This week, your baby's considered full term and will make an appearance in the next few weeks. Here's what you can expect now that you're 37 weeks pregnant and coming to the end of your third trimester.
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What’s happening at 37 weeks?
Here are the key things you can expect from your pregnancy at this stage:
- Your baby's considered full-term this week.
- Find out how you'll know when you're really in labour.
- Get plenty of rest whenever you can.
- Try out your TENS machine, if you have one.
How big is your baby?
This week, your baby is about the same size as a large tub of cinema popcorn, weighing around 2.95kg and measuring around 48.6cm in length.
Your little one won’t grow significantly in length between now and delivery, but they'll continue to add body fat to help keep them warm after the birth.
Your baby's considered full term this week, which means they've done just about all the growing and developing they're going to do inside you.
Amazingly, your baby's head alone is the size of a small lettuce! That little tummy already contains a mix of fluids that your baby will poo out as their first sticky meconium nappy, once they're born. Don't worry if you've never changed a nappy before – it'll soon be second nature.
You're now really into the final stretch of your pregnancy, and could be meeting your little one at any time from this week! Don't worry; if your baby arrives sooner rather than later, their lungs should be fully developed and ready to cope in the outside world.
What's going on with your body?
If your baby’s head has engaged, walking might be more uncomfortable now. If you’re unfortunate enough to have had any pelvic pain – or Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction (SPD) / Pelvic Girdle Pain (PGP) – you could well find it feels worse this week.
If it happens to you, rest up as much as possible and accept all offers of help from people. You’re going to be a busy new mum very soon now, so let others fetch and carry for you, and don’t feel guilty.
If you notice any bleeding around now, call your midwife. It can be quite common to experience some spotting, especially after sex as your cervix and blood vessels are extra sensitive at this stage.
Nonetheless, it's always best to mention any unexplained pain or bleeding to your midwife, just to be on the safe side.
And of course, you should still be aware of your baby's movements. The movements may feel different now your baby has less room to move in there, but they should still be moving as often as usual. If you notice any changes, let your midwife know straight away.
If you're uncomfortable and struggling to sleep , try taking daytime naps and resting as much as possible. Sadly, sleepless nights are as much a part of late pregnancy as they are the early stages of parenthood!
Just make sure you always start off naps and bedtime by sleeping on your side to reduce your risk of stillbirth.
Eating well will give you more energy for these final weeks of pregnancy and the birth of your baby. You still only need 200 calories more than you did before you were pregnant, so make the most of them by choosing nutritious food, including plenty of fruit, veg and protein, plus wholegrain carbs and dairy products.
What to expect this week: wondering how you'll know you're in labour
Mum friends may tell you that 'you'll know' but that doesn't help you worrying about HOW you'll know you're really in labour.
TV shows may suggest that a gush of water as your waters break means it's time to go to the hospital but, in reality, things can be a bit more subtle.
There are various clues that things may have started. These include:
A ‘bloody show’
in your knickers or on the toilet paper – also known as your 'mucus plug'. Throughout your pregnancy, this mucus has been sealing your cervix and protecting your baby from infection. It has a jelly-like consistency and is may be streaked with pink or brown blood. If you spot it, that's a sign your body's preparing for labour. It could still be a couple of days before you meet your baby, or they could appear within hours!
– you may have already had some
Braxton Hicks contractions
, and be wondering how you'll know when it's the real thing. In true labour your contractions will come regularly, increase in intensity and gradually occur more and more frequently. Braxton Hicks contractions often stop if you change positions or activities, but real contractions will keep coming, stronger and more often until, well, you'll just know – sorry! Contractions are different for every woman, but they can often begin by feeling like period pain, achy and niggly – and in your lower back not just over your bump. If your contractions are regular, last at least 60 seconds and come every five minutes, it's time to call your midwife!
- Waters breaking – although for some mums, a gush or trickle of water is the first sign that labour is starting, for others this doesn’t happen until labour is well established. Some mums even have their waters broken by a midwife during labour. If it happens, the waters should be clear, and a pale straw colour. Pop a sanitary towel on, but don't use a tampon. Tell your midwife if you think your waters have broken, and do so immediately if the liquid is smelly or coloured.
TV shows and movies also make it look like you have to rush for the hospital as soon as you get the first sign of labour, but that's rarely the case, especially for first-time mums. Labour is usually a gradual process, and you'll probably have plenty of warning before your baby arrives, so try not to worry.
You may even start to feel things gearing up in the weeks before labour starts. Did you know that some women do really get a 'nesting instinct' and suddenly feel the desire to clean and tidy everything before the baby is born? Others just want to rest constantly, so just go with however you feel.
If you've had a baby before, you may think you know what to expect. But remember that labour can often happen faster with second babies than it does with first babies!
Learn more about the signs and stages of labour and what to expect , or head to the Netmums forum to find out how other women knew they were in labour .
What to do this week: try out your TENS machine
Some mums-to-be find a TENS machine is a helpful distraction during the early stages of labour. If you fancy trying one, it's a good idea to know how to use it before you need it.
TENS stands for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation. It comes as a small pack with pads and electrodes that you stick to your back (or where you feel pain).
It's not actually known exactly how it helps relieve pain during labour and birth but midwives think, if anything, it's a helpful distraction in the early stages.
It's thought that the tiny electrical impulses it transmits can help stimulate feel-good endorphins and stop pain signals reaching your brain.
TENS machines have mixed reviews in the Netmums forum , with some women saying they found them 'very useful', and others 'completely useless'.
As it's medicine-free, there's no harm in trying it out so that you know how to use it once labour begins. It can also be used any time from 37 weeks of pregnancy towards your due date to help with late pregnancy backache.
Although TENS machines are expensive, you can hire them for around £30 from pharmacies, Boots stores and online, directly with TENS machine brands.
Find out more about the best one for your labour here .
Your 37 week to-do list
1 If you've sent off your group B strep (GBS) screening test, you should get the results any day. Let your midwife know if you are GBS positive so she can mark your antenatal notes.
2 Get as much sleep as you possibly can. Lie in at weekends and try to grab cat naps during the day to prepare yourself for the energy you'll need when baby arrives.
3 Still not sure of a name? Get inspiration in our devoted baby names section .
4 Keep your antenatal notes on you wherever you go from this week onwards, just in case.
5 Fill the car up with petrol; you won't want to be stopping when you need to get to the hospital!
What to watch this week...
Get expert tips on what to expect at 37 weeks pregnant from our midwife.
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