times during the night. There’s not much you can do to alleviate this annoying symptom until your baby comes, but try to take bathroom breaks whenever possible, and make sure to fully empty your bladder each time you go. Don’t be tempted to skimp on; it’s important to stay hydrated, even if it means a few more trips to the bathroom. If you find that you’re leaking a little urine when you laugh, cough, or sneeze, wearing a panty liner may help you feel more comfortable, and Kegel exercises can also help improve bladder control.
  • Braxton Hicks contractions. The closer you get to your due date, pre-labor or “practice” contractions can get stronger and can make you think you’re experiencing one of the signs of labor at 36 weeks pregnant. One of the important differences between Braxton Hicks and true labor contractions is timing. When you’re really in labor, your contractions will come at regular intervals and will occur closer and closer together. Braxton Hicks contractions, though, do not strike at regular intervals and can sometimes be relieved by moving around or changing positions. Download and print our handy contraction tracking chart to help you time your contractions to see if they’re the real deal. If you’re in any doubt, contact your healthcare provider.
  • Difficulty sleeping. Despite all the advice you may be getting about resting as much as you can now before your baby arrives, you might actually be finding it quite hard to get a good night’s sleep. Your larger belly can make it tough to find a comfortable sleeping position, so try using extra pillows for support under your belly and between your legs. If insomnia strikes, it can also help to make your bed and bedroom as comfortable as possible. Try leaving your smartphone in another room before you go to bed, and perhaps try some light stretching or meditation to help you fall asleep. If you still find that you’re having trouble getting a full night’s rest, a quick power nap or two during the daytime can give you the energy boost you need to get through the day.
  • Numbness in legs and feet. Your growing body can put increased pressure on some of the nerves in your legs, feet, or even hands. This can cause a numbness or a tingling feeling from time to time. These symptoms should subside once you give birth, but if you find them troublesome until then, talk to your healthcare provider. She may recommend ankle or wrist splints, or that you simply rest your hands or feet as much as possible.
  • Leg swelling. Thanks to your body retaining extra fluids while you’re pregnant, some swelling in your legs and feet is to be expected. If you experience any pain or discomfort, try to spend less time on your feet, and prop your feet up on a pillow or stool when you’re sitting down. Comfortable shoes and even support hose or stockings can also help.
  • Lower back pain. At 36 weeks pregnant, it’s not uncommon to be feeling some lower back pain. The hormone known as relaxin starts loosening the joints and ligaments in your pelvis in preparation for labor, causing back pain that you might notice when you sit, stand, or climb stairs, for example. Talk to your healthcare provider if you’re experiencing lower back pain. She may recommend some gentle stretching exercises that can help relieve your discomfort.

36 Weeks Pregnant: Things to Consider

  • If you’d like to have a birth plan, download our birth plan guide and have a go at creating your own. Discuss your preferences with your healthcare provider, and be sure to pack copies of your completed birth plan in your hospital bag. Having a printed birth plan can help remind your providers about your preferences for labor pain management, who you’d like in the delivery room, and more. Keep in mind, labor and childbirth are unpredictable; things don’t always go to plan. You may even change your mind about certain things once you are actually in labor. The exercise of writing a birth plan gives you the chance to think your options through.
  • Make sure you’re getting at least 85 milligrams of vitamin C in your diet each day to help strengthen your immune system, bones, and muscles. Good sources of this nutrient include citrus fruits, strawberries, broccoli, and tomatoes. One medium orange can contain up to 70 milligrams, and one cup of orange juice can contain more than 90 milligrams. If you’re taking prenatal vitamins, they may contain a sufficient amount. Your healthcare provider will be able to tell you whether or not you’re getting enough vitamin C.
  • Gentle exercise can help you be more comfortable during these final few weeks of your pregnancy. Go for walks and do some gentle stretching to help take some pressure off your back. Standing back bends can be great for relieving the lower back pain caused by your bigger belly at 36 weeks pregnant. Simply place your hands on your hips and gently bend backward no more than 20 degrees. Repeat these bends as needed.
  • Take advantage of any “nesting” instincts you may feel at this time by working on preparing your home for your baby’s arrival. Some moms-to-be use this burst in energy to finalize last-minute projects, decorate the nursery, or shop for baby gear. Try not to wear yourself out, and always ask for help when you need it.
  • Keep tracking your baby’s movements using our downloadable fetal movement tracker. Once each day, count at least 10 kicks or movements in a 2-hour period. After a meal is often a good time to do these “kick counts.” If you don’t feel 10 movements, your little one may simply be resting, but you may want to check with your healthcare provider for reassurance.
  • Sometime during the last weeks of your pregnancy, your healthcare provider will likely try to determine your baby’s position in your uterus. She may be able to determine the baby’s position by feeling his outline through your abdomen, and if it seems likely that your baby is in the breech (feet down) position, your provider may suggest an ultrasound exam at 36 weeks pregnant to be sure. Keep in mind that your baby still has a few weeks to change positions independently, but your healthcare provider will be keeping an eye on your little guy’s position before labor just to be safe.

36 Weeks Pregnant: Ask Your Doctor

  • Will I be tested for group B streptococcus (GBS), and what happens if the result is positive?
  • Am I at a high risk of preeclampsia? This pregnancy-related blood pressure disorder can sometimes strike in the third trimester.
  • I have a chronic condition. Will any element of labor or childbirth be adjusted to reduce any risks associated with my condition?
  • What safe exercises can I do at this point in my pregnancy?

36 Weeks Pregnant: Your Checklist

Find out what room options are available to you at your hospital or birthing center.

Wash any new baby clothes and linens.

Download our third trimester guide (if you haven’t already) for more information on what’s to come in the final few weeks of your pregnancy.

Learn about your options for feeding your baby by discussing both breastfeeding and formula feeding with your healthcare provider or lactation consultant.

Sign up for even more pregnancy tips here:

36 Weeks Pregnant: Your Checklist

Find out what room options are available to you at your hospital or birthing center.

Wash any new baby clothes and linens.

Download our third trimester guide (if you haven’t already) for more information on what’s to come in the final few weeks of your pregnancy.

Sign up to get weekly pregnancy tips