Check out what happened with your baby's development last week.
Measuring up. "Gaining a little weight every day helps me get ready for the big day." It's likely that your baby is more than 19 inches long and weighs between 6 and 6.5 pounds, nearing her final birth weight. These last few weeks are important, though; she's still gaining half an ounce of fat per day. This fat helps her body regulate her temperature and keep an even blood-sugar level. The brain, and the skull that houses it, continue to grow.
Ease on down. Is your baby sitting lower these days? You may feel as if she's dropped down into your pelvis—and perhaps she has. This dropping, called lightening or engagement, can occur a few weeks before your baby is born. The new, lower position may take some pressure off your squished lungs and diaphragm, making breathing easier for you.
The trade-off. Of course, the baby's dropping is a mixed blessing. The good news is that you can breathe more easily. The bad news is that you may feel extra pressure in your lower abdomen and pelvis. Also, your center of gravity changes when your baby drops, so you may be a little clumsier than you were before your baby engaged.
Bag it! Have you packed a bag for the hospital yet? Only 5 percent of babies are born on their actual due date, so it's handy to have a packed bag waiting by the door in case your little one comes early. Stick to the essentials; remember, you'll have to tote all this stuff home, too, along with goodies for the baby. You'll need a comfortable nightgown or nightshirt (don't bring a good one—it might get stained), a comfy robe, nonskid slippers or socks, a well-fitting nursing bra, toiletries, and going-home outfits for yourself and the baby. What not to pack? Jewelry, credit cards, and your wallet. But do bring some form of personal identification, your health card, and a few dollars for newspapers or snacks. You may also want to prepare a list of phone numbers of people you'll want to call to announce your news. Dads: Don't forget the camera, along with an extra set of batteries. And pack a change of clothes and some toiletries for yourself. Labor can be long, and you may need a refresher at halftime. For more packing tips, read Packing for Your Birth Experience.
Close scrutiny. Your health care provider may start performing pelvic exams at your weekly prenatal visits around now. She will check to see if your cervix is dilated (opening up) or effaced (thinning) and will look for any signs of labor. Many women start to dilate or efface weeks before actually going into labor, while some don't show any signs of labor until it's time to go to the hospital.
From the experts. If you haven't already, start stocking up for your little one. "As you shop for baby clothes, look for outfits with generously sized head holes for easy dressing," suggests Suzanne Dixon, M.D., M.P.H. "Also, avoid clothing with decorative items or drawstrings, both of which pose a choking hazard." For a list of layette basics and more safety tips from Dr. Dixon, click here.