Week 34 of Your Pregnancy

A look at your body, your baby, and more

week 34 pregnancy highlights


Welcome to week 34 of your pregnancy. For some pregnant women (but not all), babies can start to drop lower in the abdomen this week, readying for their big exit.

Your Trimester: Third trimester

Weeks to Go: 6

Verywell Checklist

  • Continue taking prenatal vitamins.
  • Continue drinking about eight to 12 glasses of water a day.
  • Continue doing your Kegel exercises daily.
  • Begin daily perineal massages.

Symptoms This Week

At 34 weeks, the amniotic fluid in your uterus has likely reached its maximum. (It tends to peak between now and week 36, slowly decreasing thereafter.) And for some women, this is also around the time that lightening, or dropping, may occur.

Lightening is when baby shifts his or her position lower in the birth canal. This not only readies baby for delivery, it can relieve pressure on your diaphragm, easing heartburn and breathing difficulties. Unfortunately, that relief may come with a drawback: increased pressure on your bladder.

If your belly suddenly looks different, don’t panic. “There’s no clear correlation between when your baby drops and when labor starts,” says Allison Hill, M.D., a private practice OB-GYN in Los Angeles.

Your Baby's Development

Your 5- to 5½-pound baby-to-be is continuing to fill out, and his or her vernix—the waxy, white coating that covers baby’s plumped-up skin—is thickening. Vernix not only protects baby’s skin from the drying effects of the amniotic fluid, it acts as a lubricant that helps your baby move through the birth canal easier.

You may notice some vernix on your newborn on his or her birthday. Don’t be quick to clean it off; it continues to protect baby’s immune system once he or she is born.

While it’s true that your 17½ inch-long baby-to-be is not considered full-term until 39 weeks, those who are born at 34 weeks tend to have well-developed lungs and do well.

Self-Care Tips

Have you spoken to your healthcare provider about perineal massage? If so, and you are interested in starting, this is the week to begin. This practice helps increase plasticity of the perineum (the area between the vagina and anus), reducing your chances of both tearing and episiotomy, an incision to the perineum during delivery.

For the massage, you or your partner will place two fingers inside your vagina and apply pressure straight downward for two minutes. “Then apply the same pressure to each side for an additional four minutes,” says Dr. Hill. “For the best results, do this daily for the remainder of your pregnancy.” While you should get your how-tos directly from your physician or midwife, here are some make-it-easier tips:

  • Use a warm compress: Place a warm washcloth on your perineum for about 10 minutes prior to massage.
  • Wash your hands: Whoever is doing the massage must have clean hands (with trimmed and clean fingernails).
  • Find the right position: Some women prefer to sit propped on their bed with knees bent or squat against a wall with the help of a stool.
  • Use lube: “Use a water-soluble commercial lubricant, vitamin E oil, or almond oil directly on your (or your partner’s) fingers prior to massage. This makes the massage more comfortable and hydrates the perineum,” says Dr. Hill. Reapply as needed.
  • Try it in the bath: Your position may make the massage easier, and the warm water can help your skin stretch.

A Tip From Verywell

This is the week to begin perineal massages, which can help reduce your chances of tearing and episiotomy (an incision to the perineum during delivery).

Special Considerations

What to Know if You're Carrying Breech

If you’re carrying breech, meaning that your baby is rear- and/or feet-first, that does not mean that your baby will remain in that position come delivery day. In fact, “at this point in pregnancy, roughly 14 percent of babies are breech, but by week 36, that number shrinks to 9 percent,” says Dr. Hill.

Regardless, your healthcare provider will likely go over what you could do to help turn the baby and what will likely happen if the baby does not turn. Today, most breech babies are born by planned Cesarean section, but a planned vaginal birth of a single breech baby may sometimes be an option.

Hands-to-Belly Procedure

First, your physician or midwife may suggest external cephalic version (ECV), also called a hands-to-belly procedure, to get the baby in the optimal position. This generally occurs between week 32 and week 37.

Here, your provider (and perhaps an assistant) applies firm pressure to your abdomen in an attempt to encourage baby to turn. You might be given the drug terbutaline, which quells uterine contractions and/or an epidural to block pain. Sometimes an ultrasound is used as a guide as well.

More than half of ECV attempts are successful, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. The caveat: Some babies who’ve been successfully flipped revert back to the breech position before delivery day.

At-Home Methods

There are some at-home methods to get your baby to turn that you can attempt, too. However, it’s important to consult with your healthcare provider before trying these:

  • Try a cold pack: Place an ice pack or a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a light cloth atop your belly, where baby’s head is.
  • Use gravity: Lie flat on the ground with a stack of pillows under your hips for 10 to 15 minutes daily.
  • Shine a light: Direct a flashlight at your pubic bone to encourage baby to come toward the glow (and, thus, to turn face up).
  • Consider this alternative combo: According to a report in the Journal of Maternal-Fetal & Neonatal Medicine, the combo of acupuncture plus moxibustion can be effective for resolving breech presentation. Acupuncture involves inserting skinny needles into specific points to (painlesslessly) stimulate your baby to move. Moxibustion involves burning herbs and applying their heat to areas of the body to encourage the same.
  • Look into a chiropractic adjustment: A misaligned pelvis can make it difficult for baby to get out of the breech position. However, getting the proper chiropractic adjustment may rectify that situation. In fact, a report in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics found that 82 percent of practitioners had success turning babies with chiropractic care.

At Your Doctor’s Office

Carrying twins? This may be your very last prenatal visit. The average twin pregnancy delivers at about 35 weeks. For everyone else, this 34-week check-up will consist of the standard tests and measures. However, if you’re considered high-risk and did not have a biophysical profile (BPP) done last week, it’ll likely happen at this visit.

BPP is a noninvasive combo test consisting of a detailed ultrasound and a fetal non-stress test. Your healthcare provider will monitor and score your amniotic fluid levels, plus baby’s muscle tone, body movements, and breathing movements.

Sometimes a buzzer is used to stimulate your baby for the test, which will take up to an hour to perform. After your physician or midwife reviews your test results, he or she will determine if it’s a good idea to deliver your baby sooner than originally planned.

Upcoming Doctor’s Visits

Between weeks 35 and 37 of your pregnancy, your healthcare provider will screen you for group B strep (also called GBS or beta strep). This bacterial infection found in your genital tract is present in about a quarter of all healthy women.

While it poses no risk to you, it can lead to pneumonia or meningitis in a newborn. If you test positive for GBS, you’ll receive antibiotics during labor to protect your baby.

Advice for Partners

Have you noticed your partner cleaning a lot lately? This burst of organizational energy is called nesting and it’s thought to be an instinctual way in which mothers-to-be prepare for birth. Some women experience this need to nest right around now, whereas other experience it much earlier or not at all.

As the partner, it’s your job to ensure that the pregnant woman in your life does not overextend herself. Pregnant women at this point in pregnancy should not climb ladders, use harmful cleaning supplies like bleach, or lift heavy objects. Offer help and assistance whenever needed.

And it doesn’t hurt to get in on the nesting yourself: Make new-parenthood life a little easier on yourself by stocking up on non-perishable grocery and toiletry staples now. At the same time, put together some make-ahead meals to keep stocked in your freezer.

A Tip From Verywell

You may have noticed a burst of organizational energy in your partner called nesting. It doesn't hurt for you to get in on the nesting too. Be sure to offer your partner assistance, and consider stocking up on non-perishable grocery items and toiletry staples to make new parenting life a little easier.

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Article Sources
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  3. Singh G, Archana G. Unraveling the mystery of vernix caseosa. Indian J Dermatol. 2008;53(2):54-60. doi:10.4103/0019-5154.41645

  4. Ugwu EO, Iferikigwe ES, Obi SN, Eleje GU, Ozumba BC. Effectiveness of antenatal perineal massage in reducing perineal trauma and post-partum morbidities: A randomized controlled trial. J Obstet Gynaecol Res. 2018;44(7):1252-1258. doi:10.1111/jog.13640

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Additional Reading