Baby Growth at 38 Weeks Pregnant
You are getting so close to the finish line, the last part of your pregnancy has arrived…hooray! At 38 weeks your baby should be about 19.5 inches long and about 7 pounds or around the size of a mini watermelon. The baby is still in the vital end stages of development of the lungs, brain, and diaphragm in utero. They are gearing up to be fully formed to meet you. At this time, the baby's lungs are already strong enough for your baby to cry. Even though a baby can be born healthy at this stage, it is always best to allow the baby to either come naturally or have a birth plan that incorporates the labor procedure scheduled as close to the due date as possible to help further facilitate these crucial final days in the womb.
It is common for your baby to start swallowing amniotic fluid as they practice breathing. This is usually absorbed in the body and doesn’t cause distress. The mother’s amniotic sac protects the baby's breathing environment until they breathe their first breath after arriving to this physical world. Most of that fluid build up will leave during this time as the baby hollers out their celebratory birthday cries!
Your baby's eyes are developed at this time, but the true eye color won’t emerge for another couple of weeks or up to one year after birth. That is a special surprise your baby gives you as they grow. It will be interesting to see how your baby's eye color will change after birth and show their true colors. Parents can guess what color the baby’s eyes will actually be, but it would only be a guess. These factors ultimately lay in the genetics passed on from both parents to the baby.
The most common eye color in the overall population is brown. An astonishing 60% or more of people on earth have brown eyes. However, when babies are born their eye color will appear to be slate blue or gray no matter what their eye color ends up being. Over the next 3-9 months, the baby's true eye color will emerge. Interestingly enough this is caused by the lack of pigmentation at the time of birth that is activated by the eyes being exposed to light.
Lastly, your baby will continue to drop down (called lightening) lower into your birth canal and will continue the journey until their birthday. This will present with signs of the cervix dilating. Appointments at this time may be beneficial in order to assess your physical needs at this time and if you need to make a change in the birth plan.
You and Your Body at Pregnancy 38 Weeks
At this stage in your pregnancy all the symptoms and signs of labor day you may experience will start to show. As your baby drops down further into the birth canal, it can mean easier breathing, but on the other hand, more pelvic pressure. That being said, you may also start the process of cervical dilation and effacement. Upon examination, placement of the fingers in the cervix by your healthcare provider can determine how far along you are. In the early stages of cervical dilation, it still could be days or weeks before labor begins. If your cervix is opening now, it will continue to open and prepare for delivery. You can decline cervical checks as well if you would rather not have them.
In addition, your breasts will fill with colostrum, also called “liquid gold” that is packed with added nutrients and is the first milk your baby will drink, however it may begin to leak from your nipples. This does not happen to all women before labor, but is something to be mindful of. It’s natural and nothing to worry about. You may consider having some nursing pads on hand to keep from leaking through your clothing.
Here’s some good news, you typically will not gain extra weight from here to the end of pregnancy.
Typical Symptoms at 38 Weeks Pregnant
At week 38, here are some of the most common pregnancy symptoms you may experience:
- Stretch marks
- Trouble sleeping
- Edema of legs and feet
Braxton Hicks contractions are common during this time. Be mindful of contractions that linger, get closer together or become painful. Go to the hospital if you experience labor symptoms and/or contractions that are becoming more frequent and closer together. Usually when your contractions are consistently 5 minutes apart and last for 1 minute, it is a sign that true labor is here and it’s best to connect with your healthcare provider.
Some symptoms of labor include:
- Thick mucus, possibly with a tinge of blood (mucus plug released)
- Water breaking
- More frequent and more intense contractions
- Back pain
All the symptoms experienced throughout the later stages of pregnancy may make this time uncomfortable, but most will subside after giving birth. Hang in there and use safe self-care routines for relief during this time.
Pregnancy Week 38 Tips and Advice
Try to get all the extra winks you can before you meet your baby. Rest is one of the most caring acts for yourself that you can do during this time. Finding ways to calm the mind – like with breathing exercises, meditation, and soothing activities – are helpful ways to combat stress that accompanies lack of sleep and fatigue.
Keep up with your medical routine and supplements to help reduce nasty symptoms like heartburn and nausea. Check with your medical provider for any last minute tips or changes in your treatment as needed.
Consider using breast pads for leakage that may occur. This is a natural occurrence and having tools to reduce the mess can be helpful. There are many natural cloth reusable products available, or if you prefer disposable, those can be found in your local grocery or drugstore.
Nest as much as your heart desires! By doing some last minute projects or organizing your space for the baby can help prepare you mentally and physically. Even if that is making a temporary space for a bassinet or adding some final touches to the nursery, it can help with keeping your mind busy as well as provide self-care to reduce stress. It’s a great time to prepare for baby and enjoy your hobbies before your little one fully occupies your time.
Keep yourself comfortable. Comfort over beauty can be helpful to reduce pressure on the abdomen. Loose clothing, soft materials, and favorite clothing pieces can only help you stay focused until the birthday arrives.
Have some easy or frozen meals planned just in case you go into labor early. Keep your bag packed and near the door. Being prepared ahead of time and going through a dry run of your birth plan can help reduce anxiety, and help you to be ready to go when the time comes. Some mommas keep non-perishable snacks in the car for an on-the-go energizer. Also, it can come in handy if you have another person helping you, like your birth coach, partner, or simply a loving person to help you in your pregnancy journey to sustain as much energy and endurance needed.
Please remember to be kind to yourself and baby during these special last weeks of your pregnancy, it is the best medicine you can give as a Premom. Good luck!