Christin Noelle / Unsplash
You’re in the home stretch!
What is my baby doing at 38 weeks gestation?
What is happening with my body at 38 weeks pregnant?
How should I prepare?
With only two weeks to go in your pregnancy, both your body and your baby’s body are changing. By this time, your baby’s eyes are either a bluish-grey or brown depending on ethnicity, and is shedding lanugo, which is the downy hair that has helped keep his or her body warm thus far.
Most babies at this point weigh somewhere around seven pounds and about 20 inches in length. Your baby’s organs are well developed by this point, and the lungs are ready for breathing and crying.
“Babies are bits of stardust blown from the hand of God. Lucky the woman who knows the pangs of birth for she has held a star.”
– Larry Barretto
During this ninth month of your pregnancy, your baby is also practicing swallowing and sucking in preparation for feeding. Your baby is also accumulating fat deposits by now to get ready for life outside the womb.
Baby’s position probably also has changed by this point, as she or he drops into your pelvis to get ready for the birthing process.
What is my baby doing right now?
Your baby may have head hair at 38 weeks gestation, and she or he is also getting rid of the white film protecting the skin, which is called vernix caseosa. If your doctor performs an ultrasound at your appointment this week, they will assess your baby’s breathing, heart rate, amniotic fluid, and movement, as well as several other things.
If there are any problems with these parameters, your doctor may recommend that the baby be delivered early.
Your body is undergoing some important changes at 38 weeks of pregnancy, as well. As mentioned above, your baby has dropped into your pelvis, so it may be easier for you to breathe at this point, but you may notice that you need to urinate much more often.
Your cervix is beginning to dilate and efface by this point, and although you may not notice it, your doctor will. In preparation for breastfeeding, your breasts may be leaking colostrum, too.
What can I expect?
More 38 weeks pregnant symptoms may include insomnia, anxiety, diarrhea, the passing of your mucus plug, and bloody vaginal discharge, or “bloody show.”
Many women get a surge of energy around this time, and some rush around cleaning and organizing to prepare for the arrival of the newest member of their family. This is known as “nesting.” While it is normal, be sure to remember to rest and avoid exhaustion this close to your baby’s birth.
Women can also experience itchy bellies and significant swelling of the feet and ankles at the 38th week of pregnancy.
Another possibly uncomfortable symptom of being 38 weeks pregnant are Braxton Hicks contractions. If this is your first pregnancy, you may confuse these “practice contractions” with the real thing.
Unfortunately, you may also feel nauseated at this stage of the game, which often becomes more intense as labor approaches.
“Giving birth and being born brings us into the essence of creation, where the human spirit is courageous and bold and the body, a miracle of wisdom.”
– Harriette Hartigan
How should I prepare?
Another 38th-week symptom is back pain. This is common two weeks from delivery, and many women report that their back pain worsens at the 38th week.
If your pain is severe, contact your doctor because this may signal that you are experiencing actual back labor and not just a backache. If your body decides that you are ready to go into labor, your water may break, which can be experienced as a trickle or a gush of fluid.
You may want to do some things to make your life easier for yourself after your bundle of joy emerges into the world. Consider preparing frozen meals, so you don’t have to worry about mealtimes while you are recovering from labor and delivery.
Get enough rest and drink plenty of water, so you have energy reserves when you go into labor. Get any equipment you need for breast or bottle feeding so you can start right away.
How can I relax?
Packing your hospital bag and practicing squat exercises may help reduce anxiety and prepare you for giving birth. Wear loose, comfortable clothing, and consider brushing up on breathing exercises that you plan to use while you’re in labor.
Some women find that meditation, visualization, and relaxation techniques are also helpful. Above all, remember that your body knows what to do, and enjoy this time. Believe it or not, you might miss it!
A deeper dive — Related reading from the 101:
Tips about habits and foods to avoid during pregnancy.
Recommendations for staying safe while exercising during pregnancy.