37 weeks pregnant
Congratulations. Your baby has officially reached term, meaning he is fully cooked and if he were born today he would no longer be a premature baby. You might not be ready, but he will be.
Your baby at 37 weeks
At week 37 of pregnancy, and indeed at birth, the distance around your baby's head and stomach will be the same, in order to help him squeeze through the birth canal more easily. Here’s some more about how your baby looks at week 37:
- His face is fully developed. He has eyelashes and eyebrows and may, or may not, have up to 5cm of hair.
- Most of your baby's lanugo hair has gone, falling into the amniotic fluid where he swallows it and turns it into meconium (his first bowel movement).
- If your baby is a boy, his testes will have descended into his scrotum by now. Only about 3% of boys have undescended testes at birth.
- Your baby’s movements will be smaller because he has less room but you should still feel a similar number of movements as you have throughout the third trimester.
Lots of women think their babies move less often later in pregnancy but they don't. If you do think your baby is moving less often, never ignore it. Drink some cold water and lie down and see if you can feel your baby move. You could also try anything that usually wakes your baby – such as a loud noise like a door slamming. If you still don’t feel movement, or you just aren’t feeling ‘right’, ring your midwife team straight away and they will arrange for you to go in and get checked over. No one knows how much of an emergency it is but you shouldn't wait.
About 5-10% of women feel their baby is moving less often at some time in their pregnancy and the overwhelming majority of their babies are absolutely fine, but seeking advice quickly is important. If it does turn out that there’s a problem, such as pre-eclampsia or an infection in the baby, the doctors may want to get him out quickly.
Women being aware of their babies’ movements is helping to reduce the number of stillbirths that happen each year, so it’s really worth getting to know what’s normal for you and acting quickly if you suspect a problem.
What size is the baby at 37 weeks?
At week 37 your baby is around 50cm long – about the length of a bunch of Swiss chard. On average. a baby at 37 weeks weighs around 6.5lb.
How is your body changing at 37 weeks pregnant?
It’s fair to say that birth is probably at the front of your mind at the moment, and your body is gearing up for the hormonal tip that will get labour started.
Your cervix is getting ready
Your cervix gets softer and thinner and it begins to dilate and open gradually. When this happens, a plug of mucus – which acts as a seal – is usually released. This is called a show. Like Braxton Hicks contractions, this does not mean that the baby is about to appear any second but it can be one of the very early signs of labour and it does mean you should at least check your hospital bag is packed.
You may feel you are looking a bit ropey by now and that your ‘bloom’ has dried up somewhat, leaving your skin flaky. You may also have black shadows under your eyes from getting up for the toilet all night. We’d like to say all this will disappear when you have your baby, but to be honest, the sleepless nights are probably only just beginning. Better to accept it and invest in some decent BB cream.
Pregnancy niggles in week 37
As you come to the end of your pregnancy it’s very likely you’ll get some swelling in your fingers, feet and ankles, especially if it's hot. Your blood volume, which increased with the demands of carrying and nutritionally supporting a baby, means that fluid seeps out of the blood vessels into the surrounding tissues and pools there for a while. Everything will be back to normal after your baby is born but until then you may need new shoes (damn!).
It’s all usually nothing to worry about, although if you also have headaches and blurred vision these can be a sign of pre-eclampsia, which needs urgent treatment. So if your swelling has any other symptoms alongside it do see your doctor, pronto.
Things to think about during week 37 of pregnancy
While you’re putting the finishing touches to the nursery, putting up the crib or cot and finalising your baby names shortlist, spare your forgotten perineum (shortly to be the star of this whole show) a thought or two…
Antenatal perineal massage
One of the ways you can prepare your body for birth is by massaging your perineum. Admittedly it's not for everyone, but antenatal perineal massage may help prevent a tear and make the tissues around your vagina recover faster from giving birth.
The perineum sits between your vagina and anus. It's the floor of the pelvic floor, where the two sides of the hammock of muscles meet in the middle. If you tear or stretch it (the latter being inevitable) you can leak from your bladder and/or bowels and experience pain when you have sex.
Massaging this area for a few weeks before birth may help make it more elastic, increase blood flow to the perineum and make it stretchier for when your baby comes out. There is some evidence that it reduces the chance of you needing an episiotomy (where your perineum is cut to help the baby out) and may reduce pain after giving birth. Doing it can feel a bit like you are your own gynaecologist at first but in time it gets easier and you will relax.
The evidence for it being successful is not terribly strong so you don't need to feel guilty if you don't do it. And obviously if you’re having a planned caesarean, you can give all this a miss – though don’t let us stop you if you fancy it anyway.
How to do perineal massage:
- Have a bath then sit on your bed, pillows behind you, knees up and supported.
- Put some unperfumed lubricant such as sweet almond oil on your thumbs and forefingers.
- Place your thumbs on and just within the back wall of your vagina – rest one or both of your forefingers on your buttocks.
- Press down a bit towards the rectum and move the thumbs up and out in a U motion.
- Try to do five minutes at a time.
The evidence says you can do it for as little as twice a week from week 35 onwards. Don't massage if you have herpes or thrush as they'll get spread around the area.