Welcome to week 38. Only two weeks to go!
Your baby, who was as big as a canary melon, is growing to the size of a mini watermelon this week. Your baby measures 19.3 inches (49 cm) long and weighs 7.1 pounds (3.2 kg).
Vernix and lanugo continue to be shed from your baby’s body into the amniotic fluid. Vernix is the cheese-like coating that protects their skin from the amniotic fluid. Lanugo is downy-like hair covering their body to help keep them warm until they put on more fat. All of this gets ingested by your baby and ends up in their intestines, which will turn into your baby’s first bowel movement, which consists of meconium, a thick, sticky, tar-like substance.
Your baby isn’t technically full term until next week, so you really want to wait it out and be patient. Although the changes in your baby are small this week, they are significant. Their lungs continue to mature and produce more surfactant, which prevents the air sacs in their lungs from sticking to one another once they start to breathe. Your baby continues adding fat to its body and fine-tuning its brain and nervous system.
Your baby may drop lower into your pelvis in the weeks or days leading up to birth. The good news is that this gives your lungs more room, so breathing may be more comfortable and can ease up on heartburn. The bad news is that this puts more pressure lower, which can mean more bathroom breaks. Do not worry if your baby is not dropping in the last few weeks of your pregnancy. This happens right before labor for some expecting moms, especially if this is not their first baby.
Stimulating your nipples manually or with a breast pump prompts your pituitary gland to release oxytocin. This is the hormone responsible for contractions and may help bring on labor. Pitocin is a synthetic form of oxytocin commonly used to induce labor. There is no downside to nipple stimulation, providing you aren’t stimulating your nipples to the point at which they are sore. The upside is that there is some evidence that this can be beneficial in getting your labor started. See this episode for an analysis of the evidence on all the ways to induce labor naturally.
Many mothers expect breastfeeding to come naturally. Most find out the hard way that there are challenges, and breastfeeding takes a lot of work and commitment. Educating yourself about breastfeeding can help set you and your baby up for a successful breastfeeding relationship. Check out this page on the Pregnancy Podcast website for all of the breastfeeding episodes and resources.
Tip for Dads and Partners
Your baby’s birthday is almost here. If anything is left on your to-do list, now is the time to tackle it. Sit down with your significant other and talk about any last-minute errands, purchases, or other things you can do. This is also an excellent time to wrap up any major work projects or make sure someone else can pick up where you left off in the event mom goes into labor, and you will be away from your job. Having a newborn is such a special time. You do not want to be fielding work calls and emails during your time off, so plan accordingly.
Want more evidence-based information to navigate your pregnancy and birth?
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