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You're in week 38 of your pregnancy!
Labor is an important job that only you can do. Your body knows how to give birth, and it can birth beautifully. Listen to your body, trust your instincts, and consider managing early labor at home where you feel safe and secure. Read more about staying confident in early labor.
What's New with Baby
Your little one is likely not so little now, weighing in at close to seven pounds or three kilograms and about 19 1/2 inches long—about the size of a buttercup squash. Her lungs continue to develop more surfactant, which is the substance that helps the lungs stay open and breathe air after birth. Her brain is developing at an amazing rate, and has doubled its weight in the last few weeks. The lanugo and vernix that has covered her body these last few months has been mostly shed are being stored, believe it or not, in her bowels. The first bowel movement your baby will have is called meconium, a thick black substance made up of things like shed skin cells, hair, vernix, bile, and other substances. Here’s a quick tip: try putting a thin layer of petroleum jelly on her little bottom after birth to make meconium clean up a little easier!
What's New with You
Your body knows how and when to begin birth. When it does, it will have a lot of work to do. The passage into your uterus, also known as the cervix, goes through some major changes in the time leading up to the birth of your baby. Your cervix is a muscular passageway about four cm long and points towards your back for most of the pregnancy. The opening is also protected by a small mucus structure called the mucus plug. This mucus acts as a doorman to prevent infections from travelling into the uterus. As your time towards birth draws near, contractions cause your cervix to change in three ways. First, your cervix will rotate from a rear-facing position to a forward-facing position. Next, your once-thick cervix will begin to thin out. This process is called effacement. Once that happens, the opening will begin to widen in a process called dilation. Although most of effacement and dilation occurs during labor, it is not unusual for these processes to begin in the days leading up to labor. This is why some women lose their mucus plug in the days to weeks before pregnancy. If you notice this whitish or pinkish/brownish mucus during a visit to the bathroom, don’t worry. This is a normal sign that labor will be happening soon, which could be as early as a few hours to as long as a couple weeks away.
Did You Know?
Research on more than 40,000 births has shown that the cesarean surgery rate can be lowered simply by admitting women to the hospital later in labor. Hospitals that admitted many women before three cm dilation tended to have very high cesarean surgery rates, while those who didn’t admit many women before three cm tended to have low cesarean surgery rates. The babies born in the high-cesarean rate hospitals were no healthier than those born in the low-cesarean rate hospitals.
Source: Main, E. K., Moore, D., Barrell, B., Schimmel, L. D., Altman, R. J., Abrahams, C., et al. (2006). Is there a useful cesarean birth measure? Assessment of the nulliparous term singleton vertex cesarean birth rate as a tool for obstetric quality improvement. American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, 194, 1644 - 1652.
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