Pregnancy Week by Week (Weeks 37-40)

Week 37

You

Nearing the end of pregnancy, the placenta’s resources start to diminish. The movements from your baby may also start to lessen as there’s now very little room for manoeuvre in there. If you feel fewer than 10 kicks over 12 hours, call your midwife to check things out.

Your baby

If your baby is born now, he’s counted as full term (and the same goes for twin babies), even though officially pregnancy is 40 weeks. By this stage his lungs are lined with ‘surfactant’, the substance that will enable him to breathe when he is born. From now on, it’s safe for him to enter the big wide world.

Get packing

As the birth isn’t far away, get your hospital bag packed and ready by the door. Think carefully about what you need to take and what is unnecessary – you don’t want to hire a pick-up truck to take all your clobber to the labour ward.

Take note

As your baby might be born any time from now, it’s a good idea to carry your hospital notes around with you. That way, if your waters break on the bus or your contractions start at your desk, you’ve got all the crucial medical info with you and can head straight to hospital.

MOTHERCARE TIP Practise fitting that car seat – again and again and again. You need to know exactly what you’re doing on the day you bring your baby home.

Week 38

You

One sign pregnancy is nearing its end is a ‘show’ – when the mucus plug that has sealed the womb comes away (you may see it on the loo paper, or in your knickers). It happens because the cervix is ripening (opening very slightly). But it could still be a couple of weeks before your baby puts in an appearance. And for many women, a show doesn’t happen until they’re in labour – so don’t worry if you don’t have one.

Your baby

The waxy vernix that has protected your baby in his watery world starts to disappear. Just a little remains to smooth his passage to the outside world. His weight gain now slows and you may even lose some weight before the birth.

Just practising

The Braxton Hicks contractions you’ve been feeling for some time are starting to strengthen. Although your womb has been contracting throughout the pregnancy (getting this large muscle prepared for labour and pushing blood through the placenta), it is in this final month that these tightenings can stop you in your tracks. They shouldn’t, though, be painful.

Nesting?

Towards the end of pregnancy you may get a spurt of energy as instinct kicks in and you prepare the nest for your baby. So don’t be surprised if you:

• Spring clean the house

• Clear out the kitchen cupboards

• Re-organise your wardrobe

• Weed the whole garden

• Clean the car

ONE MUM SAYS… ‘Because of my bump, I could only stand sideways to the wall, but I was desperately finishing the nursery, painting a frieze of Indian elephants around the dado rail.’

Week 39

You

Your womb has now enlarged to an incredible 1000 times its normal size. But within a few days of the birth it will – amazingly – be back to the size it was nine months ago.

Your baby

A collection of mucus, bile and gut cells (lovely!) is building up in your baby’s bowel. This will form his first few poos – tarry, dark and sticky! And it can be rather hard to clean off a delicate newborn bottom!

Operation baby

If you’re having an elective Caesarean, this is the week it’s likely to be – late enough for your baby’s lungs to be mature, but (hopefully!) before labour starts. Of course, you’ll be given a date in advance so you know when your baby will be arriving.

Planning permission

Don’t forget that even if you are having a Caesarean, you can list what you want to happen. You could ask:

• the midwife to explain exactly what is happening at each stage

• for music to be played

• for no one to speak so your baby hears your voice before anyone else’s

• for your baby to be placed straight onto you, rather than being cleaned

• for your baby’s normal checks to be done in the operating theatre, so you are together

ONE MUM SAYS… ‘I was having an elective Caesarean and actually asked the consultant if I could have the baby on the 6 November instead of the 7 November as, coincidentally, lots of people in our family have that birthday. Amazingly, he agreed!’

Week 40

Your baby

Your baby measures 51cm (20in) from top to toe (we’re talking huge Halloween pumpkin here) and is ready for the most amazing journey of his life. But don’t hold your breath. Just 5% of babies arrive on cue and 80% are late.

You

A hormone cocktail begins the process that brings on the birth of your baby. Oxytocin (triggered by the baby’s head pressing on your cervix) kick-starts contractions. Prostaglandins soften the cervix so it can dilate. And the level of progesterone falls sharply, telling your body the time is right.

Time’s up!

So how does your body know it’s time to trigger those hormones? No one’s 100% sure. But it’s possible that:

• The placenta has a countdown mechanism, and when your baby is full-term, it starts to wind down.

• Your baby sends his own hormonal message to your system, saying he’s ready and waiting.

Is this it?

Many first-timers worry whether they’ll know when labour starts. You may have a show (see Week 38), or your waters may break (in which case your baby will probably be born within 24 hours). But the only true sign is when contractions start – and they feel like a tightening under your bump. Call your midwife but sit tight at home until contractions are regular (your midwife will advise you on timing and frequency). You don’t want to head to hospital too early, as this can slow everything down.

ONE MUM SAYS… ‘Arrange something to do on your due date, so you don’t sit around thinking it’s all going to start any minute. Because chances are you’ll be waiting just a little longer…’

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