At week 39, yours pregnancy is officially a ‘full-term’ pregnancy. If you opt for C-section or induction, now is the time for doctors to schedule a delivery. Are you in your 39th week and wondering about the way things will move forwards? If you said yes, or you simply wish to know what goes on in the 39th week of pregnancy, you should consider reading our post. Here’s a simple guide to help you understand the changes that takes place in you and your baby at 39 weeks.
Although doctors consider pregnancies between weeks 37 and 39 to be full-term, the timeline was earlier redefined by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. The new guideline considers pregnancies between week 39 and 40 and six days to be full-term. In fact, the ACOG does not recommend elective deliveries like C-section and induction before 39 weeks pregnancy unless tests prove that the baby’s lungs are mature. Studies indicate that babies born (through elective delivery) before full-term may develop respiratory problems. Similarly, babies born between now and week 40 were found to perform better on academic tests according to a joint study conducted by Columbia University Medical Center and the New York-Presbyterian Hospital. The baby’s lungs and brain continue to mature until week 39 resulting in better brain development, it concludes.
[ Read: 40th Week Pregnancy ]
39 Weeks Pregnant Symptoms:
You will go through many symptoms of pregnancy at 39 weeks, and some of them include:
- Braxton Hicks contractions become stronger and increase in frequency.
- Vaginal discharge.
- Pressure and discomfort in the pelvic area.
- Frequent short yet sharp pain around the pelvic area.
- Constipation or diarrhea.
- Varicose veins or leg cramps.
- General discomfort, backache, headache, and lightheadedness.
Changes In Your Body:
The doctor may call you every week for examination to look for signs of labor. Besides an ultrasound scan, she may also perform a cervical examination to check if the cervix has dilated (opened) and effaced (thinned). She’ll also check if the cervix has softened- the texture should be the same as the insides of your cheek. Here are some of the changes your body is likely to undergo at week 39 pregnancy:
- Braxton Hicks Contractions Increase in Frequency:
Somewhere from the second trimester onwards, your uterus muscles begin to tighten and contract. Initially, they are barely noticeable, but as you get closer to your due date, they become frequent and intense. Sometimes, these contractions can be rhythmic and closer together tricking you into believing that you could be in labor. But real contractions grow stronger and longer over time and are preceded by other signs of labor. Even if you do not observe other signs of labor, contact your doctor immediately if these contractions increase in frequency or if you find your baby unusually inactive.
- Discomfort Around the Pelvic Area:
If the baby has dropped into the pelvic area, he is more likely to pressing against your internal organs like the bladder, hips, and pelvis. As a result, you may feel uncomfortable around the lower abdomen. Sometimes, you may experience a short yet sharp jab around the pelvis- this happens when the baby turns his head.
- General Discomfort and Pain:
Emotional stress coupled with the physical symptoms (of pregnancy) may sometimes leave you exhausted and tired. But if you constantly feel drained, contact your doctor immediately. Chances are, you could be anemic or you may not get enough sleep. And in some cases, tiredness could be a sign of approaching labor.
- Vaginal Discharge:
If the mucus plug hasn’t discharged by now, it may happen this week. It may fall off all at once or as tiny discharges. The mucus is typically white in color although it is sometimes tinged with blood. In fact, this is one of the early signs of labor. But wait, it isn’t time yet to pack your bag. Sometimes, vaginal discharge happens just before labor and sometimes it could take a day or two for labor to begin. And sometimes, the mucus plug may have discharged while in the bathroom, in which case you may not have noticed the discharge at all.
[ Read: 10th Month of Pregnancy ]
How Does Labor Progress:
No two pregnancies are alike- every delivery is different, and so are the experiences of the women undergoing labor (1). But generally, labor progresses in three different phases:
Early And Active Labor: It occurs when the cervix dilates and effaces. You may notice a brown-colored mucous discharge from the vagina, which is tinged with blood. Vaginal discharge is often followed by short yet sharp contractions that last between 30 to 90 seconds. It is the longest phase of all- the average length of early labor ranges between 6 to 12 hours, although it is much shorter for subsequent deliveries. When women enter active labor, the contractions intensify and become stronger, longer and closer together. The cervix also continues to dilate to about 10 centimeters. Some women complain of nausea while some complain of leg cramps. Sometimes, the amniotic fluid breaks in this stage. For first time moms, active labor may last for up to 8 hours. But for women who had an earlier vaginal delivery, active labor time doesn’t last that long. The doctor may advise you against pushing too hard even if you have the urge to do so. The cervix isn’t dilated enough, and pushing may cause it to swell.
The Second Phase: The second phase lasts anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours. You will be asked to push after every contraction to speed up the process. But sometimes, the doctor may ask you to take it slowly or even stop pushing. It allows your vaginal muscles to stretch naturally rather than tear because of pressure. Slowly, but surely, your baby moves outside the birth canal (head first if things go well). After the head is delivered, the doctor makes sure that the umbilical cord is free to allow the rest of the body to move out.
The Third Phase: The phase lasts for about 5 to 30 minutes depending on how soon the doctor delivers your placenta. She will also have to ensure that your bleeding is under control. You may be asked to push for one last time to remove the placenta that is usually delivered in a single swoop. The doctor then examines the placenta to ensure that it is intact. Fragments are remaining inside the uterus cause an infection and over bleeding. And finally, the doctor administers medications to minimize bleeding.
Changes In The Baby’s Body At Week 39:
Your baby is now gearing up for delivery. He drops down further into the pelvis and takes up birth position. He continues to accumulate fat around his knees and shoulders. It helps him control body temperature outside the womb. His lungs and brain continue to mature. Your baby continues to gain weight. If he hasn’t until now, he’ll be shedding the vernix caseosa, a white cheese-like substance that coats and protects the baby’s skin as a natural moisturizer.
The baby’s skin turns white thanks to a thick layer of fat over his blood vessels. Pigmentation takes effect only after a few weeks after birth.
Size Of Your Baby:
Your baby weighs around 2.8 to 3 kilos and measures around 20 inches when measured from head to toe.
What Does An Ultrasound Determine?
An ultrasound helps to determine if the fetus is developing normally. Doctors rely on an ultrasound to find the age of the baby, its location inside the uterus, breathing, heart rate, the amount of amniotic fluid and the number of fetuses inside the womb.
Inducing Labor At 39 Weeks Of Pregnancy:
Doctors usually wait until the 39th week before performing scheduled deliveries. But if there’s an emergency, she may have to induce labor. It is common when the pregnant mother has complications like preeclampsia or gestational diabetes. Labor prevents your baby from developing an infection likely to harm the baby. Similarly, low levels of the amniotic fluid may also induce labor. Some methods to induce labor include: dilating the cervix using prostaglandins, sweeping the amniotic membranes, rupturing the amniotic sac, and using oxytocin.
[ Read: Labor Induction and Augmentation ]
Tips To Help You Cope:
Although your due date could be anytime soon, less than 5% of babies are born on their due dates. You are more likely to go into labor either earlier or after your due date. The wait isn’t easy, especially when you know that labor is imminent. Here are a few tips to help you cope:
- Pay Attention To Your Baby’s Activities:
The doctor will advise you to monitor your baby’s activities. It will include counting the number of times he kicks within a time span. Contact the doctor immediately if your baby is unusually quiet because these are signs of a problem. Your amniotic fluid levels may have become low or the amniotic sac may rupture. Ideally, contractions begin before the water breaks. But in some pregnancies, contractions do not start even after the membranes rupture. If it is the case, labor is induced.
- Look For Signs of Labor:
Your doctor would have warned you about the early signs of labor; she would have also listed out some of the possible emergencies that may occur. Your job is to watch for these signs and inform everyone concerned. Self-diagnosis isn’t safe at the stage- call the doctor even if you suspect something wrong.
- Relax And Wait For Labor To Kick In:
From sex and castor oil to pineapples and vinegar, the list of old wives remedies to induce labor are aplenty. However, none of these has a basis in fact, and much is unknown about the efficacy and safety of these measures. It’s best to speak to your doctor before considering these remedies.
- Exercise And Relaxation Helps:
Go out on a slow and short walk or practice swimming. You can also practice the prenatal yoga prescribed by your health practitioner. Light activities like swimming and basketball playing help to keep your mind relaxed and away from all the anticipation.
- Get As Much Sleep As You Can:
Your baby and you are going to be very busy after delivery. Between feeding and nappy changing, there may be a hundred other activities that demand attention. It is the best time to catch up on some sleep.
- Take Care of Your Diet:
You may not be in the mood to eat dinner, but you ought to maintain a healthy diet, which includes taking vitamin and calcium medications as prescribed by your doctor.
- Visiting The Physician Promptly:
Your doctor monitors you closely to look for telltale signs of labor. It includes performing a cervical examination to look for dilation and effacement and checking the amount of amniotic fluid. She may also monitor fetal heartbeat.
- Accept Offers For Help:
A good support system helps to prevent pregnancy-related depression. At pregnancy 39 weeks, you are not at your best and may need help with chores like cooking and cleaning. Accept offers of help from family and friends. You can also discuss pregnancy related problems with your near and dear ones.
Tips For Fathers-To-Be:
Although your partner is one going through all the discomfort, you can help in your little way. Here are some tips to help you cope:
- Walk along with her if she’s in early stages of labor and has been advised to take short walks.
- Offer to massage her back or shoulders. But if she does not want it, back off.
- Offer to practice breathing and relaxation techniques during contractions. However, make sure that you back off if she isn’t comfortable in your presence. We know it sounds weird, but sometimes pregnant women resist their partner’s efforts.
- Do not feel dejected and sad if she asks you to back off. It’s her hormones at work!
- Read as much as you can about the different stages of labor.
- Read as much as you can about postpartum depression. It may begin a few days after delivery and last for the first few weeks.
What are your experiences at pregnancy week 39? Share your story with us here. Leave a comment below.
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