Your baby is the size of a coconut

31 Weeks Pregnant: Your Baby's Development

Your little one is fully formed and getting ready for one last major growth spurt, but the third trimester is about much more than just putting on weight.

For example, the lungs are still developing, as they aren't quite ready yet to take those first breaths of fresh air.

Although babies born even earlier than 31 weeks have every chance of growing into happy, healthy babies in modern neonatal care units, premature babies (sometimes called ‘preemies') typically aren't capable of breathing unassisted in the outside world until at least 36 weeks.

This means, every week spent inside your bump, right up until your due date at the end of 40 weeks is precious time for your little one to develop and grow stronger.

Your little one’s eyes have been sensitive to light since quite early on, at around 15 weeks, but now at 31 weeks pregnant your little one’s peepers can focus too. They still can’t track moving objects though. This won’t happen until around three months after your baby is born.

That's not all that's happening inside your bump at 31 weeks pregnant. As space starts to be at a premium in there, don't be surprised if you feel some jostling when your little one changes position.

At some point in the weeks ahead your foetus may do a big somersault and get into a head-down position, ready for birth. When this happens varies a lot between pregnancies, and sometimes it doesn't happen at all. At 31 weeks pregnant there's still plenty of time for the shift to a head-down position to take place.

If your foetus doesn't turn downwards, he or she may be in one of these positions:

  • Breech. This is when the feet or bottom are positioned downward.

  • Transverse lie. This means your little one is lying sideways in the uterus.

If the shift to a head-down position doesn't happen by itself, your midwife or doctor may offer to try to help turn your foetus.

The foetal position can affect which kind of delivery – vaginal or caesarean section – carries the lowest risk for both you and your little one.

Your midwife and doctor will be keeping an eye on your foetus’s position in the weeks ahead, and if there’s no sign of a turn-down by around 36 weeks, they’ll discuss all your options with you in detail.

Your doctor has a ‘bigger picture' view of your situation. Whether a caesarean section or a vaginal delivery is safer will depend on a whole host of factors including the position of your placenta, whether your pregnancy has been normal or complicated and even which way the feet are pointing.


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The Size of the Foetus at 31 Weeks Pregnant

Now that you're 31 weeks pregnant, your foetus is about the size of a coconut, measuring close to 41.1 centimetres head to heel, and weighing in at around 1.5 kilograms.

Check out the illustration below for a glimpse at how your baby may be positioned at 31 weeks.

31 weeks pregnant

Mum's Body at 31 Weeks Pregnant

Trying to work out how many months pregnant you are at 31 weeks can be tricky, but right now you’re probably about 7 months pregnant.

In the past seven months or so your body has changed a lot, and the little one inside your bump has gone from being just a small cluster of cells to an almost fully developed foetus.

The signs of that growth may be visible now in the form of pink or purplish streaks on the skin of your belly and breasts at 31 weeks pregnant. These are stretch marks. They don't only affect pregnant women, but the rapid growth in your belly can increase the likelihood of them forming because the skin has stretched to accommodate this growth.

Stretch marks are harmless and usually fade with time after giving birth, leaving a faint silvery trace.

There isn't much you can do about stretch marks, although staying hydrated and applying a non-scented moisturiser may help your skin retain its elasticity.

As your breasts grow, you may also find that you need to go up a bra size or two so that you get proper support. Your breasts may also feel more sensitive or tender, and an ill-fitting bra can make this worse.

If you're unsure about how to choose the right kind of bra, why not go for a professional fitting? This could be done at a specialist lingerie shop or many of the large high street department store chains.

You can continue wearing your usual style of bra as long as it fits well and gives you enough support, but you might find a maternity or soft-cup bra more comfortable now. They also have the added advantage of being wearable at night, if you need a little extra support while you're sleeping.

31 Weeks Pregnant: Your Symptoms

Here are some of the symptoms you may be experiencing at 31 weeks pregnant:

  • Hand pain. Aches, pains, numbness or tingling in your fingers or hands at 31 weeks pregnant may be caused by what's called carpal tunnel syndrome. This complaint is often associated with repetitive manual work such as typing or using hand tools, so you might be surprised to know that it's also more likely to occur during pregnancy. This is because the swelling of tissues during pregnancy can put pressure on the nerves in your hands. Pregnancy-related carpal tunnel syndrome usually clears up by itself not long after your baby is born. For now, using a wrist splint and resting your hands throughout the day might help. If you're bothered by this kind of hand or wrist pain, ask your midwife or doctor for more advice on how to ease the discomfort.

  • Feeling exhausted. It's normal to be tired around this time — after all, your body is working hard to create a new life. Another reason you might be feeling this way at 31 weeks pregnant is that, as your belly grows, you may be struggling to find a comfortable sleeping position. Experts recommend lying on your side as the safest position for you and your little one, especially in the third trimester. You could also place one pillow between your knees and another under your bump for a little extra support. Read some more tips on how to get a better night's sleep.

  • Itchy skin. As your belly grows and the skin stretches, it's not uncommon to have an itchy abdomen at around 31 weeks pregnant. Try to ease the discomfort by using a soothing moisturiser and be sure to drink plenty of water. Wearing loose, breathable clothes made of non-synthetic fibres can also help. If you have persistent or severe itching, especially if it gets worse at night or affects the palms of your hands and the soles of your feet in particular, call your midwife or doctor. This kind of itching may be a sign of a liver condition known as intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy (ICP), which needs treatment. Other symptoms of ICP include dark urine and pale stools.

  • Kicks and punches from within. At 31 weeks pregnant, you might find that one or two of those elbow-jabs or kicks from inside your bump make you wince. Still, it can be reassuring to know that your little one is moving around in there. In fact, it's a good idea to get to know your little one's usual activity as well as possible, and let your midwife or doctor know immediately if you think you notice an unusual reduction in movement. You could use a ‘kick counter' app or chart if you think this might help you keep track of your foetus's activity. Keep in mind that kick counting apps and charts are not suitable for ‘diagnosing' your foetus's health. Always call your midwife or doctor straight away if you have any concerns about changes in your little one's activity.

31 Weeks Pregnant: Things to Consider

  • If this is your first pregnancy, you'll probably have an antenatal appointment at about 31 weeks pregnant. At this check-up, your midwife or doctor may measure the size of your uterus by running a tape measure over your belly from the top of your bump down to the just above your pubic bone. You're also likely to have your blood pressure tested, and you may be asked to give a sample of urine to test for protein. Your doctor will also assess your risk of pre-eclampsia, a rare but very serious blood pressured disorder that needs careful management. You'll also have a chance to discuss the results of any screening tests you had at the previous check-up. This appointment is a great opportunity to ask any questions you might have about your pregnancy. Make a list if it helps, and don't be shy about asking – a part of your doctor's and midwife's role is to help you understand what's happening so you can make informed choices about your pregnancy and labour.

  • You may be wondering if sex is still safe at 31 weeks pregnant and beyond, now that your belly is getting bigger. As long as your pregnancy is normal, it's probably safe to have sex even in the third trimester. Finding a comfortable position may take a little time, but experiment and find out what works for you. Bear in mind that your sex drive may change during pregnancy, and so might your partner's. This is why it's important to talk things over if either of you has any doubts. Ask your midwife or doctor if you're at all worried about having sex or have any questions.

  • Now could be a good time to start to think about whether you plan to breastfeed or formula feed. Talk to your midwife or lactation consultant about your choice, and ask any questions you may have. You still have plenty of time to think about this, and you may only decide what works for you once your baby is born, but it can't hurt to give this topic some thought.

  • If it’s something you might like to try, read up on how to prepare for a natural delivery – in other words, giving birth with little to no medical intervention. If it’s something you find appealing and your doctor also thinks it could be a safe option for you based on your personal situation, start thinking about what alternative pain relief options you might like to try and how best your birth partner, midwife or doula can support you during labour.

31 Weeks Pregnant: Ask Your Doctor

  • What happens if your foetus doesn’t turn into the head-down position before labour starts?

  • Is your blood pressure within an acceptable range? What can you do if your blood pressure is too low or too high?

  • Who can you call if you’re worried about something outside your midwife’s normal working hours and your doctor’s surgery opening hours?

  • How long can you keep on working? Is there anything you shouldn’t be doing at work at 31 weeks pregnant or after?

  • Are there any extra nutrients you might need at this stage of pregnancy?

  • What is the risk of your baby being born prematurely?

  • How can you fasten your seatbelt now that your belly is so big?

31 Weeks Pregnant: Your Checklist

  • With all the aches, pains and other symptoms that are often part and parcel of a normal pregnancy, sometimes it can be difficult to decide when you should call your doctor. Get to know some of the warning signs that shouldn’t be ignored.

  • Decide who – if anyone – you would like to be with you for support during labour. It could be a doula – a non-medical professional who can give you emotional and practical support during your pregnancy, labour and beyond – or it could be your partner, your best friend or a close family member.

  • You’ve probably already discussed maternity leave with your employer, but now could be a good time to revisit your plans and start to share your workload with your colleagues.

  • Run through this hospital bag checklist

  • Sign up for even more weekly pregnancy tips:

How we wrote this article
The information in this article is based on the expert advice found in trusted medical and government sources, such as the National Health Service (NHS). The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.