34th – Thirty-fourth week of pregnancy

34 week of pregnancy

Reaching the thirty-fourth week of pregnancy means having almost finished the eighth month, and being one week away from the final month.

The chances of survival of your baby, should it be born this week, rise to over 98%.

Now it is important that all “your team” is ready to adequately face the day of delivery and those immediately following:

  • the newborn must behave according to the program to avoid any complications of the birth
  • you must be ready for childbirth, both psychologically  and materially: read the article, suitcase for childbirth:
  • you and the future dad  must already have at home, or, in any case, already know what you want to buy and what you don’t: crib , changing table , bouncer , layette for the newborn, diapers, pacifiers, bottles, bottle warmers , bottle sterilizer , if necessary pram, and all the other accessories for the newborn
  • the father, who must also already know when and where they are to be done,
    • birth certificate,
    • registration in the personal registers,
    • registration in the tax register,
    • enrollment in the health service and choice of pediatrician.

Baby development in the 34th week of pregnancy

The development of the sensory organs

Now the fetus, from the light that enters the uterus through the walls that are gradually thinning, is able to distinguish day from night.

His eyelids now close when he sleeps and open when he is awake, creating a precise sleep pattern.

The outward appearance

With its growing layer of subcutaneous fat, the fetus now looks much more like a newborn, with rounder cheeks and smoother skin.

The development of internal organs

The central nervous system and lungs of the fetus are now developed enough to function on their own should you deliver this week.

However, most babies born during week 34 still need assisted breathing to help their small lungs work at the right pace.

The development of the sexual organs

If you’re pregnant with a boy, his testicles are descending into the scrotum from his abdomen.

Only in rare cases (3-4%) do boys have testicles that have not yet descended at birth, but which will be positioned in the correct location within the first year of life.

How big is the fetus

By the thirty-fourth week, the fetus is almost the size of a melon . It measures approximately 45cm in length, and weighs just over 2kg.

Fetal movements, and the breech baby

Your levels of amniotic fluid continue to rise, allowing your baby to still move around in the limited space inside you, sometimes even allowing you to see a tiny hand or foot through your belly .

By week 34, most fetuses are in the position of birth: head down (cephalic position), with legs folded over the chest.

In some rare cases, the baby remains in the breech (feet down) or transverse (lying sideways) position.

In these cases, if in the next few days it doesn’t position itself correctly, it is useful to consult your doctor to be able to turn it from the outside.

The woman at the thirty-fourth week

As the baby is in a phase of rapid growth, the top of the uterus can be felt approximately 14cm above the navel this week.

Your uterus is still sitting high in your abdomen, which means that the fetus begins to squeeze inside the uterus and – within a few weeks – begin to descend downwards, in preparation for labor and delivery.

You’re still gaining about a pound a week—with much of the weight coming from your baby’s development.

Tests and ultrasound at the 34th week of pregnancy

An ultrasound performed at this stage is useful for the doctor to check for complications such as a low-lying placenta, and to evaluate the health and position of the fetus.

Now your prenatal visits probably consist of blood pressure checks to assess the risk of high blood pressure or preeclampsia.

Between 34 and 36 weeks of pregnancy, Rh-negative women carrying a Rh-positive fetus continue to be observed. In fact, the levels of maternal antibodies against the Rh factor of the fetus must be continuously monitored, in order to immediately identify any sensitization of the woman, and to make sure that the red blood cells of the newborn are not attacked by the maternal immune system.

Your doctor might also prescribe a vaginal swab to rule out any bacterial infections (especially group B streptococci) .

After the thirty-third / thirty-fourth week, women pregnant with twins are often advised to undergo a «non-stress test», once or twice a week .

This allows the doctor to spot any early signs of gestational diabetes and high blood pressure, and at the same time make sure that both babies are growing properly.

The symptoms of the thirty-fourth week

In this period, the most common symptoms consist of,

  • dry, irritated eyes, with or without blurry vision (due to pregnancy hormones decreasing tear production);
  • hot flashes;
  • indigestion, heartburn , flatulence and reflux;
  • constipation;
  • restless legs syndrome and insomnia;
  • papules (a papule is a small, firm, usually conical-shaped bump on the skin that does not contain pus, which distinguishes it from a pustule) and itchy urticaroidal plaques of pregnancy (PUPPP) or hive-shaped itchy skin rash , mainly around the belly and thighs (more common in twin pregnancies and new mothers);
  • Braxton Hicks contractions (feeling of a stiffening of the uterus for a few seconds);
  • tiredness and fatigue;
  • shortness of breath, and an occasional sharp pain in the chest (caused by the pressure that the growing uterus places on your lungs, rib cage, and diaphragm);
  • joint and back pain;
  • leg cramps;
  • pelvic pain;
  • tailbone pain;
  • pain in the inner thigh and groin;
  • itchy skin, especially around the belly, breasts and nipples;
  • stretch marks;
  • edema or swelling, mainly in the hands, feet, and ankles;
  • varicose veins, hemorrhoids and spider veins;
  • depression, mood swings, and unexplained crying;
  • urine leakage, especially when you sneeze, cough or laugh (due to a growing uterus putting pressure on the bladder, and pregnancy hormones relaxing the pelvic muscles).

When to call the doctor

Contact your doctor in the following cases:

  • a decrease in fetal movements or any other changes in the baby’s typical movement pattern;
  • sudden swelling, especially of the face and hands, together with sudden weight gain, changes in vision, shortness of breath, upper abdominal pain, persistent headaches and lightheadedness (could indicate high blood pressure or preeclampsia);
  • contractions that become more frequent over time, together with vaginal bleeding, menstrual-like cramps, feeling of pressure in the pelvic area, pinkish, brown or clear mucous discharge (loss of mucus plug), nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and copious watery secretions (these could be signs of a premature birth);
  • pain or burning when urinating, dark yellowish or orange urine, with or without a bad smell, accompanied by pain in the abdomen or lower back (around the kidneys), thick white or jelly-like greenish/yellowish discharge, nausea and vaginal itching (could indicate urinary tract infections, kidney infections or candidiasis;
  • extreme thirst and dry mouth, together with abnormal and urgent urges to urinate, suddenly blurry vision, extreme fatigue, dizziness and ketones in the urine (may indicate gestational diabetes);
  • swelling in one foot on one side – i.e. one foot is more swollen than the other, with or without tenderness in the leg (could indicate a blood clotting disorder);
  • severe pain in the lower back, right or left (around the kidneys), often radiating to the abdomen and groin, pain when urinating, dark or cloudy urine, nausea and vomiting (may indicate kidney stones ).

Useful tips for a healthy pregnancy and baby

Here are some useful tips:

  • when lying down or sitting, get up slowly because sudden movements such as standing up too quickly – suddenly lower your blood pressure and could make you feel dizzy;
  • take a warm (not hot) bath to get relief from some symptoms such as leg cramps, back pain and hemorrhoids;
  • try to know everything you can about childbirth and pain remedies (breathing techniques, medicines and anesthesia);
  • compile, together with the health professionals who follow you, a detailed birth plan, as you may need alternative options during labor and delivery;
  • dinner early in the evening, to avoid possible heartburn due to carbonated drinks and spicy or sour foods;
  • reduce your water intake at least an hour before going to bed, in order to better manage the need to urinate during the night and to be able to rest more;
  • dedicate a couple of hours a day to count the kicks and thus make sure that the baby is well;
  • Get regular prenatal yoga exercises or get regular exercise, such as short walks twice a day or swimming, to strengthen your muscles and joints in preparation for labor and delivery.

Katherine Johnson, M.D., is a board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist with clinical expertise in general obstetrics and gynecology, family planning, women’s health, and gynecology.

She is affiliated with the Obstetrics and Gynecology division at an undisclosed healthcare institution and the online platform, Maternicity.com.

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