Your Body at Week 38 Pregnant
You’re Almost Full Term
In the past, “full term” was defined as anywhere between 37 and 42 weeks of pregnancy, but in 2013, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists re-defined “full term” as 39 weeks through 40 weeks and 6 days, and 37 weeks through 38 weeks and 6 days as “early term.” However, just because you’re not technically “full term” doesn’t mean you’re not feeling like you are totally full term.
Your baby now occupies most of your midsection and movement can be painful and annoying, especially when your bladder feels microscopic and those teensy baby feet are firmly wedged in your ribcage, where frankly, they feel gigantic. Tying your shoes may feel impossible, and forget picking up garbage from your kitchen floor — it may not feel worth it to try to bend over.
Your Energy May be Used for Nesting
Yes, humans build nests just like their furred and feathered friends, but for us, nesting looks a little different than plucking out our own fur for a baby bed or gathering twigs to twine together up in a tree. Late in pregnancy, many pregnant women experience a surge of energy, and this is often directed towards cleaning and organizing your baby’s space — or the entire house.
Nesting is a safe activity, but make sure you’re not doing anything potentially dangerous like climbing ladders, using harsh chemicals, or overdoing it. And if you don’t really feel like doing any of this, then don’t feel you need to do so. Unlike our animal friends, nesting isn’t exactly a required activity before we have a human baby.
Your Baby at Week 38 Pregnant
After 34 weeks, your baby is the size of a sheet of cookies and will likely be in a head down position in preparation for birth, although some babies, well, aren’t. Termed a “breech presentation,” this isn’t very common, but it does happen in roughly 1 out of 25 full-term births.
At this late stage of pregnancy, sizes vary from baby to baby, but it’s likely your baby is between 17 and 20 inches long and weighs 6 ¼ to 7 ½ pounds. Most of your baby’s organs are mature at this point and your baby can survive outside the womb if born today.
Your Symptoms and Health at Week 38 Pregnant
You Might Be Swelling
At this point in your pregnancy, your ankles might be disappearing on you as swelling begins to invade your lower extremities. While slight swelling can be a normal part of pregnancy, it’s vital to know that if you experience sudden, severe swelling of your feet, ankles, hands, or feet, you should contact your doctor or midwife ASAP.
You May Be Experiencing Prodromal Labor
Prodromal labor is also known as “false labor” and it really is what it sounds like — contractions that can be regular and can even be painful, but they don’t change the cervix and won’t directly lead to the birth of your baby. While this sounds like a huge bummer, they really are helping your body prepare for childbirth as they can help move the baby into a better position and can help prepare your body for active labor.
You’ll be Seeing Your Provider More
Although this can vary depending on your practitioner, by this time in your pregnancy, you’ll likely be heading into the office every week until your baby is born. Prenatal visits will be similar to what you’ve been through over the past 30+ weeks, but it will be more difficult to pee in the cup for each week that passes — but maybe you’re a pro at it by now and welcome the challenge.
A Non-Stress Test
Sometimes at this point in pregnancy, you may undergo a non-stress test. This is a non-invasive test done to check on the health of your baby in a health care provider’s office. A fetal monitor records your baby’s heartbeat to determine how things are going in there. If the results aren’t considered normal, further testing will probably be recommended.
Week 38 is usually the latest doctors will let twin pregnancies run on. As your doctor has probably informed you, twins usually arrive two to four weeks earlier than singletons. This is either because your bump swells bigger sooner and triggers contractions, or because your doctor feels it’s the safest time since twin pregnancies can come with more complications. By now, you should be off your feet, resting, and preparing for the hospital.
You’ll unknowingly experience dilation and effacement on the week you give birth (or even a little before). This is when your cervix slowly opens up and thins out, and it continues through labour to prepare for the arrival of your babies.
When your water breaks, it will either feel like a slow trickle or a gush of water. It can be easy to mistake a little urine leak for your water breaking, but as this fluid doesn’t have a scent, you should soon be able to tell the difference. Once you know it’s definitely your water breaking, make note of the time and start timing contractions.
At the start of labour, contractions usually last for 30-60 seconds with 5-20 minute breaks in between. They’ll later get more painful and last 45-60 seconds with breaks between them shortening to 3-5 minutes. You’re officially in labour, so get to the hospital!
As overwhelming and/or scary as things may be, your doctors and nurses will be there to monitor you and the twins every step of the way. You’ve made it this far, it’s just one last push (ahem) to meet your little ones. You got this, mama!
The contents of this article have been medically reviewed by Ruth A. Tessler, M.D. in July, 2019.
Written by Monica Hogan.
Follow Preggo Nancy’s pregnancy journey week-by-week and share in her joy, her symptoms, and even her pregnancy cravings.