Your body

Since the moment of conception 34 weeks ago, when your baby was no bigger than a microscopic dot, your body has been slowly but surely preparing for labour. The muscles in your uterus have been strengthening ready to push your baby down the birth canal and out into the big wide world.

You'll start seeing your doctor or midwife weekly from now until the birth.

Making milk

Your breasts have also been changing throughout pregnancy, in anticipation of their important role as milk-suppliers for your baby. You'll have noticed them becoming tender: this is due to hormones produced by the placenta stimulating your breasts to produce milk. This milk is stored in little 'sacs' or pouches called alveoli. In the last few weeks before birth, you may start to leak colostrum – a sweet, high-protein liquid full of antibodies that precedes breast-milk. (Wear maternity pads in your bra to absorb it if this becomes a problem).

If you're planning to breastfeed, you can encourage the flow of colostrum by expressing a little each day: gently squeeze your nipple with your thumb and index finger until the liquid emerges.

Top tip

Ignore the old wives' tale about 'toughening up' your nipples in preparation for breastfeeding. In the not-so-distant past, you'd have been advised to rub them with a dry toothbrush for several weeks before your due date…ouch! Current wisdom says it won't work – and it hurts, so don't put yourself through the pain!

It's show time!

One of the first signs that labour is imminent is a show: this is when a small 'plug' of blood-stained mucus comes away from the neck of the uterus. You may notice it when you go to the toilet, or if you're wearing sanitary towels in case your waters break.

The mucus 'plug' has sealed your cervix, protecting your baby from infection throughout pregnancy, and having a show is a sign that the cervix may be starting to dilate. Don't get too excited, though: even after a show, you may not go into labour for several days!

Your baby

She weighs 3kg, with a crown to rump length of 34cm and head-to-toe length of 46cm. She's probably still covered with greasy vernix – as well as protecting her skin, this may also act as a lubricant during birth.

You'll start seeing your doctor or midwife weekly from now until the birth.

Twins peak

If you're having twins, they may well arrive this week, so pack your hospital bag!

Slow, slow, quick, quick, slow

Don't worry if your baby doesn't move much from now: she simply doesn't have room to twist and turn like she did a few weeks ago. However, if you're very concerned, visit the surgery for a check-up and ask to listen to your baby's heartbeat.

Did you know?

The latest research shows that breastfeeding may help to prevent your baby's teeth decaying: it's thought that breast milk may contain antibodies to the bacteria that cause decay.