Pregnancy Tracker: Week 38

Pregnancy Tracker: Week 38




At 38 weeks pregnant, you are almost there! Halfway through the 9th month, with about two more weeks to go, you have almost made it! Hang in there for the last stretch!

Your baby measures about 48-51cm now, which is a typical length for a newborn, and weighs 3.2kg – give or take.  Baby is the size of a pumpkin, and you probably feel as if you are walking around with a large watermelon wedged inside your pelvis!

Take heart in the knowledge that the big event is not long off now.  Your baby is almost fully developed and if born now, chances are that a visit to the neonatal unit will not be necessary. Liver and lung development are nearly complete, with surfactant – the substance that helps keep air sacs functioning – being produced in the lungs and the vocal cords are also primed and ready for that first little cry at birth!

Fat stores are still being laid down, while the nervous system and brain continue growing and refining, even at this late stage of pregnancy, and in fact, brain development continues until well after birth.

The digestive system is quite advanced. Because your baby has been sucking and swallowing amniotic fluid for a while now, waste material has accumulated in the intestines. Waste products such as intestine cells, dead skin cells, and lanugo hair combine to form meconium, a greenish-black substance that is your baby's first poop. Once baby is born and starts to drink milk, the poop will change from this dark colour to a mustard-yellowish colour.

Your baby is in much better proportion now that the limbs have grown, and the head and abdomen may have the same circumference. Baby possibly sports about 3cm of hair already, although some babies are born bald or with just a fuzzy little covering of hair.

Speaking of hair, lanugo, the fine body covering, is shedding rapidly, and the creamy white vernix is also disappearing, although some babies are born with a bit of it sticking to the body. The little fingernails and toenails are evident and may even need clipping soon after birth!

If you are dying to know what the colour of your baby’s eyes will be, you may have to wait a bit longer after birth, as the pigment in the irises of a child can change in the few months after birth. Typically, if a baby is born with brown eyes, they will probably remain brown.  Blue or grey eyes may stay this colour or change to green or hazel or even brown by 9 months old. In general, eyes won’t get lighter, but may become darker.

If you are having a baby girl, the labia will be fully formed by now, and if it is a boy baby, in most cases the testicles have descended into the scrotum, although occasionally they remain undescended. This is nothing to worry about and it is fairly common.

You at 38 weeks pregnant

You should take things slow and easy in these last few weeks as you are carrying around a lot of fluid, extra blood and of course the weight of the baby. Your placenta alone weighs about 1kg and measures 17 or 18cm across. Incredibly, the hard-working placenta processes up to 12 litres of blood an hour.   

This could be a very frustrating time as it is impossible to know when you may go into labour. Take the time to indulge yourself in plenty of rest during the day in an attempt to conserve your energy for the delivery.

Your late-pregnancy symptoms are still around:

  • Swollen ankles are to be expected but let your healthcare provider know if sudden or excessive swelling occurs as this could be a sign of pre-eclampsia.
  • Sleeping problems can be as a result anxiety, aches and pains or simply the inability to find a comfortable sleep position due to your huge bump.
  • Weird dreams can occur during late pregnancy, as your resting mind can reflect the anxieties and thoughts you have during the day. As you are in a highly emotional state, these feelings can be echoed in your subconscious mind.
  • Braxton Hicks contractions are normal and to be expected. They should not be painful and should stop when you change positions. If not, or if they become regular and severe, call your doctor as you could be in labour.
  • Leaking nipples is the result of the buildup of colostrum, the yellowish pre-milk that your breasts produce as your baby’s first feed.
  • Diarrhoea is a symptom that can creep up on you in the last few weeks of pregnancy and can be caused by many factors: it could be as a result of being able to enjoy food again, and perhaps helpings are larger or richer than usual, but most likely it is because your muscles loosen in preparation for childbirth. Play around with different foods and ascertain which ones to avoid and which you can tolerate. But do call your healthcare provider if you have more than three stools a day, stools with blood or mucus, or if diarrhoea lasts more than 48 hours.

In these last few weeks, your healthcare provider may want to perform another scan to check the health of the foetus, the position of the placenta and most importantly for the possibility of a breech position.

If you are having twins or have an underlying medical condition like pre-eclampsia or gestational diabetes, or you have a history of problematic pregnancies, your doctor would suggest extra scans.

Tips on what to think about towards the end of pregnancy

Use this time to prepare ahead for the arrival of your baby as meal preparation and household chores will of necessity take a back seat once you return home with your newborn.

  • Fill your pantry with all the non-perishables you think you may need in the next couple of months.
  • Stock the freezer with prepared meals – remember to label everything by item and date to ensure good rotation.
  • Ensure your hospital bag is packed and ready with everything needed for yourself and your baby.
  • Arrange for a thorough clean of your house so you won’t have to worry about dusty corners, smudged surfaces or dirty windows for a few weeks after bringing home your newborn.
  • Go through your birth plan with your partner or doula to make sure everyone is on the same page.
  • Is the nursery ready and well-stocked with baby essentials?
  • Have you and your partner decided on a name?
  • Have you decided if baby will sleep in your room or his, in a bassinet or a cot?
  • Have you given some thought to how you will announce the arrival of your little one?

These last two weeks can be difficult. Frustration and boredom may be setting in, and you will be feeling bloated, battling swollen feet, and likely exhausted from lack of sleep.  It is very tempting to waddle over to the sofa and spend the day there, but unless your doctor has ordered bed rest, it would be in your best interests to keep active.  Continue doing your pelvic and kegel exercises until the last moment. Exercise not only benefits your body but your mind too.  It helps to divert your thoughts from your situation and lifts your mood and may even help with body aches and pains and swelling.

The best exercise is something gentle like walking. In addition, the side-to-side motion of walking may encourage your baby’s head to descend into the pelvis, bringing you closer to labour in a gentle and natural way.

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