At 36 weeks into a pregnancy, a woman is getting closer to the traditional due date of 40 weeks of pregnancy.
As in the rest of the third trimester, pregnant women can expect to gain
This article will cover what pregnant women can expect at 36 weeks as they move toward delivery.
At 36 weeks, a fetus is gaining body fat and will have less room to move in the uterus. As a result, pregnant women may not feel the fetus move around as forcefully. Instead, they may feel the fetus stretch or twist.
Women can still monitor fetal movements at this stage. The ideal number of fetal movements is at least 10 times over 2 hours. Doctors call this “10 in 2.” However, there are alternative methods of fetal movement monitoring. A doctor can offer advice on the different options.
If the fetus is moving less often than they should, a woman should call a doctor for further recommendations.
Other symptoms that a pregnant woman can expect at 36 weeks include:
A pregnant woman may also experience shortness of breath. Although this is likely to be because the fetus is taking up more space in the body, it is still important to report new or extreme shortness of breath to a doctor.
Pregnant women should be aware of the symptoms of preeclampsia and call their doctor immediately if they experience them. These symptoms include:
- visual disturbances
- a severe headache
- problems breathing
- unusual stomach pain
However, preeclampsia does not always cause noticeable symptoms.
Between weeks 36 and 38 of pregnancy, a doctor will also take a group B Streptococcus (GBS) swab as a routine test. If the result is positive, the woman will receive intravenous antibiotics to avoid passing the infection to the fetus during labor.
The delivery of more than half of twin pregnancies takes place before 37 weeks, which is what some doctors consider full-term birth for twins. This earlier delivery may be necessary for several reasons, including increased risks for preeclampsia and issues with the growth of the twins.
As with a standard pregnancy, if pregnant women with multiples notice fewer fetal movements or preeclampsia symptoms, they should immediately contact a doctor.
The weight and position of a fetus are important factors in the health of the pregnancy and delivery:
At 36 weeks, on average, a fetus is 16–19 inches long and weighs 6.0–6.5 pounds (lb).
Twins will be individually smaller in weight. Dichorionic twins, who have a placenta each, weigh an average of about 2,570.9 grams (5.67 lb).
During an appointment at 36 weeks, a doctor may use ultrasound or measurements of fundal height (from the top of the uterus to the pubic bone) to estimate the size of the fetus. These are only estimates, though, and variations from the average measurements at this stage do not necessarily indicate a problem.
A doctor will focus on the fetus’s position at 36 weeks in preparation for delivery. They can usually identify key anatomical features on a fetus, including the head, back, and buttocks, by feeling the woman’s stomach. They may also use ultrasound or a pelvic exam to determine the positioning.
Ideally, at 36 weeks, a fetus will be facing head down. Doctors call this position “vertex.” A fetus in the vertex position will come out headfirst during delivery, which reduces the risk of complications and the likelihood of needing a cesarean delivery.
However, an estimated 3–4% of full-term fetuses are in the breech position. In this position, the head, buttocks, or feet are set to come out of the birth canal first. If this positioning occurs during labor, a doctor will usually recommend a cesarean delivery to reduce the risk of complications.
Beginning at 36 weeks, a doctor may recommend an external cephalic version, which is a manual attempt to turn a fetus to the head down position. The doctor, sometimes with the assistance of another healthcare professional, will use their hands to turn the fetus.
A doctor will usually recommend this procedure at 36 weeks because the fetus will continue to grow and may become too large to attempt to turn.
A doctor should discuss the risks and benefits with the pregnant woman.
In addition to staying hydrated, eating a healthful and balanced diet will help provide energy to the pregnant woman and fetus. A healthful diet includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.
The 36-week mark is understandably an active time as a pregnant woman prepares for delivery. Balancing periods of activity and light physical exercise with rest can help.
Pregnant women should see a doctor if they experience the following symptoms at 36 weeks:
- noticeable decreases in fetal movement
- strong (lasting more than a minute) or frequent (at least every 5 minutes) contractions
- sudden, significant weight gain, which could indicate preeclampsia swelling
At this time, if there is anything that women are worried about in relation to their pregnancy, they should call their doctor for further guidance.
At 36 weeks pregnant, a woman is close to delivery. Weekly appointments with a doctor are likely to be necessary to ensure that the fetus is growing and positioned well for labor.
Anyone with concerns about the health of a pregnancy or fetus should call their doctor.