Pregnancy Tracker: Week 39

Pregnancy Tracker: Week 39




This is the final countdown, with baby as big as a watermelon, measuring between 48-53cm and weighing anything up to 3.6kg. Hang in there! It won’t be long until you finally meet the little baby you have been growing and nurturing for 9 months.

39 weeks pregnant and you have almost reached the end! Babies born this week are considered to be full term. Having said this, not all babies are willing to make an appearance now, and some will still hibernate for another week or two. If, however, your doctor has been keeping a close eye on you due to conditions like pre-eclampsia or gestational diabetes, he will now recommend an induction or even a c-section.

Your baby is fully formed, with all systems and organs sufficiently developed to support life after birth. Baby won’t grow much bigger in the uterus now but will continue to build up fat stores which is necessary to help control body temperature. The skin has lost its pinkish tone and is now a grey- or whitish colour as pigment doesn’t develop until shortly after birth.

Most of the vernix that covered your baby's skin has vanished, as has the lanugo – the fine body hair. Through the placenta, your body has been supplying antibodies to the baby, which will aid the immune system in fighting infection for the first 6-12 months of life.

Symptoms you experience at 39 weeks pregnant

  • You may be aware that your baby has dropped into your pelvis, resulting in easier breathing for you but more pelvic pressure.
  • Braxton Hicks contractions are almost constant now and are difficult to tell apart from labour contractions. A good way to note the difference is that the ‘practice contractions’ are in the front of your abdomen and relax or disappear when you move positions. Real labour contractions start at the top of the uterus, and become more frequent, regular, and intense.
  • ‘Lightning crotch’ is a sensation of sharp, stabbing pain felt around the vaginal and groin regions and is thought to be caused by nerve compression in the pelvic area. It seems to come from nowhere, zap like lightning, and then disappear. It may not be a clinical term, and perhaps few people discuss it, but it is quite common as it is believed that about one-third of mums-to-be experience it.

Your cervix is getting ready for birth

Your cervix is preparing and ripening the closer you get to delivery and goes through a normal process of dilating (opening) and thinning out (effacing) as it creates a pathway from the uterus to the birth canal. The opening is measured in centimeters, with the un-dilated measurement starting at a pea-size 1cm and growing to 10cm, which is considered to be fully dilated and ready for birth. This process can take place during the last weeks of pregnancy, or overnight – each woman is different.

At the base of the cervix there will be a small plug of mucus blocking and sealing the cervix and protecting the baby from infection. Shortly before labour starts, this plug thins as the cervix softens and dilates. Should this plug become dislodged, it is probably a sign that labour is about to start, although sometimes it only falls out during labour.

A ‘show’ or a ‘bloody show’ is when this plug is expelled. It is a sticky, jelly-like substance, often pink in colour due to blood content. It could come out in a single globule or in fragments. This is evidence that the cervix is starting to open. Labor could be imminent or could start within a few days. If you continue losing blood in a fashion similar to menstruation, this could be a sign of a complication, so call your healthcare provider immediately. If you don’t have a ‘show’ there is nothing to worry about as some women never have it at all.

Signs of labour to look out for

What exactly is labour? If you didn’t know the definition before, here it is:

Labour is the process of childbirth that begins with cervical dilation and ends with the delivery of a baby.

Women can experience labour differently, so there is no fixed set of symptoms to watch out for. However, labour will mostly follow a definite pattern or path, even if the timing and progress may differ. The golden rule is to follow your gut feeling, and if you are unsure, call for professional advice.

You have been having weekly prenatal checks in the last few weeks, and your ob/gyn or midwife has been keeping a close eye on you and baby and by now can give you a more precise due date. But at best this is an estimate, as birth can occur before or after your expected time. Learning about signs of labour will help prepare you.

Each mum-to-be experiences labour and childbirth differently, but there are some common symptoms of labour to watch out for:

  • Strong, frequent contractions
  • Bloody show
  • Lower back pain
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Breaking waters
  • Baby ‘drops’ and ‘engages’
  • Dilated cervix
  • Nesting instinct

If you notice any of the above symptoms, it is possible that pre-labour has started, or is about to start. There is no need for panic as labour mostly lasts for many hours, with the average time of labour for first-time mums taking between 12 and 19 hours.

However, if the following symptoms are noticed, you should call your healthcare provider immediately, or get to your hospital:

  • Bleeding or bright red discharge
  • Waters break, especially if the fluid is coloured green or brown, as this could be a sign of meconium present and could pose a danger if your baby ingests it.
  • Blurred or double vision, intense headache or sudden swelling could be a sign of pre-eclampsia due to high blood pressure. This needs urgent medical attention.

Baby car seat

Bringing your little one home for the first time is a major event!

Did you know that it is illegal to transport your newborn baby (or any child for that matter) in a car without a fitted car seat? Even if the trip is a short one, it is not safe or legal to hold your baby in your arms in the car.

If you have not already purchased a baby car seat, now is the time to do some research on the best one available, depending on your budget.

Make sure the seat meets current safety standards and is the correct size for your newborn. Some seats are infant-only seats, and some are convertible seats, and most have adjustments that allow for growth.

Check the specs of your car seat to ensure compliancy with weight, height, and age of your infant, and going forward, with your baby and toddler. Carefully read the manufacturers’ guidelines on the correct way to install the seat in your car. Follow instructions on forward- or back-facing seat positions. You can also purchase a mirror to place in the back of your car so you can keep an eye on baby while driving solo.

Parents often find that a ‘travel system,’ which consists of an infant safety seat and a stroller combination, is more convenient as it ensures smooth transfer from car to pushchair, especially with a sleeping baby.

You're probably experiencing a lot of the 39 weeks pregnant symptoms. One minute you're racing around the house, full of energy in a frenzy to prepare and finish everything on your pre-baby to-do list, and the next thing you know, you just want to curl up on the sofa with your preggie pillow and sleep. This is all normal for this stage of pregnancy – take time for yourself to relax and rest as much as possible and try to go with the flow.

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