You should give yourself a pat on the back during your week 38 of pregnancy for you have carried your baby successfully to full-term. His estimated weight and height are about 7 pounds and 20 inches, respectively – and the longer he stays in your womb, the heavier and taller he gets.
Your little one’s fingers now have fingernails that reach up to his fingertips and he is now able to grasp things quite firmly if given the chance. His bones have hardened through a process called ossification which occurs throughout your pregnancy. Storing and building up body fat one ounce a day is what your baby at 38 weeks will continue to do.
Your baby’s organs are prepared for the outside world by week 38 of pregnancy. His stomach is now ready to digest milk and his lungs as well as vocal chords are ready to wail for the first time. Your baby may have already shed the biofilm (vernix) that protects him as well as the downy hair (lanugo) on his body. He ingests and excretes these, along with some of the amniotic fluid, in the form of a black stool. This will be your baby’s first stool passage, called meconium. It might mix with the amniotic fluid which may then be swallowed by your baby. This can be dangerous especially if your baby excretes the meconium while he is still in your womb. Your doctor will have to suction out the meconium from your baby’s internal organs as soon as possible if this happens.
“Lightening” is one of the not-so-observable symptoms of pregnancy by week 38. This is when your baby will “drop” down to your pelvis are, positioning himself for birthing. “Dropping” provides extra space for your lungs to expand and allows you to breathe with less difficulty. However, as your baby’s head is positioned in the pelvis, it adds extra pressure to your groin, lower back, and bladder. Lightening is usually a sign that your labor will start very soon.
Braxton Hicks contractions are also a symptom of pregnancy by week 38. These are the false contractions that you get from time to time. How would you know if you are experiencing Braxton Hicks and not the actual signs of labor? Braxton Hicks contractions are painful in the front area of the abdomen. Actual labor, on the other hand, involves pain that starts from the back and migrates towards the front. Braxton Hicks contractions are sporadic while actual labor contractions are periodic and intensify as the birth draws nearer.
You will notice an increase of fetal activity this week. Your baby at 38 weeks has filled (almost completely) the space in your womb. Thus, it is getting to be pretty cramped in there. Expect a lot of turning and squirming from the little guy rather than the kicking that was persistent over the last few months. Also, your amniotic fluid is decreasing, making your baby less buoyant. You will definitely start feeling his weight at this time.
You should be all set to go when you are in week 38 of pregnancy. This is because your little bundle of joy is already fully developed by this week. You can expect to hear his first cry anytime soon; although, most babies come out in week 39 or 40. Some mothers’ water breaks as early as week 38 of pregnancy. Most mothers don’t give birth on the expected date. It’s always safer to be ready a week or two before the expected date.
Be well-prepared so that you will be more relaxed on your delivery day. Preparation, during your week 38 of pregnancy, should include a number of things. Important phone numbers like that of your attending physician, pediatrician, doula (if any) should already be at hand. Can you imagine scrambling for their phone numbers during your active phase in labor?
In addition, your car must be checked and maintained before your week 38 of pregnancy. In case your water ruptures prematurely, so you don’t have to worry about running out of gas or needing a car tune up. Stock up on groceries and easy-to-heat meals or even restaurant takeout menus. This is often neglected. You have to consider the fact that once you take your baby home, you’ll be too busy to cook. Takeout and delivery will be your saviors.
Pack your toiletries, extra clothes, laptop or iPod (for entertainment), and some snacks for you and your spouse in one bag. In a separate bag, put your baby’s clothes, blankets, and diapers. Your hospital bags should be packed with the essentials that you will need for your hospital stay on or before week 38 of pregnancy.