In Depth Baby Product Reviews Led by a Pediatrician

Lightening and Oxytocin

As your baby drops into the pelvis you'll find things are a little less crowded
Lightening and Oxytocin
Credit: dolgachov ©
Tuesday October 22, 2019

Sometime after week 36, you are likely to experience lightening or the "engagement" of the baby into the pelvis as your body begins to prepare for delivery. So while your stomach may have a little more room that makes it easier to eat, your pelvis will now feel full and heavy, making it uncomfortable to walk and sit in some positions. You'll also likely need to urinate more often as the baby is pressing on your bladder more so than ever before. Take heart; this all means things are about to move forward quickly, and the baby is about to make himself known in person!

Your body is also busy creating the hormone oxytocin, which causes the development of colostrum and the filling of the milk glands as they get ready to feed your new arrival. This filling of the glands might leave your breasts feeling a little bit lumpy or like they have a clump of tiny grapes inside. The breasts might also leak a little colostrum now and then, especially in the shower or during sexual arousal. This discharge is normal, but you might want to invest in some breast pads to avoid an embarrassing situation out and about with a wet shirt.

If you haven't had them already, you might start experiencing Braxton-Hicks contractions. These contractions are similar to real labor pains but aren't a sign of impending labor. They are your uterus practicing and preparing for the real thing. It is probably a good idea to familiarize yourself with the symptoms of actual labor and ask your caregiver when they would like you to call or head to the hospital.

Credit: ferli ©

Real labor will feel like twinges or cramps that happen at a relatively regular rate coming every 4-5 minutes in the beginning, which usually lasts a couple of hours. This regular 4-5 minute rate is probably a good time to call your doctor to let them know you have begun the process. If your pregnancy has been uncomplicated so far and you make it to full-term, your caregiver will probably have different instructions than if you've had some difficulties or unusual circumstances. No matter what, you should always contact your doctor or head to the hospital if you have any vaginal bleeding, you think you might be leaking amniotic fluid, you have a fever or a persistent headache, constant abdominal pain, or changes in your vision. These symptoms, in addition to less movement from the baby, can be signs of a problem and should be looked at as soon as possible.

Reference Sources

  1. American Pregnancy Association - Week 36
  1. Expecting 411

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