Pregnancy 101: Weeks 37 to 42
In weeks 37 to 42, your pregnancy is officially considered full term. Your baby could arrive any day now.
It’s an exciting — and scary! — thought, but after nearly nine months of waiting, you’re finally getting close to meeting that little person and taking your first steps into the wild and wonderful world of parenthood. Here’s everything you need to know about labor, birth, and those precious first moments with your new family member.
Need To Know
Health professionals often refer to the three stages of labor. The first stage begins when your contractions start to come in regular intervals and your cervix starts to progressively thin and dilate, and ends when you are fully dilated at 10cm. The second stage is the “pushing stage”, during which your baby descends down the birth canal to be born. And the third stage is the delivery of the placenta, which usually happens more or less spontaneously within 5 to 10 minutes of your baby’s birth.
How long the labor process takes varies widely from woman to woman. On average, you can expect your labor to last between 10 and 20 hours in total if this is your first baby, and less if it’s your second or subsequent birth. Generally speaking, delivery times tend to get quicker with each baby you have.
It can be difficult to judge when to head to the hospital during the first stage of labor, especially if this is your first time. The general guidance is that when you’ve been having contractions that last for a minute each, coming every five minutes for about an hour, it’s time to head in. If your pregnancy is considered high-risk, if you’ve had a previous fast labor, or if you live a long way from the hospital or birthing centre, you may need to err on the side of caution and set off sooner. If in doubt, call your doctor, midwife or delivery unit reception.
Most labors start spontaneously between 37 and 42 weeks, but in some cases you may need an induction to get things going. This might be the case if you go more than two weeks past your due date, if your waters break but labor doesn’t start within 24 hours, or if you develop preeclampsia or another condition that means you need to deliver urgently. Induction techniques range from a membrane sweep, which can be done at a routine prenatal checkup, to medical methods like prostaglandins or IV oxytocin, which will need to be administered at a hospital. The method used will depend on how urgent your induction is, as well as how “ripe” your cervix is for labor.
Around one third of births in the US now happen by cesarian section. The process of delivering your baby by c-section depends on whether you are having elective or emergency surgery. In most cases, you’ll be given an epidural or spinal block so that you can remain awake throughout the procedure, and once it has taken effect the surgeon will swab your abdomen with an antiseptic before making a small horizontal incision just above your pubic bone in order to extract your baby. Once delivered, your partner should be able to hold your newborn next to you, so that you can meet and greet while you’re being stitched back up, which usually takes around 30 minutes.
Good To Have
A birthing ball is a great tool to have in the final weeks of pregnancy, as well as during labor itself. It’s not just a super-comfortable place to sit as your bump gets bigger and heavier: using a birthing ball regularly also strengthens your back and core muscles, improves your posture, and can even help your baby to get into the best position for delivery.
Make sure you take plenty of photos! You may not feel at your most attractive right now, but in years to come you (and your children) will love looking back at pictures of this time — and, of course, of the first moments with your newborn. And make sure you pack a charger in your hospital bag if you’re relying on your cameraphone to capture those precious first snaps.
If you have older children, they’re probably feeling a whole range of emotions around the arrival of their new brother or sister: excitement, pride, curiosity, jealousy, anxiety, anger… Giving big siblings a small present “from the baby” can help to foster a positive bond from the outset.
Time To Do
Get as much rest as you can! Even if you’re finding it difficult to sleep at the moment, taking a short nap in the day or a relaxing bath in the evening will help you to keep your energy levels up for the birth and beyond.
Some working moms choose to start maternity leave a few weeks before their due date; others work right up until they give birth in order to maximize the time they can spend with their newborn. Either approach is fine if you can manage it, but beware of burning out before your baby even arrives!
If your due date has come and gone and you’re getting seriously impatient, you might be tempted to try some of the time-honored “natural” labor induction techniques out there. Some — like eating curry or going for a brisk walk — certainly can’t hurt, but medical experts recommend steering clear of castor oil and herbal remedies, which may have unpleasant side effects and haven’t been proven to work.
The Big Baby Name Reveal
Everyone loves a good baby name announcement!
It doesn’t matter whether you’ve been sitting on The Name for nine months, or whether you’ve only just settled on that perfect moniker, revealing your little one’s name is one of the most exciting parts of new parenthood — for friends and family too!
So how and when should you make the big announcement? There seem to be more and more unconventional options out there, from personalized clothes, blankets or nursery art for your baby, to custom-made jewelry for mom… we’ve even seen name announcement candy bars! If the creative route appeals to you, try searching Pinterest for inspiration. Alternatively, there’s nothing wrong with sticking to tradition with a simple card or phone call to announce your happy news.
The amount of time you have to register your baby’s name varies from state to state, so check with your local Vital Records department. Some states require you to enter a name on the birth certificate before you can leave the hospital; others allow this section to be left blank and completed within a specified time period. There may be a separate deadline for amendments, if you change your mind.
And please don’t forget to come back and tell us the name you picked! We especially love hearing the stories behind our members’ fantastic final choices.