The Final Stretch Is Here: 40 Weeks Of Pregnancy

You have finally reached the 10th month of pregnancy and you can only hope that your baby makes her arrival soon enough. You are at what is known as the official end of your pregnancy. You can expect your doctor to suggest induction of labor this week if you still don’t have enough contractions. You may or may not choose to take induction, especially if your pregnancy is not complicated and if both you and your baby are doing fine. However, if your doctor feels that the risks of keeping your baby tucked inside are higher than the benefits, you might need to take a decision. While labor is something that will happen one day or the other, you could be putting yourself or your baby at risk if situations are not favorable for either one of you.

Your Baby At 40 Weeks

Weighing around 9 pounds and measuring around 20-22 inches in length, your baby is almost the size of a small pumpkin. These are average figures and a lot of healthy babies weigh lesser or more. If you feel that your baby’s head looks slightly conical after birth that is because your baby’s skull bones are not fused at birth and they tend to become slightly overlapped while being pushed through the birth canal. This is nothing to worry about and the shape of her head will be back to normal in a couple of months.

You continue to provide precious antibodies to your baby via your placenta. These will form your baby’s basic germ-fighting weapons after birth. Additionally, your baby will also receive antibodies from the colostrum that you will be feeding your baby after she is born. Colostrum is the precursor to more mature breast milk and should be compulsorily offered to all newborns so that they can ward off common and graver illnesses that they could contract.

What Will You See At Birth?

Once your baby is born and you hear the legendary ‘first cry’ you will anxiously wait to see him or her up and close to you. You will be able to make out his or her gender by the help of the genitalia. The next thing that you would notice is the skin of your baby that is likely to be covered in blood, lanugo and quite a bit of amniotic fluid that stay on till he or she is washed and cleaned by the attending nurses or staff.

Your baby might not be able to focus on you because a newborn can only focus on objects or people that are an inch or so away. He or she will only see a blurred version of you. However, she might recognize your voice so you could simply whisper to her when she is laid on your chest so that she is aware of being close to her mother.

Being Held

Expect your newborn to love being held and moved around for a couple of months or more. A baby spends 9 whole months in the womb and gets used to being swayed and moved about. After birth, they begin to miss the movement and prefer being lulled to sleep while also being held or swayed. The feeling of being held together in the womb takes time to get over with.

You might come across a lot of relatives who would advise you against holding your baby because they will get used to your lap and shoulder and would not want to sleep by themselves. This is a misconception. A baby needs to be held because of sensory reasons. They need to feel close to their primary caregivers since it gives them a sense of security. Hold your baby as much as you want to because they are tiny only for a limited amount of time.

Your Body This Week

Is the day really here or are you simply imagining it? Your doctor might have penned down the 40th week as the time when you could expect your waters to break or start having contractions but your body knows best. While some women deliver just as they touch the 40th week, some others deliver not before the 41st or the 42nd week of pregnancy.

When Your Sac Ruptures

Your amniotic sac will rupture before your contractions begin unless you are artificially induced. However, when and where your sac decides to break is a question that hovers on every pregnant woman’s mind that has crossed her 40 weeks. You could have all sorts of expectations like they show in the movies; of water breaking in between a show, in the midst of a journey or any other inconvenient place.

Unlike what you have seen in movies, even if your water does break in public, all you will feel is a trickle of fluid running down your legs instead of a gush that you have been expecting. If your water breaks before you start having contractions, you are likely to be in labor in the next 24 hours. If you do not start having contractions by then, your doctor will induce labor pains artificially.

Getting to know the difference between sac rupture and urine leakage is important because it helps to make the diagnosis early. Amniotic fluid is a clear and odorless liquid. It will look like a trickle of water when it leaks. If you are leaking yellowish fluid that has an ammonia-like odor, you could have urine incontinence.

Yet another way of understanding the difference is to try and stall the flow by squeezing your pelvic muscles. If the flow stops, you were leaking urine. If it does not stop, it is clearly amniotic fluid. Your leakage could also look greenish or brownish in color. This needs to be reported at the earliest because it means that your baby has already had a bowel movement inside the uterus. You will need an immediate C-section to avoid the baby from ingesting any part of the excreted stool.

Size Does Not Matter

If you have heard all your life that you have a small hip and might not be able to deliver vaginally, it is time to get your facts right. It is not about how broad your hips are that ensure a convenient delivery. It is all about the size of your pelvis. Every body structure is designed in a way to assist in delivery and babies are also structured as per the maternal frame. Unless the baby is bigger in size, has a bigger head or has any other complication, a normal vaginal delivery is what you can expect. Even if you are small-bones, your vagina will open up as much as it needs to for the baby to emerge and will close up back again. The only things you need to remember to keep doing are Kegels. Kegels are pelvic floor exercises to strengthen your pelvis and adjoining areas so that you don’t have problems after you deliver and your vagina comes back to its original position and tightness as earlier. However, you cannot do Kegels after you deliver and expect miraculous results. You will need to start doing Kegels from the very beginning so that there are long-lasting impacts.

Tests To Be Conducted

Your doctor will either wait it out or want to perform some examinations to ensure that the pregnancy and the baby are healthy. You are not really “post term” yet but if you do have a prolonged pregnancy with no apparent reason, you might want to keep an eye on your baby’s well-being.

Doctors generally conduct a test termed as a Biophysical Profile. It involves an ultrasound examination to check whether your baby’s breathing movements are normal. This is important to check so that both his lungs and diaphragm can be tested for efficiency. Your baby’s muscle tone will also need to be checked by the doctor to ensure that all his limbs and adjoining muscles are working properly. Apart from the baby’s anatomy and functioning, your doctor will also need to take a look at the amount of amniotic fluid that surrounds the baby and if it is enough for your placenta to be able to support your baby.

A nonstress test will also be performed by your doctor which is also known as fetal heart rate monitoring. This test along with the NST is performed additionally, to assess the amount of amniotic fluid surrounding the baby. Why is the amount of amniotic fluid such a big deal? This is because if you don’t have contractions and your fluid starts diminishing, your baby will need to be delivered as soon as possible.

If the test results reveal that the fluid levels are not enough, your doctor will induce labor as soon as possible. If there is an emergency where the fluid levels are way below normal, you will be immediately operated upon to safely deliver your baby.

You will probably have another internal examination. This time the doctor will check your cervix to see if it is soft and ripe enough for a vaginal delivery. He will also check the degree of dilation and how effective an induction would be if he plans to do one.

Body Changes After Birth

It is very important to understand how your body will change after birth. Pregnancy and childbirth are significant events in your life that might take a few privileges away but are sure to give back more than you had ever imagined. However, even if pregnancy is the most rewarding experience of a lifetime, there are changes in your body that could be difficult to accept. While you are already sulking about losing that bikini body of yours, remember that while it took 9 months for your body to change, it will take 9 more for it to get back to shape.

It might even take more time and you might never go back to what you used to be. Instead of mourning over what is lost, try and accept the changes that come your way and cherish them as tokens of motherhood. What is important at this point is to hold yourself together, physically and emotionally during this phase.

Lochia

Lochia is a medical term for the cells of your uterine lining shedding off after your baby is born. Lochia is generally bright-red in color initially and can be quite heavy for the first couple of weeks. It tends to change color to a pinkish red and then a lighter pink as days pass and also decrease in amount.

Body Weight

You will start losing weight immediately after your delivery. Your baby is delivered and so is the placenta, the amniotic fluid and sac is gone and you have lost a good amount of blood and fluids. That alone could bring down your weight by 12 pounds. However, you will continue to have an additional weight for some time because that is your body’s way of helping you to breastfeed. Breastfeeding burns off a lot of calories and you will need to fat stores in the initial months to keep up your stamina.

Your Belly

If you have had a C-section, you can expect your belly to be sore and painful in the initial days. You have a scar that will last a lifetime. Your belly will continue to look 6 months pregnant for a couple of months. You also have innumerable stretch marks that will never fade away completely. All these are markers of a pregnancy well-lived. Learn to accept and love your body as it is because there are reminders that you had once nourished a baby in your womb.

Baby Blues

You will probably be dealing with a whole network of emotions right after your baby is born. You will be euphoric, sad, disappointed, confused and exhausted, all at the same time. Caring for a newborn can be challenging and there is no denying the fact that you will tire out through half the day. However, this emotional phase will be over in a few weeks when you and your baby settle down in a routine of sorts.

If your emotional issues continue to make life difficult for you, you could consult your doctor about it. A lot of women go through postpartum depression that needs immediate diagnosis and treatment.

What To Do If:

  • You Have Unexplained Fever

If you have fever or abnormal vaginal bleeding after you have gone home, you could be showing signs of postpartum hemorrhage. Other associated symptoms are rapid heartbeat, palpitation, dizziness, weakness and restlessness. Let your doctor know about it right away and you might also need hospitalization to get yourself treated for it.

  • If you have signs of urinary tract infection like foul smelling urine, burning sensation while passing urine, fever, chills, etc, you will need to be diagnosed at the earliest. You will be given breastfeeding friendly medication. You could also have signs of other infections like mastitis, infection at the site of the surgery etc.

What To Do For A Faster Recovery?

As mentioned before, newborn care is tough and you will need to find enough time to rest and eat well. Unless and until you are taking good care of yourself, you can’t really care efficiently for your newborn. Listed below are simple ways of getting enough rest and care:

  • Eat healthy. A well-balanced diet will not only help you to breastfeed properly but also help you to recover faster.
  • Drink plenty of water. Your body will need more fluids to replenish all that is lost and to keep up your hydration levels after cluster feeds.
  • Make an effort to take naps when your baby sleeps. This is easier said than done but it really helps with newborns.
  • Restrict the number of visitors coming over to meet your baby. Newborns need rest and quieter surroundings. Too much of noise and uproar can set them off and you will tire yourself out soothing a cranky baby.
  • Avoid caffeine, sugary drinks, and juices etc that tend to slow down your recovery.
  • Let people help you if they want to. There is nothing like resting at home while your chores are being taken care of by reliable people.
  • Keep yourself connected with people. If you end up in isolation, your chances of postpartum depression are greatly enhanced.

Understanding Induction Of Labor 

If your labor does not come along after 40 weeks, your doctor will opt for induction of labor. This is because in between 41 and 42 weeks, your placenta becomes less effective at delivering nutrients to your baby. If you prolong your pregnancy beyond this time frame, you and your baby could both be at risk.

Doctors have a number of ways of inducing labor but he will use the method in which your cervix will respond in the most effective manner. The commonest way to induce labor is to give medications that send prostaglandins into the vagina. This in turn ripens your vagina and the stimulations bring on labor.

The other way out is to start an IV with oxytocin in it. This almost always works to ripen the cervix and bring on labor. However, you should always be aware of what your doctor is doing to your body. Your consent is highly important in all the stages of childbirth. If you are not in a position to be able to decide for yourself, your doctor should let your partner know about it before going ahead. 

Natural Ways To Being On Labor 

Although there seem to be too many controversies around them, the natural ways of bringing on labor seem to be working for many women. While most disbelieve in them, a lot many swear by their efficacy. Some of them are listed below:

  • Having Sex

Sperms seem to contain prostaglandins that can help bring on labor. It is also believed that the contractions after an orgasm definitely help. While some studies support this, some others don’t.

  • Stimulating Nipples

Stimulating your nipples could release the hormone oxytocin that is a natural trigger for labor pains. However, the safety of this method is still under research because if you are not aware of how much you should be stimulating, you could end up messing up things.

  • Castor Oil

The usage of castor oil to stimulate your bowel movement so that labor pains closely follow is not a safe method. It can unnecessarily lead to stomach upsets and diarrhea because castor oil is a very strong laxative.

Helping Your Pregnant Spouse

This is probably the last week of pregnancy for both of you. Both euphoria and apprehension seem to occupy your mind these days but all you two need to do is cherish these last few days of pregnancy. You can kick back and relax with your spouse because you have nothing else to do but wait for your baby to make an exit. However, keep an eye on your partner’s health. If she seems to be in any discomfort, let the doctor know about it.

Once the baby is here, you will have a number of things on your mind. Instead of confusing yourself unnecessarily, just remind yourself of the basics. Your baby needs to be comforted, breastfed, your partner needs your presence and rest, you need rest and both of you need to eat well. If these basic requirements are taken care of, you are more than sorted.

40 weeks of pregnancy is nothing less than a journey and you should congratulate yourself for covering this journey along with your spouse gracefully. Parenting is a challenge that needs a number of compromises and adjustments but once you have your little one in your arms, you will simply want to give up everything for her. You and your partner are in the final stretch and to ensure that nothing goes wrong, you will need to follow your doctor’s instructions carefully. Always keep an eye on your partner’s health after delivery so that she recovers soon. She will need constant support and might even make you a punching bag on certain occasions. Remind yourself of what she has gone through and you will find it easier to comfort her whenever she needs you.