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Mother and Baby

38 Weeks Pregnant – What to expect

38 weeks pregnant

This week, you just can’t stop peeing, your baby is nearly ready to be born, and it’s time for your partner to help you plan ahead. Here is all the essential information you need to know once you get to 38 weeks pregnant.

How big is my baby at 38 weeks?

Your baby’s now the length of a leek, and is still growing rapidly, now weighing seven pounds and measuring around 20 inches in length. While it could be any time now that your baby decides to make her grand appearance, the maximum time is four weeks - so you’re so nearly there!

What’s my baby doing at 38 weeks?

Your baby is a fully functioning little human, though she’s still practising breathing and swallowing. If you’ve got a little boy, then his testicles have descended into the scrotum by now.

And little girls might have slightly enlarged breasts (this is just the effect of your hormones and will go down after birth). Your placenta is also fully grown and weighs a whole one pound and nine ounces!

Your baby’s lungs are still maturing and producing surfactant, the substance that prevents the lungs’ air sacs from sticking together once she starts to breathe. She’ll also keep shedding vernix and lanugo, and swallowing amniotic fluid. 

Your baby’s irises - the coloured part of the eye - may gain more pigment in the months after she's born, but they usually won't get lighter or bluer, and green, hazel, and brown eyes have more pigment than grey or blue eyes.

She’s also fine-tuning her brain and nervous system in these last important weeks, and also adding fat, perfect for creating a pair of adorable chubby cheeks for you to squeeze. 

As for her eye colour, you might not be able to tell right away. If she's born with brown eyes, they'll probably stay brown, whereas if she's born with grey or dark blue eyes, they may stay grey or blue or turn green, hazel, or brown by the time she's nine months old. The reason for this is that your baby’s irises - the coloured part of the eye - may gain more pigment in the months after she's born, but they usually won't get lighter or bluer, and green, hazel, and brown eyes have more pigment than grey or blue eyes.

What is my body doing at 38 weeks?

You might feel you’re spending most of your life on the toilet – the pressure on your bladder is so extreme now that it’s squished into a pancake (seriously!). But, annoying as it is, you should keep hydrated. Another reason you might have to set up camp in the loo is that you could have diarrhoea now, too. Oh the joy!

If so, it’s your body making room for the baby to emerge – yep, it’s a sign your small one is on his or her way soon. Word of advice: avoid rich, fatty or fibre rich foods and instead eat light soups, toast and ice lollies. 

And if leaking from your bottom end isn’t enough, your boobs (which by now might be of gigantic proportions) could be discharging a thin, yellowish fluid called colostrum.

It’s basically the first milk your baby will get, which is full of antibodies, and has less fat and sugar and more protein than the milk that arrives later. If this affects you, it’s probably not the time to wear your best floaty, silk Whistles top. And if it’s more full-on seepage than mere droplets, pop some nursing pads in your bra. Your last antenatal appointment is this week, unless you go overdue, so make a list of any last minute questions to ask your midwife.

Common symptoms to look out for:

Constant urination: Thanks to the position of your baby’s head in your pelvis, there’s less room for your bladder, but the trips to the toilet are becoming a more and more frequent event. Don’t cut out liquids as hydration is more important than ever as you get close to the birth, but consider skipping caffeine as it could make these bathroom visits even more frequent. 

  • Braxton Hicks: If you’ve noticed more frequent and intense Braxton Hicks contractions, this usually signals that labour is not far away. Get your partner to practise your breathing and visualisation techniques with you. 
  • Nesting instinct: The urge to clean has never been so strong! Although it’s understandable you want to make a beautiful home for your baby, make sure you’re not using your valuable childbirth energy all up on scrubbing the sink.
  • Bloody show: The mucus discharge tinged with pink, brown or red blood will soon be making an appearance: keep your eyes peeled for it and call your doctor or midwife once it appears as it usually means labour is not far off.

What to do this week:

Make a dad-to-be checklist! Some fathers feel like they’re a spare part around now – but they’re far from it. There are loads of things they can do to help you out. Make a list and stick it to the fridge – it’ll make him feel needed and important, which of course he is, and it’ll also help you feel more in control of what's going on. Here’s some ideas of things he can do:

  • Make a list of emails and phone numbers of all the doctors, antenatal experts and friends you can call on for advice and support.
  • Stock up on a month’s worth of grocery essentials, and some simple ready meals you can freeze. (Or, if he’s handy in the kitchen, get him to cook loads of things that you can freeze for nights when you’re both just too busy to cook.)
  • Plan a ‘date night’ for this week: an evening during which you make each other feel loved and special.
  • Clean out the bath! Your stomach is too big to do this now, and a warm bath can be really relaxing in the early stages of labour.
  • Get yourself a pedicure. You haven’t been able to see your toes for a while, let alone groom them!
  • Check that the baby car seat is installed properly.
  • Ensure the car has enough petrol in it at all times.
  • Learn more about postnatal depression and warning signs to watch out for.
  • Create a labour playlist together. 

Take me back to week 37

Take me to week 39

Read next: What to pack in your hospital bag: 

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Newborn vests and sleepsuits 

Try and find some with added scratch mits. There’s no need for a hat and jacket for indoors, but pack them for outdoors if it’s chilly.
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A blanket for the baby 

A good tip beforehand: try and snuggle the blanket so it smells of you. 
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Nappies 

Take WAY more than you need - newborns can poo after every feed. 
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Muslins 

The new-mum-must-have! You'll only need one in your hospital bag, but you'll soon learn how invaluable these amazing little muslins are. 
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Snacks 

Anything that will keep your energy up! We asked our mums what they ate during labour and came up with this list of the 15 best snacks to pack in your hospital bag. 
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Cotton wool or water wipes 

Newborns shouldn't have anything on their delicate skin at first, so just stick to water and cotton wool.
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Bottles with formula 

Even if you plan to breastfeed, it's worth having a few on standby. 
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Something to wear in labour 

Think comfort here - baggy vest tops, loose maternity and nursing nightwear or just a robe. If you're planning a water birth, you might want to pack a bikini top too. 
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Hair ties, a hair band or a head scarf 

Anything that will get your hair out of your face during labour! 
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Slippers 

Even if it's summer, the floors of the postnatal ward might be chilly. 
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Lip balm

All that gas and air can make your lips try, so keep one in your hospital bag. Whilst we're talking balms, chuck a nipple balm in too. 
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Lavendar or essential oils 

Lavendar oil can be useful during labour both as a massage oil or by putting a few drops on a flannel on your forehead to try and keep you calm. Other essential oils can also be comforting, but make sure you check they are suitable for use during pregnancy first. 
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Pads - both maternity and breast 

Another top tip from midwife and author of 'How to Grow a Baby and Push it Out', Clemmie Hooper, is to pack incontinence pads rather than dealing with sanitary pads and knickers. 
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Earplugs 

Postnatal wards aren't generally all that peaceful. Don't worry about not hearing your baby cry - mothers' have a sixth sense when it comes to that. 
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Earphones and an iPod 

Get that labour playlist ready now. Take a look at the best songs to listen to during labour here. 
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A phone charger 

It's something you're likely to forget as you leave in a hurry, so buy a spare and make sure it's in the bag. 
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A clean t-shirt/pants for your birthing partner 

If he's not able to pop home, he'll definitely appreciate this. It's also worth packing him some snacks too! 
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A camera

Sure you've got one on your phone, but what happens if you forget the charger? It might be worth chucking a digital one in there too. 

 
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