Welcome to Week 38. You are really in the final stretch now; with just two weeks to go until your due date and one week until your baby is considered ‘full term’. Remember though, very few babies are actually born on their due date, so you may not have exactly two weeks to go; some babies come early, others are late. Most doctors will advise against going more than weeks over your expected date, due to potential issues with an aging placenta. Thus, you can take comfort in knowing you will not be pregnant indefinitely and the end is certainly close now!
Just as your baby is getting ready for the big day, your body started preparing itself a few weeks ago. The last few articles have covered most of the signs of imminent labour, so you should know what to start looking out for. However, even at this late stage of pregnancy, during week 38, you may still experience novel symptoms and one of these is leaking breasts.
It is fairly common for the breasts to start leaking just before birth. The substance is colostrum, which will be your baby’s first food. It is nothing to worry about, your body is just preparing for breastfeeding. Colostrum is a rich, thick milk, specially produced by the body to support your baby for the first few days of his or her life. One of its main functions is to support the development of your baby’s immune system, which means it is very important. In fact, some people even call it “liquid gold”!
Expert organisations such as the WHO and UNICEF recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of your baby’s life. Many studies have shown that breast milk is the perfect food for your newborn; it consists of exactly the right amount of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats to encourage healthy, strong growth. Breastfed babies have fewer digestive and respiratory issues and are less likely to develop a non-communicable disease such as obesity and type 2 diabetes. Breastfeeding also has benefits for you; it can help with weight loss immediately after pregnancy and can even reduce your risk of hormonally-linked cancers later in life.
Whilst breast milk has a huge number of health benefits, for both you and your baby, it is your choice and nobody has the right to make you feel guilty or inferior if you cannot, or choose not to, breastfeed. Today’s formulas have been created to exact standards and contain all the healthy fats, proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals that your baby needs. Remember, whichever choice you make, fed is best!
If you are planning to breastfeed, good for you. Take the time now to ask your healthcare provider any questions you have, so you know what to expect when the time comes. You might also want to plan ahead and investigate local lactation specialists. These are the people who will be able to help you with any breastfeeding difficulties, or questions, you might have after your baby is born. Finding someone who you are comfortable with now (and/or who is covered by your health insurance), will save you a lot of time and stress if you run into problems once your baby is born.
It is week 38 and your baby is really in the final stretch now! With a foetal age of 36 weeks, he or she will weigh about 3.2 KG now and measure approximately 48cm from head to toe. At this stage, development-wise, your baby is virtually ready to enter the world. Even the lungs, which have taken so long to fully develop, now have enough surfactant to manage breathing without additional help or an extended hospital stay.
During these last few weeks of pregnancy, when babies appear to be at their most ‘developed’, it is fascinating to realise that development actually continues long after they leave the womb. Basic things like eye colour are still to be determined, and this can take a few months. Likewise, the skeletal and neural systems will continue to develop long after your baby has been born. Birth really is just the beginning!
“Keep in mind that very few babies actually check their calendar and show up when they are ‘due.’ Going past your due date is very normal.”
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