Your baby’s eyes open and close with ease and have lashes. As it continues to grow, the tiny lungs are preparing to work independently. You may feel hot all the time as your body is using a lot of fuel supporting both yourself and the child inside you. More blood is circulating and you are burning more calories.
You may feel less movement from your baby simply because there’s not much room in there though you should still feel at least 10 kicks in a twelve-hour period. If you have any concerns, call your health professional. Try and rest, as you will need all your energy for labour.
If you are having twins they will probably be born within the next week.
A boy baby’s testicles will drop to form the scrotum. Often the genitals of both sexes seem disproportionately large and swollen at birth in response to the withdrawal of maternal oestrogen levels. The breasts of both are distinct and may leak milk. Some girl babies have a menstrual-like discharge. These are all normal occurrences that will subside in the coming weeks.
Weighing about 2.9 kilos, space is tight and movements will be restricted to jabs from the feet, hands and knees. You may feel a strange buzzing sensation inside your vagina as the baby’s head moves against your pelvic floor muscles.
Any time now you could have a “show”. This is when the mucus plug that has sealed the womb and protected your baby from infections, comes away. This happens when the cervix begins to ripen, dilate, or open slightly in anticipation of labour. The mucus may be a little blood-stained. For some women, this may only happen when they are actually in labour.
The baby’s bowels are filled with greenish-black meconium, its first motion after the birth, comprising excretions from the baby’s alimentary glands mixed with bile pigment, lanugo and cells from the bowel wall. The meconium is quite hard in texture.
Once the baby starts feeding, the bowel movements will soften. Its weight is about 3.3 kilos.
Your cervix is ripening and may begin dilating in preparation for labour. Braxton Hicks contractions will be stronger and more frequent and renewal of the amniotic fluid occurs every three hours. Your baby’s weight gain will slow, as will yours.
Your baby may be ready to be born although more than 70 per cent of babies are born after their due date. The average baby weighs 3.4kg and measures 50cm in length.
Labour can begin in many ways. It may start with a “show” which is when the mucus plug comes away from the cervix, your waters breaking, or practice contractions that give way to the real thing. Or you may have a dull ache in your lower back signalling the onset.
For some women, the breaking of waters is defined by a small trickle. For others, it’s a gushing of liquor (the medical name given to the water). It is common for women to not even notice the sensation but see the liquor on the floor.
As your baby’s head pushes down into your cervix, your body is stimulated to produce oxytocin, a labour-inducing hormone. It also acts as a natural painkiller, numbing the area during contractions. As the level of the hormone progesterone drops, this also acts as a trigger. The hormone prostaglandin is released, softening the cervix to allow dilation.
If labour starts and you are without medical assistance, don’t cross your legs to delay the process. Remember childbirth is essentially a natural process. Stay calm and notify your health professional.
Beyond 40 Weeks
An Overdue Baby
Babies grow and develop at different rates. Some medical professionals wait for two or more weeks before considering induction. Others wait for a week or ten days before advising a test known as a biophysical profile than is carried out to determine the baby’s wellbeing. This involves an ultrasound to evaluate movement, breathing and the amount of amniotic fluid present. If all seems normal, induction may not be necessary.