At 38 weeks, your baby’s vocal cords have developed and you may start to feel some anxiety.
This is a normal thing to experience, especially as you get closer to your due date and have to prepare yourself for the future ahead.
Pregnancy can be a tough time at all stages, but there are some things within week 38 that can make it feel difficult.
This article is going to guide you through this stage, informing you about everything you need to know so you can feel better.
How Big Is Your Baby?
At 38 weeks, your baby is 19.6 inches long and will weigh 6.8 pounds.
For reference, this is about the same size as a bowling pin.
At this late stage, your baby has already gone through most of the development it needs to but that doesn’t mean that they are ready just yet.
You have both done so well to get this far and the finish line is in sight.
This makes it so important for you to continue looking after yourself and making sure that you are prepared for your baby as much as you can be.
Here are some of the other things that your baby will be experiencing at this stage:
Your pregnancy will reach its full term within the next week and this will come sooner than you think.
As you are so close to meeting your baby, most of their development has already been completed. At this stage, your baby’s brain and lungs are almost ready to start functioning on their own on the outside.
Baby’s lungs and brains are the only organs that will continue to develop throughout their childhood and beyond. At this point, all of their other internal systems are fully developed and fit for purpose.
Finding Their Voice
At 38 weeks your baby’s vocal cords are fully developed which means they will be able to communicate with you once they are born.
This is how they can give their first cries the moment they are out into the world and this is their way of communicating with you.
Babies are known for having big heads in the early stages of their life and this is a result of the large brains that they develop when in the womb.
At this point in pregnancy, your baby’s head will have the same circumference as their abdomen.
Even though you are at such a late stage in pregnancy, you are not quite out of the woods yet when it comes to pregnancy symptoms.
Instead, there are some things that will still be happening within your body and even emotional wellbeing as you get prepared to give birth.
These symptoms include:
At this late stage in your pregnancy, swelling is a very common symptom.
This is something that can affect almost every part of your body and, in most cases, is totally normal.
However, if you experience sudden and extreme swelling in your hands, feet, ankles or face then you should contact a doctor as soon as possible. This could be a sign of preeclampsia which is a serious pregnancy condition that will need specialized treatment.
Anxiety is a normal thing to experience in the late stages of pregnancy and it can continue into postpartum.
During this late stage of pregnancy, it can sometimes feel as though your brain is running into overdrive and you cannot control your thoughts anymore. This can result in feeling stressed and experiencing a lack of sleep.
It is very important that you find someone who you trust that you can talk to when things start to feel too much.
You can also start to develop some new habits, like drinking decaf tea or listening to calming music, that you can use to help you unwind.
If you feel as though your anxiety is becoming too serious, you can speak to your doctor about it.
This is the part of pregnancy when you may start to experience Braxton Hicks contractions.
These cause a tightening or cramping sensation across your stomach and bump.
At this point, these contractions will be sporadic but during labor, they will happen increasingly and more regularly.
Having a bad back and experiencing pain in this part of your body is something you will have experienced throughout your pregnancy – and it’s not over yet.
A sore back is something that you will certainly experience during your 38th week.
This is because your posture has changed dramatically to accommodate your growing baby and you are carrying extra weight.
It is important for you to know that back pain can also be a sign that you will be entering labor soon, so you should really pay attention to your body.
This is a symptom that you have probably experienced a lot during your pregnancy and this is because your baby is crowding your digestive system.
Tummy issues and nausea can actually be a sign of early labor so this is something that you will also need to pay attention to.
At this late stage of pregnancy, you may notice an increase in regular discharge.
You may also notice that the mucus plug has come out as your cervix starts to dilate in preparation for delivery.
If you find that you are experiencing watery discharge, this could be amniotic fluid and you will need to call your doctor as soon as possible.
Cervical Changes Before Labor
One of the biggest signs that your body is getting ready for labor is changes in your cervix.
Your doctor will do pelvic exams during your late-pregnancy OB visits to check how your cervix is dilating and effacing. This will give them an idea of whether it is preparing for delivery or not.
These are some of the changes that your cervix will go through before labor:
The cervix needs to dilate or open before you can deliver your baby vaginally.
Your cervix starts at 0 centimeters (which basically means it is closed) and can contract up to 10 centimeters during labor. This is about the size of a bagel.
The cervix will dilate as your uterus contracts during labor, which pulls the cervix open so you can push your baby out.
It is likely that you were already aware of the importance of ten centimeters before you got pregnant and this is why.
While your cervix is dilating, therefore becoming wider, it is also effacing. This means thinning and is measured in a percentage between 0% and 100%.
In this case, 0% is completely firm whereas 100% is completely paper-thin.
In order to have a successful vaginal birth, your cervix will need to dilate to 10 centimeters and 100% effaced.
These are essential measurements as they will signal that you are ready to push and will be close to meeting your baby.
What To Expect Once You’ve Given Birth
It can seem like you have waited so long for this moment and have spent all of the past months preparing for the birth of your child. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that you will have a clear understanding of what will happen once your little one has been born.
There will be a lot of tests that will take place in the hospital before you and your baby are allowed to go home.
Your newborn will have to undergo:
- Blood tests: This will be taken through a prick in the heel to see whether they have any detectable conditions
- Hearing test: Your baby will usually be taken to a separate room for the hearing test where they will undergo tests to see how their nerves respond to sound and detect any issues
- Screening for congenital heart defects: A sensor will be placed on your baby’s skin for a couple of minutes to measure how much oxygen is in their blood
Right after labor, you can start breastfeeding immediately if this is something you have chosen to do. Some women will choose to breastfeed their baby even as they are delivering their placenta.
As long as there are no health concerns from either mother or baby, your little one will be placed on your chest. This is a bonding experience, but your child can also start feeding on colostrum (or pre-milk) straight away.
Breastfeeding can be tricky to get used to at first, so use this time to ask the medical professionals around you for the best way to do it.
There are some other things that you will need to undergo at the hospital before you can go home:
- Paperwork: You will need to fill out a form that will later become your baby’s birth certificate and social security card before you can leave the hospital.
- Circumcision: If you have a boy and chose to have them circumcised, this operation can take place before you leave the hospital.