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Mom and Baby at 38 Weeks Pregnant
Once your baby hits 38 weeks of pregnancy, he/she may weigh anywhere between 6 and 7 pounds, depending on the individual baby. (Actually, he/she may weigh even more!) Your baby’s length may be 19 or 20 inches from head to heel. His/her length will remain relatively constant from now until birth.
- All of your baby’s organs are completely developed and mature. They are ready for life outside the womb.
- Your baby’s grasp reflex is very strong at 38 weeks. He/she is often grabbing the umbilical cord and curling his/her hands into little balls. The grasp reflex will remain strong until your baby is about six months old, when he/she has more of a choice in whether he/she grabs something.
- The level of amniotic fluid surrounding your baby continues to steadily decrease this week. But don’t worry – your little one still has plenty of amniotic fluid to protect him/her.
- The long bones in your baby’s arms and legs have hardened by pregnancy week 38.
Did you know that your baby’s eye color might change in the first year of his/her life? For example, if your baby is born with blue eyes, they might turn green, hazel, or brown by the time he/she is 9 months old. Sometimes, they will stay the same color. That’s because the iris (the colored part of the eye) gains more pigment in the months after birth.
At 38 weeks pregnant, you are probably ready for your baby to come. Although you are already full-term, your baby may not be ready to come for another week or two. So the waiting game begins. Use this extra time to rest, take naps, and relax. Watch movies and spend quality time with your partner.
Your belly size will remain relatively constant from this week onward, though you may have noticed that your belly appears lower than before. This is due to “lightning” – your baby’s descent into your pelvis as he/she prepares to be born.
Are you feeling more Braxton Hicks contractions these days? These false labor pains will become more intense and may even be painful at pregnancy week 38. If you are a first-time mom, you may start to confuse Braxton Hicks contractions with the real deal. These false labor pains may occur closer together now, tricking you into thinking that they are real labor contractions.
If your contractions go away when you rest or change positions, then they are just Braxton Hicks contractions. True labor pains continue and steadily increase in severity and frequency despite any position changes.
At pregnancy week 38, you may have vaginal discharge that is tinged with blood. This is called a “bloody show,” and it’s a sign that labor is on its way. But don’t get too excited. You can have a bloody show hours, days, or even weeks before you go into labor.
At your prenatal visit this week, your caregiver will probably perform a pelvic exam this week to check to see if there are any changes in your cervix. He/she may look at whether your cervix is effacing (or thinning out) or dilating (opening up).
Most first-time mothers will start effacing in the last four weeks of pregnancy, in thanks to those frequent Braxton Hicks contractions. (You will efface before you start to dilate.) If you’re a second-time mom, you will probably dilate a centimeter or two before you go into labor.
If you are having a vaginal birth, you may want to start thinking about whether or not you will shave or trim your pubic hair. This is a personal decision that only you can decide. Some moms like to leave their privates alone, while others want their privates to have a cleaner appearance.
Assisted Vaginal Delivery
Although every woman would like to have an easy and uncomplicated labor and delivery, that’s not always possible. In some cases, you may require an assisted vaginal delivery (also called an operative vaginal delivery), in which your doctor uses either forceps or a vacuum device to help get your baby out of the birth canal.
Assisted vaginal deliveries only occur in 5 percent of all deliveries in the United States. Around 4 percent of these are performed with a vacuum device, and the other 1 percent is with forceps.
Your doctor may decide to perform an assisted vaginal delivery if you’ve been pushing for a long time and you’re exhausted, or if your baby is almost out but his/her heart rate is “non-reassuring” (which suggests that he/she may be in trouble) and your doctor is uncomfortable letting your baby stay in the birth canal any longer.
While having an assisted vaginal delivery may sound frightening, they are considered safe. Your doctor will only perform an assisted delivery if your cervix is fully dilated (10 centimeters), your water has broken, your baby’s head is low enough in the birth canal, and there are no other problems that could complicate a vaginal delivery.
If your doctor decides to perform vacuum extraction for your assisted delivery (which occurs in most cases), he/she will apply a flexible, rounded cup on your baby’s head. The cup is connected to an electronic suction pump or a small handheld pump, which creates a vacuum pressure that holds the cup securely on your baby’s head. You will be asked to push as your doctor pulls on the handle attached to the cup, which helps move your baby out of the birth canal.
Babies that are born with vacuum extraction are more likely to have a raised bruise on the top of their head (called a cephalohematoma – which is a collection of blood underneath the skin of the scalp). Cephalohematoma can happen to any baby, though more common with vacuum extraction. They can also occur as a result of your baby’s head banging against your pubic bone during a normal labor. The bruise will go away on its own within a few weeks, or within the first three months after birth. It will not harm your baby at all, with the exception that it can cause jaundice.
If you have a forceps delivery, your doctor will insert forceps (which look like curved spoon-shaped tongs) into your vagina and places them around the sides of your baby’s head. As you have contractions, he/she will gently pull your baby out of the birth canal while you push.
After a forceps delivery, your baby may be bruised from the forceps but the bruises will clear up in a few days. Sometimes, he/she may have scalp blisters where the forceps gripped his/her head. The blisters typically heal within a few weeks.
Both vacuum extraction and forceps delivery may increase your likelihood of tears in your vagina, perineum, and anal sphincter, but they occur more often with a forceps delivery. If you experience tears, you will need stitches, which take a couple of weeks to fully heal.
In the United States, assisted deliveries have a 99 percent success rate. In the event that they fail and your doctor is unable to get your baby out safely, you will have a caesarean section to deliver your baby.
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