Your Pregnancy: Week 38 (The Ninth Month)
Your baby is the size of a pumpkin.1
Developments in Baby
Packing on the Fat
Your pumpkin is a massive 6 pounds, thirteen ounces (3 kilograms) and measuring in around 19.5 inches (50 centimeters) long. Baby’s tiny, round head is approximately the same circumference as his abdomen. Baby is losing the vernix caseosa (a white, cheese-like covering) but growing some locks.1,3 He may have up to an inch of hair at this point.1 The rest of his time in the womb will be spent accumulating all of the fat that will make him or her such a cuddly, adorable baby.2
For several weeks your baby’s development has been more about improving the function of organs than construction. Her organs are prepared for her first breath of oxygen.1 Her brain and nervous system are working more efficiently every day, but this developmental process continues throughout childhood and even into the teen years, hence the reason drug and alcohol exposure may endanger Baby’s development. In these last few weeks, days, or even hours, Baby’s brain continues to prepare to manage the complicated tasks of breathing, eating, digesting and maintaining a healthy heart rate.
Ready for Action
Those are not the only jobs Baby’s preparing for. Readying himself for birth, your baby engages in activities he will use once he is born. Baby probably spends a lot of their awake time perfecting sucking —Baby’s awake quite a bit more these days. He’s also absorbing all of the sensations around him and responding with expressions, movements, and other reactions. Although Baby should continue to move as much as usual, he won’t be making any large movements. He’s grown too large for his environment.
Developments in Mother:
As those pesky symptoms persist—itchy belly, vaginal discharge, Braxton Hicks contractions, swollen feet and ankles, and trouble sleeping—you may become increasingly anxious for delivery day. Don’t rush. Baby will emerge when he’s good and ready. You may also be feeling even more pressure on your pelvic floor and less pressure in your chest and stomach as Baby continues to descend into your pelvis. This may also cause what some have coined “lightening crotch” because it feels like, well, lightening shooting up and down your legs and into your pelvic area.1 That low baby is resting on sensitive nerves.
At this point, some women experience depression, feeling more irritable than usual and finding everything an effort. It’s the result of anxiety about the forthcoming birth, fatigue due to lack of sleep, and a desire for the pregnancy to end. Speak with your healthcare provider should you feel any high levels of anxiety. Also contact your practitioner if you experience any of the following: excessive or sudden swelling in the hands, face, ankles, or feet, a severe or persistent headache, vision changes such as blurriness, seeing spots, or double vision, or extreme nausea or vomiting as these could be signs of preeclampsia.2
What’s Your Labor Sign?
The signs of labor will soon display themselves as you are creeping up on the 40th week. Be on the lookout for longer and stronger contractions.1 They may not be Braxton Hicks anymore if you are experiencing five or more consistent contractions within an hour. Many women have a discharge tinged with blood known as “The Bloody Show”. This will appear as the cervix continues to open and you shed the mucous plug which has acted as a fence, keeping baby safe inside the womb.1,3 Once you’ve lost your mucous plug, labor is just around the corner. Another symptom of labor is diarrhea as your body empties itself out to make extra room to push baby through the birth canal.1,3 Keep in mind that many women do not go into labor until their due date or beyond. Take this time to relax—take naps, read a book, spend time with your partner—because there will be very little relaxation when your bundle of joy arrives.
Find time to relax. It is just as important as everything else going on around you at the moment.
Complete all finishing touches on the nursery. There is no guarantee when Baby will decide it’s time to meet you.
Stock the fridge with anything you may need for yourself and Baby. It’s always a good idea to have some frozen meals prepared for after Baby’s arrival because you will not have time to cook with a newborn keeping you on your toes.
Week 38 Basics:
Pregnancy symptoms persist
A sharp pain in your leg and groin area similar to a jolt of lightening
Possible feelings of depression and high levels of anxiety
Look out for signs of preeclampsia
Know the signs of labor
Longer, stronger contractions
Bloody show and loss of the mucous plug
6 lbs., 13 oz. (3 kilos) and 19.5 in. (50 cm)
Continues to accumulate fat
Organs are ready for delivery day
Brain and nervous system continue to develop into adolescence
Responding to outside stimuli
1. Roney C. The Baby Bump: 100s of Secrets to Surviving Those 9 Long Months. San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books; 2010
2. Murray LJ, ed. Pregnancy: From Preconception to Birth. New York, NY: DK Publishing; 2010
3. Murkoff H, Mazel S. What to Expect When You’re Expecting. 4th ed. New York, NY: Workman Publishing Company, Inc.; 2008