What to Expect When 38 Weeks Pregnant

You’ve nearly reached the end of your pregnancy journey! At 38 weeks, your baby is full term and you’re likely feeling excited and ready to meet them. This stage brings many physical and emotional changes as your body prepares for labor and delivery. Here’s what to expect during your 38th week of pregnancy.

Key Takeaways: 38 Weeks Pregnant

  • Baby is around 19.5 inches and 6.5 pounds. Their organs are mature and ready for life outside the womb.
  • You may experience Braxton Hicks contractions, lightning crotch, leaking colostrum, and increased pelvic pressure as your body prepares for labor.
  • Monitor baby’s movements carefully and contact your doctor if you notice decreased activity.
  • Swollen feet, trouble sleeping, sciatica, hemorrhoids, and other discomforts are common now.
  • Pack your hospital bag and make sure your birth plan is complete. Only 2 more weeks to go!

Your Baby at 38 Weeks

Your baby is now around 19.5 inches long and weighs approximately 6.5 pounds on average. A healthy 38 week fetus is considered full term and their organs and systems can function outside the womb without complication.

Their lungs and respiratory system continue developing surfactant, a substance that keeps the air sacs in the lungs from sticking together. This allows them to breathe easily after birth.

Your baby’s body now has layers of brown fat stored under their skin. This specialized fat keeps your newborn warm when they enter the cooler environment outside your womb.

Inside the womb, your little one takes up a lot of room! They are likely curled up in the fetal position with their head down near your pelvis and cervix. There is minimal space to move around now as they prepare for delivery.

Brain and Senses Development

  • The brain continues developing billions of neurons and making trillions of connections.
  • Your baby can recognize familiar voices and respond to sounds, light, and touch.
  • Vision is still blurry but they can perceive light and dark. Eyes appear bluer thanks to bilirubin buildup.
  • Taste buds allow them to sense sweet flavors in amniotic fluid like the fruit or juice you eat.
  • The sense of smell is maturing as scent receptors in the nose form.

What Baby is Doing at 38 Weeks

  • Practicing breathing movements – inhaling amniotic fluid then exhaling it.
  • Building antibodies from your immunity to fight infections after birth.
  • Gaining weight rapidly as fat layers develop.
  • Performing reflex movements like sucking, grasping, and kicking.
  • Settling into position, head down near the pelvis and cervix.
  • Responding to sound vibrations by moving or reacting.
  • Coordinating breathing, sucking, and swallowing.
  • Developing stable sleep cycles and patterns.

Your 38 week old fetus is now considered early term. While still slightly premature, they have a good chance of transitioning smoothly after birth without needing extensive medical intervention. Let your doctor know right away if you notice a decrease in movement.

38 Weeks Pregnant Symptoms and Changes

The final weeks bring many changes as your body transitions into labor prep mode. Here are some common 38 week pregnancy symptoms you may experience:

Physical Symptoms and Changes

  • Pressure and heaviness in pelvis, vagina, bladder and rectum from baby’s head engaging. Lightening as baby settles lower.
  • Increase in Braxton Hicks contractions, especially after activity. They may become more regular and intense.
  • Leaking sticky, yellow colostrum nipple discharge. Wear nursing pads.
  • Trouble sleeping due to discomfort. Insomnia and anxiety dreams about labor.
  • Clumsiness, waddling gait, and imbalance as relaxation hormones loosen ligaments. Take care on stairs.
  • Hemorrhoids from pressure of baby on pelvic blood vessels and straining. Witch hazel, warm baths can help.
  • Round ligament pain and lower back aches as your uterus expands.
  • Itchy belly and skin as it stretches. Moisturize skin with coconut oil to provide relief.
  • Leg cramps and restless legs from baby pinching nerves and poor circulation. Stretch before bed.
  • Swollen feet, ankles, fingers and carpal tunnel pain. Prop up feet and wear compression socks.
  • Stretch marks on breasts, belly, buttocks and thighs. These will fade over time after birth.
  • Varicose veins may appear as blood volume increases. Try to elevate your legs periodically.
  • Increased vaginal discharge and mucus plug loosening as cervix ripens for labor.
  • Lightning crotch. Random shooting pain in vagina, cervix and anus from baby moving into the pelvis.
  • Stronger, more frequent fetal activity as cramped space leaves little room for big stretches and kicks.
  • Shortness of breath from baby compressing your lungs. Take breaks between sentences when talking.

Emotional Changes

Along with physical discomforts, you may feel:

  • Excitement and anxiety about going into labor soon and meeting your baby. Have a plan for getting to the hospital when the time comes.
  • Fear about complications or something going wrong with labor. Discuss any concerns with your doctor.
  • Stress about logistics like work projects and childcare for other kids. Try to wrap up loose ends but know it’s okay to leave some things undone.
  • Impatience for labor to start, especially if you go past your due date. Do activities to distract yourself and stay occupied.
  • Difficulty concentrating and “pregnancy brain” from fatigue and mental overload. Make lists and focus on one task at a time.
  • Irritability and mood swings from hormone fluctuations and general discomfort.
  • Insomnia from discomfort and racing mind. Nap during the day if possible.

Tips for Coping with Discomfort

Some suggestions to help relieve symptoms:

  • Take warm baths to soothe aches and swelling. Add epsom salts. Stay hydrated.
  • Use a pregnancy pillow for support and cooling gel pads for lower back pain.
  • Try massage, prenatal yoga, and stretching. Avoid positions lying flat on your back.
  • Apply heat or ice packs to ease round ligament and sciatic pain.
  • Ask your partner for a foot and back rub.
  • Use a birthing ball to gently rock and open up your hips.
  • Soak hemorrhoids in warm water; avoid straining during BMs.
  • Wear breathable cotton underwear and clothing.
  • Get extra rest, put your feet up, and take breaks. You’re almost there!

38 Week Doctor Appointment

Around 38 weeks your doctor will want to see you weekly until delivery. They will check on your health and your baby’s growth and position.

Here’s what happens at a typical 38 week prenatal checkup:

  • Weight and blood pressure: Checking for excess gains or high BP signaling preeclampsia.
  • Urine test: For protein and bacteria signaling potential complications.
  • Fundal height: Measuring abdomen to check baby’s growth.
  • Fetal heart rate: Monitoring heart rate for any signs of distress.
  • Position: Feeling abdomen and doing ultrasound to confirm head down.
  • Cervical exam: May check dilation and effacement. Many doctors wait until 39 weeks.
  • Discuss plans for labor, address any questions or concerns.
  • Schedule appointments for 39 and 40 weeks.

Let your doctor know about any troubling symptoms like bleeding, fluid leaking, absent fetal movement or regular contractions so they can determine if labor is starting or precautions are needed.

Other tests like Group B Strep swabs and ultrasound measurements may be done now or at upcoming visits. Don’t hesitate to ask your healthcare provider about any recommended tests and when they should be performed if not already scheduled.

38 Weeks Pregnant Baby Movement

It’s important to monitor baby’s movements closely as you approach full term. Contact your doctor right away if you notice a significant decrease in activity. Reasons to call include:

  • Less than 10 movements in 2 hours after previously normal movement.
  • Complete stoppage of movement for several hours.
  • Absence of usual movements at their normal times.
  • Significant slow down in movement over the course of two days.
  • No response when you stimulated movement by poking, music, cold water etc.

Decreased fetal movement can be a warning sign of potential problems like:

  • Cord compression: The umbilical cord becomes pinched or squeezed, compromising oxygen supply. Changing positions can sometimes provide relief.
  • Low amniotic fluid: Oligohydramnios makes it harder for baby to move freely. Hydration and rest can help increase levels.
  • Placental deterioration: The placenta ages, no longer providing optimal oxygen and nutrition. Delivery is recommended.
  • Infection: An infection has made the amniotic fluid inhospitable. Antibiotics or early delivery may be needed.
  • Fetal distress: Baby is not tolerating labor well and intervention may be required.

Consult your doctor who can perform tests like a non-stress test to check on fetal heart rate and movement. If a problem is detected, steps like induction, medication or early delivery may be recommended.

Closely tracking kick counts and activity patterns now ensures any potential issues are caught early. Don’t hesitate to call, even if it ends up being a false alarm it’s always better to be safe.

Preparing for Labor and Delivery at 38 Weeks

As you enter the home stretch of pregnancy, here are some things to do to get ready for going into labor:

Pack Your Hospital Bag

Make sure your bag is packed, stored by the door, and ready to go when labor begins. Include:

  • Insurance card, ID, and copy of birth plan
  • Comfortable loose clothes and nursing bra for labor
  • Outfit and swaddle blanket for baby
  • Toiletries like toothbrush, lip balm, lotion
  • Phone, charger, headphones, and snacks
  • Slippers, socks, robe, hair ties
  • Contacts, glasses, contacts supplies
  • Camera to document baby’s arrival
  • Face masks for you and partner per hospital COVID policies

Having everything prepared well in advance takes away stress when contractions start. Make sure your partner knows where the bag is located when it’s time to go.

Install Car Seat

Install an infant car seat properly in your vehicle. Review the instructions and your vehicle manual. Adjust the straps and angles for a newborn. Have it inspected by a certified technician.

Take Childbirth and Breastfeeding Classes

Take a childbirth class at your hospital or birthing center for guidance on what to expect during labor. Breastfeeding classes can also help build confidence.

Prepare Older Children

If you have other kids at home, gently prepare them for the arrival of a new sibling. Have childcare lined up for when you go into labor if needed. Take them to pick out a gift for the baby.

Review Your Birth Plan

Look over your birth plan and make any revisions. Discuss it with your doctor so you are on the same page for your preferences like:

  • Laboring positions
  • Pain relief options
  • Pushing and delivery approach
  • Immediate newborn care like delayed cord clamping
  • Breastfeeding soon after birth

Prepare Your Home

Do a deep clean and stock up on groceries, toiletries, and other essentials. Prepare and freeze meals. Do laundry. Setup the crib, install baby monitors, and unpack supplies. This allows you to relax and bond with baby when you return from the hospital.

Getting organized, both practically and mentally, helps you feel empowered going into labor and delivery.

What to Expect at 39 Weeks Pregnant

You’re oh-so-close to meeting your baby! Here’s a sneak peek of what’s coming up at 39 weeks:

  • Baby is around 20 inches and 6.75 pounds as fat layers fill out.
  • Lightening as baby’s head settles deep in your pelvis. Increased pressure and need to urinate.
  • You may lose your mucus plug as your cervix ripens for labor.
  • Braxton Hicks may increase in intensity, duration, and frequency.
  • Your doctor may perform a cervical check to see if you’ve dilated or effaced.
  • Swelling, insomnia, nesting energy burst as labor nears.
  • Monitor baby’s movement and call your doctor with concerns.
  • Labor could start anytime now! But also be prepared in case you go past your due date.

You’re in the home stretch! Try to relax and get as much rest as possible before baby arrives.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is my baby considered full term at 38 weeks?

Yes, 38 weeks is considered full term. Babies born now have fully developed organs and greater chances of a smooth transition than earlier preemies. Some may still need brief respiratory support.

What if I go into labor at 38 weeks?

It’s common for labor to start anytime from 38-40 weeks. If you go into labor now, your medical team will monitor you and baby closely for signs of distress. Most 38 week babies do well with no complications.

How will I know I’m in labor at 38 weeks?

Signs include:

  • Contractions 5 minutes apart lasting 1 minute for 1-2 hours.
  • Bloody show. Losing mucus plug tinged with blood.
  • Water breaking in a gush or trickle.
  • Pelvic pressure. Feels like baby is pushing down.

Time contractions and call your doctor when they become regular.

What should I do to induce labor at 38 weeks?

Your doctor won’t recommend induction before 39 weeks without a medical need. But some natural ways to possibly help ripening are:

  • Walking and light exercise
  • Prenatal massage
  • Sexual intercourse
  • Nipple stimulation
  • Red raspberry leaf tea (with doctor’s approval)

Avoid castor oil and herbal supplements without medical guidance.

When do doctors induce labor if you haven’t delivered by 38 weeks?

Most doctors will let you go until at least 41 weeks before recommending induction unless there are medical complications. Induction risks like failed induction are higher before 39 weeks when your body and baby determine readiness. Stay in close contact with your healthcare provider as you near your due date.

In Conclusion:

You’re oh so close to the finish line! 38 weeks pregnant marks an exciting milestone. Your baby is now considered full term and ready to thrive outside the womb.

Pay close attention to your body for signs of early labor like contractions, discharge and lightening. Notify your doctor of any concerning symptoms like bleeding or reduced fetal movements. Stay on top of discomforts like swelling and sciatica.

Take time to relax and soak in these final days of pregnancy. Finish preparations like packing your hospital bag and installing the car seat. Labor could start anytime now, but likely still another couple weeks to go. Hang in there, the moment you finally meet your little one is right around the corner!