Increased mucus discharge at this stage is normal as your cervix softens and prepares for labour. As the baby moves into the birth canal many women will also experience increased pelvic pressure and back pain. Pregnancy massages and maternity belts may provide some relief for these discomforts. Swelling in your body, especially your feet, is quite apparent at this point, especially in warmer more humid areas as high humidity draws fluid into the tissue.
Common 38 weeks pregnant symptoms have everything to do with being really, really pregnant. You’re big; your baby’s almost ready to arrive, and your body’s getting ready for D-day (that’s delivery day). Here’s how your body is affected:
- Braxton Hicks contractions At 38 weeks pregnant, contractions are to be expected. You may have been having these for weeks now, or you may be just starting to notice what seems like 38 weeks pregnant cramps or tightening of your belly. If your contractions aren’t painful, and go away when you switch positions, they’re still Braxton Hicks (a.k.a. “practice” contractions).
- Trouble sleeping Maybe you’re feeling anxious, or maybe it’s just all the aches and pains. But for someone who’s so tired, man it’s hard to get a good night’s rest!
- Increased vaginal discharge You may begin to notice globs of a thick, mucus-like substance this week. This yucky stuff is called the mucus plug, and its presence is totally normal. It gets released as your cervix dilates in preparation for labor. Take heart; every bit of the mucus plug brings you that much closer to going into labor!
- Itchy belly Your 38 weeks pregnant belly is stretched practically as far as it can go, so it makes sense that it’s more sensitive. Hydration can help: at this point in pregnancy, you may want to switch to a heavy-duty moisturizer like pure shea butter, and remember to drink lots of water. What’s not normal is a rash, so let your OB know if you get one.
- Swollen feet and ankles You’re 38 weeks pregnant, so basically you have the excuse to sit back and put up your feet as much as humanly possible. Take regular walks though, to keep your blood flowing and reduce the swelling.
- Anxiety It’s normal to be so over pregnancy by the time you reach 38 weeks pregnant. This feeling of being ready to Get. The. Baby. Out. might be even stronger if you’ve gained a significant amount of pregnancy weight, had a complicated pregnancy, or are 38 weeks pregnant with twins. Try to keep your mind occupied with fun things. Go see a movie, have a special dinner with your partner, or get together with some friends for lunch. These are your last days or weeks before a newborn takes up all your attention, so enjoy them as much as you can.
Development of Baby
At 38 weeks pregnant, baby is as big as a winter melon. Baby is about 19.6 inches (50 cm) long and his or her head is about the same circumference as the abdomen. Average baby weight at 38 weeks is 6.8 pounds (3.08 kilogram). Sounds a lot like a birth weight.
The organs are mature and ready for life outside the womb. The little one has a firm grasp, which you’ll soon be able to experience for yourself when you hold her hand for the first time. Your baby should be in position with her head resting on your pelvic bone.
Your baby may have about an inch or so of hair already. Baby is slowly shedding that white goo on the skin (that stuff is called vernix caseosa) but you might see some of it on newborn baby.
A major and new development during this 38th week is that the tear ducts begin to form. The gender can easily be identified now, as the sex organs have fully matured.
Sign of Labor Pain
At 38 weeks pregnant, signs of labor may begin. Some early signs you’ll go into labor soon include:
- Mucus plug and/or bloody show You might have a discharge that’s thick like mucus (the mucus plug) and could have a slightly bloody tinge (the bloody show). This is a sign your cervix is starting to dilate in preparation for birth.
- Diarrhea At 38 weeks pregnant, diarrhea might not be because of that spicy food you ate, it could be a sign that labor hormones are present in your body. It may be go time very soon.
- Nausea Same goes for 38 weeks pregnant nausea. This isn’t a measurable sign of labor, but some women swear they felt queasy just before labor started.
- Contractions At 38 weeks pregnant, contractions may be a normal part of your day—or maybe you haven’t noticed any yet. But know that if your 38 weeks pregnant belly starts tightening at regular intervals and doesn’t stop, then you’re likely in the early stages of labor. Painful contractions or ones that are closer than five minutes apart mean you should get to the hospital stat!
- Back pain You may have had a sore back for weeks now, but at 38 weeks pregnant, back pain that’s intense or sudden could actually be back labor, so let your doctor know if you’re experiencing this 38 weeks pregnant symptom.
- Water breaking If you feel a trickle of water, it means the amniotic sac has ruptured and the fluid is leaking out. Labor usually starts pretty soon after a woman’s water breaks, so let your OB know if you get this 38 weeks pregnant symptom.
At 38 weeks pregnant, inducing labor may be medically necessary if you have a complication such as preeclampsia or gestational diabetes, a uterine infection, or a placental problem. Otherwise, if you’re 38 weeks pregnant with twins, or if you’re experiencing bleeding at 38 weeks pregnant, your doctor might say ‘It’s time!’ This can send any mom-to-be who thought she had two more weeks into a panic, but know that everything will be okay. We can never really be 100 percent ready, and you and baby are in good hands while under the care of your OB and the pediatrician.
Remember, at 38 weeks pregnant inducing labor naturally is not recommended. Baby usually needs a little more time on the inside and some methods are not considered safe. So if you want to try to stimulate labor yourself, check with your doctor first, and wait at least another week for your baby to be full term.
You’re seeing the OB weekly now, so you’ll have an appointment this week. At these weekly appointments, your doctor will check that baby’s in a head-down position and to see if the head has moved down into the pelvic chamber. Also get ready for a pelvic exam, where your cervix will be checked for dilation (opening) and effacement (thinning)- both signs your body is readying for labor.
Unfortunately, there is no normal when it comes to predicting labor based on dilation or effacement; if you have started, it could be hours or weeks. But even if you’re not dilated at all, you could still go into labor tomorrow.
It’s normal for your feet and ankles to swell during these last weeks, but if you notice excessive or sudden swelling in the feet, ankles, hands and face, as well as puffiness around your eyes, call your healthcare practitioner without delay.
Also inform them immediately if you have severe or persistent headaches, problematic visual changes (such as double or blurred vision, seeing spots or flashing lights, light sensitivity, or a temporary loss of vision), intense upper abdominal pain or tenderness, or nausea and vomiting. These are symptoms of a serious and potentially lifethreatening condition called pre-eclampsia.
If your doctor wants a more in-depth check on baby, she may order a 38 weeks pregnant ultrasound as part of a biophysical profile. As part of the profile, baby‘s breathing, movement, muscle tone, heart rate, and amniotic fluid will be scored. In some cases, the result of the biophysical profile could make your doctor decide to deliver baby earlier than your due date.