Mumsnet pregnancy calendar

1st trimester

2nd trimester

3rd trimester

38 weeks pregnant


Baby at 38 weeks pregnantYour baby at 38 weeks

Your baby is getting ready to meet you.

  • If her eyes are blue, don't get too used to them, they may darken as pigment develops over the first few months. If your baby has brown eyes, they won't get lighter. Pigment is only added, not removed.
  • She'll have a little chest that sticks out and tiny breast buds.
  • She may have long fingernails, which need cutting to stop her scratching herself.
  • She may have a complete hairstyle, or be virtually bald.
  • She will have been developing her own routine. In the last six weeks in the womb your baby is either active or quiet. She will now be in an active state for about 40% of the time, although the research varies on how active she will be. While she is active she will be moving her legs and arms, and her heart rate will go up and she will be making breathing movements. When she is quiet she won't be doing any of these things and her heart rate will stay the same. Her eyes will be open when she is awake and shut when asleep.
  • The first breath is a big shock for your baby and she will be practising for this moment right up until birth. This practice is essentially breathing underwater as she is surrounded by amniotic fluid. Her lungs are pretty mature now but will still develop and grow tiny air sacs long after birth. In the last few weeks before birth they make lots of surfactant - the fatty substance that keeps the tiny airways open - which helps them take in as much oxygen as possible.
  • Your baby will hiccup a lot around this time as the amniotic fluid she is breathing in will sometimes tickle her throat. Your baby will be learning how to coordinate things so she can suck, swallow and breathe at the same time.
  • At 38 weeks your baby's bones are getting harder but some of her skull bones will stay soft to help her get down the birth canal. The soft parts of the skull mean your baby's head has some give in it as it pushes out through the birth canal.

Your body at 38 weeks pregnant

  • Waiting for baby You may feel you are waiting for something to happen, that your life is in limbo and you'd better not go further than down the road in case something happens. You go to bed thinking, "This could be the last night I go to sleep before the baby's born." You know you can't control when it will happen but it feels weird that it will happen without your say so. Friends and family will start ringing to see how you are - a euphemism for "Why aren't you in labour yet, we are tired of waiting".
  • Labour true or false? Braxton Hicks are a constant reminder of what will happen any day now. These practice contractions can get stronger and more frequent as you reach term. It can be hard to tell real labour from Braxton Hicks (false labour).

    False labour True labour
    Irregular contractions that don't get closer together Contractions become regular and get closer together 
    Last for about 15 seconds Last for 30 to 70 seconds
    Feel contractions in the front Feel contractions in the back and move round to the front
    Contractions may stop if you move around  Contractions carry on whatever you do
    The contractions mostly stay the same  The contractions get stronger

    Contractions from 20 to 10 minutes apart is when you should get your antenatal team involved. 
  • Pelvic floor exercises Don't forget your pelvic floor exercises. You'll thank us later when you don't leak as much as you would have done after your pregnancy. Work out the muscles around your anus and vagina. You can put your finger in your vagina - if you can still find it - and tense the muscles around it. Stand and tense your muscles for 10 seconds at a time, relaxing for 10 seconds and then repeating 10 times but it may take you a while to build up to that. Do three sets a day.



Pregnancy Encyclopedia book coverIllustrations taken from The Pregnancy Encyclopedia, £25, published by DK.

Disclaimer: The information in the pregnancy calendar is for general information and is not intended as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or antenatal team. Not all babies develop at the same time and in the same way, so this week-by-week guide may not always match your own experience. If you have any worries, consult your antenatal team or GP.

Last updated: 3 months ago