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39 Weeks Pregnant


Image: Fetal Development At 39 Weeks

All systems go for the big day! You’re probably waiting with bated breath for the first contraction now, but did you know that first babies often tend to be later than 40 weeks?

In any case, your baby’s skull-bones are ready and able to overlap, helping the baby to pass through the birth canal. Your cervix is softening (or ‘ripening’ as it is often called). In the days before labour the mucus plug which has kept your cervix sealed through pregnancy comes away. This is called a ‘show’ – and you could have one any day now!

Have you had a Sexing Scan done? Many people try to guess the sex from the size of the bump – boys are usually a bit bigger than girls. In any case, your baby probably weighs between 3kg and 3.2 kg now. Immediately after the birth he’ll be given some brief tests to measure his health on what’s known as the Agpar Scale. These are so quick that some mums don’t even notice them. After he’s born it might be a few hours before his breathing pattern becomes steady and normal.

If you haven’t already done so, now is a good time to have a long chat with your midwife or doctor about pain relief during labour. You might find your initial feelings have changed as the birth draws closer.

Did you know that raspberry leaf tea has been reported to assist labour along by helping your uterus muscles contract? It’s said that drinking this tea in the weeks before the birth (although not prior to 30 weeks) can help to shorten labour’s second stage. It has also been linked to a reduced risk of assisted delivery. Worth a try?

At this late stage you may find your mood is swinging from anticipation about meeting your little one, to fear about the challenge ahead. This is normal but try not to worry. Just get plenty of rest and look after yourself. It might be your last chance to chill out for a while. Why not watch that film you’ve been wanting to see or read a book that has nothing to do with babies?

You may also want to make some nice home-cooked meals to put in the freezer for after the baby’s born. In the first few weeks neither you nor your partner are likely to feel like cooking and it’ll save you living on takeaways, tempting though they are.

How can I cope when I’m at home in the early stages of labour?
We’ve all seen the films where a woman goes into labour and is immediately rushed into hospital after the first contraction. In reality, the first stage of labour can take a long time. Provided you’re healthy and your waters haven’t broken yet, your midwife will encourage you to stay at home during those early stages.

So the question is, how do you deal with it without the reassurance of doctors and a fully equipped hospital yet? Or if you’re having a home birth, how do you know when to call your midwife?

Staying at home in early labour is actually thought to make you more likely to have a shorter and more positive labour experience. You’re less likely to need medical drugs to speed the process along or help you give birth. This makes a lot of sense when you consider how much more relaxing it is to be in your own home environment, giving you strength for the challenge ahead.

Early labour can feel like backache, low-intensity contractions, cramps, or lower tummy ache. Here are some tips for helping to get through the early part:

  • Take up to two paracetamol (no more than that) to take the edge off those early contractions and help you to sleep. Some midwives say you can have a glass of wine at home to help you to relax. But don’t take wine and paracetamol at once!
  • Try to rest or even sleep. Labour can be a long process, and the more energy you can preserve the better. If it hurts to lie down because of contractions then why not try leaning on a birth ball or over cushions with a blanket to keep you warm.
  • Ask your partner to run you a warm bath or shower. Warm (but not hot!) water can be relaxing and might ease contractions a bit. You could also try lying on your side and having your partner pour warm water over you. Or you could try a hot water bottle on your lower back.
  • Eat or drink something. Slow-release carbohydrate-rich foods are good. For example oats, potatoes or pasta. If you don’t feel you can eat why not try a banana or a smoothie – easy to get down you and full of goodness!
  • Find distractions. For example have a little walk, play with your other kids or watch a DVD. Be careful to be gentle with yourself though.

These are the sorts of things that can help your early labour progress to active labour. Remember to listen to what your body’s telling you. Try different positions to get comfortable but whether you want to move around or rest, just do what feels right.

Some people find it helpful to think of labour like running a marathon. Prepare yourself beforehand, pace yourself in the early stages, and have fluids and calories at the ready to keep your energy up.

You may just want some space on your own to concentrate or you may want encouragement. That person might be your partner or you may also want a friend with you in the early stages too. It really is up to you.

Your birth partner can help by:

  • Being good company. Chatting if you want to chat or staying quiet if you need to focus. Holding your hand, providing calming and reassuring words.
  • Reminding you to breathe through your contractions.
  • Setting up the TENS machine for you.
  • Taking care of your other kids.
  • Getting you food and drink.
  • Timing your contractions.
  • Massaging you or running you a bath.

As hard as it can feel, remember that women having been giving birth for thousands of years and your body is designed to do it. When it’s over and you’re holding your precious little one in your arms it will all have been worth it!

Possible Scan at Week 39
The purpose of a Well-being Scan is to check that the baby is growing well and that the pregnancy is developing normally. You may want to have this scan if your baby has been moving less, if you have had unusual tummy pains, light bleeding or if you have had some kind of accident (for example on the road or in a fall).

A Wellbeing Scan is particularly important if you have had pregnancy complications or problems in a previous pregnancy. This scan is usually only offered by the NHS if there is a complication with the pregnancy.