A baby at 40 weeks is as big as how he or she will be at birth. Newborns are 7.5 pounds heavy and 20 inches long on the average. No worries if baby comes out lighter or heavier, and shorter or longer than this. Whatever size baby comes out, he or she is sure to be healthy. The skull bones would not have fused yet by this time, for good reason. Fitting the head into the birth canal can be a tight fit and baby’s skull needs to be soft enough to squeeze right through.
If baby has dropped, that means the head (if not breeched) is nested very low and deep in your pelvis and is likely to stay there until the onset of labor. Baby’s reflexes are also fully developed by this time. He or she would probably be sucking his or her thumb even while in the womb. This is good practice to assure a good latch if you choose to breastfeed. Baby’s kicking is lesser now that he or she is too big for the womb. Movement should still be felt as baby wriggles a bit when feeling cramped. Monitor the regularity of baby’s movement on a daily basis.
Physically you will literally look like you’ve swallowed a watermelon whole – maybe even a basketball. You thought the same thing last week, but this week your belly is rounder than ever. You’re bellybutton is popped out to its fullest and you can actually see its mark underneath your maternity dress. You probably have a hard time seeing your toes and can only manage to wear slip-ons for footwear.
You’re also probably feeling impatient and frustrated. You’re past the excitement and being 40 weeks pregnant can be a bit anti-climactic to the pregnancy journey you thought would end last week. You’re thinking you’ve been pregnant way too long. If that’s the case, relax. Full term assures you that baby is healthy and fully grown when he or she decides to come out.
This week, movement may feel lighter and easier. You’ll probably be moving around to clean the house and preparing the baby’s nursery in anticipation for the new member of the family. Though, you can only enjoy your energy bursts for short periods of time. Carrying 30 pounds of extra weight can give excruciating back and leg cramps. If the baby’s foot gets lodged into a rib, that will be even worse.
Fake contractions also called Braxton Hicks contractions may be more frequent this week. Some may also feel their bellies hardening like it’s one tight, solid ball. Unless the contractions come in exact minute intervals, there is no reason to run to the hospital yet.
Sleeping comfortably has been tricky the past weeks. You’ll find it even harder to turn from side to side this week. With the heaviness of your belly, it will feel like its being left behind when you turn. You might find yourself carrying it in your hands as you do it.
It will feel the same way when riding the car and the car passes by a hump. The up and down motion will feel heavy on the belly itself. Most women who are 40 weeks pregnant will hold onto their bellies as the car moves over a hump.
What to do now
Take walks. Have sex. Drink tea. These are some natural ways to stimulate labor.
Practice your Kegels exercise. You will thank yourself later.
If you haven’t packed your hospital bag yet, do it now. Make a checklist and check it twice because it won’t do to miss out on something at the last minute.
Get that baby name finalized. If the whole family still hasn’t agreed on a name, sit it out with your husband. As the future parents, you have the last say. You wouldn’t want to be discussing it while you’re weak in the recovery room.
Get baby’s things ready. You won’t have time for it when you’ve given birth. The clothes and diapers should already be lined on the shelf, the bath tub ready to use. Heck, even the car seat should be installed by now.
Read up on baby care tips. You’ve probably exhausted all the pregnancy sites the past months, now it’s time to change the search word to ‘baby care’. There’s a myriad of things to learn in caring for a newborn, especially if this is your first baby. You’ll need to learn how to give baby a bath, change diapers, and clean the umbilical stump. It would also be useful to look up what to do if baby has the sniffles, gets a fever, or is colicky.
Decide whether you’ll breastfeed or not, and get the equipment you’ll need. If you’re going to breastfeed, you’ll need to decide further if you’re pumping your milk into bottles or feeding straight from your breasts. Whichever it is, you’ll need to stock up on breast pads because your breasts will be leaking of milk. It’s not only embarrassing in public, it’s messy too.
Get yourself a manicure and pedicure. Really! It’s better to do it now before the baby comes out. You probably won’t have time to do it for a month after giving birth.
Last but not least, make sure to see your practitioner. Your baby needs to be closely monitored now until you give birth. It’s to check if baby is not under stress in the womb. The doctor might conduct a BPP or biophysical profile that uses an ultrasound. Baby’s heart might also be checked through the fetal heart rate monitor.
What to expect
Everyday this week, you will wake up wondering if today is THE day. Any of the following things may happen:
Your water bursts. Yes, this is a classic and it might feel like you’re in the movies when it happens. But don’t expect a big splash down your legs. It will be more like a slow, continuous trickle like you’re peeing unexpectedly.
You have vaginal discharge or “show”. You might find your underwear with white or reddish secretion from your vagina. This is the mucus plug that comes out at the end of pregnancy. It is cloudy white, thick and sticky. Sometimes, it mixes with blood when it passes through the cervix where some capillaries break as the cervix dilates.
Your nipples start secreting a white discharge. No worries. This is perfectly normal as your body is preparing for the baby.
Advantages to being full term
Instead of feeling anxious that your baby is overdue, rejoice in the fact that a full term baby is your best bet to a better baby. Full term babies are:
better at regulating body temperature because of the stored-up fat
better at the suck-and-swallow reflex needed to breastfeed
and have reduced risks of jaundice, low blood sugar and infection.
At 40 weeks pregnant, relax. This is the home stretch. Baby is only 1 or 2 weeks away.