38 Weeks Pregnant
38 Weeks Pregnant: Your Baby's Development
Your little one is close to making his debut, but he's still making the most of each day and is busy growing and developing. For example, in these final few weeks, his brain is still growing. In fact, his brain can grow as much as one third in size from week 35 to week 39 of your pregnancy. You knew he was a genius! His little liver is nearly fully developed at this time, too.
After your baby is born, his first few bowel movements will actually be a substance called meconium. This greenish-black, sticky form of poop starts to build up in his intestines while he's still in the womb, and is formed from waste materials such as dead skin cells and lanugo, the fine body hair that's starting to be shed.
Even though your estimated due date is still a couple of weeks away, you may start to notice some signs of labor approaching, and your baby could arrive any day now. In fact, only about 4 percent of moms-to-be deliver exactly on their due date. Twins and other multiples are more likely to be born preterm than a single baby, so keep an eye out for signs of labor if you're 38 weeks pregnant with twins.
How Big Is Your Baby at 38 Weeks?
At 38 weeks, your baby is about the size of a bunch of rhubarb, probably weighing around 6 1/2 pounds.
Mom's Body at 38 Weeks Pregnant
If you're wondering how many months along you are at 38 weeks pregnant, you're in either your ninth or tenth month, because the weeks of pregnancy don't necessarily fit neatly into months.
At 38 weeks pregnant, you may still be gaining weight, believe it or not. If you had a normal body mass index (BMI) before you were pregnant, it's likely that you'll put on between half a pound and one pound per week during the third trimester. Your ever-growing belly might be getting in the way of a good night's sleep (and normal movement) these days, but the end is in sight now! To find out more about your estimated weight gain in these final few weeks, take a look at our pregnancy weight gain calculator.
Some moms-to-be find that getting regular exercise is more difficult at this point. If this is the case for you, you might want to focus on breathing exercises to help get you ready for your labor. Not only do these exercises help you relax and distress, but they also come in handy for managing the pain and discomfort of labor.
38 Weeks Pregnant: Your Symptoms
Frequent urination. As your baby and uterus grow, they're putting more pressure on your bladder, so you may need to go to the bathroom more often. Even though those extra bathroom visits are a hassle, keep drinking plenty of water to stay well hydrated.
Pelvic pressure. You and your baby are getting ready for labor in many different ways, and you may feel this in the pelvic area, too. When your baby drops lower into your pelvis, you may feel increased pressure on your pelvis, bladder, and hips. Because your body is producing a hormone called relaxin, which softens the ligaments, muscles, and joints in preparation for childbirth, you might also experience some back or pelvic pain, especially as you get closer to your due date. Try to stay off your feet as much as possible, move slowly and carefully, and soak in a warm bath if you're feeling uncomfortable.
Swollen ankles and feet. Your body will produce and retain more fluid than usual, and as a result, you may notice swelling (known as edema) in your hands and legs. To combat this, try to rest with your feet up, drink more water to help flush out excess fluid, and wear loose clothes and shoes so you feel a little more comfortable. Some moms-to-be find that wearing support hose or stockings can also help reduce swelling and discomfort. If you notice any sudden swelling in your face or hands, contact your healthcare provider, as this could be a sign of a blood pressure condition called preeclampsia.
Nausea. Some slight nausea can crop up again at 38 weeks pregnant or in the following weeks, and it can sometimes be a sign that labor is starting. If you're feeling queasy, try to eat several smaller meals throughout the day, and stick to bland foods like bananas, rice, or toast.
Contractions. At 38 weeks pregnant, you may have already felt Braxton Hicks contractions. These practice contractions usually occur irregularly and will often stop when you move or change positions. On the other hand, true labor contractions will come at regular intervals, getting closer together over time. They'll increase in strength and intensity, and they often start from the back and move to the front of your abdomen. Timing your contractions will give you more information about whether you're experiencing the real deal or just more Braxton Hicks. Want to hear about what contractions actually feel like? Get the scoop from other moms who have been in your shoes.
38 Weeks Pregnant: Things to Consider
Have you considered your options for pain relief during your labor? If you haven't, reach out to your healthcare provider. Pain relief drugs are typically either analgesic, which usually lessen but don't stop the pain, or anesthetic, which stop you from feeling any pain. One well-known pain relief option is the epidural, but your healthcare provider is the best person to ask about what could be right for you. If you've taken a childbirth class, you may have also learned about comfort techniques like the Lamaze, Bradley, and Read methods. Consider all your options, and talk over your preferences with your provider.
You may want to choose a birth partner who will be with you throughout your labor and delivery. This person can be your partner, a family member, a friend, or even a trained professional, like a doula. Your birth partner can support you emotionally and provide encouragement. He or she can also give practical assistance like timing contractions or offering a soothing massage, for example. Medical studies show that moms-to-be who have continuous labor support often have shorter labors and require less pain medication. But, no matter what, you won't be going it alone when the big day comes. Your hospital or birthing center staff will be with you every step of the way.
Find out your hospital or birth center's policies on eating and drinking during labor. If you know you'll be having a cesarean section, you'll need to restrict your food intake before surgery. Your healthcare provider will be able to give you more information on how long you'll need to fast for. For a vaginal delivery, it may be possible to have small amounts of clear liquids during labor (think ice chips!), but you may not be allowed to eat solid foods. Check with your provider or hospital staff in advance to be sure.
38 Weeks Pregnant: Ask Your Doctor
Is there anything I can do from here on out to prepare for labor?
Is it safe to have sex during the final weeks of my pregnancy?
Under what conditions might it be necessary to induce labor, and how common is inducing labor at 38 weeks pregnant?
If I think I'm in labor, who should I call? Should I call straight away or wait for something specific?
I've had breast implants or other breast surgery. Can I still breastfeed my baby?
How soon can I start breastfeeding after giving birth?
How we wrote this article The information in this article is based on the expert advice found in trusted medical and government sources, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. You can find a full list of sources used for this article below. The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.