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When you’re 38 weeks pregnant, your baby probably weighs about 6.5 to 6.8 pounds and may measure between 19 and 19.5 inches long. He’s now gaining about half a pound each week. Most of the vernix and lanugo that covered his skin have gone. The pregnancy is now full-term, so you should keep an eye out for signs of labor. You might also have symptoms like back pain, swollen ankles, and the urge to urinate more often as your baby “drops.” This week, you are in about the eighth month of pregnancy. You’re nearly at the end of the pregnancy, but there are still many changes taking place as your baby gets ready to meet you. Here’s more on what you might experience as the big day draws near.

38 Weeks Pregnant: Your Baby’s Development

These are some of the ways your baby develops around this week of pregnancy:

  • Any day now. Even though your official due date is still a few weeks away, your baby is ready to be born and could arrive any day now. In fact, 85 percent of babies are born two weeks either before or after their due date.

  • Waste management. Your baby is shedding lanugo, the fine, soft layer of hair that covered his skin, and vernix, the waxy coating that protected his skin from amniotic fluid. Although some vernix might be left on his shoulders, forehead, and neck when he's born, most of the vernix and lanugo ends up in your baby's intestines, where it becomes part of the meconium. Meconium is the greenish-black, tarry substance that will make up your baby's first bowel movement after birth. Meconium also consists of dead cells, amniotic fluid, and waste products from your baby's liver, pancreas, and gall bladder.

  • Baby fat. Your little one's growth rate may be slowing down, but he's still making strides. By now, the circumference of your baby's head and abdomen are about the same, and more fat accumulates, especially around your baby’s elbows, knees, and shoulders. He will gain about half a pound per week until he’s born.

  • Toenails. Your baby's toenails have reached the tips of his toes.

  • Dropping in. Your baby is also getting ready to meet you. Around this week, you might notice your baby has “dropped” lower into your pelvis.

pregnancy week 38 fetus

38 Weeks Pregnant: Your Symptoms

Here are some of the pregnancy symptoms you might be experiencing at this time:

  • Water works. As your baby grows, he puts more pressure on your bladder, and 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.

  • Muscles soften and relax. Your body is getting ready for labor in many different ways. For example, it produces relaxin, a hormone that softens the ligaments, muscles, and joints in preparation for childbirth. This can sometimes be another cause of lower back pain and pelvic pressure.

  • Swollen ankles and feet. Your body will produce and retain more fluid than usual, and as a result, you may notice swelling in your hands and legs as your due date nears. To combat this, try to rest with your feet up, drink more water to help flush out excess fluid, avoid salty foods, and wear loose clothes and shoes so you feel a little more comfortable.

Twins and multiples are more likely to be born earlier than a single baby, so keep an eye out for signs of labor if you’re 38 weeks pregnant with twins.

FAQ at 38 Weeks

How can I prepare for labor?

As the big day draws closer, you’re probably wondering if there is anything else you can do to prepare. Although it’s a good idea to expect the unexpected and go with the flow, you can also go through your notes from your childbirth class and think about the labor positions you’d prefer. Some women choose to stand through contractions, and others find getting on their hands and knees is better. You can even practice the different positions now. You could also think about the different comfort measures you might like during labor, such as relaxing music or gentle massage. You can also prepare by practicing the route to the hospital, so that you’re not stressing about this once you start to see signs of labor. Finally, don't forget to have your hospital bag packed and ready by the door.

How do I know I’m in labor?

There are plenty of telltale signs of labor, including your water breaking, a blood-tinged discharge, and contractions. Remember, if you feel contractions, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re in labor. That’s why it’s important to time your contractions, so you can look for a pattern. If the contractions are getting progressively longer and closer together, this is a sign they’re real labor contractions, not the false Braxton Hicks contractions you might have felt over the past few weeks or months.

Why might my doctor need to induce labor?

Going into labor is a natural thing that will happen when you and the baby are ready, but sometimes labor may need to be induced for a medical reason. Read our article on inducing labor to find out why this might be necessary, and to find out some of the pros and cons of induction. Speak to your doctor if you’re wondering whether inducing labor may be required in your circumstance, and about how induction can be done safely.

38 Weeks Pregnant: Your Checklist

If you haven’t already, install your baby's car seat so it's ready to go when it comes to bringing your baby safely home.

Are you set on your baby’s names? If not, take another look at the Pampers Baby Name Generator for some extra inspiration.

If you happen to have a prenatal appointment this week, you can discuss your baby feeding options, such as breastfeeding, and find out what resources and support networks are available to you in the hospital and when you're home with your newborn.

Sign up for even more weekly pregnancy tips.

38 Weeks Pregnant: Your Checklist

If you haven’t already, install your baby's car seat so it's ready to go when it comes to bringing your baby safely home.

Are you set on your baby’s names? If not, take another look at the Pampers Baby Name Generator for some extra inspiration.

If you happen to have a prenatal appointment this week, you can discuss your baby feeding options, such as breastfeeding, and find out what resources and support networks are available to you in the hospital and when you're home with your newborn.

Sign up to get weekly pregnancy tips