You and Your Baby at Week 40 of Your Pregnancy

(10 minute read)

40 Weeks Pregnant

Reaching week 40 of pregnancy is a significant milestone, marking the culmination of nearly ten months of growth and development. Your baby is now considered full-term, indicating that all major organs and systems are ready to function independently outside the womb. This is a time of great anticipation and excitement as you prepare to welcome your new baby into the world.

As your due date approaches, it's common for family and friends to text and call about the baby's arrival. While well-intentioned, these constant check-ins can add stress and pressure. To manage this, some expectant mothers choose to keep their exact due date private, sharing only a general timeframe. It's important to remember that only about 6% of babies are born on their actual due date, with the majority arriving within two weeks before or after. Understanding that due dates are merely estimates can help alleviate some of the anxiety associated with waiting.

The final days and weeks of pregnancy can be mentally and physically challenging. You may feel impatient, uncomfortable, and eager to meet your baby. To cope with the wait, consider engaging in relaxing activities like walking, watching TV, or practising prenatal yoga. These activities can help distract you from the anticipation and provide some physical relief. It's also a great time to rest and recharge, as your life will soon become busier with the arrival of your newborn.

How Big is Baby at 40 Weeks?

Week 19 Fetus (2)

Baby's size and weight at 40 weeks of pregnancy

By 40 weeks, your baby is about the size of a small pumpkin, typically weighing between 6 to 9 pounds (2.7 to 4 kg) and measuring 19 to 20 inches (48 to 51 cm) from head to heel. These averages provide a general idea, but individual babies can vary significantly in size and weight. Factors such as genetics, maternal health, and nutrition all play a role in determining the baby's final measurements. While the idea of birthing a baby this size might seem daunting, remember that your body is designed to adapt, with the baby's head and body being able to mould to navigate the birth canal.

Managing anxiety about your baby's size

The thought of delivering a baby the size of a small pumpkin can be intimidating, but it's important to remember that your baby's body is designed for birth. Unlike a rigid pumpkin, your baby is flexible, with the skull able to mould to fit through the birth canal. This natural adaptation, combined with your body's ability to stretch and accommodate the baby, makes the birth process possible. Additionally, comparing your baby to a pumpkin is more about visualizing size rather than shape or rigidity. Your baby's arrival will happen when they are ready, and your body is equipped to handle the process.

Monitoring your baby's movements

Even though space is limited, your baby's movement patterns should remain consistent. Daily monitoring of these movements is crucial, as any noticeable decrease can indicate a problem that requires immediate medical attention. Resources like the Kicks Count website can provide valuable information on what to expect and how to track your baby's movements.

Labour vs Practice Contractions (Braxton Hicks)

In the weeks leading up to labour, you might experience Braxton Hicks contractions, which are often described as "practice contractions." These contractions can vary greatly in intensity; some women find them uncomfortable, while others barely notice them. Braxton Hicks contractions are typically irregular and do not increase in intensity, serving as your body's way of preparing for labour. When true labour contractions begin, they may feel like strong menstrual cramps, lower back pain, or a tightening sensation. Every woman's experience with labour contractions is unique, with no definitive pattern for where they start or how they feel.

Understanding true labour contractions

In early labour, contractions are generally irregular and mild enough that you can talk through them. As labour progresses and you approach full dilation (around 10 cm), contractions become more regular, intense, and focused on pushing the baby through the birth canal. This stage of labour can be exhausting, but it is also the final stretch before meeting your baby. After the baby is born, the final stage involves delivering the placenta. Once this is complete, you can relax with your newborn and begin breastfeeding if you choose to do so.

When to head to the hospital

Knowing when to go to the hospital can be a source of anxiety for many parents. A good rule of thumb is to head to the hospital when your contractions become so intense and frequent that you cannot talk through them. Typically, this means contractions are coming every five minutes, lasting for about a minute each, and have been consistent for at least an hour (often referred to as the "5-1-1 rule").

Your Body at Week 40 of Pregnancy

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By week 40, your body is making final preparations for labour. Many of the changes occurring in the body are designed to facilitate these processes, and this includes an increase in hormones that make you want to nest and focus on your baby.

Physical Changes at Week 40 of Pregnancy

  • Increased Braxton Hicks Contractions: These practice contractions might become more frequent and intense as your body gears up for labour. They help to tone the uterus and can be a good indication that real labour is approaching.
  • Pelvic Discomfort: As your baby drops into the pelvis (lightening), you might feel increased pressure and discomfort in this area, along with an increased need to urinate as the baby's head presses on the bladder.
  • Changes in Weight: By this stage, most women have gained between 25 and 35 pounds (11.3 to 15.9 kg). This weight gain supports your baby's growth, increased blood volume, and the amniotic fluid. It's normal for weight gain to vary from person to person.
  • Dilation and Effacement: Your cervix will begin to dilate (open) and efface (thin out) as labour approaches. These changes prepare your body for the birthing process, with greater dilation and effacement indicating that labour is near.
  • Nesting Instinct: You may experience a burst of energy and a strong desire to prepare your home for the baby, known as the nesting instinct. While this can be productive, be careful not to overexert yourself.

Common Pregnancy Symptoms at 40 Weeks

  • Fatigue: Despite the nesting instinct, many women feel extremely tired due to the physical demands of late pregnancy. Ensure you get plenty of rest and listen to your body’s signals.
  • Back Pain and General Discomfort: The additional weight and the baby's position can cause significant discomfort, especially in the lower back. Gentle stretches, prenatal yoga, and using a supportive pillow can help alleviate this pain.
  • Frequent Urination: The baby's position can exert more pressure on your bladder, leading to increased trips to the bathroom. This is a normal part of late pregnancy.
  • Swelling: Swelling of the feet, ankles, and hands is common due to increased fluid retention. Elevating your feet, staying hydrated, and wearing comfortable shoes can help manage swelling.

Reminder - Signs of Labour

  • Water Breaking: The amniotic sac rupture can occur at any time, signalling that labour is imminent or has already begun. Contrary to popular belief, this is often a slow trickle rather than a dramatic gush.
  • Contractions: True labour contractions increase in intensity, frequency, and duration. They usually start sporadically but become more regular and intense as labour progresses.
  • Mucus Plug and Bloody Show: The release of the mucus plug, which may be tinged with blood, indicates that labour is nearing. This can occur days or even weeks before active labour begins.

 

The final week of pregnancy is a time filled with anticipation and vigilance as you watch for signs of labour. While the waiting can be challenging, it's also a period of great excitement as you prepare to meet your baby. Remember to rest, listen to your body, and trust in your ability to give birth. If you need support or have concerns, don’t hesitate to reach out to us!. This journey is about to culminate in the extraordinary experience of welcoming a new life into the world.

 

 


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