by Patricia Hughes
Your baby is just about ready to be born. The lungs finish developing this month. When they are developed, they release a substance called surfactant. This helps the baby breathe at birth. Recent research suggests this substance may have another purpose. It is believed it may signal the mother’s body to begin the labor process.
The baby is settling down into a fetal position. As the baby moves lower in the pelvis, breathing may become easier. This is called lightening. The baby rolls and moves, but kicks are lighter. You may notice more regular pattern of sleeping and waking. Some mothers say their newborns continue these patterns after birth.
Keep in mind that your due date is only an estimate. Babies can be born any time between thirty seven and forty two weeks. You should be ready to go to the hospital. If you haven’t packed your bag yet, now is the time. Finalize all plans for child care for your older children, if this is not your first pregnancy. Good planning will help make things smoother when the big day arrives.
The baby is full grown this month. He is gaining about a half a pound each week. The baby will be born weighing between six and ten pounds. About seven and a half pounds is considered average. The average length is between eighteen and twenty two inches in length.
After the thirty sixth week of pregnancy, you will have weekly visits at the doctor’s office. At thirty eight weeks, some doctors and midwives do an internal exam. This is to look for any changes in the cervix. Keep in mind that this isn’t an exact science. Many women have had a visit that showed no changes in the cervix, only to go into labor that night. Don’t be discouraged if the cervix isn’t dilating at this visit.
You may notice your Braxton Hicks contractions are coming more frequently. They may be stronger as well. As they get stronger, you may wonder if labor is approaching. If you aren’t sure, drink some water and lie down. This change of positions is often enough to stop Braxton Hicks contractions. Real labor would continue to progress even after you lie down.
Talk to your doctor about labor. Ask about the protocol in that office. Each doctor handles this differently. Ask when you should call the doctor. Should you call first or go straight to the hospital. Most doctors tell patients to come when the contractions are at least five minutes apart, lasting for one minute and have been that way for an hour. If you have had a fast labor in the past, you may be told to come in sooner.
For many women, the last month of pregnancy is the most difficult. Backache is very common during the last month. You may be very tired. Frequent trips to the bathroom and difficulty in getting comfortable can interfere with sleep. Try to rest during the day to make up for lost sleep at night. Keep in mind that the pregnancy is quickly coming to an end. You will be holding your new baby very soon.