At 39 weeks into your pregnancy, you are well into the third trimester. In fact, you’re now at a satisfactory stage for labor, as your baby is officially classed as full term. This means that although there is still some growth and development going on inside you, the baby is at an appropriate stage to emerge into the world.
Where are we up to?
Officially, there is one more week until your baby is due to be born. Most of the hard work is done, but the last leg of this journey isn’t the easiest. After all you’ve been through, you’re probably more than ready for that baby to get out of you, and the initial nerves will be long gone. Frankly, we don’t blame you, and fortunately, you shouldn’t have to wait much longer.
This last week of pregnancy can be a stressful time for you and your family nonetheless. It’s a good idea to try to keep your partner or loved ones close by and easy to contact if possible, to help get you over the finish line. There’s still plenty to look out for after all, and you’ll need a plan for getting to the hospital soon enough.
One week before pregnancy, your baby is approximately 19.9 inches long and weighs 7.3 pounds. That puts it at about the same size as, well, a doll of a baby. In case that isn’t quite real enough, your baby is now referred to as ‘full term’. Full term is the way doctors and midwives describe babies which are old enough to be delivered safely, even though there is still a little time left to go. To put it simply, you are very much in the final stretch waiting for labor.
This might seem scary, but there is still a bit of growing to do. They’re still growing and producing fatty deposits, and will be very slightly heavier when the due date comes. Although their body’s development is complete, the brain is still developing. Of course the brain will continue to develop throughout their life, but right now it is making sure that all of the right neural connections are in place so that the baby can deal with the bright lights and loud noises of the outside world.
Another change that is still going on with your baby is the development of new skin cells. The skin they have had throughout your pregnancy will eventually be replaced by a thicker layer. This is something else that repeats through life, but this early form is important as it helps the baby to regulate their temperature when they don’t have the consistency of your uterus.
You might have noticed your baby is a little more quiet than usual too. They should still be moving around, but they are forced to do so with a little less energetically because of the lack of space they have available this far into a pregnancy. This lack of room means they can’t stretch as much so their movements feel more mild. They should still be moving as often as normal, just with less enthusiasm, so call a doctor if you think there is a problem.
Your Growing Body
The 39th week of pregnancy can be a stressful time full of aches and pains. Fortunately, the anticipation of the due date being only a week away should help keep you going throughout this period, but it is good to know what sort of problems you can expect to have. It will also help you to understand the stages leading up to the delivery of your baby.
Firstly, some pain involved will be the continuation of Braxton Hicks contractions. You will have experienced some of these minor contractions throughout your third trimester, and they can often continue up until you go into labor. As you will know, they can cause some pain and it can be scary if they feel like they are bigger than usual. The large bump you are carrying around can make them more uncomfortable at this stage too.
Although these minor contractions are normal, the aches and pain they cause can be worrying so late in a pregnancy, as they could mean the baby is on their way. As long as they do not increase to severely, there is no need to panic. However, if they start to become more regular, and the pain becomes impossible to ignore, then maybe the practice round is over, and these could be the real thing.
At this point, you might also experience some shooting pains in your pelvis. Now that the baby has been positioning itself in preparation for delivery, any movement by you or the baby could result in their head putting pressure on your cervix. The cervix contains a lot of nerves, meaning this can result in a strong, sudden feeling of pain which some like to call ‘lightning crotch’. Although the name is fun, it can be quite painful, but entering a pool or bath could give some fast relief.
Vaginal discharge is quite common at this stage too. This is absolutely fine, but don’t mistake amniotic fluid for common discharge. Amniotic fluid is more watery and looks a bit like urine. If you are losing amniotic fluid, see a doctor as soon as possible. If you aren’t completely certain about it being amniotic fluid or urine, your doctor should be able to help you figure it out.
You should have a check up booked in with your doctor at 39 weeks anyway. This is of great benefit, as it means you can ask lots of questions which may be troubling you about the changes discussed here, or other personal problems you may have. While at this appointment, there are some checks the doctor will want to carry out as well.
The main check they will carry out is to see if you are dilating. Often this will not be the case, but, as you’ve heard a lot by now, every pregnancy is different. By inserting their fingers into your vagina, they will be able to judge whether your cervix is opening for the baby’s delivery. For some women it will happen early before their water breaks, and for others it won’t happen after.
At this stage in a pregnancy, the main thing is to stay calm and to be prepared to deal with problems. Lots of pregnant women like to have a strict plan for how to go about things in the week leading up to the due date, and how to go through labor itself. However, you should remember that things can’t always go to plan, and changes often need to be made. The best you can do is to have your partner on hand in case you need anything.
Otherwise, some people like to practice breathing exercises, and staying hydrated is as vital as ever. In fact, drinking cold water can help keep your baby active, and breathing exercises can help deal with shortness of breath.