Pregnancy Tracker: Week 31

Pregnancy Tracker: Week 31




The weeks are slipping by fast now, and it is hard to believe that you only have 9 weeks left of your pregnancy.  9 weeks to get yourself ready to change the rest of your life! So much to do in such a short time? No doubt you have already given thought and effort to preparing the nursery, to arranging maternity leave and to compiling your birth plan.

Your baby is the size of a papaya, measuring about 42cm and weighing in at one and a half kilograms.  By now you are probably battling to walk and talk at the same time as your uterus presses up into your diaphragm, making you feel breathless.

Your little one is growing in leaps and bounds and packing on the weight as the much-needed fat, which will help with temperature regulation, builds up under the skin. Watch this space as a growth spurt is about to happen!

Your fundal height measures about 10cm above the belly button, and when you look down to see if you need a pedi, you probably won’t be able to see your toes!

Your baby at 31 weeks pregnant

If you could peep inside your uterus you would be enchanted to notice how cute your baby looks, and how much he resembles a newborn baby.

Baby’s face is starting to look smooth and pudgy. Hair has grown on the head, eyes are able to track shapes and discern light, ears are fully formed, and hearing is quite advanced. Baby not only hears your voice, but recognizes it, and the voice of other regular people in attendance, like his dad’s.

Pigment in the skin is forming, although will only be fully developed at about 6 months. The skin is less wrinkled now as the underlying fat is plumping and smoothing it out.

Bones begin to harden and become denser as calcium is absorbed by the skeleton, although the skull is still quite pliable and soft, and will remain so for about the first two years of your child’s life.  This is the reason why extreme care must be taken to protect the little head when handling a baby.

The brain is the fastest developing part of a baby now, with essential connections between nerve cells being formed. Incredibly, the brain will triple in weight between now and birth as more brain cells develop.

The senses of taste and smell are closely associated and at 31 weeks pregnant studies have shown that a baby can detect certain flavours and smells and transmit these signals to the brain. Strong flavours like garlic or spices change the aroma of the amniotic fluid about 45 minutes after you have eaten. Bear in mind that even scents from certain beauty products, like body lotions, can end up in the amniotic fluid. Your very own personal scent will be one of the first that your baby inhales, and will be his favourite, providing much needed security and comfort after birth.

Despite the cramped conditions in your uterus, your baby is still very active, kicking, pedaling, punching, and squirming about during his wakeful periods, although you will also find that your little one spends longer periods sleeping.  This makes the sleep/wake patterns more defined. Remember to do ‘kick counts’ daily.

Symptoms you may notice at 31 weeks pregnant


This is a common symptom in the later part of pregnancy and is partly caused by the uterus pressing up on the diaphragm and constricting the lungs, and partly due to pregnancy hormones like progesterone. Nature has a wonderful way of ensuring that your baby gets enough oxygen by stimulating your brain to tell your lungs to take deeper breaths, so you inhale more air. Your baby will not be affected in any way by your breathlessness as all the foetus’ oxygen requirements are met via the placenta. Try not to panic, slow down and take deep, regular breaths until the feeling passes and your breathing returns to normal.


Clumsiness is a very real side effect of the third trimester. As your pregnancy progresses and your abdomen gets bigger, your centre of gravity shifts and this may make you feel unbalanced and clumsy, particularly when climbing stairs or carrying large items.

Try to stand upright, keeping your hips and shoulders aligned as this may help your balance. Take care how you walk, and when stepping out of the shower or bath; rise slowly from sitting or lying and spend a moment getting your equilibrium right. Make sure you wear appropriate footwear and avoid slippery surfaces and loose rugs and mats.

Brain fog

You may find that you are forgetting appointments, friends’ birthdays, where you have placed items and why you entered a room! This is normal during pregnancy, as research has found that pregnancy really can change how the brain behaves.  This may be partly due to lack of sleep and low energy levels, but studies also show that brain-cell volume decreases. So forgetfulness is entirely normal at this stage of pregnancy and is nothing to worry about.  Keep yourself on track with lists and notes and consult your dairy regularly!

Braxton Hicks contractions

These occur when the uterus contracts and relaxes and are sometimes called practice labour pains. They may be uncomfortable but should not be painful, feeling more like a stitch or a tightening in a particular area of the abdomen.  Braxton Hicks are certainly nothing to worry about as they are completely normal at this time of pregnancy. They can be triggered by periods of physical activity, having a full bladder, or being dehydrated.

Braxton Hicks differs from labour contractions in that they are usually infrequent, painless, and vary in length and strength. Labour pains, on the other hand, are identifiable by the following symptoms:

  • Noticeably, and increasingly, longer
  • More regular
  • More frequent
  • Painful
  • Increase in intensity

Contact your healthcare provider without delay if you notice the following symptoms:

  • Vaginal bleed
  • Breaking waters
  • Strong and regular contractions
  • Painful contractions

Back pain

Sciatica is very common during the last weeks of pregnancy.  It is a pain that can be felt in the lower back and that spreads down the bottom and into one or both legs and can be so severe as to interfere with mobility.  As your baby grows and settles in an upside-down position, the head can cause compression or irritation of the sciatic nerve.

Other back pain, aches and stiffness can be because of the enlarging abdomen. The strain on the back is increased as your bump curves out to make room for its precious load, and the hormone relaxin causes the ligaments and joints in the pelvis to loosen.

Self-treatment advice:

  • Take care of your posture when sitting or standing
  • Watch your weight gain
  • Wear appropriate shoes
  • Avoid lifting heavy items
  • Use a pregnancy pillow for sleeping

As your due date approaches, consider who you would like as your birth partner. Having someone you know and trust by your side during labour can be a great comfort. Birth supporters can include your partner, relatives, friends, and doulas.

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