39 weeks pregnant
Yes, the end is in sight. This week, you and your baby will both be busy preparing for their grand entrance into the big wide world. While he is getting ready for a change of scenery, your body is setting up for the special delivery – in between ignoring frantic phone calls from relatives asking 'is he here yet?'
Your baby at 39 weeks
At 39 weeks your baby has less and less room, but he is still very active, especially when he sees light through your abdominal wall. Try shining a torch onto your bump. You might even feel a little hand or foot reach out to the light.
You can also try communicating with your baby by playing soothing music when you lie down at night. There is no evidence that bombarding your bump with Shakespeare or Mozart will do anything for your baby's development, but he will be able to hear it, and if you play the same pieces of music to him regularly you may find they soothe him after he’s born, too. Has to be worth a go!
It’s also a nice way for you to relax, particularly if you can practise your breathing for labour while you listen.
What else is going on this week?
- The amniotic fluid that has been cushioning your baby in the womb has fallen from 800ml at 32 weeks to 500ml this week.
- Your immunity to various infections will have been transferred (as antibodies) through the placenta to your baby and if you go on to breastfeed, your milk will pass your baby even more of those antibodies.
- His gums will feel quite hard when he's born yet, remarkably, his tooth buds, which are already lined up and poised to appear will soon push teeth through them.
- His digestive system is ready to deal with liquid milk, though it won’t be able to process solid food properly for some months.
What size is the baby at 39 weeks?
At week 39 your baby weighs somewhere between 7lb and 8lb on average and in terms of size (yep, you’re finally here!) he’s about the size of a mini watermelon.
How is your body changing at 39 weeks pregnant?
Your body continues to prepare for birth this week. Some of the changes are all but invisible to you, while others will be more obvious.
Your placenta looks like a large discus at 39 weeks. It’s about 25cm in diameter and a good few centimetres thick. An impressive home-grown organ that you should have a quick look at after you've seen your baby – it’s pretty amazing. This spaceship-type structure has allowed nutrients and oxygen to get to your baby and taken away her waste products for most of your pregnancy.
At term, the placenta will weigh a sixth of your baby's weight, so you’ll definitely know about it when you’re pushing it out – this is known as the third stage of labour.
By 42 weeks this brilliant life-support machine can get a bit worn out, which is why if you go overdue your midwives will want to talk to you about having a membrane sweep or induction, particularly if you’re aged over 40, as older mums have a slightly increased risk of the placenta starting to break down in late pregnancy.
If you happen to be in hospital or have any antenatal appointments or examinations you may hear your antenatal team talking about how effaced you are or, more precisely, how effaced your cervix is. This is the process by which the cervix gets soft and prepares for the grand opening. After your baby has engaged in the pelvis, she gradually drops closer to the cervix, which reacts by softening, shortening and getting thinner.
Your breasts may suddenly at an inconvenient moment spurt out some colostrum. This is the clear fluid that meets all your baby's needs before your proper milk is stimulated to come through by your baby's sucking. It really does have all your baby needs even though it may seem a teeny amount. You have to remember your baby hasn't been knocking back half pint milkshakes in your womb.
Nature designed colostrum to be enough, so do not stress – and don’t worry about ‘running out’ either. There’s plenty more where that came from. In fact, if you have lots of milk already you can even express some off and freeze it to give your baby after birth – how’s that for getting organised?
Labour symptoms in week 39
The hormonal tip that gets the first stage of labour started could happen at any moment so you’re bound to be on the lookout for the early signs of labour now. Keep your hospital bag handy at all times and your notes somewhere you can grab them easily.
Having said that, there’s no need to be on high alert and ready to leap to DEFCON 1 at the first sign of movement. Labour can take hours, particularly if this is your first baby, and if you dash straight to hospital after a few Braxton Hicks contractions you’ll be politely packed off home again until things are looking more imminent.
The following signs, however, are a good indicator that labour is on its way. Perhaps not the beginning of the end, but definitely the end of the beginning.
Your waters breaking
One in 10 women experience their waters breaking before labour starts, but it can be strangely difficult to tell if the wetness you're sitting in is amniotic fluid or urine. And trust us, either is possible at this stage. If you think your waters may have broken, let your midwives know. They may want to examine you to check.
If your waters have broken they'll need to know as they don’t like you to go too long after that before giving birth, since the risk of infection is increased once your waters have gone.
Don’t panic if your waters don’t break. Sometimes they don’t break at all and are either broken during labour or your baby can actually be born inside the amniotic sac.
Having a show
A show sounds better than it is. You can put your jazz hands away – it simply means that the mucus plug guarding the entrance to the womb has come away. This is a sign your cervix has been opening up a bit. The mucus plug protected your womb from infections and as your cervix has gone from being long and thick to shorter and softer, this dislodges the mucus plug, which comes out as a blob of mucus tinged with blood.
It does not mean you are about to start labour any moment but it is one of the hints nature gives you that something will happen soon.
Things to think about during week 39 of pregnancy
With perhaps only a matter of days to go, make sure you’re happy with your birth plan, know what all your options and are as ready as you’ll ever be to meet your baby.
What pain relief should you have in labour?
Now is the time to get a haircut – it may be the last chance you get for a while and you will want to look nice in your after-the-birth pictures. (Or at least have a hair-do in them that might distract the viewer from the dark circles under your eyes and broken blood vessels in your cheeks from several hours of labour).
Lots of women go and get their undercarriage waxed in the run-up to birth. Obviously do whatever makes you happy but know that firstly your skin is more sensitive during pregnancy so it will hurt more, and secondly – the last thing on your midwives’ mind will be whether your ‘bush’ needs a prune. Trust us – it’ll be the last thing on your mind, too.
Keep up the exercise, be it walking, swimming or whatever you usually do. Staying active will stop you creaking too much in the last weeks of pregnancy, and all the evidence shows that the fitter you are the easier birth will be. A good long walk can sometimes help kickstart labour, too.
See your friends, whether it’s a trip to the cinema or just a cup of tea and a chat, because even this will be different when your baby is born and for a year, at least, you will probably struggle to give anyone else your undivided attention. It’s a nice chance to get to know friends from antenatal classes too, since meet-ups in the future are likely to be much noisier, more disorganised affairs.
How to respond when people keep asking if you've had the baby yet
If this hasn’t got irritating yet, believe us, it will. A swift way to deal with it is to fix the culprit with a stony glare and say “yes, I had the baby a week ago. I’ve left him at home in his cot.” But see how long you can make the tinkly laugh and “no, not yet!” last.
One Mumsnetter suggests: “Change your answer phone message to: 'Hello, this is X. Sorry, I can't get to the phone right now but for those of you ringing with an update, no, I am still sodding pregnant. If anything happens to change that I will update my Facebook/answer phones. Thank you.' Or words to that effect.”