39 weeks pregnant

You and your baby's development

What's happening in week 39 of your pregnancy

Week 39 and both you and your unborn baby are playing the waiting game!

At a glance

  • It is not long now until you get that first cuddle with your little one
  • Enjoy these last few days with your partner and try not to worry too much
  • Most women get plenty of warning signs before baby arrives!
39 Weeks pregnant

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How big is my baby at 39 weeks?

Like you, your baby is just waiting for the signal to go now, and is ready to make their début! Fully grown at close to 50cm and on average weighing 7 to 8lbs, they’re head down and waiting for those first lovely moments of skin to skin contact and that first feed with mum!

If they haven’t already, they’ll be shedding the Vernix Caseosa which will be mixing into the remaining amniotic fluid, which is likely to be swallowed by the baby.

Babies go through a quite a journey to be born so they may not look like the fresh-faced, newborn you imagined! Here are some things that you may notice:
Your baby’s skin may still be bluish, blotchy and covered in vernix at first. Their head could be a bit pointed due to ‘moulding’ where their skull bones overlap to travel down the birth canal. The soft spots, called the fontanelles where the bones have not yet grown together that helps this. They close as your baby grows. A short section of blue-white umbilical cord is still attached to your baby’s tummy.  It’s clamped and will shrivel up and drop off after about a week. Your baby boy or girl may have swollen breasts and genitals for a short time due to the hormones at work in their body, but these effects soon wear off. 

At one and five minutes after your baby is born the medical staff will evaluate baby’s heart rate, breathing, muscle tone, reflex response and colour which is called an Apgar Assessment. These tests check how well your baby has coped during birth and how well they are adjusting to their new environment in the big wide world. 

Baby boy’s testicles will also be checked and your newborn's eyes will be checked shortly after birth as part of their newborn examination. New babies can see, but their vision isn't very focused. Their eyesight develops gradually over the first few months.

Within the first 24 hours, a health professional will offer to give your baby an injection of vitamin K. This is an injection to help baby’s blood to clot to prevent a rare but serious blood disorder. 

Also on day 5, your baby will also have the blood spot (heel prick) test and a newborn hearing screening test.

How odd that any day now they will go from being tucked up in your tummy to being properly in your life? And what an amazing journey they (and you!) have been on since week one!

Facts to know about your baby in week 39

  • Your baby continues to build a layer of fat to help control their body temperature after birth
  • Your baby is adding neural connections and growing hair and still gaining weight

You at 39 weeks pregnant

You might be finding it hard to think about - or concentrate - on anything much beyond your impending arrival now! As every little twinge, feeling of dampness, pain or movement will have you wondering 'is this it?'! 

Most women get plenty of warnings that things are about to start (a show, waters breaking, hours of mild contractions), and first babies often like to keep you on your toes with plenty of false starts and trips to the hospital only to be sent back home again! 

But rest assured, you should never put off getting checked out you are going to have your newborn son or daughter in your arms very, very soon now, and that is really all you need to be thinking about!

Facts to know about you in week 39

  • The general consensus is that it's perfectly OK to have sex following childbirth when you feel ready and when the post-birth bleeding has stopped, which may be around 6 to 8 weeks after labour. Unlike bleeding in a regular period women are more prone to infection in this post-birth bleeding time.
  • Waters can break as a trickle or a gush. Call your midwife when it happens.
  • Delayed cord clamping means waiting at least until the umbilical cord has stopped pulsating is also known as a physiological or natural third stage.
  • Labour is brought on by 3 hormones. Oxytocin, endorphin and adrenaline.
  • By the time you give birth, the placenta will weigh one sixth of your baby's weight.

What to think about in week 39

You may have read all the birthing books, be clued up on C-sections, assisted delivery and natural labours, but have you given much thought to what happens after you give birth?

Your body will have just done the most remarkable of things, yet giving birth is physically and emotionally challenging. You’ll need time to recover, so take it easy and remember that six weeks ‘post-partum recovery’ (as it’s referred to), really is a guide.

No matter how your baby arrives, immediately after the delivery of your baby you may feel after pains like contractions. These may feel stronger when you breastfeed. They only last a few days and are a good sign that your womb is shrinking back to its usual size. Your womb usually shrinks down to the level of your belly button soon after birth, and over the next 6 to 10 weeks, goes back to its original size. The skin, however, naturally takes longer to go back to its pre-pregnancy condition.

Your perineum may feel very bruised or sore – even if you haven’t had a tear or an episiotomy

You might need a support cushion to sit on or your midwife may suggest taking paracetamol to ease the discomfort. Keep the area clean and start moving around as soon as possible, as being gently active will help you recover faster.

While you and your baby are learning to breastfeed, you may temporarily experience sore nipples and engorgement (where your breasts are tender and swollen with milk).

You’ll notice a discharge a bit like a period, called Lochia. It’ll be heavy at first, hence the need for maternity pads (not sanitary towels) but it will get lighter and stops within 2-6 weeks.  If you pass clots bigger than a 50p or if the bleeding becomes heavier, or has an offensive smell, contact a midwife. It could be that some traces of placenta were left behind.

Between 50-70% of mums get the Baby Blues 3-4 days after giving birth so you might find yourself getting tearful on the third or fourth day after giving birth. You may suddenly notice you’re crying for no apparent reason, feeling utterly exhausted and, well, just not as elated and excited as you thought you’d be. This is when your milk is coming in and your pregnancy hormones drop off rapidly. You’re also coming down from the high of childbirth, and naturally feeling exhausted and possibly overwhelmed. Most mums find that these feelings pass in a few hours, for others the ‘fog’ usually lifts in a couple of days. 

Try to get as much rest as you can, and don’t turn down people’s offers of help because you feel you should be able to cope. Your body has just been through a huge experience, and it needs time to adjust. Be kind to it! And if you’re still feeling really low after two weeks or more, then you may need extra support, so do talk to your health visitor or GP.

Signs and symptoms at 39 weeks pregnant

Waters breaking

It’s possible your waters could break before you even go into labour. If this does happen, it’s most likely go into labour within 24 hours. But if not, your midwife may recommend that your labour might need to be induced so as to reduce the risk of any infection. Amniotic fluid looks a bit like urine and is a pale straw colour. When your waters break, the colour may be a little blood stained to start with. It’s different for everyone, some say they experience a big ‘gush’ as their waters break whereas others describe a trickle. Your amniotic sac is a bit like a balloon full of water that eventually bursts due stretching and movement.

Back pain

Whether you’ve experienced much back pain during your pregnancy, chances are you will be suffering this close to the end. If you had no pre-existing back issues before your pregnancy, it’s likely that your back pain will disappear once you've given birth. If you still have back pain after the birth of your baby, you can continue to try massage and exercise or see a specialist to see if there’s any underlying issues.

Watch our videos below: 

Video: Pain relief options 

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At a glance

  • It is not long now until you get that first cuddle with your little one
  • Enjoy these last few days with your partner and try not to worry too much
  • Most women get plenty of warning signs before baby arrives!

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