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Pregnancy Calendar

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Week 36

Your Baby:

  • Is six pounds. SIX. POUNDS. You probably have clothes in your house that already fit a six-pound baby.
  • Is still not fully cooked yet, even though MOST babies born at this point will do just fine. But the lungs are better off with a couple more weeks of maturity.
  • The size of your baby will start displacing amniotic fluid over the final few weeks. As the fluid gets reabsorbed into your body, you may notice that your baby’s movements feel “different.” You might not feel as many kicks as you used to, or the sensations are just…well, “different.” It’s mostly because of the cramped quarters in there and less fluid.


  • Are not done yet. I am sorry.
  • Have gained 25 to 30 pounds, according to the books, which also say that it’s “not unusual” for your weight to remain unchanged between weekly OB appointments. Say it with me: SHUT UP, BOOKS.

False Labor

Can we talk about false labor? I’ve had it with false labor. I think false labor should shut up, curl up and die. And then set itself on fire.

I never had false labor last time. Oh sure, I had plenty of Braxton-Hicks contractions here and there. One time I actually had three whole contractions in a row and got super excited, but even that was over and done with in about 20 minutes.

This pregnancy, though. Gaaaaaaah. I’m petrified of being That Woman who becomes utterly convinced she’s in labor and shows up at the hospital ready to have herself a darn baby, only to be sent home because it was a false alarm. (Seriously, I’m having anxiety dreams about that — one dream involved a nurse telling me I was 3 centimeters dilated and an anesthesiologist inserting the epidural…right before my doctor showed up and announced that no, I WASN’T dilated at all, and then he yanked the epidural out and told me to go home.)

No, when I say “false labor” I mean an hours-long song-and-dance that does a PRETTY GOOD JOB of imitating the real thing. Regular, steady contractions. Five minutes apart. That keep coming whether you’re lying down or standing up or chugging water or…or…eating an entire bag of Halloween candy. You know, in case it’s just a bunch of those chocolate-deficiency contractions all the kids are talking about.

Last night, as I entered hour two or three of steady and extremely uncomfortable uterine activity, I packed my hospital bag and ordered my husband to round up all our camera batteries and cell phone chargers and tried to calmly figure out what in the WORLD we were supposed to do with our toddler in the middle of the night, with our on-call family members being up in BOSTON for the week, since why not? I’m more than three weeks away from my due date, we won’t need them yet! Ha ha! Silly humans.

Needless to say, I am still pregnant. We did not drop our son off on anyone’s doorstep, ring a doorbell and scream WE OWE YOU ONE at the bleary-eyed friend who answered before driving off to the hospital. The contractions tapered off sometime after midnight, and while my husband poked me awake several times throughout the night to make sure the baby and I were still okay (“WE’RE FINE. WE’RE SLEEPING. RAWR.”), there is no real indication that I will experience the real thing before my appointed time in a few weeks.

So…how DO you tell the false labor from the real thing?

Sometimes, it’s really hard. While I love to make fun of movies’ portrayals of pregnant women (you know, where EVERYBODY’S water breaks ultra-dramatically before they’ve even had a single contraction, or a woman feels one small twinge in her abdomen and announces that, without a doubt, “IT’S TIME!” and everybody rushes off like chickens with their heads cut off towards the hospital), I can totally see how and why women DO end up at the hospital over false alarms. But here are a few indicators that might help you figure out if you’re experiencing false labor:

1) Your contractions are not coming at regular intervals, or are not consistent in their intensity or length. If one contraction has you doubled over in pain, but the next one is more of a mild twinge, and then the next one is really long but somewhere in between the first two on the pain scale, it’s probably not active labor.

2) You don’t notice any progression in the timing or pain of your contractions. My doctor told me flat-out that he wouldn’t consider sending me to the hospital unless I was having contractions at three minutes apart for at least an hour. (Your doctor might have a different standard — be sure to ASK if you don’t know.) So even though my contractions started at five minutes apart, I waited. And waited. And they remained steady at five minutes apart, and they were not getting more painful or intense as the hours went by. In “real” labor, contractions get steadily closer together and more painful as your cervix dilates. Holding-pattern contractions generally mean there’s nothing going on with your cervix, so just stay home and ride it out.

3) Your contractions stop and start, or change depending on what you’re doing. The first rule of Braxton-Hicks contractions is to LIE DOWN, PUT YOUR FEET UP, DRINK WATER. This usually causes things to settle down. I continued to contract while lying down for awhile, but eventually I did get a brief 20-minute reprieve. They started up again and were more painful once I started walking around, which also told me that, no matter how nice it would be to have a baby already, it wasn’t gonna happen that night.

4) You haven’t passed the mucus plug or noticed any bloody show. At some point — usually right before labor begins or at the onset of actual active labor — you’ll notice a fairly substantial amount of pink or blood-tinged mucus come out your vagina, often times after using the bathroom. It’s…uh…hard to miss. I lost most of the mucus plug about 24 hours before going into labor last time, and then continued to lose more and more of it once labor really got going. (This is what gets called bloody show, which is just…exactly what it sounds like, and one of the many reasons you may notice that us mom types tend to lose most of our sense of shame after giving birth. I mean, once you’ve left a trail of THAT across a clean hospital floor in front of your husband and family members and God and everybody else, it’s hard to imagine caring about a silly thing like DIGNITY anymore.)

5) Your water hasn’t broken. This one is probably the least useful, however, because contrary to what the movies show, only about 10% of women actually experience the dramatic gush of fluid before labor begins. Usually you’ll know you’re in labor by the time it happens, or your practitioner will break your water for you with a big crochet-hook-like thing. So…this one is more of an indication that you ARE in real, active labor. (Although…GAH. I have also spent a lot of time Googling “how can i tell if my water has broken or if this is just more assorted pregnancy fluids of mystery?”) (Surprise! Just more assorted pregnancy fluids of mystery.)

Finished with the Pregnancy Calendar and want more? Visit Amalah’s postpartum weekly column, Bounce Back. Bounce Back is about the postpartum experience — the good, the bad and the gory.

Amazon Mom

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering ...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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About the Author

Our Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty, was written by Amy Corbett Storch while she was pregnant with her second son, Ezra.

Amy, also known as Amalah, writes the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back here at Alpha Mom. You can follow her daily mothering adventures at her own site, Amalah.

About the Illustrations

The Zero to Forty illustrations were created by the artist Brenda Ponnay, aka Secret Agent Josephine. Brenda is very talented and these images are copyright-protected. You should hire her if you want your own unique ones.

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  • Emily

    September 24, 2008 at 1:28 pm

    Don’t be TOO afraid of hospital checks when you think you might be in labor:
    EIGHTY-ONE LABOR CHECKS. And this is just one particular hospital. Showing up once or twice and being sent home? NOTHING compared to EIGHTY-ONE LABOR CHECKS.

  • WabiSabiLife

    September 24, 2008 at 9:15 pm

    25-30lbs? Hahahahaha!!! I *WISH*!! Last feb. I was 133. Yesterday? 184.4. I am due the same week as Amalah, which means I still have apx. 3 1/2 weeks to go.
    god, I’m so achey….

  • Charlie

    September 25, 2008 at 1:23 am

    Gah, at 36 weeks I was ready to be done. Labor ended up coming the day after I hit 37 weeks. And there are days I wish my little were average in size she was 9lbs at three weeks early. And no worries about going in to the hospital. Sadly we went in to have the baby checked the night before I went into labor.

  • Karen

    September 25, 2008 at 8:01 am

    Heh, I was one of *those* women, who is convinced she was in labor (my doula agreed with me!), went to the hospital, triage nurse checks me, says “You’re 4 cm dilated” and I was all, “WOOT!” Got checked in, and….no progress. My doctor gently said that we could either a) use pitocin to speed things along, or b) i could opt to go home, see if things sped up and spend more labor time in the comfort of my own home.
    I went home, bawling not because I hadn’t had a baby, but because I had put everybody (doula, family members, sitter) through all that bother.
    At my next OB appointment, found out that the nurse messed up, that I was only 1 cm dilated. I remember flinging my heavily-pregnant upper torso upright on the exam table and yelling “WHAT THE HELL!?”
    One week later, I was induced because a) big babies run in the family and b) I was so done, dear Lord.
    it’s not the worst, being one of those ladies. A bit humblig, but not the worst.

  • Kate B.

    September 25, 2008 at 2:33 pm

    I probably shouldn’t post this, but it all happened backwards for me. I suspected that the “assorted pregnancy fluids of mystery” had changed, subtly, but thought I was being paranoid due to over-Googling pregnancy symptoms. I shared my concern with my mother-in-law, however, and she was worried enough that I decided to go to the doctor just to make HER feel better. My doctor was slightly patronizing, agreeing to test for amniotic fluid leakage to “make me feel better,” and surprise! It really WAS amniotic fluid! The startled doctor send me to the hospital immediately, and 11 short hours later, I had a baby girl.
    We actually had the baby the night of our last childbirth preparation class. Now that we know she is absolutely healthy, I am so glad she came early (not least of the reasons is that she weighed in at 6 lb 9 oz a MONTH before her due date). It was strange because I never got to experience the impatience/anticipation, since it seemed like a month was a LOOONG ways away. I hadn’t packed my hospital bag, and we hadn’t even agreed on a name!
    It is hard to believe that instead of going in for my 38 week check-up tomorrow, I’ll be bringing her in for HER 2 week check-up!

  • Shaunna

    September 26, 2008 at 11:06 am

    I’ve learned in my childbirth prep classes that you can reverse dilate. So maybe somebody did not mess up. You actually can be 4 cm and then later be only 1 cm. Who knows. Just a thought.

  • Crystal

    September 26, 2008 at 4:23 pm

    Ok, here’s my embarrassing tale.
    I lost my mucus plug and FREAKED OUT because I was only 32 weeks along.
    I call my OB, and am informed that
    -A-without blood it doesn’t really mean anything
    -B-Please dear god don’t save it and bring it in to show us
    -C-No,REALLY, it doesn’t mean you’re going into labor anytime soon.
    -E-You can lose it multiple times
    Two weeks later I’m still super pregnant, have lost a second mucus plug, and am equally grossed out by having seen what looked like a giant booger come out of my vagina.

  • Stephanie

    October 3, 2008 at 8:53 am

    Its so hard knowing when its really going to happen. So after my last child I told myself I wasnt going to assemble the troops until I was sure. After 2 false alarms trying to find babysitters at 9pm for my 2 little boys I decided it was enough. Best advice for people is to call people when you think you might, just to give them a heads up to keep the phone with them. Thats what I plan on doing this time.

  • Pregnancy

    December 16, 2008 at 10:39 pm

    Labor is the most painful time in giving birth but when the baby is coming out it is the happiest moment, according to my Aunt and Friends who experienced yet..I am one of those women who are having phobia on having this kind of challenges.

  • lornadoone1972

    January 16, 2009 at 5:18 pm

    I just had my 36 week check up with my fabulous Jamaican doctor – he is truly super laid back and has a great reputation in town – which has its benefits – sometimes. I asked when I should go to hospital and asked if I should follow the 1 minute contractions every 5 minutes for 1 hour or more rule… to which he replied – Oh no – just go in when the contractions are too uncomfortable…hmm – couldn’t that be different for everybody. So then I said – should I call you when i go in or earlier. Oh no don’t worry about calling me – just go in and they’ll find me! Oh boy… ambiguity at its best!

  • Lauren

    April 1, 2009 at 2:03 pm

    Gah! I’m so with you on the false labor. I’m 33 weeks now, lost my mucus plug with plenty of “bloody show (ha, ha)” yesterday, and had hard contractions 3 minutes apart for 3 hours straight last night. The best part? My husband is out of town, and my mom is in the hospital. I was really looking forward to my 3.5 year-old being my labor coach. Thank heavens…no baby, yet.

  • Della

    August 11, 2009 at 12:49 am

    Siiiighhh. Last weekend (35 wks), I totally whacked my belly on a door frame, which sent me into 1-2 minute apart contractions for THREE HOURS. About the “are they getting closer together” question… um… how could they!?!!
    But luckily, this is my second baby, so I knew they were false labor and they didn’t hurt. Much. Still, I slept sitting up, that night, just in case. In the morning, I counted 8 in the hour between when I woke up and when my doctor’s office opened, so for all I knew they could have been going all night! I was freaking out by now! When I spoke to my nurse, I found that the doc was performing a major surgery that morning. Rather than tell me to come in and see another doc in the practice, the nurse told me I could wait until the afternoon to see my regular doc. I couldn’t believe she was being so calm about it! I was sure they would send me to the ER to get re-hydrated or SOMETHING. But nah.
    Sulking, I took a nap while I waited, and the contractions had stopped by the time I got to the doc. Figures. Also, I am neither effaced NOR dilated. Siiiiigghhhhh….
    Anyhow, if it’s your first one, I’d suggest having called the doctor back at the point where they were a couple minutes apart, instead of doing what I did. But I did learn something; my doc says that with the second, third, etc, “every woman tells him” that the practice contractions feel more like the real thing, are more intense, possibly painful even. Just something to keep in mind.

  • CherylH

    September 2, 2009 at 3:56 pm

    I read this site religiously during my first pregnancy last year. Just wanted to share that I was one of those “lucky” 10% of women whose water DID break prior to any symptoms of labor. I was just sleeping in bed at 12:45 AM and woke up thinking I’d peed myself. No cramps, never saw a mucus plug or bloody show. Just, water breaks = off to the hospital = healthy, 7lb 12oz baby boy born about 15 hours later. Oh, and I was only at 36 1/2 weeks.
    So…it’s just hard to tell. Every woman is different.

    • Emily

      March 14, 2013 at 5:17 pm

      I was one of those women as well. No symptoms, no contractions, no cramps, no mucous plug.. water broke at the grocery store. I was thick and closed. So, yeah.. no prior indication. On my due date, nonetheless.. I think that puts me into a 3% rarity for water breaking on due date without any prior labor signs. And when labor did start? It was back labor.. so took me awhile to realize that the back pain was my own official version of ‘active labor contractions’. There really isn’t a ‘normal’ in pregnancy.

      • Jen

        September 16, 2013 at 1:19 pm

        It’s funny I was ALSO that small percentage.  I think this statistic needs to be revisited.  2 of my best friends and myself all had our water spontaneously break with no pregnancy symptoms.  I wonder if the hospitals don’t really report it consistently so the statistic gets messed up.

        • Erin

          December 3, 2013 at 12:56 am

          Same!  I had some mild cramping, sort of menstrual style and then poof! (Or splat?) water broke and then I had my son 4 hours later!

      • Carlene

        August 18, 2015 at 7:16 pm

        Water breaking at the grocery store is my worst nightmare!!!

  • Kim

    December 31, 2009 at 12:10 am

    Had my first at 35 weeks (7lbs, 3 oz – I laugh at your 6 lbs!) I was so happy to get past that date – and then I woke up in pain all night, and was sure the baby wasn’t moving. Eventually I had a bowl of cereal, and the baby did move, so I tried to get some more sleep. But I was still in godawful pain when I woke up (although I wasn’t contracting, and the pain was way higher than I expected it. So I trundled off to the hospital, where I spent the whole day having… gas pains. Hyperactive Bowel Activity, they called. Yeah. Ain’t posting that on Facebook. But… I am glad I went, because they ruled out pre-eclampsia, and I did have some early labor, and good gah, I was in pain. But honestly – gas pain? Pregnancy rocks.
    I’m due Jan. 27, don’t expect I’ll make it, but I really want to get past the holidays and into the new year….

  • Dbug

    March 2, 2010 at 10:39 am

    I just spent a Sunday night up every hour to either pee or because I was in pain. Painful false labor where the contractions where an hour apart but lasted like 15 minutes. Ick. I also passed my mucus plug. Fine the whole next day and night, but it did have the effect of waking up my husband. He’s usually so laid back and my mentioning we will have a baby soon and he should be prepared has had no effect. Now he thinks I’m going into labor tomorrow and has gone into super husband/dad mode. Finally:-)

  • Lauren

    October 4, 2013 at 6:10 pm

    Advocating a language change here – instead of False Labor, I call it Practice Labor. False labor seems to imply that the woman read the signs wrong, or did something wrong by going to the hospital, or somehow got “faked out” by her body. But after experiencing it myself for MANY hours at a time, MULTIPLE times over the course of this past week (39 wks + 1day today), I can honestly say F that on the negative judgements towards these contractions. My body IS doing something, there’s nothing false about it. They are REAL and they are likely EARLY labor, which has no set time period no matter how hard movie script writers try to define one. Practice labor (or super-duper-early labor) sounds much more accurate a description to me than “false”.

    (there, that passed 5 minutes of my day. is my baby here yet?)

    • Isabel Kallman

      Isabel Kallman

      October 4, 2013 at 9:18 pm

      Thanks for your feedback. Really appreciate it!

  • Julie - Claire

    March 30, 2014 at 2:51 am

    if i would have listened to what the Dr’s said with any of my last 3 kids i would of had the babies in the elevator. the first one i had no contractions just non movement and they tried sending me home until i started bleeding and then 15 mins later my son was here, my next one i went to hospital bc my left leg was having shooting pains and i didn’t understand what was wrong and they again tried to send me home and checked me i was 3 cm, i went to pee and said please check one more time, and i was 9 just like that and a little girl was born 30 mins later.. and with my youngest son i had been having horrible horrible back pain and a few contractions they monitored me and were again gonna send me home, i refused and said ill just walk around and then i stood up my water broke and that was 1:57am and he was born at no shit 1:59am.. so with me when i say im in labor they better listen this time because I’m IN labor.. and i didn’t have time for an epidural or even an IV with any of them, and not really alot of notice just a gut feeling on my part.. so everyone is different and i don’t listen to the Dr, when they say wait till they are 5 mins or 3 mins apart. if i would have listened to them i would of had a baby in an elevator, a car and a bathroom.. and at the time the nurses and Dr’s thought i was being crazy and didn’t know what i was talking about lol, i showed them.. 

  • Brandi

    April 23, 2014 at 11:15 am

    Ha, let us see. My daughter will be 5 months old on April 25th. I had her November 25th at 7:48 AM. That Saturday I worked. I was in early labor apparently. My contractions were all over the place. Short  ones, long ones, 3 min apart, 10 min apart, 7 min., etc. Well by 2 am Sunday morning I get up, I am trying to breathe through worsening contractions. Suddenly I need to have a BM, then I lose my mucous plug, then while walking back and forth from the living room to the bathroom my water breaks. Finally, my hubs gets up and asks if it’s time. I call the hospital while he showers. Well, after 36 or so hours she was born. With only a few problems during labor. She was perfect. Oddly, no gunk or blood on her. She was just wet. Fun times! 🙂

  • Sara

    November 8, 2014 at 2:27 pm

    I am the rare 10% whose water gushed at 36 weeks. It was uber embarrassing standing on the blue puppy piddle pads the triage nurse gave me while they found a room for me. Note to self- buying depends for this time around.

  • Mandy

    December 18, 2014 at 4:22 am

    Better to trouble people than deliver in the car, IMO. This is my 10th baby, and I still can’t tell my false labour from real until its too late. Babies 5-10 have all been scheduled inductions as a result, we’ve had one too many close calls. Good luck everyone 🙂

  • Anna

    January 1, 2015 at 8:41 am

    I can’t believe it– I found this on Pinterest at 5 weeks, and the person had pinned the 36 week post. Every week I’ve clicked on that 36 week link and thought, “I’m never going to get there. It’s so far away.” And now I’m finally here.

  • Angie

    January 9, 2015 at 10:36 pm

    Anna…me too! I’m due Jan. 31 🙂 after 10 years trying and two miscarriages, I am so happy to make it to this week!

  • courtney

    January 20, 2015 at 9:08 am

    Well im at 36 weeks and I feel like shit. My cousin however is at 34 weeks and still thinks pregnancy is so glamorous and amazing. I have never wanted to throat punch someone so badly. I work as an aide so by the time i get two hours into my shift im completely exhausted, not to mention today i just feel off I am dizzy and i feel like im going to vomit. I just dont know what to do at this point i cannot stop working however i feel like poop.

  • Megan

    February 7, 2015 at 11:20 pm

    I know this article is super old but Cheryl H’s story is like nearly identical to mine. My first baby last year I had my shower on Sunday, got home super late after going to dinner with friends, hubby and I dumped all the gifts in the baby crib and crawled into bed. At 3:30 am I had the pop and gush and 7 hours later at 37 weeks my son was born at 7 lbs 13 oz. I’m 36 weeks today with baby girl and feeling even more unsure this time around than with the first. I’ve been so sure half a dozen times I was about to go into early labor with her and just keep holding my breath that we can make it until next week. But my secret fear? That she doesn’t come until 42 weeks and my miserableness now doesn’t even compare to what I’ll feel like by then!!

  • Amanda

    May 14, 2015 at 3:20 pm

    We are on our 3rd boy, (coming in 4 weeks!) and have had this calendar bookmarked since our first.   Every week when my baby center email comes, I promptly delete it, and gleefully skip over to your countdown.   Seriously the highligh of my week…. sometimes I cheat and read it a day early.  Thanks for the laughs.  This is a much more accurate account of pregnancy! Thank you for a little sanity in my hectic world!