Way back when your baby was the size of a poppy seed, you probably wondered what it would feel like to be eight or nine months pregnant. Now you know. Life might not feel so comfortable these days. You may have swelling and various other aches or pains, but one truth remains: You’re getting very close to finally meeting your baby.
Have you dropped? Your friends, family, and even complete strangers might be sizing up your bump to get the answer to this very common question. Dropping refers to your baby’s head descending into the birth canal in preparation for labor. This process is also called lightening or engagement, and could be a sign that labor is imminent, or at most four weeks away.
When your baby drops, its head presses against your bladder. You may feel like you have to urinate constantly or have a lower backache. Sitting in an all-fours position or with your arms reached over an exercise ball can alleviate the worst of the pain. The good news is that when your belly drops, you’ll get room back in your chest so you can take deep breaths again.
By 37 weeks, your baby is around 19 inches long and over 6 pounds. Its major organs are ready to work in the real world. The brain and lungs still need more time to fully mature, but if your baby is born today, chances are good that they would be just fine. Any guesses for what your child’s hair color might be? You’ll learn the answer soon, as many babies are born with locks that are an inch or longer.
Twin moms are six times more likely to deliver their babies early. There are a number of reasons your doctor may choose to induce or schedule a cesarean delivery. In fact, researchers at the University of Adelaide suggest that mothers of multiples elect to give birth by week 37 to avoid complications.
For week 37, your symptoms this late in pregnancy could be many familiar ones, including:
- swelling in your extremities
- difficulty sleeping
- Braxton-Hicks contractions
And these Braxton-Hicks contractions might be kicking into high gear by now. In earlier pregnancy, Braxton-Hicks contractions likely didn’t produce much change in your body. Now, even at irregular intervals, they could be thinning out your cervix (called effacement) in preparation for delivery day.
Try changing positions, drinking water, or resting to help calm a particularly bad spell. If you can time the contractions or they get stronger, you might be in early labor.
Between all of your symptoms, give yourself extra time to get around. Ask for help if you have offers. Feeling uncomfortable and like you don’t have much control over your body can be disheartening, but you’re doing an important job.
If this pregnancy isn’t your first, you might be surprised to learn that 37 weeks is no longer considered “full term” in the medical world. That designation changed in 2013 when the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine issued four new definitions of “term” deliveries:
|Early term||37 weeks through 38 weeks, 6 days|
|Full term||39 weeks through 40 weeks, 6 days|
|Late term||41 weeks through 41 weeks, 6 days|
|Post-term||42 weeks and beyond|
The end of pregnancy can be long and nerve-racking. You may feel excited and want your little one to enter the world a few weeks early. Patience is the best gift you can give yourself and your baby.
These guidelines were changed in response to trends of scheduled inductions and cesareans. The outcomes of 39-week babies are much better than those born earlier, as the organs continue to develop during that time. Babies were needing more NICU care that had effects on their lifelong health and functioning. Unless there is a health risk to either the mom or the baby, it’s best to let baby cook until 40 weeks.
While you wait for labor to begin, there’s plenty you can do to get ready for your child’s arrival. Install the car seat and get it checked by your local inspector. Jot down any remaining questions you have about labor and bring them to your weekly doctor appointment. It’s also never too early to practice those breathing exercises you learned in your birth class.
You’ve probably made note of your baby’s active and quiet times. Take a few minutes out of your day to count kicks and record other movements. If you notice after regular tracking that your baby isn’t moving around as much, it’s a good idea to call your doctor. Your baby might be having a slow day. Very rarely, reduced fetal movement might indicate a cord accident or other issue that needs emergency medical attention.
Your baby’s birthday could be any day to several weeks from now. The uncertainty can be immensely difficult to bear. Try to focus on yourself versus when labor will start. Pack your hospital bag, finish up any last items on your nesting to-do list, go to dinner and a movie, and soak in a few extra hours of sleep. Your life will soon change in an instant, so take care of yourself.