Third trimester - Weeks 39 - 41

Weeks 39 - 41

Week 39

Overview

You now have a little watermelon sized baby inside of your belly, and it weighs 3288g (115.981oz) and is 50.7 centimetres (19.96 inches) in length. You are probably at the point where you have had enough of the heartburn, constant bathroom runs and backache and are really looking forward to meeting your baby right about now. Your baby could be born today or in the next few days as you may notice that your Braxton Hicks contractions are becoming more frequent. If these progress to being more intense and regular, then call your doctor.

 Week 39

Your baby’s development at this stage

Your baby is now finally classified as full-term and is continuing to build his or her fat layer to aid in controlling the body temperature once he or she or born. Your little one’s outer layers of skin are starting to shed and new skin is forming underneath.

Changes in your life as your baby grows

During each weekly exam, your doctor will check on your baby’s position and growth. Your doctor may also conduct an internal exam to check whether your cervix has dilated. This can also be termed ‘ripened’ and refers to whether the cervix as softened and thinned out (effaced).

There is still no specific way for your doctor to know exactly when you will go into labour if you do not go into labour by 42 weeks, then your doctor is likely to induce your labour when you are two weeks past your due date.

What to do at this stage

You may be growing impatient, but whilst you are waiting, it is vital that you keep track of your baby’s movements as your little one should be active right up until birth. If you think your water has broken, then go to a hospital as you may be going into labour.

When your water breaks there is sometimes a large gush of liquid, but in other cases, it may be in the form of a small amount of liquid or a slow leak. If your water breaks and your contractions do not start then it is likely that your labour will be induced. Your water breaking is the amniotic sac surrounding your baby that’s rupturing. You may experience a popping sensation followed by slow trickle or gush of fluid.

What happens when labour is induced?

Induced labour attempts to start contractions in order to begin the birthing process. Basically, uterine contractions are stimulated by your doctor initially through a membrane sweep, where your doctor will sweep his or her finger around in your cervix, this should separate your membranes of the amniotic sac that surrounds your baby from the cervix.

If you do not go into labour after a membrane sweep, then a tablet or gel containing Prostaglandin, which is a hormone-like substance, will be inserted into your vagina and you will possibly be told to go home and wait until you start to have contractions. If you do not experience contractions after six hours, then you may be offered another application of gel or a tablet. If you were initially given a controlled-release pessary, this may take up to 24 hours to be effective.

If induction of labour does not work, your doctor may assess you to either conduct another induction via a balloon catheter, mechanical dilator, artificial rupture of membranes (ARM) or a hormone drip (using oxytocin, marketed as Syntocinon) or to move to delivery via a C-section (caesarean section).

Week 40

Overview

This is the week you have been waiting for! With your baby weighing around a whopping 3462g (122.119oz) and measuring in at around 51.2 centimetres (20.16 inches), you will finally get to meet him or her.

However, if your baby decides to stay in past the due date, then your labour me be induced, as discussed above.

 Week 40

Your baby’s development at this stage

Every newborn is a different size, but yours should be roughly the size of a small pumpkin by now. The bones in the skull are not fused together yet, this allows for ‘moulding’ when your baby is born, meaning that your baby can fit through the birth canal.

Changes in your life as your baby grows

It may be frustrating if you have gone past your due date, and a lot of women have prolonged pregnancies for no specific reason. You still have two weeks to go until you will be classified at post-term. So, try to be as patient as you can be under the circumstances, reassuring yourself that your little one will be on their way when they are ready.

Tests and what to do at this stage

You may have to have a BPP (biophysical profile) conducted. This is an ultrasound that monitors your baby’s movements, breathing and muscle tone, as well as the amount of the surrounding amniotic fluid. This is vital as it is a reflection of how effectively the placenta is supporting your little one.

To monitor your baby’s heart rate, a non-stress test (NST) will be done as a part of the BPP. If the foetal testing shows some adverse results, such as the amniotic fluid being too low, then you may be induced. If the issue is more serious, then you may have to have a C-section immediately. 

Week 41

Overview

Your baby, having now past your due date, is weighing a hefty 3597g (126.881oz) and is 51.7 centimetres (20.35 inches) in length. Labour induction is something your doctor will start to seriously discuss with you at this time.

Your baby’s development at this stage

If your baby is not born in the next few days, then your labour will be induced. The majority of healthcare providers will not allow for you to go over 42 weeks as this poses health risks for you and your baby and greatly increases the chance of stillbirth (when a baby dies in utero).

Changes in your life as your baby grows

You are likely to be extremely anxious at this stage as your due date has come and gone. There is a good chance you will go into labour naturally in the next few days, otherwise, your labour will be induced. The condition of your cervix will depict what method of labour induction is used. If your cervix is yet to soften, dilate or efface, it will be classified as unripe and not ready for labour. In this case, your doctor will either use mechanical methods or hormones to ripen your cervix before inducing labour.

These procedures can include rupturing or stripping the membranes in your cervix, known as a membrane sweep, or using drugs such as oxytocin (Pitocin) in order to jump-start the contractions. If none of the above methods are successful, you will have a caesarean-section.

At the end of all of this, you should have a healthy little baby. Congratulations on making it through the wonderful and crazy ride of pregnancy, and now, we welcome you to parenthood.

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