There is no denying the fact that you are more than ready to deliver by this week. You could very well be ticking the days off your calendar by now and wonder if today is the day when you will finally have your baby. Instead of spending time wondering when you will finally be able to meet your little, spend as much time as you can to take rest and get some sleep. Once the baby is here, you might not be able to spare much time resting or sleeping because your hands will be full. While it might be annoying to let every relative know that the baby is not here yet, you can look at these phone calls and messages as an indicator that everybody is as excited to meet the baby as you are. You could also receive quirky ideas from relatives about starting labor the natural way like having pineapples to having sex. While nothing could really induce labor, there are a few natural ways that many women swear by. This article will discuss at length how your 38th week might look like.
Your Baby This Week
If you go by 40 weeks being termed as full term, your baby might be here in two more weeks. Statistics show that only a handful of babies are generally born on their exact due date. Most are born either earlier or later. Weighing around seven pounds, your baby is quite the plump little thing now. She might also put on more weight as she spends more time in the womb. She also measures around 20 inches in length.
Your baby is preparing for birth in a number of ways. Although there is no significant change that might happen this week as far as your baby is concerned, she might very well be adding more fat cells to her body and sharpening her brain and nervous system. The longer the baby spends in the womb, the more fine-tuned her response to external stimuli becomes. Your baby continues to shed lanugo and vernix as more time passes.
Along with other substances, your baby is swallowing amniotic fluid that will turn into your baby’s first bowel called meconium. It will be passed out by the baby right after birth and will look like sticky, black tar. Your baby’s lungs continue to mature although it is mature enough already to breathe in effectively after she is born. What her lungs are doing at present are to produce more surfactant that will prevent the air sacs in the lungs from sticking to each other while breathing.
Your baby might have a different eye color from that of yours or your partner’s. Just like hair color, your baby’s permanent eye color might be difficult to make out. The baby’s iris begins to develop more pigmentation after three months of birth. They will eventually attain the color that they will be for her entire lifetime in 3-4 more months.
In other news, your baby already has a firm grasp that you will be able to test when she is born. She will be able to hold on to your finger if you happen to bring it close to her hands.
She is almost the size of a leek and with all her organs matured and developed and ready for birth.
Your Body This Week
There is no dramatic change this week or in the weeks coming up because your body is more or less ready for delivery. You can utilize these weeks in finishing off last minute tasks because once the baby is here, it can get quite busy for both you and your partner.
What you could do this week is to childproof your house, set up your baby’s nursery, and find fitted bedspreads that you had been postponing for a while or even stocking more groceries. Whatever you plan to do, you will need to remember that you are in the last leg of pregnancy and there is no real need to hurry up or unnecessarily strain yourself.
It is advisable to take as many naps as possible but also stay active through some part of the day to avoid nagging aches and pains. You can read books or spend time with your partner; these are two things that you are likely to miss a good deal when the baby is here. Try and make the most of this time.
If your baby has not dropped yet, this is the week you can expect it to happen. Your baby will drop into the pelvis for the final preparation before birth. This means good as well as bad news because while you might be relieved from acid reflux and breathlessness, your new visitors in the form of pelvic discomfort and swelling of feet etc are likely to annoy you.
If your baby has dropped into the pelvis already, you might be waiting for the dilation and effacement to happen which could also occur this week itself. From this week onwards, it is a game of waiting and watching. If you have planned an elective C-section, you might be spared of the game of suspense but if you plan to go the natural way, you will need to wait it out.
Your breasts have gone through the most dramatic changes ever and it is not over for them yet. In fact, their real role is yet to begin. Your breasts have undergone major changes to be able to nourish your baby after she is born. Breast milk directly from the breast is the most suitable nourishment that you could provide your baby.
The last few days before delivery are like a dress rehearsal for which you may or may not be prepared. One of the significant things that might happen to you is the leakage of colostrum from your breasts. Colostrum is a thin yellowish liquid that forms your baby’s first meal after birth. While some women leak colostrum from the third trimester itself, some others do not leak at all till after delivery. Neither of the situations is an indicator of your ability to breastfeed.
Colostrum is loaded with antibodies that are designed to protect your newborn from a number of infections. You would be amazed to know how colostrum has lower amount of fat and sugar that is perfectly balanced to suit a newborn’s digestive system. The more mature milk that comes in later is suited for slightly more matured digestive systems.
If the leakage of colostrum makes you uncomfortable, you could try using nursing pads to keep the flow discreet. Nursing pads come in handy while breastfeeding because even when you are nursing your baby, you will tend to leak quite a lot.
You may or may not leak colostrum in pregnancy but your body is already preparing colostrum for your baby to have after birth.
If you thought that the risks of having preeclampsia are over, you are highly mistaken. Even after you are full term pregnant but your baby is not ready to be delivered yet, you could have signs of preeclampsia that need to be reported immediately.
Some amount of swelling in feet and ankles is normal around this time of pregnancy. This is known as pregnancy induced edema. However, if you happen to notice excessive swelling of feet, ankles, hands, fingers, puffing up of face or an accelerated weight gain, they could indicate preeclampsia.
Some other symptoms that need to be reported immediately are headaches that refuse to go, changes in vision like sudden sensitivity to light, blurred vision, seeing spots etc, pain in abdomen and nausea. These could also be precursors of preeclampsia.
Did You Know About The Signs Of Labor?
Your may or may not be able to distinguish labor from your usual Braxton Hicks contractions, especially if you are a first timer. You cannot really predict when and how your labor can begin. However, there are a few signs of labor that both you and your partner should be aware of. They are listed below:
- Lightning is a phenomenon which is easy to identify. From the 36th week of pregnancy, you could expect your baby to drop into your pelvis, in preparation for birth. This is characterized by a relative ease in breathing, slight relief from acid reflux and also from your rib cage being pushed and cornered. Along with the comforts, comes the discomfort of a painful back and a heavy feeling in your lower abdomen. This is also associated with difficulty in walking properly.
- What used to be mild and infrequent contractions will now intensify and become way more frequent. Braxton Hicks contractions are expected to become stronger as time passes and they could also signify pre-labor pains. Along with these dull pains, menstrual-like cramps could also be associated with the first stage of labor.
- Your cervix is closed or blocked by a mucus plug. This is lost when your cervix is ripening for labor and the thickened mucus plug is lost as an effect. You might lose the mucus plug at once or in a continued process along with vaginal discharge. This often happens in the form of a “bloody show”. Bloody show is characterized by vaginal discharge streaked with blood and is an evident sign of imminent labor.
- Your amniotic sac ruptures and as a result of which you start leaking amniotic fluid from your vagina. Real labor contractions follow on close heels after your waters break and you might need to be induced if contractions don’t begin immediately after.
Breastfeeding: To Be Or Not To Be
Why is there a hue and cry about exclusively breastfeeding your baby for the first six months of her life? This is because breast milk is the best form of nutrition you could provide to your newborn. Breastfeeding your baby naturally reduces her chances of contracting several forms of illnesses that generally plague newborns, infants and toddlers. Breast milk has just the right amount of proteins, minerals, vitamins, fats and carbohydrates that a baby needs. The benefits of full term nursing can never be emphasized enough but here is a look at what you could expect:
- Nursing a baby exclusively for the first six months prevents her from respiratory tract and ear infections.
- Your baby is also in safer hands because the introduction of formula will need water that might lead to food contamination.
- Your baby has lesser chances of having childhood allergies, asthma and sudden infant death syndrome.
- Along with your baby, you are also doing well for yourself by reducing your stress levels, reducing your chances of getting breast or ovarian cancer.
- Your baby is not exposed to nipples or teats that could lead to tooth decay since formula milk tends to pool in the mouth at bedtime.
Will It Hurt?
A lot of women are apprehensive about breastfeeding because they have heard from their friends or relatives that breastfeeding is quite painful. This is untrue unless there is a serious medical issue involved. Breastfeeding is the most natural and normal form of nourishing a child and if it is done the right way, there is no reason for pain.
However, as natural as breastfeeding is, it does not always come with an instruction manual. Not every woman is equipped with enough information regarding full term breastfeeding and they end up apprehending the entire act.
Trust your body’s ability to nourish your baby. When you start breastfeeding your baby, it could be painful to you because of a number of reasons. The good news is, these reasons can be sorted out and you can breastfeed successfully. Most of the times, painful breastfeeding is associated with shallow or improper latch of the baby.
Lactation consultants suggest that women should speak up about their pain. They also recommend that a baby’s mouth should fully cover the areola so that the latch is deep and there is no pain involved. The nipple should be placed well inside the baby’s mouth for deeper and more effective feeds.
It is also suggested that you break your baby’s latch by inserting a finger in between from the side so that you can set up a new and more efficient latch. Hospitals often offer lactation consultants who can help teach you the ways in which you could offer the breast to your baby.
A baby might also have tongue-tie or lip-tie and that could be a reason for her not being able to latch well. If that is the case, a pediatrician is the best person to talk. If your baby needs to be operated upon, you will need to get the surgery done as soon as possible.
You could have flat or inverted nipples which are also the reasons behind painful breastfeeding. This is relatively easier to deal with since you will need a suction everyday in order to keep the process simple and hassle-free.
Have you thought of breastfeeding in public? It takes nothing to breastfeed wherever and whenever you want to. You are simply providing nutrition to your baby. However, a lot of women are not comfortable nursing in public. If you are one of them, try using a scarf or a shawl to cover yourself up. There are nursing covers available in the market that you could try using for your comfort.
You cannot really prepare yourself to breastfeed successfully. What you could rather do is read up a lot on it and get ideas to make it easier for you. Read success stories and the ones that help you stay on track. There are a number of reliable breastfeeding books available that you could count upon for a fair idea of how to breastfeed and what to expect from a breastfed baby.
A breastfed baby and a formula-fed baby will have definite differences in digestion and behavior. The reason is simple; breast milk is easily digested by the baby while formula milk takes longer to digest. This is why the former will wake up more frequently to nurse in the night while the latter will sleep for longer hours. This does not indicate in any way that a breastfed baby is not receiving enough milk from her mother.
Breast milk follows the demand and supply theory. This means that your breasts are naturally capable of producing as much milk as your baby demands. For that to happen, your baby needs to suckle at the breast as much as possible. Sucking will create more demand and that will be supplied by the body by producing more milk. This is the most significant thing one needs to know about breastfeeding. Even if you seem to be making lesser milk initially, your body will pace up to the demand and start producing as per your baby’s needs.
A breastfed baby requires only colostrum in the first few days after birth so don’t fret if you only seem to be producing that. As and when your baby grows, your body will start producing more mature milk and nourish your baby efficiently.
There Are A Few Key Factors To Remember About Breastfeeding Apart From The Above. They Are:
- Immediate skin-to-skin is of vital significance right after birth. This helps in starting the breastfeeding journey at the earliest. The first hour after birth is called the golden period because that is when colostrum comes in and it is loaded with antibodies for the baby. If you have a C-section, ask for your baby to be placed on your breast immediately after the surgery while the doctors are stitching you up.
- While breastfeeding may be the most natural way of nourishing your baby, it is not always easy for everyone. A lot of women face difficulties in nursing in the initial days. If you feel you need help, do not hesitate to ask for it. Most often, the hospital where you deliver will have a lactation consultant to help you with your problems. He or she will make sure that your baby and you are both comfortable with the idea of breastfeeding as far as possible.
- Your newborn should be nursing at least eight to ten times in a span of 24 hours. This is the standard number but the feeds might be more frequent too. Until and unless breastfeeding is established, the baby should ideally not be receiving anything else.
Will My Milk Be Enough?
As mentioned earlier, a woman is capable of nourishing her baby with breast milk alone for the first six months of her life. However, with a lot of people resorting to formula milk for convenience, mothers who breastfeed exclusively are made to doubt their supply. The only thing that you need to remember is how breast milk is best suited for your baby and the more your baby suckles, the more milk will be produced. There is no need to doubt your supply as long as she has 8-10 wet nappies in the initial days.
Helping Your Pregnant Spouse
Now that everything is done and sorted, all that you and your spouse can do is to wait for the arrival of the little one. With your little one not so little anymore, your wife could be having a tough time dealing with the last leg of pregnancy. It is important that you keep motivating her and encouraging her to wait it out.
A lot of women start feeling annoyed and irritated with the idea of hanging on to something as unpredictable as labor. Keep her distracted if you can and keep annoying family members and relatives away who could ask even more irritating questions.
You can also educate yourself about breastfeeding so that it is easier for you to understand what is expected of you in this journey. It is a misconception that breastfeeding is solely a mother’s responsibility. While you may not be able to breastfeed your baby, you can do skin-to-skin while your spouse takes a break or catches a quick nap.
You are as integral to this journey as your wife is and understanding your role play in it will only make parenting more convenient for both you and your spouse.