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Guide to Being 37 Weeks Pregnant

You could be a mom any day now! See more pregnancy pictures.
©iStockphoto.com/mikaheittola

You're full-term, baby!

That baby is technically ready to go, and it could happen any minute now -- more likely in a few weeks, closer to your due date (and this is what we want), but if you were to go into labor now, it would be considered safe. Your baby is developed enough to survive outside the womb.

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Here, what you may be experiencing at 37 weeks, what's happening in that enormous belly of yours, what's perfectly normal (and what's not), and a few issues you might want to keep in mind as you sprint to the finish.

First, you may be feeling some exciting new sensations that could signal the opening stages of labor …

You're probably feeling about ready to get back to your former self.
You're probably feeling about ready to get back to your former self.
©iStockphoto.com/Yuri_Arcurs

Heartburn? Check! Swelling, bloating and leg cramps? Check! Constipation, varicose veins, sleepless nights and forgetfulness? Check!

Luckily, your due date is in just three weeks, because you're probably ready to start getting back to your former self, physically speaking. Some of your pregnancy symptoms are almost definitely increasing in intensity, including back pain, due to your stunningly huge uterus; exhaustion, from difficulty sleeping and the overall physical exertion of supporting so much extra weight; and frequent urination, which only gets more frequent as your baby begins to descend into your pelvis in preparation for birth. There's a head pressing down on your bladder with some force.

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You may also be experiencing a few new (or quite recent) symptoms, including:

  • Braxton Hicks contractions -- These practice contractions can feel like a tightening of your uterine walls, occur at random intervals, and last only 30 seconds to a minute or two.
  • "Lightening" -- As your baby heads downward into your pelvis, you may feel like your belly is less heavy.
  • Decreased activity --Your baby is as big as a newborn, and it's very crowded in there. With little room to move, you'll notice a bit less activity. You should still feel some movement every day, though; if you don't, call your doctor.
  • Leaky breasts -- You may be leaking colostrum now, which, if you breastfeed, will nourish your baby for the first few days, until your milk comes in.
  • Signs of impending labor -- Labor symptoms can start a few weeks (or a few hours) before delivery. These include increased vaginal discharge (and possibly the passing of the mucus plug that's been sealing your cervix off from bacteria); bloody discharge (or "bloody show"); diarrhea (making room for baby to work his or her way out); and rhythmic contractions. If you experience these, call your doctor or midwife, who will check your cervix to see if you're close.

And you are, most likely, pretty close, since that baby is officially ready for life in the world of oxygen, sunlight and temperatures below 98.6…

Weight: About 6.5 pounds. Length: About 19 inches (head to toe). Skin: Hairless.

Ready to meet your child? It won't be long. If you could look inside your womb right now, you'd see the very person you'll be greeting soon -- minus a bit of chub, perhaps, but otherwise developed to full-term.

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Fat is still packing on, up to an ounce a day, to build up some nice cushioning and protection against the cold, cold world outside your body. Brain and lung development will continue until birth (and beyond), and your baby is sleeping deeply now. He or she is breathing and sucking like a pro, too, ready for that first breath of air and suckle of breast or bottle.

Plus, that light hair (lanugo) and creamy coating (vernix) that made your baby look a little, well, odd? Both are gone, or mostly gone, revealing that soft, pink (and opaque) baby skin you'll love from day one.

Your body is changing, too, during week 37: Your cervix might be thinning and opening, getting ready to pass a big baby through a much smaller (but miraculously expandable) hole, and your baby may be orienting him or herself in a head-down position and starting to drop.

These changes signal even bigger changes to come, and not just for you: Your partner is preparing for a new life, too …

Frozen meals in the fridge? Bags packed? Call list ready to go? Then it's time to relax and wait for baby.
Frozen meals in the fridge? Bags packed? Call list ready to go? Then it's time to relax and wait for baby.
©iStockphoto.com/izusek

Partners, you'll be helping mom out from the get-go, and that may not be far off. Get going now by helping out with the last-minute details so you're not rushing when contractions start.

While mom is resting up for the big push (and the sleepless months that follow), make sure all the baby-related affairs are in order this week. A few of the things partners can address include:

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  • Assembling nursery furniture
  • Installing the car seat
  • Preparing meals for the first few weeks after delivery
  • Making a call/e-mail list for notifications (you don't want to forget anyone)

Also, keep in mind you'll be in the hospital, too. When the not-so-little lady is packing the overnight bag, make sure to put some thought into what you'll want (camera? book? laptop?). It's only a day or two, but it's an important day or two -- and one that might involve some waiting around.

Still not enough to think about? This week, you may also want to contemplate some labor plans …

It might take three more weeks to see the baby into this world, but it could also happen today.
It might take three more weeks to see the baby into this world, but it could also happen today.
iStockphoto.com/Moncherie

As your due date draws near, one of the most important things to keep in mind is the relative meaninglessness of your due date. Just a small percentage of babies are born on the day their moms circled on the calendar.

So, what does that mean?

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For one thing, it means you need to know the difference between false labor (Braxton-Hicks contractions) and real labor, since you don't want to rush to the hospital only to be sent home (that does happen, though). Luckily, the two are fairly easy to tell apart. In false labor, contractions are mild, occur at random intervals, and last for only about 30 seconds. In true labor, they're intense, occur at regular intervals, get progressively closer together, and last progressively longer.

The other big thing to consider is that while you may be planning on three more weeks, your baby might be planning on tomorrow. So get the big stuff in order as if your due date were right now: Nursery preparations, blankets, car seat, plans to have your pets taken care of when you're at the hospital or birthing center, and anything else that requires some forethought or phone calls.

Don't sweat it, though, if you don't get it all worked out. There are phones in hospital rooms (not to mention Internet, these days), so if you go into labor and you haven't made plans for your dog, you can take care of that between contractions. And your sister will, most likely, agree to run out for some receiving blankets on her way to visit her new niece or nephew. No biggie.

And on that note, there are lots more things you needn't stress about this week …

In week 37, as in every week of pregnancy, the "mays" and the "may nots" are pretty much equal. Don't worry if:

  • Your breasts are not leaking colostrum -- Some women leak, some don't. Just because you don't see it doesn't mean your breasts aren't producing it.
  • You're not feeling practice contractions -- Some women feel Braxton-Hicks contractions, some don't. Your body is getting ready, whether you're aware of it or not.
  • Your baby isn't head-down yet -- You've still got time for the little one to turn, and there are even steps you can take to help the process. Your doctor will tell you what needs to happen at your weekly check-up.
  • And finally, don't worry if you're worried about labor. It's an unknown, and that's scary. But women have been doing it since the beginning of time, and these days, complications are pretty rare. And remember, if you decide the pain is too great, the anesthesiologist is a phone call away. So save your worrying -- right now, just get some sleep. It could be the last you see for a while.

For more information on pregnancy, parenting and related topics, look over the links on the next page.

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More Great Links

Sources

  • 37th Week of Pregnancy. American Pregnancy Association. (June 16, 2011) http://www.americanpregnancy.org/weekbyweek/week37.htm
  • Week 37 of Pregnancy. What To Expect. (June 16, 2011) http://www.whattoexpect.com/pregnancy/week-by-week/week-37.aspx
  • Your Pregnancy: 37 Weeks. Baby Center. (June 16, 2011) http://www.babycenter.com/6_your-pregnancy-37-weeks_1126.bc

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