Your Pregnancy, Week 39
Welcome to Week 39! As you probably reached your peak weight a week or two ago, you are unlikely to have got much bigger since last week. Now it is about keeping comfortable and waiting for labour to begin. It could happen any time over the next few weeks.
There is no getting away from the fact that full-term pregnancy is pretty uncomfortable. It is common for women at week 39 to feel achy and be experiencing joint pain and pelvic pain. The pressure of your now fully grown baby pressing on your bladder might make it feel like you are constantly backwards and forwards to the bathroom and it is entirely normal to feel thoroughly exhausted by this stage. If this sounds like you, hang in there!
As the time nears, it is worth thinking about all the ways babies are born, so you can be prepared for most (if not all) eventualities. Many mothers-to-be prepare a birth plan and, if they are lucky, they will be able to stick to their plan during labour. However, it does not hurt to be prepared, just in case things do not go quite to plan.
Approximately 21% of babies globally are born via caesarean section (C-section). This can be a planned, or scheduled, procedure, or an unplanned, emergency procedure that is performed after labour has started based on a doctor or midwife’s advice. If you are having a planned C-section, you are likely to have questions; what can you do to prepare for a C-section? What will it involve? Will it hurt? However, even if you are hoping for a natural, vaginal delivery, you should still have some awareness of what a C-section entails, just in case.
A person’s experience of a C-section will depend largely on her unique situation. A scheduled C-section is much like other types of surgery. You will need to stop eating six to eight hours before your procedure is due to take place. You will probably remain awake throughout, but will be given a spinal block or epidural to control pain and discomfort. The actual delivery will be fairly quick, and usually you will be allowed to have one support person (birth partner) in the operating room with you. Once the baby is delivered, the paediatric team will check them over, before immediately bringing him or her to you so you can meet the newest member of your family. During a C-section it is normal to feel pressure and movement, but not pain; you should make your doctor aware of any significant discomfort you are experiencing during the procedure.
An emergency C-section can seem overwhelming because everything happens so fast, usually as a result of changing conditions during labour. In general, once your doctor has decided you need a C-section, the aim will be to begin the procedure within 30 minutes, sometimes even faster. You may have an epidural if there is time, or you may be given a general anaesthetic, so that you are asleep throughout the delivery. It can seem scary, but the main thing is to keep you and your baby healthy; even if you do have to have a general anaesthetic, take comfort in the knowledge that when you wake up you will be meeting your baby for the very first time.
Whatever happens, by week 39 you need to be maintaining regular contact with your doctor or midwife. Every birth is unique, and if things don’t go according to plan, it is entirely normal to feel anxious, overwhelmed or unhappy. The best way of alleviating these feelings is to have a better understanding of all possibilities and eventualities before you are faced with a time-pressurised situation.
The duration of your post-birth hospital stay will largely depend on your mode of delivery. Most women who deliver vaginally will be discharged one to two days later; a C-section delivery will normally require a slightly longer hospital stay of two to four days. Your doctor will make a judgement based on how you and your baby are doing.
Your baby’s foetal age is now 37 weeks and having reached week 39 of pregnancy, he or she is considered to be full term and could be born at any time. Your baby will weigh about 3.2 KG, although this is an average and boys tend to be slightly heavier than girls at birth. Even if your baby does keep you waiting beyond their estimated due date, you can be fairly confident that whatever he or she weighs now, it is going to be within 50g or so of their final birth weight.
At this stage, there are very few major changes going on. Your baby is still losing lanugo and vernix caseosa, the hair and waxy covering that kept them protected during pregnancy. He or she is still absorbing amniotic fluid, and the digestive tract is actively producing meconium. When your baby is born, his or her first bowel movements will be meconium. The meconium is dark green or blackish, sticky and sludgy. It can be quite a shock for first time parents, to see their beautiful newborn baby produce this thick tar-like substance. Subsequent bowel movements will look very different.
In some cases, babies pass meconium whilst still in the womb. This might not be a problem, but doctors will be keen to avoid your baby aspirating (breathing) in a mixture of meconium and amniotic fluid before, during, or after delivery. This is known as meconium aspiration syndrome. The risk of meconium aspiration syndrome goes up with longer birth times, older gestational age, and maternal risk factors like smoking, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
“Whether unmedicated, intravenous, or epidurals, you have a few different pain relief options while in labour to explore before you deliver.”
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