34 weeks pregnant isn’t late enough for the birth to feel like it’s on the way, but your baby will be very near to its full development within the next few weeks. Like every other stage of pregnancy, you’ll can’t let your guard down and go back to a normal routine just yet, and there’s still a high chance of new problems developing at some point further down the line.
How Big is the Baby?
By now, your baby should be just under 18 inches long. That’s about as tall as a large doll, but it’s nowhere near the full size of most babies when they’re fully-grown. In terms of weight, they’ll usually be under five 5, often landing at 4.7 pounds in total. It’s not reached its ideal size and weight for the birth yet, so you’ll have to endure the growth and development a little bit longer.
If you weren’t feeling it before, this extra weight will definitely make it harder to move around quickly and gracefully. However, you’ll often be close to the maximum size at this point, so it’s not like things can get much worse for you (at least under most circumstances). Do your best to adapt to the added weight – you’ll only need to put up with it for a handful of extra weeks, and there are plenty of ways to support yourself.
How Has The Baby Developed?
At this point, your baby has mostly been developing its overall structure: now that it’s reached a larger size, the smaller and more complex parts of its nervous and respiratory system can grow properly. At this week, your baby’s central nervous system will be slowly forming, and the outer surface of its smooth brain will start to wrinkle up as it gets “smarter”. While you probably won’t notice anything, this is also around the time that the respiratory system reaches a decent size and scale, and your baby will begin to naturally “breathe” by inhaling and exhaling the amniotic fluid it’s being protected by.
It’s not just internal changes – the vernix caseosa coating that’s meant to help protect your baby’s skin and keep it soft will thicken, providing moisture in preparation for the actual birth. The fact that its thickening is just to add extra protection, and you won’t notice it or feel anything different: the only time you’ll even see it is just after the birth, since some of it might still be layered on your baby’s skin. You can generally ignore this point, but it’s probably still a good idea to get a doctor to check – if this coating isn’t being created properly, they’ll want to know about it.
Alongside that, there’s also the baby’s toenails and fingernails. These will both grow too – they won’t reach a point where it can harm the baby, and they can’t move enough to accidentally poke or scratch themselves. Just make sure to keep an eye on them after the birth, since newborn’s nails grow very quickly. Once again, this won’t matter to you unless they’re growing in an odd way, since it can signify that something’s wrong with the way your baby is growing or the position they’re resting in.
How Will My Body Change?
A new stage of pregnancy brings new symptoms and side-effects, and the 34-week mark isn’t an exception. Alongside some of the problems you may have had in earlier weeks, you might also need to put up with some unexpected changes:
- You might start to notice occasional blurred vision, which his usually caused by the way that pregnancy hormones alter the way your body handles the production of tears. It’s different for every woman, but this blurring can be both long-term and short-term and occur in varying different intensities. If it seems too extreme to be regular blurring, or has started to show other side-effects (like headaches or other major eyesight issues), get checked by your doctor as soon as possible.
- As with every week of your pregnancy, fatigue and tiredness are all too common. It can be caused by either your baby’s growth (which will sap a lot of your energy) or the fact that sleeping becomes harder, especially now that your bladder size is reduced and you might be dealing with multiple other pregnancy problems. The extra weight and your larger belly won’t help matters, either, so be sure to rest often.
- Speaking of fatigue, you’ll find it hard to sleep more often, especially if you’re suffering from some of these other problems at the same time. There’s not really a single way to fix this, since it’ll vary heavily from person to person. However, you should never be sleeping on your back or front at this stage of the pregnancy, always sleep sideways (on whichever side is more comfortable to you) and consider using a pillow to support and comfort your belly for longer sleeps. If you haven’t taken up regular naps yet, consider using them as a way of getting your energy back, and don’t use coffee or other stimulants that could harm your baby.
- Unfortunately, this is also compounded by the sudden swelling you might notice in and around your feet. Your ankles, in particular, are quite vulnerable to this – your body will prepare for the pregnancy by “softening up” certain joints and parts of your body, but this can lead to swelling around some of the softened areas. It’s not too hard to fix: relax, drink water, swap out some salt in your diet for potassium, and make sure that you’re not putting much pressure on your feet when you don’t need to. If the swelling is more instant and in a more noticeable or vital area, go to a doctor as soon as possible.
- The extra weight of your baby will result in more pressure in your pelvis, specifically on the pelvic floor. This isn’t something you can fix, since it’s caused by your baby either weighing more or dropping further down inside your body. The pressure is mostly a small annoyance, but you should get checked straight away if it starts to feel like contractions or a sharp pain.
- Hemorrhoids can be caused by that extra pelvis pressure, too. In general, most normal hemorrhoids treatments are safe to use while you’re pregnant, and you can also start doing Kegel exercises or regularly change the way you stand and sit to avoid them from happening. The same issue can also cause constipation, but only if you’re dehydrated and haven’t gotten enough fiber.
- Other problems from earlier in your pregnancy can persist, too, including nausea and other issues that normally turn up at the very start. This varies from person to person, but the same treatments and prevention methods will usually still work.
What Will Life Be Like?
A 34-week-pregnant belly sticks out quite obviously, even if you’ve managed to stay quite thin despite the natural weight gain you’ll be undergoing. You’ll probably not be moving around as much, and exercise will have more limitations, so it’s entirely normal to put on a little bit of weight during these later stages of your pregnancy.
It’s a good idea to get hold of some comfortable, loose clothes that you can wear if you haven’t already. Your belly will only get larger from here (until the birth, obviously), and the fact that you’ll probably put on weight means that you’ll need all the comfort you can get. You might have already had to buy slightly larger shirts if you normally wear quite tight-fitting clothing, but keep track of your outfit and make sure you’re not caught off guard by your growing stomach.
That’s not to say that you should just accept the weight gain, though. If it seems really extreme or unexpected (for example, if you’ve been exercising regularly but are still putting on more weight than normal), you should check with your doctor to make sure it’s not a symptom of something else.
The next few weeks will be the peak of your amniotic fluid levels, meaning that your belly won’t grow larger for much longer. This doesn’t mean that the baby’s reached its maximum size yet, though – you’ll want to schedule an appointment to check these fluid levels, as well as your baby’s current size and how well it’s developed, just in case.