Welcome to Week 39! You probably noticed you still haven’t gotten much bigger since last week. You hit near your peak weight a week or two ago, so now it’s just about keeping comfortable and waiting for labor to begin. It could be anytime this week!
There’s no getting around the fact that full-term pregnancy is just uncomfortable. It’s common for women at this point to be achy, experience joint pain and pelvic pain, feel like they have to pee constantly because of pressure from the baby, and generally feel exhausted with all the physical symptoms. If this sounds like you, hang in there!
As the time nears, it’s worth thinking about all the ways babies are born and be prepared. Some moms have a careful birth plan, and many deliveries follow that plan. For others, they have a scheduled caesarean section (C-section), while still others will need a C-section after labor starts based on their doctor’s or midwife’s advice. Overall, about one-third of the babies currently born in the United States are delivered via C-section.
What can you do to prepare for a C-section? What might it be like? These are perfectly normal concerns, both for moms who know they’re having a C-section and those who worry they might end up needing one.
A mom’s experience during a C-section depends on her unique situation. A scheduled C-section is much like other types of surgery. You will be asked not to eat anything for the 24 hours before the procedure, and you will likely be awake during the procedure, with a spinal block or epidural to control pain and discomfort. The actual delivery will be fairly quick, and usually you will be allowed to have one support person in the operating room with you. Once the baby is delivered, the pediatric team will check him or her and then bring the baby to you. In some cases, the baby will stay with you in the operating room. In others, the baby will be taken to the recovery room with your partner until you are ready to meet them. It is normal to feel pressure and movement, but you should never feel any pain—if so, speak up!
An emergency C-section is very similar, although it can seem overwhelming because it happens fast, usually as a result of changing conditions during labor. In general, once your doctor has decided you need a C-section, the goal is to begin the procedure within 30 minutes, sometimes even faster. You may have an epidural if there is time, or you may be given general anesthesia and be asleep during the delivery. If you do have general anesthesia, you will meet your baby after the surgery, when it will be a perfect time to start breastfeeding.
Whatever happens, it’s always best to keep your lines of communication open with your healthcare provider. Every birth is unique, and if things don’t go according to your plan, you might feel overwhelmed, frightened, or sad. The best defense against these feelings is to understand what will happen.
Depending on how you deliver, you will be in the hospital for a different amount of time. Most women who deliver vaginally will be discharged the next day or the day after that, while moms who have a C-section will usually go home on the 2nd through 4th day after surgery, depending on how they are doing.
Your baby’s fetal age is 37 weeks. At this point, your baby is considered full term and can be born anytime. Your baby likely weighs about 7 lbs., but this really depends on your baby. Boys tend to be slightly heavier than girls when they’re born, and every baby is different. However much he or she weighs now, they are likely within a few ounces of their final birth weight.
There are very few major changes going on. Your baby is still shedding lanugo and vernix, the hair and waxy covering that kept them protected during pregnancy. He or she is still sipping on amniotic fluid, and the digestive tract is working to create meconium. When your baby is born, his or her first bowel movements will be this meconium from their time in the uterus. Meconium bowel movements are typically dark green or blackish, sticky, sludgy, and not as stinky as later bowel movements will be.
In some cases, babies pass meconium while still in utero. Usually this causes no problems at all, but some may aspirate, or breathe, a mixture of meconium and amniotic fluid before, during, or after delivery. This is known as meconium aspiration syndrome. Although it’s gross to think about, most cases of meconium aspiration are not serious and don’t pose any serious threat to your baby’s health. The risk of meconium aspiration syndrome goes up with longer birth times, older gestational age, and maternal risk factors like smoking, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
“Whether unmedicated, intravenous, or epidurals, you have a few different pain relief options while in labor to explore before you deliver.”
Reviewed by Dr. Jen Lincoln, April 2020