What to Expect in the 39th Week of Pregnancy
Baby Born at 39 Weeks: Full Term
39 Weeks: A Full Term Baby
With only one week left until your official due date, the 39th week of pregnancy is an exciting (and exhausting) time. Some women will have already had their babies at this point, or may go into labor this week. Still others could be two or even three weeks away from delivery!
In any case, mothers should be prepared for baby's arrival at any time. If your hospital bag isn't packed and ready to go, make sure this task is completed as soon as possible. If you have other children, ensure that a caregiver is able to take care of them when you go into labor. It may seem unfair that it is so hard to get a good night's sleep, because soon you will be caring for a newborn in the wee hours of the night! Many women report a feeling of being "done" with the pregnancy at this stage, and simply anxious to see their little one!
Baby Dropping: Ready for Birth!
For first time mothers, the baby usually drops into position sometime during the last month of pregnancy. Mothers who are on their second (or third, or fourth) pregnancies may not experience this phenomenon until just before labor begins - or even until labor is well underway!
When the baby drops, his or her head engages with the cervix. In some ways, this will ease some of the discomforts of late pregnancy. It may be easier to breathe, and the baby's feet will no longer be pressing against your rib cage. On the other hand, the baby's head may create a lot of pressure as your body prepares for labor.
Cervix Effacement and Dilation
Braxton-Hicks vs. Real Contractions
Most women will experience Braxton-Hicks contractions throughout their last trimester. These contractions are generally not very painful, do not get closer together, and arrive sporadically throughout the last portion of pregnancy.
Real labor, however, begins with contractions that may be spaced far apart, but get progressively closer together. The intensity of the contractions will increase as they get closer together, and will become painful.
If any mother is in doubt as to whether their contractions are real labor or Braxton-Hicks, a call (and visit) to their obstetrician should ease any doubts!
Braxton Hicks Contractions
Increased heartburn and even nausea may occur in this last portion of pregnancy. As the baby continues to grow in size, there is less room for your stomach! The baby also presses against the intestines and bladder - fortunately this late pregnancy discomfort won't last very long, because baby will arrive very soon! Eat smaller meals more frequently throughout the day, so that your stomach doesn't get overly full.
Increased Urination (Again)
One of the first signs of pregnancy is an increased need to urinate. In late pregnancy, this symptom returns as the baby rests on your bladder. In fact, baby sometimes actively kicks your bladder, which can cause moments of intense discomfort or even leakage. There isn't much you can do about this particular aspect of late pregnancy. This symptom will disappear once your little one is no longer in your womb and is held in your arms!
Some women may lose their mucus plug during this week of pregnancy. The mucus plug was in place to seal up the cervix, and protected the womb during the pregnancy. As the cervix begins to efface (thin out) and dilate (open), the mucus plug falls out of place.
This "plug" is really just a large amount of mucus, and may be streaked with blood. In general, the loss of the mucus plug means that labor will start within the next 2-3 weeks. The time is highly variable, though: some women will go into labor very quickly after losing the mucus plug, and others won't lose it until labor has already commenced!
Group B Strep
Late Pregnancy Exam: Cervix Effacement and Dilation
The last weeks of pregnancy will include very frequent check-ups with your doctor. If swabs have not already been taken for Group B Strep, this will be done now. Group B Strep is a common bacteria, and as many as 10-30% of women will carry it during their last trimester. In general, Group B Strep (GBS) will be tested for at some point between weeks 35-37 weeks of pregnancy. If you are positive for GBS, antibiotics will be delivered via I.V. during labor and delivery to protect the baby from possible infection.
The obstetrician will also check your cervix to see if it is beginning to efface. The cervix usually effaces (thins out) before it dilates. First time mothers may not have any dilation before labor begins, but mothers who have had prior pregnancies may already be dilated to 3cm and not even know it!
Your blood pressure and weight will also be checked, and the doctor will listen to fetal heart tones.
3D Ultrasound of Baby at 39 Weeks
Baby's Size and Development at 39 Weeks
The average baby is approximately 19.96 inches long and 7.25 pounds at 39 weeks. Of course, every baby varies considerably in size at this gestational age! Some babies will be a very tiny 5 pounds, while others are over 9 pounds. A late pregnancy ultrasound will give some idea of baby's actual size.
Your baby is ready for delivery at this stage of pregnancy. He is producing surfactant, which is vital for healthy lung function. Surfactant production also plays a role in the initiation of labor. Your baby continues to put on weight and is ready to meet the world outside!
The Author's Own Experience at 39 Weeks of Pregnancy
I have two sons, and both were born at 39 weeks of pregnancy. The circumstances of their deliveries was very different, and shows that you can never know what to expect in late pregnancy!
My first son was due on Christmas Day. I went in for a routine late-pregnancy check, and the nurse took my blood pressure and weight. My son's heart tones were strong and I was excited to head home and relax until labor started. A short period of time later, the doctor entered the room and several more blood pressure readings were taken. Then an ultrasound was ordered - I was thrilled to see my son's face when they flipped the screen over to the 3-D mode. The obstetrician explained that my blood pressure was high, so she wanted to send me over to the hospital for some monitoring.
I was glad to have my mom with me, but I hadn't brought my hospital bag with me. It didn't really matter, I thought, since I was just going over for monitoring. A few hours later, the doctor arrived and checked my blood pressure readings, which had been taken every half hour or so. I was informed that I was not going home, and would be induced in the morning. I had preeclampsia, and the baby needed to be delivered. Fortunately, I was full term when the high blood pressure developed. I went into labor spontaneously in the early morning hours, before the induction could begin. My son was born before 11:00am the next day.
My second son was a much different experience. Other than being highly uncomfortable, I had no signs of impending labor. My blood pressure was fine the second time around, and I was simply anxious for my baby to arrive so that we could begin our lives as a family of four. At 9:15pm one evening, contractions started. By the time I arrived at the hospital an hour later, I was already 7cm dilated! My second son was born very, very quickly, just after midnight. I was Group B Strep positive with my second son, and they barely had time to get the antibiotics in via I.V. before he was born!