You are still two weeks away from doctors would call a full term pregnancy. However, if your baby is born this week, she will survive without any complication or the need to be in a neonatal ward. Some babies do develop some complications like breathing difficulties etc after birth but that could be with babies born after 39 weeks as well. Research shows that spending two more weeks in the womb could help your baby’s lungs and brain to develop fully. This is why your doctor would wait for 14 more days before performing that elective C-section, if you happen to have one.
Your Baby This Week
Your baby will technically still be called “early term” if she is born this week. She will be gaining half an ounce everyday till birth. Your baby’s lungs are mature and she will probably have developed all the survival skills she needs by now. The average fetus weighs around six and a half pounds. However, studies show that boys weigh more than girls at birth which explains why women expecting boys tend to feel hungrier. Your baby hardly has much space in that crowded uterus but she will continue to roll around, wriggle and stretch quite a bit which you will be able to feel all through the last few days of pregnancy.
Almost the size of a Swiss chard1, your baby weighs around 6 pounds this week and measures over 19 inches in length. She may or may not have hair on her head at birth. She could also have hair color different from that of you or your partner’s but that is not a reason for concern. A lot of babies are born with different hair color from that of their parents that later goes back to what it should be.
Your baby has a rather large head and is still growing. At birth, the circumference of her head would be the same as that of her chest. Another interesting fact is how fat is gradually depositing on your baby’s shoulder that is making her chubbier by the day. You are likely to fall in love at the very first sight of those dimpled elbows and shoulders as soon as she is born.
To make her life after birth as convenient as possible, your baby is pacing up her survival skills. She is constantly practicing breathing by inhaling and exhaling tiny portions of amniotic fluid, sucking on her thumb, blinking and moving from side to side. These will all come in handy when she is born and needs to carry out the survival skills independently.
Your Body This Week
You are probably tired of hearing questions regarding your due date and the fact that you look like a ticking time bomb that is about to explode does not help either. Everyone around you seems to be doing some sort of a guesswork related to your pregnancy but the one person who knows exactly what to do is your doctor. He will look for dilation and effacement this week.
Effacement And Dilation
There are two terms that you should be familiar with by this week; effacement2 and dilation. Your cervix needs to dilate 10 centimeters for your baby to pass through easily. Your doctor will check how far the cervix has dilated at your prenatal appointment this week. Effacement is the process of your cervix softening in labor so that the baby can push itself out without any trouble. The cervix needs to be 100% effaced in order to be ripe for pushing the baby out. This is what the doctor will check. He will want to see if the cervix is ripe enough for labor to come upon you anytime soon.
Effacement and dilation are the two ways in which your doctor will be able to make out to some extent how far you are on the way towards labor. Although it is still an assumption that doctors make because you might take a number of days to fully dilate, it is still a guess close enough as far as labor is concerned.
What else does the doctor check for this week? He will check whether the position of your cervix has moved from the back to the front in preparation for labor. Yet another factor to be considered is the position of your baby in relation to your pelvis. The lower your baby, the closer you are to delivering her.
Doctors keep harping on the fact that none of these figures or findings can be absolutely accurate as far as labor and childbirth is concerned. This is because there have been cases in which a woman has been much dilated but has not delivered for more than a week. Some other cases have been reported in which the morning assessment has shown zero effacement while the same woman has been ready for delivery by evening. While all these studies sound quite scientific, they might take days, weeks and even a month to pile up and happen. You might not even be aware of more than half of what is going on.
Your Braxton Hicks contractions might have just started getting stronger and more intense. They are more frequent as well and you are likely to feel more uncomfortable as time passes. You could also experience an increase in vaginal discharge this week onwards and do not panic if you come across a “bloody show”3 in your underwear or while peeing.
What is this much talked about bloody show all about? The bloody show is the loss of the mucus plug that keeps the mouth of your cervix closed. As your due date approaches, you might lose the mucus plug in the form of mucus tinged with blood on your underwear or in the toiled bowl. This is a common occurrence and may or may not happen to everyone. While this is a signal that your labor is on the way, you might still be days away from delivering. You can simply let your doctor know about it and she might even ask you to wait it out for a couple of days before any other symptoms occur. However, if you are spotting or bleeding heavily, you must let your doctor know about it immediately.
Group B Strep Culture
Have you taken a Group B strep culture yet? If yes, you might want to know the results and prepare yourself accordingly. This will help you to give your hospital staff and attending nurses a heads-up in case you need antibiotics while you are in labor.
Your baby might not be moving or jabbing at you continuously but she will still make a good amount of moves through the day. She might be cramped up in your abdomen but she will continue to wriggle and make moves so that you will find it easier to keep a track of the movements. If you sense a change in the movements, let your doctor know about it immediately.
Since the dropping of your baby into the pelvis, you might be looking forward to better sleep. However, that could be slightly difficult to arrange for because along with your belly, your back, your feet and your contractions are all gearing up to help deliver this baby. There will be a number of reasons for you to stay awake all through but it is advisable to unwind before bedtime and get a few hours of good sleep before you have an official reason in the form of an adorable bundle of joy to lose sleep for a couple of months.
All About Labor
Just in case you were not aware, labor could take anywhere between 15-20 hours and you might as well feel like murdering all those who surround you, if you happen to have lower levels of pain tolerance. If this is your second pregnancy and you have had a vaginal birth earlier, you are likely to need 8-10 hours for delivery. There are three main stages in which labor is divided. Let us take a look at what you could be expecting:
The First Stage
The first stage is characterized by intense contractions that help dilate and efface your cervix simultaneously. When your cervix is fully dilated, that is when the first stage of labor actually ends. To add to it, the first stage can be divided into early and active; the two subdivisions of the first stage.
First-timers might find it tough to distinguish between early labor and Braxton Hicks. The latter become more intensified towards the end of pregnancy which is why you might as well miss that you are already in labor.
Your doctor is likely to advise you to stay back at home when early labor strikes. This is because it will need quite some time for you to reach cervical effacement and dilation for easy delivery. Unless you have had a complicated pregnancy or are experiencing any other unusual symptom, it is best to carry on with your normal activities at home during labor.
Early labor comes to an end when your cervix is dilated to around 4 cms. It is then that your labor speeds up and you enter the second phase of the first stage of labor. In the active phase of labor, your contractions will be more intense, will last longer and also be more frequent.
In the active phase of labor, your cervix dilates from 8-10 cms. This phase is also known as the transition phase because it leads to the second stage of labor. The contractions will become more frequent, coming in every two to three minutes and they are likely to last for a minute or so.
The Second Stage
The second stage of labor marks the final descent and delivery of your baby. This is otherwise known as the “pushing” stage in which you will need to keep pushing till you deliver your baby. While pushing, it is vital to remember what was taught during the childbirth classes. Pushing aggressively will not help if you are not breathing in the right manner. Proper breathing techniques and intelligent pushing will help deliver your baby without needing episiotomies or ending up with second or third degree tears.
The pushing stage can range from a few minutes to a couple of hours, depending on how effective your pushing techniques are. If you have had a vaginal delivery before, this stage is likely to be quicker and less painful.
With each push, your baby’s head will come nearer to “crowning”. Crowning is a term associated with the exit of the widest part of your baby’s head. After your baby’s head emerges from the vagina, her nose and mouth will be suctioned and the doctor will rule out the possibility of the umbilical cord being around her neck. The next step is when you will be asked to push again for delivering the rest of the baby, beginning with her shoulders during which she will tilt sideways. In less than a minute, your baby will finally be delivered.
This is when a range of emotions will take over your mind and heart. While you might be gloating in pleasure about being able to successfully deliver your baby, you could also feel an amount of disbelief at the thought of it. Some women experience postpartum depression in the birthing room itself if they have been under its impact through pregnancy.
However, most women will feel euphoric at the idea of finally meeting their baby. If sleep and exhaustion have been troubling you through the stages of labor, you are likely to feel a fresh burst of energy that will drive the drowsiness away.
The Third Stage
In the third stage of labor, you will feel mild contractions that will help deliver your placenta. Once the placenta is delivered, your doctor will check for vaginal tears and will stitch up if there is a need to do so.
The Benefits Of A Perineal Massage
Massaging your perineum has benefits that far outweigh professional prenatal massages at the salon. When your baby’s head crowns, you are likely to feel an intense stinging in your vagina. This feeling can be minimized by gently massaging the skin between your vagina and rectum. This massage helps stretch that skin gently so that it is pliable enough when the crowning occurs. Evidence suggests that perineal massage could also help reduce the changes of tears and episiotomies.
How to go about it? You will need to begin with clean hands and trimmed nails. If your partner is doing the job for you, you will need to ensure that he has followed the instructions well. Begin by lubricating your thumb and inserting it gently into your vagina. The thumb will then need to be pressed down towards the rectum and towards the sides of your perineum. Gently massaging that area will help stretch it out in the same manner as when your baby’s head is crowning.
This massage can be done everyday till you are ready to deliver. Some doctors carry out this massage while you are in labor to prepare the area if it has not been stretched before.
Is This Real Labor?
For most first-timers, it is quite difficult to make out the difference between a normal Braxton Hicks contraction and real labor. How would you know the difference? Listed below are a few pointers that might help you note the difference:
- False labor4 will have unpredictable contractions. They will come and go at irregular intervals and are likely to be less frequent. Real labor contractions are stronger, more intense and regular. Although they might be irregular initially but they usually come in at shorter intervals.
- False labor pain generally occurs around your lower abdomen and they will feel more like contractions than real pain. Real labor contractions originate around your lower back and they seem like dull cramps that only intensify with time.
- If you start or stop doing something, you can expect false labor contractions to die down but real labor contractions continue to happen regardless of your activities.
A Few Tips Before Delivery
Pregnancy induced dementia is one of the major reasons that expecting women tend to forget a number of important things right before delivery. Always remember that some babies tend to arrive a few days before their expected due date. Don’t assume that you have a couple of weeks to go before you need to get that car seat installed. Keep everything planned and done in advance.
If you have not really gained much since the third trimester, there is nothing much to worry about. A lot of women don’t gain weight in the last couple of months. As long as your baby is developing at a normal pace and her movements are fine, you need not worry.
If you feel you are bloated these days, try drinking more water and eat smaller meals. It is a misconception that drinking too much water will make you even more bloated. It will in fact help with the feeling and relieve you of the discomfort.
Getting Car Seat Installed
In the United States, you will not be able to bring home your baby unless you have a proper car seat installed in place. As simple as they might have looked at the time of purchase, car seats can be quite tricky to install. This is why waiting till the last minute could prove to be a big mistake.
The place where you bought your car seat will often provide you with toll-free numbers where you could call up and speak to professionals. They will help you to install the car seat with ease. If you still find it difficult to install the seat, you can look up video tutorials that teach you exactly how to do the installation.
Helping Your Pregnant Spouse This Week
It is normal for the expecting dad to feel more puzzled than the expecting mommy. This is because you are not experiencing any of the symptoms and might feel left out of the entire procedure. However, it is important that you have a checklist in place so that you don’t end up goofing things. There are some items that you definitely need on your checklist. They are:
- If your wife’s contractions are 5 minutes apart and have been like this for more than an hour, you need to call the doctor right away.
- Keep the names and numbers of all those people you might need; babysitters, doctors, midwives, relatives who can come in.
- Keep the map of the route to the hospital folded and ready.
- What to do once you reach the hospital.
- Whom to contact if there is an emergency.
- Cell phones and their chargers.
- What to do about older children at home.
- Your spouse’s hospital bag.
- Your own hospital bag.
- Your baby’s bag.
You can also help your spouse with a perineal massage every day so that she has better chances of avoiding perineal tears5 or episiotomies. Always keep your nails trimmed and make this a habit since your newborn will be held in your arms as much as she will be held in her mother’s arms. While massaging, keep asking her if she is comfortable. If you are unsure of the right way, watch tutorials or ask the doctor so that you know exactly what to do.
Learn about the three stages of labor and the signs and symptoms that you need to watch out for. They will come in handy if your partner happens to be in labor at home. If you have attended the prenatal classes along with her, you will be able to help her deal with the pain by reminding her of breathing techniques and exercises. This is a very significant phase for both you and your partner. It is important that you continue to hold her hand through labor and childbirth. It is not unusual to feel apprehensive for both you and your partner when the D-day arrives but the joy around it is absolutely priceless.