Reaching the 40 week mark of your pregnancy is an exciting milestone! Your due date is right around the corner and you are likely feeling eager and anxious to meet your baby. This final stretch of pregnancy can be uncomfortable, but knowing what to expect during week 40 can help you feel prepared.
Here is a comprehensive guide to what you can anticipate during your 40th and final week of pregnancy before going into labor.
Key Takeaways: 40 Weeks Pregnant
- Your baby is full term now and their organs and body systems are ready for life outside the womb
- You may experience more pelvic pressure, increased Braxton Hicks contractions, nausea, tiredness or insomnia in preparation for labor
- Monitor your baby’s movements and contact your doctor if you notice a decrease
- Stay hydrated, avoid strenuous activity, watch for signs of labor like mucus plug discharge
- Do things to relax and prepare like prepping your hospital bag, eating well and getting plenty of rest
Your Baby’s Development at 40 Weeks
At 40 weeks your baby is considered full term and their organs and body systems are fully developed and ready for life outside of the womb!
- Brain and lungs are mature enough to control breathing and body temperature
- Bones are fully formed but still soft for passing through the birth canal
- Immune system is prepared to fight infections and illness on its own
- Senses are fully developed and ready for sights, smells and sounds of the real world
- Body is storing vital minerals, vitamins, and nutrients in preparation for early breast milk or formula feeding
- Skin may appear wrinkled, flaky or pale coated in vernix caseosa to protect it during the birth process
Your baby has likely dropped lower into your pelvis in preparation for delivery. This lightening process relieves pressure on your lungs and makes breathing a bit easier.
At 40 weeks pregnant your baby is around 19-22 inches long and weighs approximately 6 to 9 pounds on average. However, every pregnancy is different so do not worry if your baby ends up being smaller or larger.
Now that your baby is full term, theirChance of survival and health outcomes continue to improve with each passing day leading up to delivery. Your little one could make their grand debut at any moment!
Changes to Expect in Your Body at 40 Weeks
As you enter your final week of pregnancy before labor begins, here are some of the common changes and symptoms you may experience:
More Frequent Braxton Hicks Contractions
Those sporadic practice contractions known as Braxton Hicks will likely increase in frequency and intensity around 40 weeks. They could come and go every 10-20 minutes and feel like a tight squeezing sensation in your belly that lasts 30-60 seconds. This is your body’s way of preparing for true labor.
Increase in Pelvic Pressure
As your baby drops down deeper into your pelvis, you will likely feel increased pressure in your vagina and rectum. This added heaviness makes walking, standing, rolling over in bed more difficult. But it means your baby is getting into birthing position!
Your cervix will begin softening, thinning out (effacing) and may start slowly dilating open to 1-2 cm in preparation for delivery. You probably will not feel this, but your doctor can check progress at your weekly visits.
Seeing extra mucus-like discharge is common as your body starts cleaning itself out and your cervix thins. It is usually clear, pink or slightly bloody. Let your doctor know if the discharge appears green or brown which could indicate infection.
The extra pressure from your baby’s head pressing down on your bladder causes more frequent urination the last weeks. Make sure to stay hydrated to avoid UTIs.
More Digestive Issues
Indigestion, gas, bloating and constipation may worsen around 40 weeks as your digestive system slows down. Drink lots of fluids, eat fiber and ask your doctor about relief options.
Swelling and puffiness in your legs and feet can increase now that your baby is fully developed. Prop your feet up, avoid standing for long periods, and watch for other signs of preeclampsia like headaches.
Clumsiness and Fatigue
You may feel extra tired, achy and uncoordinated as your body conserves energy for labor and delivery. Listen to your body and get extra rest. Avoid strenuous activity.
It is very common to have insomnia and difficult sleeping the final weeks due to discomfort and anxiety about the birth. Practicing relaxing bedtime rituals can help.
Some women experience return of nausea or vomiting at end as your hormones surge preparing for labor. Stay hydrated and rest when you can.
You may get a burst of energy and feel compelled to clean and organize baby items. Satisfy the urge in moderation but make sure to rest too.
While every pregnancy is different, staying in tune with your body helps detect any concerning new symptoms requiring medical care. Reach out to your doctor with any unusual pelvic pain, bleeding, fever, decreased fetal movement or other warning signs of complications. Otherwise, embrace the discomforts knowing labor is likely right around the corner!
Monitoring Baby’s Movements at 40 Weeks
It is important to continue monitoring your baby’s movement right up until delivery. At 40 weeks pregnant, you should still feel your little one moving around often throughout the day.
If you notice your baby’s activity has slowed down significantly or they are not moving at all, contact your healthcare provider immediately. Lack of fetal movement could indicate a problem with the baby, the placenta or amniotic fluid levels that requires quick evaluation.
Timing the frequency of movements in relation to your baby’s normal activity pattern provides the most useful information.
Here are tips on monitoring your 40 week baby’s movements:
- Sit or lie down in a quiet spot and concentrate on any sensations of rolling, kicking, punching or jabbing.
- Count how long it takes you to feel at least 10 distinct movements. At 40 weeks it should not take more than 2 hours at the most.
- Notice if movements feel different than usual like weaker or slower. Babies run out of room to do their usual flips in late pregnancy.
- Press gently on your belly to provoke movement after a period of rest, like after waking up.
- Pay attention after meals when baby is most active. Lack of reaction could indicate an issue.
- Use a kick counting app to record and time movements for a few days leading up to your due date.
A significant change from your baby’s normal pattern or any decrease that concerns you warrants a call to your healthcare provider to examine you. Fetal distress is rare at 40 weeks, but important to rule out.
Things to Do at 40 Weeks Pregnant
Here are some things you can do during your last days of pregnancy at 40 weeks to help relieve discomfort, prepare for delivery, relax and pass the time as you await the big event.
Continue Prenatal Care Appointments
Your healthcare provider will want to see you weekly now until you go into labor. This allows them to check your cervix, run tests, monitor your baby and look for any conditions that could impact your ability to safely carry to your due date. Speak up about any concerns or symptoms you are experiencing.
Take Care of Final Nursery and House Prep
If your baby’s room, house cleaning and laundry are not fully ready, now is the time! Make sure you have a safe space to bring your newborn home to. Hand off any unfinished chores to your partner or support system. Conserve your energy.
Install Car Seat and Pack Hospital Bag
Get your newborn car seat installed properly and pack hospital bags for you and baby a few weeks ahead of your due date. Tour your planned birth facility if possible and pre-register to save time when labor begins.
Eat Nutritious Foods and Stay Hydrated
Focus on eating quality protein, fruits and vegetables to give you and your baby lasting energy for the marathon of labor. Stay hydrated with water and milk. Limit constipating foods like bananas.
Enjoy Your Pregnancy and Make Memories
Spend quality time with your partner enjoying your final days as a party of two! Go on dates, take belly photos, relax together and reflect on your pregnancy journey so far.
Prepare Older Children for the New Baby
If you already have kids at home, read stories about new siblings, take them to visit the nursery and involve them in getting ready for the new family member. This eases their transition.
Get Plenty of Rest and Sleep
Rest as much as possible since you will need your strength for the demands of childbirth! Take naps, go to bed early, accept help around the house, and do relaxing activities before bed to promote good sleep.
Stay in Close Contact with Your Doctor
Let your healthcare provider know right away if you notice any decrease in your baby’s movements, signs of labor coming on or any other concerns. Being proactive ensures the healthiest outcome.
By listening to your body, taking care of final preparations, and staying in close contact with your doctor during week 40, you can rest assured knowing things are in place for the safe arrival of your baby when the time comes!
Signs that Labor is Near at 40 Weeks
As you reach your due date and pass the 40 week mark of pregnancy, be on the lookout for signs that labor is imminent. While every woman’s labor experience is unique, here are some changes that indicate your body is preparing for delivery:
Lightening or Baby Dropping
In the weeks before labor begins, you may feel increased pelvic pressure as the baby “drops” lower into your pelvis. This means their head is moving down into your birth canal.
Increase in Cervical Mucus
Seeing more discharge that is thick, clear or tinged with blood signals your cervix is effacing and dilating in preparation for labor.
More Frequent Contractions
If you notice your Braxton Hicks practice contractions becoming longer, stronger and closer together, it could be a sign of real labor starting up.
Only about 15% of women experience their water breaking before contractions start. This could be a big gush or slow trickle. Labor typically begins within 24 hours after it breaks.
Having loose stools 1-2 days before labor is common as your body clears itself out to get ready for delivery.
A burst of energy to clean and organize baby items a few days before labor is due to your instinct to prepare your “nest” for the baby.
Fatigue or Insomnia
Some women experience profound tiredness or inability to sleep even though labor is imminent. Let your body rest as it conserves energy.
Low Back Pain
Many women notice increased achiness in their lower back as labor approaches. Change positions, use heat or cold therapy and rest to ease discomfort.
While every labor is unique, paying attention to these common signs means you can better anticipate when to call your doctor and head to the hospital when the time comes. Trust your intuition if you feel like your body is exhibiting changes. Stay in close contact with your healthcare provider as you pass your estimated due date. At 40 weeks pregnant, the countdown to meeting your baby is almost here!
When to Go to the Hospital at 40 Weeks Pregnant
Towards the very end of your 40th week of pregnancy, it can be confusing to know when you should go to the hospital versus waiting it out at home. Here are tips on deciding when to make the call:
Your Water Breaks
Once your water breaks at full term, go directly to labor and delivery instead of waiting for contractions. They will confirm it broke and monitor you for infection risks.
Losing your mucus plug in a big blob of thick bloody discharge means your cervix is dilating. Time contractions, but you usually don’t need to rush in yet.
Contractions 5 Minutes Apart
When you begin having regular painful contractions consistently 5 minutes apart or less, and each lasts 45-90 seconds, it signals active labor has started. Call your doctor and head to your planned birth facility.
Decreased Fetal Movement
If during week 40 you notice a significant decrease in your normally active baby’s movements, get evaluated in L&D to check their wellbeing.
Severe Vaginal Bleeding
While some light spotting is normal at 40 weeks as your cervix thins, call your doctor immediately about any heavier bleeding, which could indicate placenta issues.
Severe Headache, Swelling, Visual Changes
Seek emergency care if you have symptoms like sudden extreme headache or swelling, vision changes or upper abdominal pain as these can indicate preeclampsia.
Water Breaks But No Contractions
If 18-24 hours pass after your water breaks and regular contractions have not started yet, your doctor will typically induce labor to reduce infection risks to you and baby. Follow their guidance.
Otherwise, stay home in early labor making sure to stay hydrated and nourished. Use positions, breathing, and distractions to cope with contractions. Time them to know when to make the call. Labor progresses easier when you feel safe and relaxed.
What to Expect During Your Hospital Stay for Delivery
If this is your first baby, you may be wondering what to expect once you arrive at the hospital in labor ready to deliver your baby. Here is a quick rundown of common procedures:
- Admission: You will be taken to a labor room. Nurses will ask health questions, start an IV line, take vital signs, and monitor your baby. Change into a hospital gown.
- Assessment: Your doctor or midwife will check your cervix to see how far dilated you are, your baby’s position, and confirm your water broke. They develop a labor plan.
- Laboring: When admitted, you are free to move around, change positions, use medical pain relief or comfort techniques as you manage contractions. Nurses monitor baby.
- Pushing: Once fully dilated to 10 cm, you will be coached to push during contractions. For first time moms this can take 1-2 hours of intense work! Have support people encourage you.
- Delivery: The most exciting and rewarding moment! Your provider may need to make an episiotomy cut to widen your vaginal opening if baby is in distress. With one final push, your baby enters the world!
- Bonding: If you and baby are stable, placing them skin-to-skin on your chest immediately helps baby transition and bond. Partners can cut the cord.
- Recovery: You will deliver the placenta and your perineum will be stitched if needed. You stay in labor room 1-2 hours stable before moving to mother/baby room.
- Postpartum: You will move rooms to recover with your baby the next 1-2 days, learning infant care, breastfeeding, and being monitored by nurses until discharge.
While every labor is unique, knowing the usual procedures can help you feel prepared as you anticipate the birth of your child! The final stretch of 40 weeks pregnant is filled with excitement.
Frequently Asked Questions About Week 40 of Pregnancy
Here are answers to some common questions women have during their 40th and final week of pregnancy:
What if I Go Past My Due Date?
It is normal for only 5% of women to deliver exactly on their estimated due date. If you go past 40 weeks, your doctor will monitor you and baby closely for signs of problems. Most providers let you go up to 42 weeks before inducing labor.
How Can I Naturally Induce Labor?
Walking, spicy food, raspberry leaf tea, nipple stimulation, sex, squats, or using a breast pump are some natural ways moms try coaxing labor to start. Always run methods by your doctor and avoid castor oil.
What if My Water Breaks in Public?
Stay calm and immediately head home to shower and grab your hospital bag, then call your doctor. Wear a pad to catch leaking fluid on the way. Time contractions if they start. Lie down during the car ride to avoid speeding up labor.
Can I Give Birth Vaginally if Baby is Breech?
If your baby is in the breech (feet first) position still by week 40, you will need a scheduled C-section for their safety. Most breech babies flip head down before labor begins, but let your doctor know right away if you suspect they are breech.
How Can I Ensure I Don’t Need a C-Section?
While factors like your pelvic shape ultimately determine if a vaginal birth is safe, staying mobile during labor, having good labor support, and using positions favorable to baby’s orientation can lower chances of needing an unplanned cesarean.
Reaching your estimated due date and completing 40 weeks of pregnancy is so exciting! Even with the discomforts, this final phase of waiting and preparation is a unique experience to cherish. Keep up your self-care regimen and pay attention to your body’s signs that labor is approaching. Before you know it, you will be holding your precious newborn baby in your arms!