You're in your 39th week of pregnancy and about to cross next week's finish line! Congrats! Since you've made it this far, you deserve something special, like a mani-pedi, breakfast (or lunch and dinner) in bed or a nice dinner out. But, in all honestly, we bet what you'd really love is a good night's sleep, right?
Reaching the end of your pregnancy can be bittersweet. You've shared everything from air and food to your hormones with this person who is finally about to be born. All those weeks and months wondering, planning, dreaming and waiting will soon come to a wailing halt. At the same time, your body and mind are probably ready for a change -- to go back to being just yours, to be able to function again normally. More importantly, you need to get ready for the next phase -- the sleepless nights, endless feedings and cuddling part.
However you're feeling about reaching this milestone emotionally, your body is certainly getting ready!
What You Might Be Feeling
Let's be honest, here. You're almost due, and you're very, very pregnant. Not much is happening to your body now, except more of the same. You may feel like you've swallowed that beach ball everyone talks about. You're probably irritable, not hungry and sleep deprived, and it's likely you're not gaining anymore weight, and you may have even lost a pound or so.
It's important to be extra careful with your body right now. Your center of gravity has shifted, as your ready-to-pop belly is leading the way for the rest of you, which can cause you to be off-balance. The last thing you want to do is tumble, so take it nice and slow when walking around.
In addition to your belly feeling like it's going to burst, your uterus is at its maximum size, too, meaning it has taken over the space where the rest of your organs are supposed to be. It may sound frightening, but you're probably functioning fine, and everything will return to its rightful place after birth.
Now, let's check in with the baby.
What's Going on in Your Body
Your soon-to-be newborn now measures roughly 21.5 inches from head to toe and has an average weight of about 7 pounds. Fingernails and toenails are fully grown in, and she is testing her lung functions in preparation for breathing on her own. The baby probably won't get any longer but could gain a few more ounces before birth. If you deliver at this point, she will not be considered premature and will more than likely be a healthy weight and size.
There's no more room left in your baby's cozy home, but that doesn't mean she's any less active. In fact, the movements made at the end of your pregnancy journey will show you just how strong your little one really is. Her head is down and is slowing burrowing toward your pelvis.
Don't forget to keep counting kicks and punches! You've gotten pretty good at this by now, and it's still important to make sure the baby continues to be active.
What Your Partner Should Know
At this point, your partner is probably just as anxious as you are about seeing the new arrival -- but without the swollen legs, sleepless nights and overall feeling of physical discomfort. Right now, the best thing for him or her to help you with is, well, everything!
Give your partner some responsibilities right before the baby comes -- washing those first tiny outfits, getting the e-mail and text message list ready for the big news -- that will help him or her feel part of the action. Of course, you'll need your partner even more during the main event, but take time to enjoy these last few days as a family sans a newborn because life will never be the same again!
Some Things to Consider
Have you packed for the hospital yet? Some moms-to-be keep a bag ready and waiting for weeks in advance; others throw one together as they're waddling out the door. Don't worry about under- or overpacking -- your partner or family member can always bring what you may need.
Here are some important items to remember when you check in to the hospital:
- Insurance card and ID: Even if you've registered at a hospital or birthing center in advance, you still need to be checked in. Don't forget any other important paperwork you may need for the hospital.
- Nursing pajamas and bras: Hospital gowns may be necessary for labor and delivery, but after your baby is born, you'll definitely want to change into something more comfortable -- and something with more fabric for covering up when all your family and friends visit.
- Eyeglasses: If you wear contact lenses, hospital staff will ask you to remove them after you settle in to your delivery room.
- Slippers: Hospital floors are cold! The hospital will probably provide you with socks, but it's always nicer to have your own stuff around. You'll be asked to walk around soon after you give birth to help get your blood circulating and your body moving.
- Umbilical cord blood collection kit: If you're banking your baby's umbilical cord blood, don't forget the collection kit the cord blood center should have sent to you. They'll probably also ask you to call them when you check in to the hospital or as soon as possible after delivery.
- Personal touches: Bring a few small items to help you relax. This can be anything from music, a special fragrance, magazines or photos of your family or pets that make you smile.
Don't Worry If...
Whether this is your first child or your fifth, pregnancy always goes hand in hand with anxiety and excitement. Every pregnancy is different, of course. You may hear people say your first baby will take the longest to deliver, but it could be your second (or third or fourth!) child who is the stubborn kid!
That being said, don't worry if you go into labor a week or so early. Many babies arrive naturally a few days to a week early. It's helpful to know the signs of early labor in advance, in case your baby decides to make a surprise appearance. You'll want to call your doctor if you experience any of the following, since it may be time to check in to the hospital:
- Flu-like symptoms, including nausea and vomiting, can occur a few days before labor. This is just your body reacting to hormonal changes.
- An obvious sign that labor is starting is your water breaking. Contrary to many movies and TV shows in which the pregnant woman's water breaks and causes a flood, your water breaking can feel like either a big rush of water or a slow trickle.
- The loss of your mucus plug can occur a few days or a few hours before you begin labor. The mucus plug, also called a bloody show, looks exactly like how it sounds. It's a signal that the cervix is starting to open for labor to begin.
- You've probably been experiencing your fair share of Braxton-Hicks contractions, but pain like menstrual cramps coming from your back and moving toward your front is a better sign that labor is starting.
- American Pregnancy Association. "39th Week of Pregnancy." (June 20, 2011) http://www.americanpregnancy.org/weekbyweek/week39.htm
- Baby Center. "22 Surprising Facts about Birth in the United States." (June 23, 2011) http://www.babycenter.com/0_22-surprising-facts-about-birth-in-the-united-states_1372273.bc
- Baby Center. "Packing list for the hospital or birth center." (June 22, 2011) http://www.babycenter.com/packing-for-the-hospital-or-birth-center
- Parenting. "3rd Trimester: Week 39." (June 20, 2011) http://www.parenting.com/timeline/3rd-trimester-week-39
- WebMD. "Your Pregnancy Week by Week: Weeks 35-40." (June 20, 2011) http://www.webmd.com/baby/guide/your-pregnancy-week-by-week-weeks-35-40?page=2
- What to Expect. "Week 39 of Pregnancy." (June 20, 2011) http://www.whattoexpect.com/pregnancy/week-by-week/week-39.aspx