You are now entering the ninth and last month of your pregnancy with your baby having excellent chances of survival (around 99%) without any long-term complications [1]. However, babies born at 36 weeks of gestation may have some feeding difficulties [2], requiring intensive care after birth.

36 weeks pregnant: baby development

Fat development and external appearance

Development of the fat layer continues as fat starts filling out the baby’s cheeks, giving him the fuller, chubby cheeks you are going to love in a few weeks. At this stage, the growing fat makes up 15% of his total body weight, helping him maintain proper body temperature [3].

He is shedding the downy hair and vernix caseosa that then gets mixed with the amniotic fluid. Your baby then swallows all these substances along with the fluid, which produces the blackish thick mixture meconium that will be his first bowel movement after birth [4].

Skull and bone development

The skull bones remain flexible so your baby can have an easier journey through the birth canal. Most of the other bones in his body remain soft and cartilaginous as well, hardening gradually over the initial years of life [6].

36 Weeks Pregnant Picture

36 Weeks Pregnant Picture

Sensory organ development

His hearing is still improving as studies show babies at 36th week of gestation remember the mother’s voice and recognize it after birth [5]. Some researches even show that newborn infants prefer the voice of their mother over any other sound [6].

Internal organ and system development

Your baby now has proper blood circulation and a fully mature immune system, ready to fight infections and diseases once he enters the world. The lungs are also mature enough to allow your baby to survive with little assistance if he was to be born this week [7]. Although the digestive system is formed by this stage, it will not be fully mature and functional until a few weeks after birth, as it has not been operational yet since your baby has been getting all his nutrition from the umbilical cord [5].

How big is the baby?

At around 18.6 inches (47.2 cm) [8], your baby has now almost attained the newborn length, while his weight ranges around 6 pounds (2.7 kg), still gaining about 1 ounce per day [9]. He is approximately the size of a canary melon in week 36. The weight gain slows down gradually in the last few weeks so your baby can store the energy for the day of delivery [5]. Twin babies are likely to be comparatively smaller than singleton ones at this stage as their weight gain decelerates a little earlier [10].

36th week of pregnancy: fetal movement

Your baby will continue to kick and punch around despite the limited space; however, you are likely to feel them much lower than before as he is now moving down toward the birth canal, preparing for birth [11]. Although there is not enough space to rotate in the womb anymore, you should feel the same amount of movement during a kick count.

Birth position and breech baby

By the 36th week, your midwife will check your belly to feel for the baby and see if he is in a proper head down position for birth [12]. Your chances of having a c-section delivery increases if your baby remains in a breech (feet down) or transverse (lying sideways) position even after this week. However, there is still time to attempt an external cephalic version (ECV), a procedure performed by your doctor, involving applying pressure on certain points of your belly to turn the baby. ECV has a success rate of around 50% [13].

36 weeks pregnant with twins

In a twin pregnancy, one of the babies start moving toward the pelvic cavity so the upper part of the uterus is a little less cramped, allowing the babies more space to stretch. Twin pregnancies are considered full-term at 37 weeks [14], but around 50% of twins arrive sometime in the 36th week [10]. Like a singleton baby, twins born this week have excellent chances of survival with respiratory assistance and proper medical care.

36 weeks pregnant: weight gain, belly and body changes

It is normal to feel more pressure in the lower abdomen as the baby gradually drops down your belly. Referred to as ‘engagement’ or ‘lightening‘, this allows your lungs, ribcage and stomach to stretch a little [4]. As a result, the symptoms of shortness of breath and heartburn ease up to some extent. On the other hand, it may make you go to bathroom even more often by increasing the pressure on the bladder.

Your weight gain slows down in the last stage of the third trimester [6], while you may also notice the breasts leaking the yellowish thick fluid colostrum (the first milk produced by your body) [10].

Do not be surprised if you wake up in the morning and find yourself in the mood for cleaning and mopping every corner of your house. Most women enter the ‘nesting’ phase by weeks 35-36 with their energy levels increasing in the final month of pregnancy [15]. It is usually safe to give in to this urge to clean the house as long as you avoid stressing yourself too much.

36 weeks pregnant tests and ultrasound

Your doctor will check how far down the baby has dropped during each weekly prenatal visit [16]. An ultrasound may be ordered in case of a suspected breech baby. Ultrasound scans may also be used during an ECV to guide the physician through the process.

36 Weeks Pregnant Ultrasound Picture

36 Weeks Pregnant Ultrasound Picture

Like in week 35, you will be tested for any Group B streptococci or GBS bacteria during your prenatal check up this week [17].

Pregnancy week 36 signs and symptoms

  • Round ligament pain
  • Braxton Hicks contractions [18]
  • Edema or swelling of the arms, legs and ankles [19]
  • Pelvic pain
  • Tailbone pain
  • Leg cramps
  • Joint (jaw, knee, hip, groin and thigh) and back pain
  • Frequent urination (due to the baby traveling down the abdomen putting even more pressure on the bladder) [20]
  • Stretch marks
  • Itchy skin, especially around the expanding belly, breasts and thighs
  • Constipation
  • Varicose veins and hemorrhoids [21]
  • Restless leg syndrome and insomnia
  • Slight increase in appetite (as the baby is no longer putting as much pressure on your stomach, making it easier to eat) [22]
  • Depression and emotional changes (often due to sleep deprivation and worrying about labor and delivery) [23]
  • Hot flashes
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome (tingling and numbness in the hands and fingers) [24]

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Signs of early labor

By the 36th week, your doctor is going to see if the cervix is starting to open by checking if it is widening or dilating and thinning or effacing [16]. The signs of preterm labor include:

  • Feeling pressure in the pelvic area [25]
  • Having contractions getting more frequent over time
  • Pulsing lower back pain [26]
  • Bleeding/spotting
  • Increased vaginal discharge [27]
  • Pinkish or bloody mucus discharge (losing the mucus plug)
  • Menstrual-like cramps
  • Nausea, diarrhea and vomiting
  • Lots of clear watery discharge (leaking amniotic fluid)

When to call the doctor

  • Lack of movement over an abnormally long period of time (usually 2 to 4 hours) [11]
  • Suspecting the signs of preterm labor
  • Extreme fatigue and lightheadedness along with increased thirst, dry mouth and abnormally frequent urge to urinate (might indicate gestational diabetes) [28]
  • Persistent headaches, dizziness and sudden changes in vision accompanied by upper abdominal pain, sudden swelling of the face and hands and feeling out of breath (might indicate high blood pressure or preeclampsia) [29]
  • Pain and burning sensations while urinating along with lower back pain (around the kidneys), greenish or yellowish jelly-like or thick white discharge with or without any distinct odor, diarrhea, fever, nausea, vomiting or pain after sex (might indicate UTI [30], a kidney or yeast infection [31])
  • Unilateral swelling or one foot or ankle more swollen than the other (might indicate a blood clotting disorder)
  • Severe itching without any rashes, especially of the palms, that refuses to go away with any treatment (might indicate obstetric cholestasis, a rare liver disorder) [7]

Tips for a healthy pregnancy and baby

  • Going for prenatal yoga classes or following a regular exercise routine, such as going for a short walk twice a day, as it helps manage the aches and pains in addition to increasing your energy levels [32]
  • Lying on your left side and keeping your feet up with the help of a pillow or cushion can help to reduce edema by improving blood circulation [6]
  • Drinking lots of fluid (at least eight glasses a day) as it helps to flush your system of any toxins, minimizing edema
  • Taking care of your gum and teeth, brushing and flossing regularly and going for dental checkups as a gum infection can induce premature labor [20]

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