Your little miracle’s total length from the top of the head to the tip of the toes is about 19 ½- 21 inches now and he or she weighs approximately 6 ½ pounds or more. By the end of the 37th week, your little baby will be considered “full term”, even though your due date is still a couple of weeks away. Some babies get anxious and arrive a little bit ahead of schedule, particularly if it‘s a subsequent or twin pregnancy. It would be best if your baby stays put for another week or two, as he or she is still continuing to fill out, develop more fat stores and gain weight. The layers of fat building up are very important because they will help strengthen your baby’s overall well being and increase his or her chances for a healthy and safe entry into the world. Even though he or she is continuing to gain more weight, growth spurts are starting to slow, which is probably a good thing since space inside your womb is quickly becoming filled up. If you go into labor now, your doctor or midwife probably wouldn’t try and stop it. Most babies born at 37 weeks have little or no moderate or major complications and do very well. Some are still at risk for developing a case of jaundice, though, as well as have a little harder time catching on to breastfeeding than 39 to 40-weekers.
Your baby is a learning machine! He or she is actively learning flavors, behaviors and even memories while still snug inside your womb. Evidence shows that unborn babies learn by experience. One study was done using vibrations to test fetal learning ability. During this study, researchers found by 26 weeks, the babies moved in response to vibrations being administered to their mother’s belly. After repeated vibrations, the babies got used to it and didn’t move in response to it any longer. If a different, new type of vibration was administered, the babies responded once again with movement.
The majority of vernix (the white, cheesy substance) that has covered your baby’s skin for quite some time now, has disappeared by the end of this week. Don’t be surprised, though, if your newborn has traces of vernix in the folds of his or her skin immediately following delivery. The soft lanugo (the fine, downy hair) that has grown all over your baby’s body, is gone, except for possibly patches on his or her back, face (particularly the forehead and cheeks) and shoulders. If your baby were born now, you may notice some of these patches, although it may have already completely shed off by now. These patches are much more noticeable in babies who are born prematurely than babies born very late in pregnancy. If patches of lanugo are still present at birth, don’t worry, it will fall out and be replaced by more permanent hair soon.
The top of your uterus has reached approximately 6 ½ inches or so above your belly button. If you were to go into labor this week and beyond, you would be considered “full-term” rather than “pre-term”, even though you haven’t reached your due date yet. Your pregnancy weight gain may start to stabilize now, although some women still continue to gain a few more pounds before delivery. Some moms-to-be even lose a few pounds around this time. If you’re concerned about either weight gain or weight loss, contact your doctor or midwife. At your next prenatal appointment, your doctor or midwife may want to perform an internal vaginal exam, to check your cervix for signs of dilation and effacement. Dilation means how far your cervix has opened up and effacement means how much your cervix has thinned out. When your little one is ready to be born, your cervix will be dilated to 10 centimeters and effaced 100%. So, if you’re told that your cervix is 2 centimeters dilated and 50% effaced, your cervix is beginning to open and thin in preparation for labor, although this doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll go into labor immediately. You can be partly dilated and effaced for a few weeks before your baby decides to be born.
If you haven’t packed your bag to take to the hospital, now would be a good time. There are many items which you may want to take with you and many you may not end up using, but it’s still best, though, to have them just in case you need them. Basic clothing items include: a comfortable outfit to wear home, socks, slippers, cotton panties, bathrobe, nursing bras (if you will be breastfeeding) and breast pads. Toiletries you may want to include in your packing are: toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash, makeup (and makeup remover), lip balm, hair products (including hair clips or barrettes if your hair is long), deodorant and your own sanitary pads, if you’d prefer them over the ones which will be provided. You may enjoy a massage during labor, so pack any oils, lotions or other massage items you can think of. Some women bring a CD player so they can listen to soothing music throughout labor and delivery. Hard candy or suckers may be very helpful when it comes to keeping your mouth moist. Don’t forget your camera, video camera and any accessories you’ll need, such as chargers, film or batteries.
Your partner or support person will probably like snacks to munch on and may need overnight clothes and toiletries for themselves, if they plan to spend the night. If you have other children who will be coming to the hospital during your stay, have snacks on hand for them as well. Pack a diaper bag for you baby with newborn clothes to wear home, special outfit for hospital portraits and a couple extra diapers and wipes. Don’t forget to bring the car seat! Keep your bag close to the front door (or in the trunk of your car) and make sure your car has a full tank of gas during these last few weeks. It really could be any time now!