You have finally reached the end of the pregnancy cycle and completed the third trimester successfully. In reality, very few women give birth on their exact due date. A pregnancy that occurs during between the 38th and 42nd week is considered a full term pregnancy. A baby born during this time will be a full term born baby. The average length of pregnancy is 40 weeks or 280 days from the first day of the last normal menstrual period. If you know the first day of the last menstrual cycle, you can add nine months and seven days to that date to get the exact due date of your delivery.
About 80% expectant women have full term births. Only 20% who give birth outside the regular parameters. About 8% of women give birth early and 8% give birth after the 42nd week. A premature or preterm delivery occurs because the mother goes into labor early. The reasons for this are varied like having multiple pregnancies, an abnormally shaped uterus which crowds the fetus, placenta previa, placental abruption, tobacco use, high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney problems, high fever or infection, and untreated thyroid or other disease. A post term delivery is generally considered okay. However, the placenta might start functioning less efficiently as it ages and is unable to transmit oxygen and nutrients to the fetus which can pose a risk for the fetus. This is why some doctors will artificially induce labor now.
The baby is ready and fully developed by now weighing about 6 to 8 pounds. Baby is almost 20 inches long. The baby is big in size and ready to be born. The nails will be long and you will need to cut them as soon as the baby is born. The skin on the hands and legs might have become flaky.
In some cases, the placenta might stop producing amniotic fluid which could worry your doctor. Labor induction methods might be discussed with you by your medical practitioner to prepare you in case you do not go into labor naturally. The baby’s size can be really large and the head might be too big to descend through the birth canal. The doctor can use a vacuum pump or forceps to pull out the baby. This can cause bruising on the baby’s head and is not preferred. The doctor can take this decision if the baby’s heart beat suddenly slows during delivery or if the baby is in distress.
As the placenta ages beyond the 42nd week, its ability to provide nutrients and oxygen to the fetus reduce. Therefore, a post term pregnancy needs to be monitored carefully. By now, the fetus has developed a wrinkled appearance, long nails, abundant hair, and little fat below the tissues. Some post term babies pass fecal material called meconium into the amniotic fluid before delivery and if by mistake the baby sucks meconium into the lungs at the time of delivery, it can develop severe pneumonia.
Changes with your body
The baby is fully ready and so are you. The delivery can take place at any time now. It feels like you have been waiting for a long time now. You are officially overdue after the 42nd week. If all your checkups are fine and the baby is doing well with a normally functioning placenta, then the doctors will probably still wait before inducing labor to see if you will go into labor naturally.
After the 42nd week, the placenta can start slowing down and produce less amniotic fluid making it uncomfortable for you and the baby. This makes it compulsory for the medical practitioners to induce labor. There are not too many changes occurring in the women’s body or in the baby at this time as the baby is fully ready to be born and has also gained sufficient weight. The body might experience true labor symptoms such as dilation of the cervix and rhythmic contractions that become more intense and frequent with time. This is a sign to get to the hospital for the delivery.
What to expect
At the end of the 42nd week, your pregnancy can be called post term and you will need regular checking to be sure that there is still good utero placental circulation. Rarely is a pregnancy allowed to go beyond 42 weeks, so if you have not given birth yet then prostaglandin gels and cervical ripening agents are used in order to ripen the cervix and perform labor.
You can go easy on the eating and will probably not feel like eating anything heavy, but remember that you are eating for two so try to get all of your daily nutrients. Try to enjoy the last few days of pregnancy and to finish up all last minute plans like completing reading articles on birth stories or keeping your bags packed for the hospitalization.
In the absence of a ripe cervix, a successful vaginal birth is less likely. However, certain cervical ripening agents can be used before labor induction. Herbal compounds, castor oil, hot baths, enemas, acupuncture, acupressure, transcutaneous nerve stimulation and mechanical and surgical methods can all induce labor. You can expect to keep everything ready in your maternity bag as you will be requiring them immediately after being taken to the hospital. Lastly, you need to keep practicing the relaxation techniques which you learned in the prenatal class. Breathing techniques which will help in keeping you calm and avoiding nervousness. Once you are mentally ready for the labor and the coming delivery, more than half the battle is already won.