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Late Pregnancy

Later in pregnancy the uterus extends upwards into the abdomen, gradually filling the abdominal cavity and pressing on other organs - particularly those of the digestive system - often causing indigestion and heartburn. At around thirty-six weeks, the uterus starts pressing on the diaphragm and lower ribs, resulting in shortness of breath and discomfort, particularly when sitting down.

When the baby's head is engaged towards the end of pregnancy breathing is easier, since the baby is no longer pressing against the ribcage and diaphragm, but there may be a feeling of having something hard between the legs, especially when sitting on a hard chair or standing for any length of time. There may also be a buzzing sensation at the top of the vagina, as the baby's head presses against the nerves in the pelvis.

It is safe to take one's usual exercise during pregnancy, but avoid becoming over-tired. Leisurely swimming and walking are both excellent exercise. Sitting still for any length of time can result in pelvic engorgement, as the circulation of blood in the pelvis and legs is restricted, so during long journeys, for example, change position frequently. Sexual intercourse during pregnancy is safe unless the doctor advises otherwise (as he or she may do if there is a history of miscarriage). In late pregnancy, an orgasm can set off contractions of the uterine muscles but these have no ill-effects and soon pass. At the very end of pregnancy, when the baby's head is low, intercourse may be uncomfortable in the conventional position and couples may find sex easier lying on their sides - either facing each other or with the man behind.

Once the head has engaged in the pelvis, most of the baby's kicking is felt at the top of the abdomen, with less vigorous movements coming from the arms below. Rolling movements of the baby's trunk, as it squirms from side to side, produce a wave-like movement across the abdomen. With a breech presentation, when the baby sits head-up in the uterus, most of the kicking is felt low down, and the hard round head is felt beneath the ribs.

Inside the uterus, the baby not only moves its limbs, but also sucks its thumb, uses its breathing muscles (although of course it takes into the lungs not air but amniotic fluid), swallows, and can even have hiccups. It responds to noise (including music), sometimes with a great deal of activity, and can hear its mother's heartbeat and other internal noises.

In the three or four weeks before the expected date of delivery (EDD) morale may be low, and the prospective. mother may feel she has been pregnant for years, not months. Sleep may be restless and during the day backache, cramp and other vague aches and pains may occur. There may also be powerful and sometimes even painful contractions but unless they gradually become not only stronger but also longer and closer together, these are unlikely to mean the start of labour. In the few days before labour, the thighs, the area of the pubis and the small of the back may ache. It may be necessary to empty the bladder frequently, as the baby's head presses against it.

Symptoms

  • Back Pain
  • Hair Growth
  • Swelling
  • Braxton Hicks Contractions

Signs of Labour

  • Lightening: Lightening occurs when your baby’s head drops down into the pelvic region. You may find it easier to breathe or you may sense a heaviness in your lower abdomen.
  • Intense Braxton Hicks Contractions: As you near labour and delivery, you may notice that your Braxton Hicks contractions become more intense and regular.
  • Bloody Show: Women who are going to be giving birth soon, often pass the mucous plug that blocks off the cervix during pregnancy.
  • Broken Waters: Some women experience the breaking of their amniotic sac just prior to labour and delivery. This can manifest as a slow trickle of fluid from the vagina or as a rush of water.
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