39 weeks pregnant: Are we there yet?
Baby’s putting the finishing touches to their imminent arrival. Meanwhile, you should try to rest and be on the lookout for signs of labour.
Week by week guide
Week by week guide
Week by week guide
At a glance
Your waters will usually break, though this can happen before or after contractions start
‘True labour’ contractions have a steady, regular rhythm and get progressively stronger
Blood or mucus spots are a sign that your cervix is getting ready or has already opened
Breastfeeding is good for your baby and has many benefits for you too
Baby's development at 39 weeks
It’s almost time for the big moment. While you prepare mentally, baby is putting on the finishing touches, preparing to face the world. A final layer of fat is developing under their skin, for a bit of extra warmth and cushioning. Other than that, your not-so-little one is virtually fully-formed and at around three kilos, is more or less birth weight, (and don’t you feel it). Despite the lack of room, baby should still be stretching and wriggling regularly, so call the hospital right away if these movements seem to have lessened.
Changes in you and your body at 39 weeks
There isn’t a ‘green light’ moment to signpost going into labour, but rest assured you will definitely know when baby is ready to come out. You may also experience some impostor signs too such as Braxton Hicks.
Braxton-Hicks. These ‘false labour’ contractions are the tightening and relaxing of the womb muscles, which can happen from around the second trimester onwards. They’re usually painless, but can get stronger and more intense towards the end of your pregnancy. Basically, it’s your body having a practice for the main show.
- Backache and a heavy, achy, tired feeling.
- Feeling nauseous or being sick.
- A ‘show’ – a plug of sticky blood or mucus from your vagina, indicating the cervix has opened.
- Your waters breaking, though this can also happen during labour.
- And, of course, contractions to seal the deal!
No need to rush. Very few babies are born so quickly that their mums can’t get to hospital in time. However, lots of mums-to-be are sent back home because they’ve come in too soon, which can be a bit of a pain especially in the middle of the night. Either way, it’s always best to get in touch with the hospital if you’re unsure.
True labour. The contractions of ‘true labour’ have a steady, regular rhythm and get progressively stronger without easing when you move around. They can feel like very strong period pains. This is the moment to start using any techniques you’ve been practising for dealing with labour pains. Make sure you focus on what works for you, even if it means throwing the rulebook out and going rogue.
It’s not like on the telly. The familiar cry of “my waters have broken!” pre-empts many a TV and movie birth scene. In reality, this can happen at any moment during labour and some women can go into labour without their waters breaking at all. If in doubt call the hospital and explain your symptoms.
You’ve got this! Remember your body is designed to do all this, and your team, from your birth partner, to your medical professionals are there to help you and your baby have the most positive birth experience possible.
Get ready for the big day: the signs and stages of labour.
Breastfeeding is good for mum too
It’s well known how important and beneficial breastfeeding is for your baby but it’s actually good for mum too.
The skin-to-skin contact (and after the first few weeks, the eye contact too) helps you bond with your baby. It also flushes your body with hormones and two in particular, oxytocin and prolactin, have a multitude of useful effects specifically for mum.
These include cutting down your recovery time by helping your uterus contract, improving blood clotting and even reducing the amount of bleeding after birth. Prolactin also induces a deep feeling of relaxation, while oxytocin is the hormone that helps you fall head-over-heels in love with your mini-me.
No wonder then, that breastfeeding is also linked to decreased risks of postnatal depression - you’re well and truly saturated with happy hormones.
All babies are different, so the size of your baby at 39 weeks will vary from newborn to newborn. There are several factors that can affect this, including:
- Your own diet and weight, both before and during pregnancy
- Your prenatal health, including whether you drink, smoke or have diabetes
- Your own birth weight, plus genetics of both parents
- Your age (teen mums tend to have smaller babies)
- Whether your baby is a boy or a girl (boys tend to be heavier)
- Whether this is your firstborn (they tend to be smaller than subsequent children)
- Whether your baby is a twin or triplet (multiples tend to be smaller than singletons)
Broadly speaking, newborns weigh around 3kg (or six and a half pounds) and are about 52cm long. If you are having a particularly large or long baby, your midwife or doctor will have been monitoring this and should have told you already.