Welcome to Week 38! You’re heading into the final stretch now—with just two weeks to go until your due date and just one week until your baby is considered full term. But does that mean you have exactly two weeks to go? Not necessarily. Very few babies are actually born on their due dates. But take heart: doctors in general will recommend an induction if you are 1-2 weeks past your due date (mostly to avoid issues with an aging placenta), so you won’t be pregnant indefinitely!
Just as your baby is getting ready for the big day, your body started preparations a few weeks ago. We’ve covered many of the most common symptoms, but there are still a few that might be new even late in pregnancy. Chief among these is leaky breasts.
Leaky breasts before birth is actually pretty common. In preparation for breastfeeding, many women’s breasts begin leaking colostrum. This is your first milk, and is a perfectly calibrated food that will support your baby for the first few days of his or her life. One of its chief purposes is to bolster your baby’s immune system early on, so in that way, colostrum is a very important substance. We call it “liquid gold” for a reason!
You’ve no doubt heard that experts recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life. Many, many studies have shown that breast milk is the perfect food for your newborn and infant. It was designed with the exact right amount of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats to encourage healthy, strong growth. Breastfed babies have fewer digestive and respiratory issues and lower risk for allergies. Breastfeeding also has benefits for mom: it aids in weight loss immediately after pregnancy and can even reduce your risk of breast cancer later on in life.
That said, it’s a shame that in today’s sometimes over-competitive parenting world, many moms are made to feel guilty if they cannot or choose not to breastfeed. If you are unable to breastfeed, don’t worry! Although nothing can compare to breast milk (and in fact, donor milk is seen as the next best thing if you can’t provide a full milk supply), today’s formulas have been created to exacting standards and contain the healthy fats, proteins, carbohydrates, and vitamins and minerals your baby needs.
If you’re planning on breastfeeding, hopefully you’ve been reading up on it or asking questions of your healthcare provider. If not, now is the time to do so! You can also plan ahead by finding a lactation consultant who is covered by your insurance, should you need their services postpartum.
Your baby is really in the final stretch now! With a fetal age of 36 weeks, your baby weighs about 7 lbs. and is still the same 19 inches or so from head to toe. At this point, it’s all about the finishing touches: even the lungs are getting nearer to ready, with enough surfactant to handle breathing without additional help or a hospital stay.
As far along as your baby is, it can still be interesting to realize that development hardly stops after birth—even basic things like eye color aren’t really set for the first few months of life. The same goes for the skeletal and neural systems. There’s still a lot of work left to do, even after birth!