Welcome to week 34 pregnancy! Baby is growing big and strong, and you’re probably a mix of exhausted and excited. Let’s take a look at baby’s growth and development, your weight gain, symptoms you may experience, and discuss what it would be like if your baby was born this week.
Week 34 Pregnancy: Baby’s Development
It may seem like there’s not as much to report in baby development at the end of pregnancy as there was in the beginning. Those early weeks and months were full of new organs and systems, and flashy updates on development. At this point, a lot of what’s happening is just growth and refinement of the existing systems. This is still newsworthy! It means that baby already has everything he or she needs to thrive on the outside.
Size of a Cantaloupe
By week 34 pregnancy — 32 weeks from conception — your baby is about the size of a cantaloupe, weighing in around 4 3/4 pounds. He or she is about 12 3/4 inches from crown to rump, or 17 3/4 inches from crown to heel (1). If you could take a peek inside you would see:
- Baby’s skin is less wrinkled because of the increase in fat that’s being added underneath the skin (2).
- Baby is quite cramped in your uterus.
- Baby may be in the vertex, or head-down, position now.
Week 34 Pregnancy: Pregnant Belly
You’re sporting quite the bump these days. You can now feel the top of your uterus about 5 1/4 inches above your belly button. You may wonder how you’ll possibly have room to grow for another six weeks. Just remember that the growth you’re seeing is an outward sign of the healthy, growing baby inside.
Week 34 Pregnancy: Weight Gain
You’ve probably gained between 23 and 29 pounds, assuming you started your pregnancy at an average weight. Through most of the pregnancy, women are urged to be careful about weight gain, to remember that you’re not exactly “eating for two,” and that baby only needs a few hundred calories a day.
While that is all still true, by late pregnancy the problem can swing the other direction. It may be that you don’t feel like eating very much. You may feel uncomfortable after eating as your stomach is increasingly cramped. You may experience nausea or heartburn. As we suggested in the week 33 article, eating smaller meals more frequently throughout the day can help. You should continue to gain around a pound or two through the rest of your pregnancy.
Week 34 Pregnancy: Symptoms
Diarrhea is defined as having three or more bouts of loose stools in a day. Just like constipation, diarrhea is not at all uncommon in pregnancy. Some reasons may be related to pregnancy, caused by hormones and increased sensitivities. Other bouts of diarrhea are completely unrelated to pregnancy, such as illness. If you experience diarrhea, be sure to drink plenty of fluids to avoid getting dehydrated (2). And be sure to contact your provider if it persists for more than 24 hours.
You may have heard that diarrhea is a sign of impending labor, and this is true. However, not all diarrhea means that baby is on the way. Know the signs of labor so you can more reliably tell when it’s time.
At this point in pregnancy, some pain is just a fact of life for most women. Your back may hurt, your legs may be sore, and you may have headaches. Another pain is likely to join these at some point before delivery — pelvic pressure.
Pelvic pressure increases as baby moves down and settles deeper into your pelvis(2). It can be uncomfortable to have your baby’s head putting pressure on your pelvis, bladder, and hips. For this and all the pains you’re experiencing, try to rest. When it comes time to exercise, consider water-based activities such as swimming and water aerobics. And if the pain is severe, call your provider to see if there’s anything you can safely take.
Your body is working hard, and you are tired. There’s no easy fix for that. Growing a baby is hard work! Although they seem contradictory, the best solutions to your problem are exercise and rest. Keep up with your regular exercise; it keeps your body strong and is good for your mood. Yet, listen to your body and put up your feet when you need a rest. Caring for your body is paramount during the last stages of pregnancy.
What if Baby is Born at 34 Weeks?
As we discussed last week, a baby born at this gestational age is expected to have a very good outcome. However, he may need a little extra time in the hospital to bring his lungs to maturity, help him regulate his body temperature, and learn to eat. A 34-week baby will likely have a fairly short stay, though. And there’s a very good chance he will come away with no long-term effects of his early arrival.
What can you expect your little one to look like if you were to meet him now? He’s smaller than a full-term baby with redder skin. He looks frail, with little fat or muscle. His head looks large compared to his body, and he has fine, downy hair called lanugo on his body. His fingernails and toenails are there, but haven’t grown to the end of his fingers and toes yet (3). Despite these differences, your baby at 34 weeks looks an awful lot like he’ll look at term.
(1) Glade, B.C., Schuler, J. (2011). Your Pregnancy Week by Week, 7th edition. First Da Capo Press.
(2) The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (2010). Your Pregnancy and Childbirth Month to Month, 5th edition.
(3) Simkin, P. (2010). Pregnancy, Childbirth and the Newborn, 4th edition. Meadowbrook Press