Week 40 is the official end of your pregnancy. Your un-born baby is now as big as a watermelon. It is just a matter of days that you will be holding him in your arms.
All newborn babies weigh differently, but the average newborn weighs around 7 ½ pounds and is roughly the size of a small pumpkin. He or she may be around 20 inches long. The skull bones are not yet fused, so your baby isn’t stuck while passing through the birth canal during labor. This week will mark the end of your pregnancy journey. You and your baby have been anxiously waiting for this moment for quite some time. The placenta is still providing the antibodies he requires need to ward off infections for the initial six months of his life.
However, if you breastfeed your baby, your milk will provide him sufficient antibodies to strengthen his immune system. Since colostrum (a yellowish precursor to breast milk) is packed with antibodies, it is recommended all babies should be breastfed for the initial days of their life, outside the womb. One of the first things you will notice about your baby when he makes his arrival is the little leftover travel dust that is a mix of amniotic fluid, blood, vernix and lanugo. To your baby, you will look a bit blurry, as newborn babies are only capable of focusing on objects about an inch away.
That won’t matter since he or she recognizes your voice. Don’t hesitate to say hello to him and he may actually reply to you by smiling. You will also observe that he is still curled in the fetal position. This happens because he has been in this position for roughly nine months. It will take a while for him to spread his legs out. That’s why most new born babies stop crying when they are swaddled because it reminds them of the comfort zone of your uterus.
If you haven’t delivered as yet, week 40 can leave you feeling restless and easily irritable. These emotions are natural and quite normal. Even though your doctor will continue to monitor the progress of your baby, if you feel or discover any symptoms that worry you, don’t hesitate to notify him. For expectant mums who have reached their due date and feel like delivering their baby right away, week 40 is a frustrating situation. In some cases, the ovulation gets delayed but even with accurately reliable calculations, some women have prolonged pregnancies without any apparent cause.
In fact, you have a couple of weeks to be declared as ‘post-term.’ Make sure your baby is still thriving, and ask your doctor or midwife to schedule you for testing if your pregnancy continues after week 40. Around 30% of all pregnancies stretch over 40+ weeks. Sometimes, these can go up to 42 weeks. During this week, you may undergo a biophysical profile (BPP), which comprises of an ultrasound to examine your baby’s movements, his muscle tone and breathing movements as well as the amount of amniotic fluid that is around him which is crucial as it reflects how well the placenta is supporting him.
Moreover, fetal heart rate monitoring, known as NST or a nonstress test, will also be done as part of the BPP. If your doctor finds the fetal testing has not produced satisfactory results or the level of the amniotic fluid is too low, he may recommend inducing labor at this point. If he finds an urgent need to deliver the baby, you may have to undergo an unplanned c-section. During this week, be prepared to welcome your baby at any time. Don’t be stressed by unexpected events, such as your water breaking, which occurs when the amniotic sac around your baby ruptures.
First time mommies dread the scene as they have heard enough horror stories about friends who faced embarrassing situations at restaurants or grocery stores. In reality, less than 15% of women experience rupturing of the membranes prior to labor. Moreover, you are less likely to experience it as a pouring wave and more likely as a small gush, a slow leak or a trickle. However, one thing you can expect soon after the water breaks is that your labor will most probably begin within 24 hours. If it doesn’t naturally, your doctor will probably induce labor within 24 hours.
So, how do you realize your amniotic sac has started rupturing? Amniotic fluid is odorless and colorless. If you are confused whether you have just leaked amniotic fluid or urine, you can squeeze your pelvic muscles to stop the fluid from flowing. If the flow stops by doing this Kegel exercise, it’s not amniotic fluid.
What to Expect During Week 40
Braxton Hicks Contractions
These false contractions can occur even during week 40. The trick is to know whether these contractions are real or not. If they subside when you walk around or change position, they are nothing but practice contractions.
If pelvic pain becomes too intense and it’s not labor time yet, schedule a massage with a certified prenatal massage therapist to help you deal with the discomfort.
Your baby’s movements have slowed down significantly. However, he is still moving in the space he is left with. If you are able to count ten wiggles, rolls or flutters in an hour, this movement is normal.
Even though you cannot feel your cervix thinning out or opening, it is likely to happen in week 40. Effacement is measured in percentages and dilation in centimeters. Your doctor will give you the measurements after an internal exam. The cervix will efface or continue to dilate through early and active labor.
Be ready to experience some uncomfortable symptoms as your labor approaches closure. During week 40, loose bowel movements can be a sign of labor.
Tips for Week 40
- Discuss with your doctor how your labor should be induced. Typically, your baby is not considered in danger until you are two weeks past due date.
- Some tried and tested ways to initiate labor naturally are acupuncture, sex and walking. However, make sure you have your doctor’s approval before trying any of these on your own.
- Sleep is a distant memory but try catching on as much sleep as you can. Take a nap whenever you feel sleepy to relieve your tired body and nerves.
- Weight gain becomes slow in the ninth month of pregnancy. Notify your doctor immediately if you experience sudden gain weight or swelling, as it can indicate preeclampsia.
Don’t Worry Too Much During Labor!
It doesn’t matter if you are plus-size or petite. It is the competency and size of your pelvis that will help you for making a trouble-free delivery and not your frame. Mother Nature does a great job and you will be stunned to witness how incredible it is to give birth to a baby as big as a watermelon as the vagina stretches during childbirth and tightens up again. Even the baby knows how to make his way out by molding his pliable head to pass through this tight squeeze. Don’t stress too much during labor and try to remember all that you learnt about this day in your childbirth classes.