The author of this article, Leah Lefler, is the mother of two boys who were both born in the 39th week of pregnancy. In this well informed and well written article, Leah explains what a mother experiencing late pregnancy should expect based on facts and her own experiences.
39 Weeks: A Full Term Baby
With only one week left until your official due date, the 39th week of pregnancy is an exciting (and exhausting) time. Some women will have already had their babies at this point, or may go into labor this week. Still others could be two or even three weeks away from delivery!
In any case, mothers should be prepared for baby’s arrival at any time. If your hospital bag isn’t packed and ready to go, make sure this task is completed as soon as possible. If you have other children, ensure that a caregiver is able to take care of them when
Baby Dropping: Ready for Birth!
For first time mothers, the baby usually drops into position sometime during the last month of pregnancy. Mothers who are on their second (or third, or fourth) pregnancies may not experience this phenomenon until just before labor begins – or even until labor is well underway!
When the baby drops, his or her head engages with the cervix. In some ways, this will ease some of the discomforts of late pregnancy. It may be easier to breathe, and the baby’s feet will no longer be pressing against your rib cage. On the other hand, the baby’s head may create a lot of pressure as your body prepares for labor.
Braxton-Hicks vs. Real
Most women will experience Braxton-Hicks contractions throughout their last trimester. These contractions are generally not very painful, do not get closer together, and arrive sporadically throughout the last portion of pregnancy.
Real labor, however, begins with contractions that may be spaced far apart, but get progressively closer together. The intensity of the contractions will increase as they get closer together, and will become painful.
If any mother is in doubt as to whether their contractions are real labor or Braxton-Hicks, a call (and visit) to their obstetrician should ease any doubts!
Increased heartburn and even nausea may occur in this last portion of pregnancy. As the baby continues to grow in size, there is less room for your stomach! The baby also presses against the intestines and bladder – fortunately this late pregnancy discomfort won’t last very long, because baby will arrive very soon! Eat smaller meals more frequently throughout the day, so that your stomach doesn’t get overly full.
Increased Urination (Again)
Some women may lose their mucus plug during this week of pregnancy. The mucus plug was in place to seal up the cervix, and protected the womb during the pregnancy. As the cervix begins to efface (thin out) and dilate (open), the mucus plug falls out of place.
This “plug” is really just a large amount of mucus, and may be streaked with blood. In general, the loss of the mucus plug means that labor will start within the next 2-3 weeks. The time is highly variable, though: some women will go into labor very quickly after
Late Pregnancy Exam: Cervix Effacement and Dilation
The last weeks of pregnancy will include very frequent check-ups with your doctor. If swabs have not already been taken for Group B Strep 9 a common bacteria which 10-30% of women will carry it during their last trimester). If you are positive for GBS, antibiotics will be delivered via I.V. during labor and delivery to protect the baby from possible infection.
The obstetrician will also check your cervix to see if it is beginning to efface. The cervix usually effaces (thins out) before it dilates. First time mothers may not have any dilation before labor begins, but mothers who have had prior pregnancies may already be dilated to 3cm and not even know it! Your blood pressure and weight will also be checked, and the doctor will listen to fetal heart tones.
Baby’s Size and Development at 39 Weeks
The average baby is approximately 19.96 inches long and 7.25
Your baby is ready for delivery at this stage of pregnancy. He is producing surfactant, which is vital for healthy lung function. Surfactant production also plays a role in the initiation of labor. Your baby continues to put on weight and is ready to meet the world outside!
3D Ultrasound of Baby at 39 Weeks