You have officially reached the end of the road. Finally! You are 40 weeks pregnant and ready to go any day now.
Continue reading to find out how big the baby is, what developments you both are going through, and some additional information that would be good for you to know this week!
At 40 weeks pregnant your baby is the size of a pumpkin!
All babies vary in size, but the average is about 7 1/2 pounds and around 20 inches long. That’s the size of a small pumpkin! Although your child has been doing a lot of growing and developing, their skull is not completely fused yet to allow for some give during his journey down the birth canal. This could lead to their head being somewhat cone shaped (but don’t worry, it’s only temporary!)
What your appointments are looking like
You still have a few weeks left before you’re officially “post-term”, as due dates aren’t always 100% accurate. At this point you are seeing your doctor each week. They will be keeping an eye on you and your little one to assure you are both healthy, and that everything is going according to plan. You may need to get a bio-physical profile done to monitor your baby’s breathing movements, muscle tone, and level of amniotic fluid in your uterus. They will also probably be doing some fetal heart rate monitoring (or non-stress test).
Your doctor will also do vaginal exams to see what position your cervix is in, if it is ripening, softening, effacing, and if you are dilating. If anything seems to be abnormal, such as having too little or too much amniotic fluid, you may be induced. If there are any serious concerns you could also have an immediate C-section. If you have not gone into labor on your own by 41-42 weeks they will more than likely prepare to induce.
Inducing labor – what to expect
There are 3 main points that you need to understand if induction is a possibility for you.
What does inducing labor actually mean?
Basically, if you have not started going in to labor on your own, there are certain techniques and medications that your doctor can administer to you to help bring on (or “induce”) your contractions. An induction is only done when the risk of staying pregnant is higher than the risk of inducing. Once you have gotten a week or two beyond your due date you are at a higher risk of more serious complications. The placenta can also become less effective at delivering the nutrients your baby needs.
How is labor induced?
There are multiple factors that determine how your practitioner decides to induce your labor. Every individual situation is different. It is usually based on the condition of your cervix and the urgency of your induction.
If you have not yet started dilating, more than likely you will be admitted to the hospital and your doctor will begin your induction process by vaginally inserting medicine that contains prostaglandins. This medicine is meant to start ripening your cervix and stimulate contractions so that your labor can begin.
If this medicine does not start your labor, your practitioner will then try a medicine called Pitocin (or Oxytocin) that is administered through an IV. This particular medicine is used to start labor by increasing the contractions you were already having. If your cervix was already ripe before the induction began, they may skip the prostaglandins and just start with the Pitocin.
Can I do anything to induce labor on my own?
If you are getting frustrated and want to try to kick-start labor on your own, there are a few methods you can try. However, there are not any methods that are proven to be both safe and effective, so make sure to consult your practitioner before you try anything.
- Herbal remedies: There are a few different herbs that are considered to be effective for inducing labor. The safety and effectiveness of these herbs are unknown. There have been instances of certain herbs that cause contractions that are too strong and last too long. There are also some that may not be safe for you or your baby. Due to these instances, some herbs are risky, so be careful if you’re thinking of taking this route.
- Sexual intercourse: Although at 40 weeks pregnant you may not be feeling all that up to it, semen contains prostaglandins and having an orgasm can stimulate contractions. This, like all of the at-home induction methods, are not 100% effective, but this one is probably the most fun!
- Nipple stimulation: Stimulating your nipples releases Oxytocin. While it may start your labor, more studies need to be conducted to determine if this is a safe method. There is the possibility of over-stimulating your uterus, and if that were to happen you and your baby would need to be monitored – so this is not the greatest method to try at home.
- Castor oil is a strong laxative, and bowel movements can help to stimulate contractions. There are quite a few women who stand behind this method, although there is no scientific proof that this helps to induce your labor.
This is the only activity that you absolutely NEED to be engaging in this week. Watch a movie, read, color (adult coloring book, anyone?), or just take some naps! If you are not taking the time to let your body rest, going into labor will prove to be an exhausting task (even more than it already is).
Featured photo credit: Phallnn Ooi via flickr.com