Welcome to week 32
For working mums-to-be as your maternity leave fast approaches, start making plans.
If you would like a leaving do - or feel it's unavoidable - consider a pregnancy-friendly lunch or tea rather than after work drinks. If you know that your colleagues are planning to buy you a gift either start dropping hints or give some clear ideas of things you would really like.
For those planning to return to work, you might feel more comfortable if you're kept in the loop on work-related issues during your leave so communicate your wishes with your manager as you approach your maternity leave.
Plan some fun things for the pre-baby part of your maternity leave. Treat yourself to a pregnancy massage, go to the cinema in the afternoon, see old friends, bake and stock up the freezer and read trashy novels. Try to do as much pleasurable activity as possible - your life is soon to change in ways that makes it harder to be self-indulgent, so make the most of your time off.
Your baby's nearly 4lb in weight now, at around 1.8kg. More fat is being laid down so the skin is plumped out, pinker and less wrinkly.
Your midwife might find that your baby has turned into a head-down position from around now, but this doesn't mean the head has engaged yet. Some babies shift in and out of position at this stage, not settling until around week 36 or so – and even then there' s no guarantee that things won't change again any time up to the birth.
On the outside
Another week, another centimeter – your uterus is now sitting about about 12cm (almost 5in) above your belly button now.
If you're suffering from constipation or piles, then try drinking more water, eating healthily and taking moderate exercise to help boost your circulation and kick-start a sluggish bowel.
It's important to exercise in pregnancy – gently if you weren't previously into fitness. Brisk walking, swimming, pregnancy yoga and exercise classes are great for keeping you energised and boosting your stamina and flexibility. Ask your midwife for advice or look for pregnancy classes in your area.
Breathing for labour
Breathing is an important part of labour. Not only can the right breathing technique help you to cope with the pain of contractions, they'll also give you something to focus on and distract you from your labour pains. There's another positive to breathing techniques, too: they can help you to control the speed at which your baby emerges during delivery, cutting down the risk of a tear to your perineum (the area of skin and tissue between your vagina and anus).
During the first stage, a good technique is to breathe deeply and slowly, making each 'out' breath twice as long as the 'in' breath. As you breath out, try to consciously relax all your muscles, focusing on a different group each time. You can also practice sighing, where you breathe in through your nose, then sigh out slowly and gently through your mouth.
As your labour progresses and you start getting ready to deliver, you'll benefit from a slightly different technique. Much as it's a natural response to tense your muscles when you're in pain, this only make the pain more intense, so if you can relax at all it'll help. This time, imagine your contraction is just getting underway, and take a deep breath through your nose. As you breathe out, imagine you're pushing your baby steadily down. Focus on your pelvis rather than pushing from your chest.
Breathing to stop pushing
If you feel inclined to push before your body is ready, there's a third technique that can help you to stop.
Breathe in sharply, then pant rhythmically out four or five times before repeating. This is something your birth partner can help you with by counting out your panting breaths. Your midwife will help and support you too with your breathing throughout your labour.