Once you hit 37 weeks pregnant, your body might be ready to start labor. If you haven’t already had a few close calls, then prepare yourself, because it won’t be long until your baby wants to be let out. There’s still a few weeks to go, though, so it’s important to take things slowly.
How Big is the Baby?
Your baby is now just over 19 inches long and weighs roughly 6.3 pounds, which is about as large as a plush toy that’ll spill over your hand if you hold it in your palm. You’ll be feeling the extra weight, but the slow growth might not have made it that obvious. Your baby isn’t quite done yet, and there’s still a little more growth it has to undergo, so you might need to wait a while longer.
How Has The Baby Developed?
Growth isn’t really about size anymore – it’s about the smaller parts of your baby’s overall development, since they’re getting ready to move around freely once they leave the body. Its brain and lungs aren’t fully developed yet, but they’re close, and you’ll already be seeing hints of it starting to show some intelligence.
Its hands are the point of interest here – this is usually the week where your baby’s fingers start to coordinate and they develop basic instincts, like gripping or flexing. You might even be lucky enough to see them grabbing into their own body or the umbilical cord in an ultrasound scan! This kind of motor function development doesn’t take very long, and they’ll understand it by the time they’re born (which is why they’ll often grip your fingers).
It’s also interesting to note that they’ll be in a head-down position now, with their feet pointing upwards. This is normal, since they’re supposed to be born head-first: if they aren’t, you’ll need to talk with a doctor, since a breech or transverse (foot-first or side-first) baby can cause serious problems during birth. Thankfully, there are ways to flip the baby around.
How Will My Body Change?
At 37 weeks pregnant, most women are only 21 days from their expected due date. The nature of due dates means that this can actually be as low as fourteen days, so you’ll need to be careful and make sure you’re still getting enough sleep and care. You’re on the final stretch now, and you don’t want to make a mistake when you’re so close.
- Stretch marks are very common, and are mostly a generic thing. You can’t really control them from outside and there’s no surgery that can fix them, but they’re only temporary – in fact, they’ll go away even faster once you start to lose any weight you gained during pregnancy. If you want to make them fade a little faster, stay hydrated and use oils and creams that are meant to heal your skin.
- Nausea returns once again, since it’s practically the only thing that’s constant about your pregnancy. The size of your baby won’t help, since it can actually squish your digestive tract down and make you feel a bit sick. As you might expect, this will go away soon after giving birth, and you’re not away guaranteed to actually throw up due to it.
- Diarrhea is also coming back again, and can be a sign of upcoming labor. Thankfully, it should vanish after the birth, too, and it won’t be a constant problem.
- You can feel gassy and bloated due to the higher amount of progesterone running through your body. Drinking water and reducing your meal sizes can help, and you should obviously avoid anything that’ll make you feel gassy anyway.
- Spotting can also start to happen again. This is mainly because your cervix can be irritated easily at this point in the pregnancy. It’s still safe to have sex or perform stretches that affect that area, but you might notice a few spots of blood here and there. Unless it’s a large amount of blood, or a constant problem that never seems to stop, you don’t really need to go to your doctor about it.
Preparing for the Birth
As mentioned earlier, your body will be getting ready for labor. Unfortunately, this can bring its own set of side effects that can happen at the same time as the usual changes – none of them are dangerous, though.
- More blood can show up as you get closer to labor. It’s often called the Bloody Show, and happens when your capillaries near your cervix rupture and bleed. It often happens a few days (or even a single day) before labor, so it’s one of the biggest warning signs you can get.
- Your mucus plug can drop out at any time beyond this point. It’s a vague sign of upcoming labor, and can happen as soon as a few hours before, or as early as several weeks. The pug itself is just mucus that keeps your cervix shut, which falls out now that it’s dilating: it can be shocking to see for the first time, but it’s perfectly harmless.
- Speaking of which, you’ll undergo some major cervix changes closer to labor, with the cervix itself dilating a lot and thinning out. You can never tell when these changes will actually start, and some women only begin dilation a day before they end up giving birth.
- You’ll experience a baby drop, where your baby moves down closer to your pelvis to prepare for the birth. This won’t hurt you, and it can make it easier to breathe now that it’s further away from your lungs, but it comes with the side effect of really needing to use the bathroom quite often.
- Finally, there are Braxton Hicks contractions, which are random and unpredictable contractions that happen for no particular reason. They’re not real labor contractions, since they don’t last very long and aren’t very intense. Some theorize that it’s your body making sure that your muscles are tones and your cervix is prepared, but it’s not 100% known.
As you might expect, the labor contractions can start at any time. You’ll know that these are Braxton Hicks contractions, since they’re far more intense and will start to happen quite often for longer periods of time. Once you start to hit contractions happening about five minutes apart, call your doctor. You’ll also want to do this if your water breaks or you start to notice amniotic fluid leaking down your legs.
Quite a few women end up having to get cesarean sections rather than conventional vaginal births, either due to unforeseen complications or as a pre-planned surgery for issues you already know about. They’re different to usual births, since the doctor has to cut into you and pull the baby out from your womb themselves: thankfully, they’ll give you anesthetic to make this painless.
If you have to get one, you’ll take a while to recover – a couple of months at most. This is mainly because the surgery will leave a scar that can be painful, especially if it wasn’t planned and the doctor has to improvise.
A C-section won’t be necessary if everything goes to plan, but make sure you check with a doctor ever so often. You don’t want to be caught off-guard, and it’s easier to schedule one in rather than having to get one set up unexpectedly. If they know what the problems are, they might be able to correct them rather than having to put you through a C-section operation, so don’t take anything for granted and make sure you inform your doctor of anything strange.
Dealing with Your Belly
37 weeks leads to a big pregnancy belly, so the extra weight and size will definitely get in your way while you’re dying to go about your day-to-day life. Weight gain is also likely, as with previous stages of the pregnancy, do you might want to talk to your doctor about the best way to lose it later on. Since this weight is meant to help you support your baby and keep it growing, it should slow down as you get closer to the birth itself, but that’s not always the case.
Since your baby is almost at its peak size, you won’t be producing as much amniotic fluid. This will mean that the growth of your belly slows down, so it won’t get much larger from this point forward. This can make it easier to finally settle into the size for a while, even if it’s just for a handful of weeks: you won’t need to stress about finding larger clothes or having to deal with even more weight further down the line. Just remember that a birth is imminent – you shouldn’t stress yourself too much.