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38 Weeks Pregnant: It’s Almost Time
What is it like?
The 38th week is a time to prepare mentally for the big day, although no doubt you’ve been preparing for a long time already. Studies show that only 5 % of women give birth on their due date, so try to stay flexible and make sure that you have your cell phone on and charged. The Braxton-Hicks contractions have probably ramped up by now. It may feel like labor, until you’ve actually started labor, and you realize the real thing is far more intense.
Your baby’s growth
- Body size
While every pregnancy is different, in week 38 most babies weigh slightly more than 7.2 pounds (3300 grams) and measure about 20 inches (510 millimeters) in length.
- Head characteristics
Your baby is sleeping, dreaming, playing and waking up at regular intervals. Her brain helps him refine breathing, improve digestion, regulate his heart rate, and prepare for eating.
- Body appearance
Your baby is ready to rock and roll (or at least wriggle and squirm). She has probably reached her final birth length and weight. Most of the lanugo, or fine downey hair that covered his body has disappeared along with the vernix caseosa, or whitish protective coating.
- Internal organs
The production of red and white blood cells has moved from the liver to the bone marrow. Her intestine is accumulating meconium: a viscous dark green substance that you will see in the first diaper. It is made from cellular remains, amniotic fluid, lanugo, mucus and the digestive secretions of the pancreas, liver and gallbladder.
What happens inside your body?
As your baby moves lower into the pelvis, readying for birth, she puts increasing weight on your bladder. You may feel a tingling, prickly or numbing sensation in your pelvis, vagina or legs.
If you find yourself running to the restroom every 10 minutes, remember the birth will happen any day now. And keep practicing those Kegels, they will help with bladder control and post-birth vaginal recovery.
Labor vs. Braxton-Hicks contractions
As your Braxton-Hicks contractions become frequent and longer, it can be difficult to distinguish them from actual labor. If you’re not sure, chances are that it’s just the Braxton-Hicks – real labor is much more intense. Braxton-Hicks contractions tend to last a minute or less, aren’t very painful, do not increase is intensity, usually happen no more than twice an hour, and are irregular. They should stop when you change position. By contrast, real labor contractions are painful, regular, rhythmic, and the pain and duration becomes more intense with time.
You may also experience what is called false labour. This is when Braxton Hicks contractions come more rhythmically, perhaps every 10 to 20 minutes in late pregnancy. It can be difficult to tell the difference between false and real labor – however with false labor, your cervix has not begun to dilate. Your midwife or doctor will be able to tell the difference with a medical examination.
How different will you look?
Your belly button probably pushed out several weeks ago. Now it’s time for the nipples to pop too as they ready for breast-feeding. You may find that you’re leaking more colostrum, or first milk, whitish-yellow stains on your shirt. If it’s embarrassing or uncomfortable, you can try nursing pads so they don’t leak through.
On the plus side, the size of your basketball belly has probably stabilized, and your weight gain has probably slowed if not halted. Your body is gearing itself up for the big day, so stay calm and try to stay mentally prepared.
How can you care for both of your loved ones?
Now is probably a good idea to put some spare towels, a blanket and a gallon of bottled water in the car just in case. Babies born on the side of the road are very rare, but it does happen. If you can see the crown of your baby’s head, then the birth is imminent. The important thing is to stay calm; your baby will come out naturally, regardless of what you do, but if you’re nervous, there are on-line videos on delivering a baby in the back seat of a car.
Tips to help you go through trimester
If your baby hasn’t yet found the right position, there are a number of things that you can do:
- Adopting a knee-to-chest position. Turning techniques you can do at home are called spontaneous cephalic version. Kneel on your bed, with your hips slightly more than 90 degrees apart. Your chest and head should be flush with the bed, although your elbows are slightly bent to support your stomach. Maintain this position for 15 minutes every two waking hours for five consecutive days. In one study of 71 breech babies, 65 turned when their mother adopted the knee-chest position.
- External cephalic version (ECV). Your doctor may try to turn a breech baby before you go to term, as it will be easier to shift the position of the baby if he has not yet moved too far down the pelvis. She will use a technique called external cephalic version (ECV), which is perfectly safe for you and your baby. It’s done by applying pressure to the uterus and manually manipulating the baby, after ingesting a drug to relax the muscles of your uterus.
- Studies show that an acupuncture technique called Moxibustion (moxa) can be good at turning breech births. Success rates as high as 80 % have been reported.
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If you’re worried about everything that can go wrong, remember that women have been doing this for thousands of years.
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