Welcome to week 37. Only three weeks to go!
Your baby was the size of a bunch of romaine lettuce and is growing to the size of a canary melon this week. Your baby measures 18.9 inches (48 cm) long and weighs 6.7 pounds (3 kg).
Your baby’s head is still growing and will be the same circumference as its hips, abdomen, and shoulders at birth. Your baby is packing on fat this week. Little dimples are forming, and they may get some little rolls of baby fat.
If your baby is born from 37 weeks until 38 weeks, six days, they are considered early-term. The last few weeks of pregnancy are crucial for brain and lung development. I know you may be ready to meet your baby but hold tight a little longer.
When you have made it through most of your pregnancy and are in the final stretch, you enter the game of waiting to go into labor. You may consider trying methods to induce labor naturally. Some mothers start taking evening primrose oil in week 37. You should run any natural induction methods by your doctor or midwife. There is some evidence that evening primrose oil could increase your risk of some complications. See this episode for an analysis of the risks, benefits, and evidence of many methods to induce labor naturally.
Waiting for labor can be nerve-racking for two reasons. First, you do not know when you will go into labor. Second, you do not know how to tell that you genuinely have started labor and that it isn’t just a false alarm. This episode explains the signs that you are in labor or that labor will begin soon.
Only actually about 8% of labors start with water breaking. It can be a gush of fluid or a slow trickle when your water breaks. There is an acronym to help you remember what to look for when your water breaks, C.O.A.T.
Color: amniotic fluid should be clear or slightly cloudy. If it is greenish or brownish, that could be a sign that your baby had a bowel movement before birth, where meconium is in the amniotic sac, and this is a concern because it can cause breathing complications.
Odor: amniotic fluid is odorless. This can help you distinguish the fluid from urine or discharge.
Amount: note if it is a gush or a slow leak.
Time: take note of when your water broke.
If you think your water broke, call your doctor or midwife and share these details with them. This can help them give you instructions on what to do next. The 24-hour rule is a standard policy practiced by many doctors that you must go into labor or have your baby within 24 hours of your water breaking. This aims to reduce infection, and different providers may have differing policies. See this episode for the evidence on PROM and the 24-hour rule.
Ask your care provider when you should call or come in with contractions. Generally, if you’re past 37 weeks, you don’t need to contact your care provider for contractions until they are about one minute long, five minutes apart, and continue for one hour. If your doctor or midwife has given you different guidelines, then go by those. Remember, there are three measurements you want to track. The length of a single contraction, the time between contractions, and how long they have been going on. Many simple apps for your phone make it easy to time and track them. If you ever have any doubt, call your doctor or midwife. They can probably tell how your labor is progressing by talking to you on the phone. If you have contractions that you cannot walk or talk through, it may be time to head to your hospital or birth center or call your midwife if you have a home birth.
As your body prepares for birth, your cervix will begin to soften. It opens up, which is referred to as dilating. It also thins, which is referred to as effacing. As your due date gets closer, your care provider may offer a vaginal exam to look at your cervix. Your doctor or midwife measures progress in terms of centimeters and percentages. When you are ready to push your baby out, your cervix will be 10 centimeters dilated and 100% effaced. Despite being routine, there are questions about what the results show, the risks involved, and the psychological effects. See this article for a deep dive into the evidence on vaginal exams.
Planning is vital in setting yourself up for an ideal postpartum period. Don’t wait until your baby arrives to think about recovery and taking care of yourself. Check out the episodes on birth recovery, what to expect postpartum, and planning for postpartum.
Tip for Dads and Partners
Whether or not you are ready, you will soon be the proud parent of a new baby. Check out this episode on preparing for parenthood for dads and partners. This will prepare you for birth, has tips for how to be supportive in the postpartum period and your role with a new baby at home.
Want more evidence-based information to navigate your pregnancy and birth?
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