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36 WEEKS, 1 DAY

27 days to go...

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ultrasound of human fetus 36 weeks and 1 day

Your baby today

When scanned, this baby was lying with his back to his mother's. This "back to back" position is common at this stage but becomes less so as the pregnancy continues. Your doctor will be able to feel for the position of your baby's back from this point on.

You're in the home stretch now, and may start maternity leave soon. This can be a relief, but also a time of mixed emotions.

Going on maternity leave is a significant pregnancy milestone. As you leave your working role, the reality of beginning your role as a mother may hit you-but you hopefully have a few more weeks to get used to the idea!

It can be a welcome respite to take it easy and not have to rush around in the mornings, and you'll feel less tired by not having to travel to work. Although you need to take it easy, it's a good idea to plan some outings, since not having a routine can take some getting used to. Although it's good to stay in touch with colleagues, try not to fall into the trap of logging on to work emails or staying up-to-date with what's happening at work. You might be worrying about losing some of your identity while you're on maternity leave; this is a common feeling but you'll find that before you know it your leave is over and you're settled back into work again.

Try to enjoy this lead-up to the birth and make the most of the time (see Making the most of maternity leave) to get organized and prepare for your new arrival.

Ask A... Doctor

Will I feel different when my baby drops?

You will feel lighter, in that your breathing will be easier, with more room for your lungs to expand. Your abdomen may seem smaller, with your belly shifting down and forward, as your baby's head enters the birth canal. With pressure on your bladder, you may need to urinate more. You may also experience some pelvic pain.

When your baby drops

Engagement is when your baby's head starts to move down into the pelvic brim in preparation for birth, and this can occur any time in these final few weeks of pregnancy, until the start of your labor. In the last weeks of pregnancy, your doctor will check to see if the head has started to engage, or drop, sometimes called "lightening."

Your doctor will do an examination to check to see where the baby's head is. This is called the station, and it's measured from -5 (the baby's head is floating above the pelvis) to +5, the head is at the opening of the vagina. This last stage is called crowning.

When your baby drops, you may find it easier to breathe, since your lungs will have more room to expand, or the need to urinate more because of more pressure on your bladder.

Not engaged baby in womb

Not engaged: The baby's head has started to move into the pelvis, but more than three- or four-fifths can be felt above the pubic bone.

Engaged baby in womb

Engaged: The baby has dropped into the pelvis in preparation for birth. This causes your belly to change position and shape.

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