Check out what happened last week with your baby's development.
Hormone helpers. Your baby continues to prepare for her grand entrance. Her endocrine system, which is responsible for hormone production, is gearing up for birth. Your little one will secrete more stress hormones during birth than at any other time in her life. Once she's out of the womb, those hormones will help manage her bodily systems without the help of your placenta. These tremendous changes demand lots of effort and energy, but she'll be ready.
Breath taking. Your baby's lungs continue to develop, too, right up until she's born. At the moment, the lungs are still working hard to manufacture surfactant, a substance that helps keep the many air sacs from sticking together when she takes her first breath.
Cry baby. "Here goes my first cry!" Right after that initial deep breath comes a wail worthy of an opera diva. The sound of your baby crying is a bittersweet experience; while no one likes to hear a child expressing fear or discomfort, a loud cry means she's breathing well. Don't expect to see tears yet; her tear glands won't produce tears when crying until she's a few weeks old. And if your baby doesn't let out that hallmark howl, don't fret: Some infants don't cry at birth. The important thing is that breathing gets started.
True or false? You may have already experienced Braxton Hicks contractions, which are your body's way of practicing for the real deal. Now that you're considered full-term, it may be difficult to tell the difference between these contractions, also known as false labor, and true labor. If the contractions are irregular and go away when you change position or walk around, you are probably experiencing false labor. Don't be fooled by the name, though—false labor can turn into real labor in a matter of minutes. Time your contractions carefully; once they're at regular intervals and occurring five minutes apart for at least an hour, call your doctor, midwife, or nurse. If your water breaks, indicated by a leak or gush of fluid from the vagina, call right away.
The pain domain. If you haven't already made some decisions, now is a good time to think about what kind of pain relief, if any, you want during labor. You have many options when it comes to medications—some drugs are meant simply to take the edge off labor pain, while others aim to block as much discomfort as possible. Of course, you don't have to make any final decisions right now, but you should be aware of the choices and talk them over with your health care provider before the big day. Read our article on comfort measures for an overview of options.
From the experts. "There are two main signs that you'll begin labor within a day or two," says Elaine Zwelling, R.N., Ph.D. "One indication is the rupture of your bag of waters (amniotic sac). Another red flag, so to speak, is a blood-streaked mucous discharge—the mucus that has been plugging your cervix." To find out more from Dr. Zwelling about what to look for, read Signs of Labor.