You are there, you’ve made it. Congratulations on reaching the 40th week of your pregnancy. Although you have probably thought many times you would never get to this milestone, take it as a personal accomplishment if you have. You may be heartily sick of the whole pregnancy deal by now and just want it to be over and done with. You feel and look uncomfortable and your energy levels aren’t what they usually are. It’s hard to focus on anything for too long or make plans in case the baby comes. It’s as if your life is on hold for the meantime.
Where’s the mop and bucket?
However, not all women see getting to 40 weeks pregnant as cause for a well-earned rest. Some get into a frenzy of cleaning now and see dirt lurking in every corner. No room is immune and getting the house into a pristine condition for the baby’s arrival becomes their number 1 priority. Partners can look on in vague amusement. But this nesting phenomenon is well known and does make sense in terms of organising a clean, safe environment for the new baby.
Your physical changes this week
- Lots of Braxton Hicks contractions this week which will promote a surge of oxygenated blood to your uterus and the baby. Sometimes they may seem quite fierce but unless they are painful and regular don’t be concerned. If you find they bother you, a warm shower or a change of position usually helps them to ease.
- If your baby has engaged in your pelvis your body shape will change and people may comment on the fact that you “have dropped”. Although this means you can breathe a little easier, the extra pressure on your bladder is impossible to ignore. Your relationship with the toilet may be the closest one you have this week. Have trust that things are close to improving.
- If you have a sudden gush of fluid from your vagina, a series of regular, painful uterine contractions which are coming approximately every 15 minutes or a steady, continuous pain in your lower back, check with your midwife or doctor. These can all be symptoms of true, early labour.
- You will be feeling very heavy and congested in your pelvis this week. If you’ve had a baby before it can feel as if there really isn’t much holding the baby in, especially when you are standing. Your pelvic muscles are working overtime in supporting the concentrated weight of your uterus and like an overstretched sling, they are sagging at the critical points. Do them a favour and sit when you can. Find a comfortable chair and set yourself up with a drink, a good book and the phone by your side. You don’t need to explain yourself to anyone when you are 40 weeks pregnant, this is a waiting game.
- The skin over your tummy is stretched taut and tight like a drum. Your belly button looks as if it’s been turned inside out and your stretch marks look a vivid red or purple colour. You’ll find it hard to imagine your belly could stretch any more but if you go past term, chances are it will have to. If you wrap your hands around, underneath your tummy, your fingers may not even touch.
Your emotional changes this week
- You are probably feeling as if you are on tenterhooks now. You’ve looked forward to this week for so long and if nothing seems to be happening, you’re bound to be disappointed. Close family and friends will be ringing to enquire if you’ve had the baby, or are about to. You’re likely to become tired of saying the same thing over and over. It’s easier if you ask them not to contact you but instead, when something does happen you will get in touch.
- You will be feeling a mixture of anticipation and excitement, anxiety and impatience. This is a week full of emotion and it can be made worse by the fact you’ll feel as if you don’t have much control over what happens. If you are worried about how you will respond with the pain of childbirth, read everything you can about pain relief options. Speak with your midwife or doctor about what you would like to happen and include this on your birth plan.
Your baby’s changes this week
- Although you’re feeling as if you’ve had enough, chances are your baby isn’t perturbed. However, it is very cramped inside your uterus and its tenant will soon have to be evicted, no matter how cozy it is. Your baby is so perfectly folded up that after it is born, you will wonder how it actually fitted inside you. In the early days after birth, your baby will adopt the same positions and flexion that it did for all those long weeks of gestation.
- Your midwife or doctor will ask you about the baby’s movements, how active they are and if you have noticed any change in the pattern of activity. They may even ask you to keep a record which you will need to bring to your ante-natal appointments. You may need to have a CTG (Cardiotocograph) this week, which monitors the baby’s heartbeat as well as the muscle activity of your uterus. This will provide important information to your care providers in assessing the well-being of your baby.
Tips for Week 40
- Don’t leave it until the last minute to pack your hospital bag. Having to scramble to find items at the last minute can create too much unwanted stress. If you have a normal vaginal delivery the longest you are likely to stay in hospital is 3 days so remember to pack light. Most women wear their normal day clothing rather than night wear through the day, so pack comfortable, easy front opening tops if you plan to breastfeed.
- If you are not intending to breastfeed you may need to supply your own formula and feeding equipment. Check with the individual hospital what arrangements can be made for washing and sterilising bottles and teats.
- If you’ve had enough of being pregnant and want to be induced, discuss options with your care provider. Choosing to induce labour is a personal decision and multiple factors need to be considered. Bear in mind that the incidence of needing an assisted birth becomes higher in women who are induced, and did not go into labour themselves.
- If you have been booked for a caesarean section delivery, you are likely to have had your baby in the last week or so.