You feel and look like a ripe peach this week. All rounded corners and full of promise. Even if you’ve loved every minute of pregnancy until now, some creeping, nagging doubts may start to surface when you are 38 weeks pregnant. "Am I too big", "Am I too small", "Will this baby ever be born"? And the classic, "How can this baby ever come out of me"? You may swing between sublime calm one minute and a level of near panic the next. Your due date is only 2 weeks away and the reality of the baby is almost upon you. Try not to feel overwhelmed by what is happening and have faith in your body’s ability to deliver your baby safely. Have confidence too, in your maternity care providers and be optimistic that all will go smoothly. If not, there are processes in place which are designed to support you and your baby. Remember, the only guarantee of pregnancy is that it will end, someday, and for you this is getting closer.
Was that what I think it was?
Some of you may experience "labour pains" (also referred to as Braxton Hicks) this week. If they don’t progress and just subside, consider them your body’s practice run for the real thing. Many women lose the mucous plug from their cervix around now and see this as a sign that their labour has started. In actual fact, the operculum or mucousy show can come away weeks before the baby is born, so don’t get too excited if this happens.
Finalise your list of baby names and keep an open mind about those you may not have even considered. If you have a nostalgic yearning, search your family’s history and think about recycling a family name. Just bear in mind that times change and what may have been thought of as distinguished or suitable in the 19th Century can seem just plain old fashioned now.
Your physical change this week
- You feel bigger, look bigger and have become very aware that your tummy is the first thing which enters a room. It’s been weeks since you’ve been able to see your feet when you’re standing so it’s as if the world stops from your belly down.
- Finding clothes to fit is getting harder, and even your old faithfuls may be straining at the seams. Be imaginative about letting things out and borrowing from friends who’ve already had their babies. These final weeks are generally a time of making do.
- At 38 weeks pregnant, finding a comfortable position to lie in can seem almost impossible. Lying on your front isn’t an option and flat on your back isn’t recommended for either you or the baby. This is because one of your major blood vessels (the vena cava) will become compressed by the heavy weight of your uterus if you lie on your back. The best position is to lie on your left side, with your upper leg bent at the knee and supported by a pillow.
- Keep away from crowds and people who are unwell this week. It’s not always possible to avoid getting sick, but if you can, limit your exposure to large groups of people and those who are clearly unwell. You need to be in the best possible shape to deliver your baby and maintain your own energy stores.
- Your feet and ankles may have merged this week, morphing into the much maligned "cankle". It’s not funny though and that swelling is uncomfortable. You are probably heartily sick of wearing the same shoes every day but don’t fret. After childbirth, most women have a big diuresis, which means they get rid of a large volume of body fluid via their urine. Avoid buying new shoes now; your feet won’t be their current puffy size for much longer.
- Your breasts may be producing even more colostrum this week, to the point where some women will need to use breast pads to absorb leakage. If you have breastfed a baby before, this is more common. Although your breasts may feel heavy and uncomfortable, they are preparing for lactation and the all important task of nourishing your baby.
Your emotional changes this week
- Plan some meditation and quiet reflection time this week. Last minute jobs can threaten to overwhelm the most organised of mothers, so make sure you include some down time to enable you to focus on what really matters. A massage, a pre-natal yoga class, swimming or long walks can be perfect opportunities to simply chill out.
- You may look at your older children with a sense of guilt, as if you are about to disrupt their lives with a new family member. You may worry how you could possibly love another child as much as your existing children. Don’t agonise over the possibility of things which are very unlikely to happen. Nature is set up to succeed and your baby will soon become a much loved new addition.
- Buy some new things for the baby, even if you feel you already have lots from your older children. It is important to feel as if you have made some efforts which acknowledge the baby as being an individual and unique. Get your older children to write letters to the new baby. When they are adults these can serve as a delightful reminder.
Your baby’s changes this week
- Your baby weighs just over 3 kilograms this week and continues to lay down fat and gain weight with every passing day. Its length has slowed down and it is close to the average 53 centimetres.
- You may find your baby’s movements may slow down from now on. There simply isn’t enough room to move around much and its time is going into sleeping and resting. It also needs to conserve energy for the difficult process of birth. You’ll probably find it has bursts of activity which feel strong and powerful. If however, there is any significant slowing down of your baby’s movements or you feel as if something is not quite right, trust your instincts and have a check-up with your maternity care provider.
Hints for the week
- Speak with friends and family who may have had a baby recently. If they had a positive experience with their baby’s paediatrician, mention this to your own doctor. If you are a private patient, you are entitled to request a preference for your own baby’s doctor.
- Line up some supports for when you have the baby. Avoid making concrete, inflexible plans though. It will help you to know there are people who care about you and will be willing to offer you emotional and physical support. Just knowing they are available can make a big difference.
- Have a practice drive to the hospital with your partner. Familiarise yourself with the route, the parking, out of hour’s arrangements and the hospital’s contact details for when you go into labour.
- Organise your baby’s car seat and make sure it meets Australian Safety Standards. If you are hiring a restraint, make a booking and have it fitted correctly in your car. Avoid borrowing or buying one second hand unless you are familiar with its history. Baby restraints are not items which should ever be compromised on.
Week 39 next.
For more information see Pregnancy or Week by Week.
Always consult your physician before beginning any exercise program. To reduce the risk of injury, never force or strain yourself during exercise. If you feel pain, stop and seek medical attention if necessary.
If you are in week 38 of your pregnancy...
Your baby’s due date: May 18 - May 30, 2021
Baby’s star sign: Gemini
Chinese year: Ox
Famous people born around your baby's birth date:
- Naomi Campbell
- Bob Dylan
- Kylie Minogue