You've reached week 37 and your baby is officially considered full term. That means that if you were to go into labor right now, he or she will have developed most of the body's crucial functions.
While you're reaching the point in your pregnancy where you just want baby to be here already, be patient. Do what you can to enjoy these last few weeks sans child with your partner, take long naps (because they won't come frequently in the near future!).
Your changing life
You've probably noticed in the last few weeks that your Braxton Hicks contractions are showing up more frequently. They're probably most uncomfortable and lasting longer than they used to. This is because your uterus is getting ready for the big day and practicing the contracting motions that will help you push during childbirth.
At around 37 weeks is when you may notice what is called the "bloody show." This is mucus lining the uterus that's fallen out and typically tinged with a small amount of blood. This is something your doctor or health care specialist will warn you about if they haven't. When you see the bloody show – whether in your underwear or the toilet – it means that labor is probably just a few days away and it's time to get ready! You should also keep in mind, however, that women having their first child don't always experience this because it takes a little longer for your body to get ready for childbirth. If you've reached your due date and don't have a bloody show to report, it'll probably occur when when your doctor has induced labor for you.
More likely than not, it's getting more difficult to sleep at night. In addition to getting up to use the restroom multiple times, baby's movements are so intense that they can wake you up. While the disruption of sleep may not be welcoming, you should take these last few weeks to enjoy the movements inside of your belly. After baby is born, you'll wish you could go back to that time when you were the only one in the world who could feel those little kicks. Baby should be moving at least 10 times per hour, so be sure to count and let your doctor know if these movements aren't as frequent or stop all together.
While your doctor probably called you about the results of your Group B strep test, you should be sure to ask if you haven't heard back. It's important to know whether or not you tested positive because you'll want to give the nurses at the hospital a heads up in case you need the necessary antibiotics.
You've probably come to expect your weekly pelvic exams when you visit the doctor at this stage. Have they told you whether you're dilated or effaced? It's common for the cervix to begin opening before you actually go into labor – when it needs to be open to 10 centimeters to get baby out. Effacement is another term your doctor may have thrown around, but do you know what it means? Effacement is how thin your cervix is. You need to be at 100 percent when you push baby out. Your doctor also has to check to see if your cervix has moved from the back to the front of your pelvis. They'll look to see how deep in the birth canal your baby is, which can help determine when you'll go into labor.
Your growing baby
Right now, baby is the size of a winter melon. He or she is between 18 and 21 inches long and weighs between 6 and 9 pounds. During the last couple weeks of pregnancy, baby's brain and lungs will continue to mature.
Baby is also fine-tuning his or her skills while still in the womb. Your little one is practicing learning how to breath, sucking his or her thumb, gripping and blinking. Once your baby is born, he or she will take their first sticky poop. This is also called meconium and at 37 weeks, baby is busy in your belly preparing for his or her first diaper.
Signs of labor
With your first baby, it can be hard to know the difference between true and false labor. There's no way to predict when it's going to start, and most women go past their due date with their first baby anyway.
Aside from the early signs of labor such as lightening, an increase in Braxton Hicks contractions, losing your mucus plug, experiencing the bloody show and your water breaking, you can tell you're in true labor by looking out for the following symptoms:
- Contractions from true labor are not only persistent but continue getting stronger no matter how many times you change positions or get up and walk.
- True labor contracts come at shorter intervals after a period of time and become more intense.
- The pain from true labor starts in your lower back and wraps around to your abdomen. False labor is centered in your lower abdomen.
Above all else, hang in there! You've made it this far and you've only got a few more weeks to go!