With only three weeks to go until your baby’s due date, you are probably counting down the days! It’s normal to have feelings of anticipation and anxiety about your impending labor and delivery — not to mention bringing home a baby soon!
While many babies are born without life-threatening complications at this point in pregnancy, a baby is still considered “early-term” until the end of week 38. Your baby’s lungs are now fully mature, ensuring that they would safely breathe on their own if born today. They are now gaining half of a pound a week, making them totally squishable for all the baby cuddles after the birth. Likely, the punches and kicks you’ve grown accustomed to have slightly diminished. This is not because they are any less active, however. Your uterus is super full of baby and fluid at this point, making dramatic movements impossible. You should still feel plenty of wiggling and more subtle movements though. Side note: Boys tend to weigh more than girls at birth, which explains why women pregnant with boys tend to eat more than those carrying girls.
Your baby keeps practicing the inhaling and exhaling movements by drinking and expelling amniotic fluid. You’ll notice them shifting positions, with their bum on one side one day, switching to the other side the next.
Your body is going through a lot of changes during these last few weeks before birth. It is possible that your cervix has already begun to dilate. It will need to widen to ten centimeters before you will be able to push your baby out. Many women begin to dilate to 1 or 2 centimeters for a week or two before going into labor. If you start to feel sensations similar to mild menstrual cramps, your cervix could be in the very early stages of dilation. At your next doctor’s appointment, you should tell your doctor about these pains. He or she may want to manually examine your cervix to find out if you’ve begun to dilate. Early dilation does not always indicate imminent labor, but it does mean that your body is in the preparation stages.
Other common symptoms during week 37 pregnancy are indigestion and heartburn, varicose veins, pelvic pain, back pain, weight gain of one pound per week, leg cramps, difficulty sleeping, and pregnancy brain. You may lose your mucus plug anytime between now and delivery. This is a mucousy, bloody discharge that usually signals labor within 24 hours or so.
Perineal massage has huge benefits. You can start this process now! Pressing down on the area between your vagina and rectum to stretch the skin will help add the elastisity that will minimize tearing when your baby’s head crowns. You can do this practice as often as you like, even right up until you are in labor. Your doctor may continue the massage during the pushing stage of delivery. Tearing is very common and will require a few stitches, but likely will heal easily and have no lasting consequences.
Only 5% of babies are born on their due date, so it is wise to expect baby to arrive at any point! You should make sure you have the basics on hand by now (i.e. a good carseat, a few outfits and blankets, any supplies for breastfeeding or formulla feeding, diapers and wipes, and a safe place for your baby to sleep, like a crib or bassinet). Don’t worry if you feel like you are slightly unprepared for your baby’s arrival, especially if this is your first baby. There will likely be a few things that will come up that you haven’t thought of (nursing cami, anyone?), but rest assured there will be plenty of time after the baby is born to purchase anything you might be missing. Your local hospital can likely help supply some of the basics, like diapers and wipes.
Meeting your baby face-to-face will come soon enough! Meanwhile, rest when you can, and soak up all of the glorious emotions and nesting activities likely to come during week 37 pregnancy!
Featured photo credit: 8 Month Pregnancy/Bayu Aditya via flickr.com
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