Week 37 of Pregnancy
Your Baby in Week 37 of Pregnancy
Congratulations! You’ve got what is officially considered a full-term baby, even with three weeks to go. That doesn’t mean he’s finished growing — in fact, he’s still packing on about a half pound a week (at this age, the average fetus weighs about 6.5 pounds). That makes it a little crowded in your uterus, so he’s probably not kicking as much, though he’s probably stretching, rolling a bit, and wiggling (all of which you’ll be able to feel!). Right now, your little superstar is busy rehearsing for his big debut, inhaling and exhaling amniotic fluid (to get the lungs ready for that first breath), sucking his thumb (to prepare for that first suckle of milk), blinking, and turning from side to side.
Learn more about your full-term baby in week 37.
Your Body in Week 37 of Pregnancy
Your body is going through its own preparations for childbirth as your practitioner starts looking for signs of labor. On the checklist: the baby’s position in relation to your pelvis (engagement) and whether effacement (thinning of the cervix) and dilation (opening of the cervix) have begun. Your practitioner may also determine whether your cervix has begun to soften and move to the front of the vagina, another indication that labor is getting closer. Keep in mind that these processes can occur gradually (over a period of weeks or even a month or more in some women) or overnight. So while they’re clues that you’re indeed progressing, they’re far from sure bets when it comes to pinpointing the actual start of labor.
Learn more about your body this week and dilation and effacement.
Week 37 Pregnancy Tip: Perineal Massage
Anxiously waiting for the big day to arrive? Don’t just sit there — massage your perineum! (Say what? Trust me, there’s good reason for this piece of advice.) Perineal massage may help to gently stretch your perineum (that area of skin between your vagina and rectum), which in turn can minimize the “stinging” that occurs when a baby’s head crowns during childbirth. It may also help you avoid an episiotomy and tearing. Here’s how to massage your way to a looser (and easier, if you’re lucky) delivery: First make sure your hands (or your spouse’s, if he’ll be taking on the task) are clean and your nails are trimmed. Next, lubricate your thumbs (here’s where the K-Y jelly can come in handy — literally — again) and put them inside your vagina. Press down (toward your rectum) and slide your thumbs across the bottom and sides of your perineum, pulling gently outward (and forward) on the lower part of the vagina with your thumbs hooked inside. This helps stretch the skin in the same way your baby’s head will during birth. You can do this daily until D-day (and you can even continue the good work — or have your practitioner take over — during labor itself!)…or not at all if it makes you feel uncomfortable.
Learn more about preparing for labor and delivery.
Week 37 Pregnancy Symptoms
Changes in fetal activity: By the time your baby’s head is engaged in your pelvis, he’ll have a lot less room for any more than a twist or squirm. What’s important is that you feel some movement every day. Remember, though, that your baby is behaving like a newborn now and has interludes of deep sleep, when he barely moves at all.
Heartburn or indigestion: If your heartburn is getting worse these days, try eating a handful of almonds. Other home remedies that may banish the burn: a tablespoon of honey in warm milk or some dried papaya.
Cervical dilation or effacement: To get ready for labor, your cervix will dilate (open up) and efface (get thinner). For some women, the two take place gradually, over a period of weeks or months. Others can efface and dilate overnight. You won’t be able to feel it, but your practitioner will be able to tell during an internal exam.
Bloody show: A pink- or brown-tinged mucus discharge means that the blood vessels in the cervix are rupturing as the cervix dilates in preparation for labor and delivery (it won’t be long now!).
Varicose veins: If the veins in your legs are acting up now, try sleeping on your left side, which is the best position for optimum circulation. Also try elevating your legs by putting a pillow under your feet. Both positions will keep the blood flowing.
Pelvic pressure and discomfort: If your baby’s head is pressing into your pelvis, hips, and bladder, you’ll feel more pressure as the week wears on. If you feel really uncomfortable, invest in a belly sling that will support the weight of your belly and take pressure off your back (see below) and pelvis.
Leg cramps: If leg cramps are making a misery of your nights, try drinking more fluids during the day and make sure you’re eating enough calcium (those almonds you’re munching for the heartburn come in handy again!) and magnesium. All three can help with leg cramps.
Stretch marks: With your boobs and belly (and possibly butt) as big as they’ve ever been, you’ve probably noticed those classic marks of maternity by now. Don’t worry, they’ll fade into silvery lines and turn into a badge of pride (or at least motherhood!) a few months after childbirth.
Protruding parts: Your innie probably became an outie weeks ago, but you may notice that your nipples are also popping now — all the better for a newborn to latch on when nursing.
Forgetfulness: There are so many things to keep track of now (Is the camera charged and packed? Do you have a baby outfit washed and ready to bring to the hospital? How many dinners are stocked in the freezer?) that it’s no wonder you’re walking around in a fog. Post reminders around the house and on your computer so you won’t forget appointments.
Difficulty sleeping: You’ve heard that pregnancy insomnia is Mother Nature’s way to prepare you for the sleepless nights ahead, but try to squeeze in some shut-eye so you have enough energy for childbirth and beyond. Sleep in a little longer, nap when you come home after work or on weekends, and give yourself a relaxing routine when it’s time for bed.