Your week by week guide on what to expect when you're expecting...

36 – 41 Weeks Pregnant

At 37 weeks pregnant your baby will be practising breathing by inhaling amniotic fluid.  Most of their fine body hair and vernix will be disappearing.

At end of 38 weeks your baby will officially be full term.  A baby born before 37 weeks is classed as premature or pre-term.

At 39 weeks your baby is pretty much ready to be born, they are probably putting on some special “brown” fat around their organs, which will help them to generate heat in the first few weeks of their life.

At 40 weeks your baby should be ready to go, but do bear in mind that your due date is just an estimate and that as little as around 5 percent of babies will arrive on their due date!

Midwife Appointment

You will have a midwife appointment at around 38 weeks where they will check you over like they have done previously.

If it is your first child, you will have another appointment at 40 weeks and if you are still pregnant at 41 weeks you will have another appointment regardless of whether it is your first or subsequent child.   At this stage you can discuss options for Induction in the event that you do not go into labour naturally.

Finishing Work

You should ideally be finishing work over the next few weeks. Whether you take a month off before you give birth or just 2 weeks it is important that you have some time to yourself to relax and also to prepare mentally and practically (in terms of buying any equipment and getting the house ready) for the arrival of your baby.

Do bear in mind that whilst many women do go over due with their first baby, an equal amount will give birth in their 38th or 39th week of pregnancy, so only finishing work 2 weeks before your due date could potentially see you having little or no time to yourself before the birth.  Think about this carefully when planning your maternity leave.

Last Minute Things!

Many women take this opportunity to get things done that they know they will not have time for in a few weeks. If you are into that kind of thing, it can be a good time to get your hair or nails done and to do some bulk cooking and freeze some meals for the first few weeks of motherhood when cooking an evening meal will become very low on your list of priorities.

This can also be a good time to buy some nursing bras.  It can feel strange to do this before the baby is born as you will not know what size your breast will become after your milk comes in. 

For some women, their breasts grow as soon as they become pregnant or throughout their pregnancy, and then change minimally as their milk comes in.  For others, their breasts remain the same throughout their pregnancy but increase dramatically in size when their milk comes in.  It can be a good idea to buy one or two bras now and perhaps order some more after the baby has been born.

Birth Plan

Make sure that you and your partner are on same page as far as any plans for the birth are concerned.  Whilst we would discourage you from writing a very detailed birth plan or fixating too heavily on any aspects of the birth that you are hoping for or feel you might be against, it is a very good idea to talk through your hopes and wishes for your birth so that when the time comes you are both as prepared as you can be.

There is no harm in vocalising your ideal birth scenario, outlining any issues which concern you or situations you would like to avoid, but it is best to keep an open mind and to remember that the kind of birth that you have will essentially be beyond your control.  Every birth is different and certain circumstances can mean that your scenario could change suddenly and you must be prepared for things to not go exactly as you had envisaged.

We have a brilliant section on Birth Plans in our Online Antenatal Course –  some great information which will help you to keep an open mind and go with the flow!

General Grumpiness

Breathing and eating may become a little easier as you enter the last few weeks as the baby drops down or engages.  On the down side, this may make walking more difficult and you may feel more pressure on your bladder.

You may be feeling very fed up and impatient to end your pregnancy and meet your baby.  You may be sleeping badly and feel uncomfortable during the day especially if you are suffering from indigestion, haemorrhoids, SPD and any of the other ailments we have discussed. 

Try to keep as active as you can and make plans to see friends and keep busy, whilst reserving time to put your feet up or even have a nap.  It can be a good idea to make some small plans for the next 10 days after your due date.  This will give you something to look forward to should you go over your due date.

As you approach your due date, your friends may start ringing and texting all the time, fearful that you have given birth and forgotten to inform them! This can very irritating but is probably unavoidable!

Breech Baby

If your baby is breech, where the bottom or feet of the baby are leading the way out of the uterus, you may be feeling concerned about whether or not it will turn the right way in time for the birth.  You may be told that you will have to have a caesarean if the baby does not turn.  For some women this news can be alarming if they were hoping to avoid the knife.  For others this can be a relief as they were dreading having to try giving birth.

You may be offered a procedure called External Cephalic Version (ECV) where a doctor will try to turn the baby by hand.  This is normally done after 36 weeks and involves a short trip to the maternity unit.  This is a very safe and often successful procedure. You may be given a drug to make the muscles of your uterus relax.  It does not hurt but can feel uncomfortable, as the doctor will have to use gentle force on your tummy to try and manipulate the baby inside your womb.  If this procedure does not work then you may be offered the chance for the doctor to try again, or you may be given some exercises to do at home.  These can be very successful in turning the baby into the correct position.

Another thing to try at home is Moxibustion.  This is a traditional Chinese medicine approach which involves burning a Mugwort cone or stick by your feet.  You can purchase your Mugwort cone for less than £5 at your local Chinese Medicine shop.  You may not have noticed one near you, but the chances are, there will be one on your high street or in a near by town.  It is a completely safe practice but the efficacy is not yet proven!

It is possible for the baby to turn itself round at any stage, this can happen as late as when you are in labour. It is also important to know that even if you successfully turn the baby around, it is possible for it to turn itself back again afterwards!

Fetal Movements

It is important that your feel your baby moving frequently. If at any stage you are worried about lack of fetal movement then please contact your midwife or go straight to hospital.  No one will ever think you are stupid or accuse you of wasting time for going in, so if you have concerns about lack of movement or reduced movement, please seek help.

Good Luck!  Not long to go now!

Our Online Antenatal Course will help you with any gaps in your knowledge and will help you feel calm and confident for the days and weeks ahead.

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