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34 WEEKS, 6 DAYS

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ultrasound of human fetus at 34 weeks and 6 days

Your baby today

The placenta, shown in red above the baby's green profile, is now receiving half a liter of blood each minute from your circulation. In order to accommodate this increase your blood volume expanded dramatically in the first few months of the pregnancy.

It's never too late to improve your fitness and whatever you do now will stand you in good stead for labor.

You might be in the final few weeks but you still need to stay active. Exercising regularly and consistently will enable you to reap the rewards of your efforts: increased fitness, higher self esteem, and much more energy.

Find activities that you enjoy: swimming and walking are often favored by pregnant women in this late stage. As well as helping improve fitness, both of these activities will help you relax and unwind.

It is difficult to put an exact figure on how long you should be exercising for, but bear in mind that this will be determined by how hard you exercise-the two are linked. Consider the difference between a sprint and a marathon-each will have their own energy needs, one is short and has a very intense need for energy, while the other needs slow and sustained energy.

Always listen to your body and stop if you're in danger of overexerting yourself. It's important to eat plenty if you're exercising: choose snacks that will fuel your body, especially given that the third trimester is the most demanding in terms of your baby's nutritional needs.

Kangaroo care

If your premature baby goes into a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) (see Neonatal Intensive Care Babies) you may be able to take care of him using a method called kangaroo care. You will be asked to hold your baby on your chest between your breasts with his head turned so that his ear is next to your heart.

Developed in Bogota, Columbia, in response to a lack of incubators, kangaroo care is shown to have many benefits for NICU babies-mainly that their heart and breathing rates regularize quite quickly, allowing them to sleep for much longer periods. The baby's temperature is regulated by the temperature fluctuations in your breasts, meaning he doesn't have to expend energy keeping himself warm.

This, in addition to the extra sleep, preserves his energy for other vital functions, such as brain development and weight gain. Breast-feeding is also more successful and some kangarooed babies lose none of their birth weight.

Pregnant woman walking on beach

If you go for a daily walk you will feel energized and it will be good preparation for all those strolls you'll be doing with your baby.

Ask A... Doctor

Why are some babies born prematurely?

There are certain factors that may increase a woman's likelihood of having a premature baby. These include a previous obstetric history of prematurity of either themselves or a mother or sister; illness during pregnancy; the state of a woman's health prior to pregnancy; having a multiple pregnancy; fetal problems, such as reduced growth, which may be due to lifestyle factors such as smoking, and other fetal disorders.

excerpted from:

Excerpted from Pregnancy Day by Day.
Copyright ©2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited.
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