Mother and Baby

39 Weeks Pregnant – What to expect

39 weeks pregnant

This week may well be your last week of pregnancy, and your baby is ready to join you in the world! Find out what’s happening to you and your baby at 39 weeks’ pregnant.

How big is my baby at 39 weeks?

Your baby is the size of a small pumpkin, and is now officially full-term. Your baby will now weigh between seven and eight pounds, and measure between 19 and 21 inches from top to toe. She won’t grow much more now, but her brain is still growing at a rapid pace that will continue for the first three years of her life.

What’s my baby doing at 39 weeks?

This might be your final week of pregnancy, but babies usually go past their due date (only 4% are born on time!), so don’t expect a prompt arrival, especially if this is your first child. You won’t be allowed to go past 10 to 14 days overdue – you’ll be offered an induction.

Once your baby is born, you might be dreading the crying in the middle of the night: but have a look at your baby’s face when she lets out that first beautiful sob. Because your baby’s tear ducts won’t be quite ready to work for about a month after the first, those first few weeks of midnight wailing won’t be accompanied by any tiny tears. 

Your baby is also perfectly squeezable in preparation for lots of cuddles: a thick fat layer has been deposited over her blood vessels, making her body extra huggable! This fat layer will also help to control her body temperature after birth. 

What is my body doing at 39 weeks?

Your body will be going through plenty of changes to prepare for labour, but here are some of the signs that you’re going through real labour and not Braxton Hicks:

  • Strong, regular contractions that last more than 30 seconds and increase in frequency (when they last 30-60 seconds and are every five minutes, call your midwife, doctor or hospital). Established labour is when your cervix is dilated by more than three centimetres.
  • A ‘bloody show’, in which the jelly-esque, pinky-looking mucus plug comes away either fully or gradually. Not all women have this, though.
  • Your waters might break (this is a pale straw colour and might have some blood in it. However if it’s smelly, coloured or you’re losing too much blood then phone the hospital immediately). If your waters break before contractions start, then you should also phone your midwife, doctor or hospital immediately.
  • Backache and strong, regular contractions. 
  • Diarrhoea, especially if accompanied by contractions.

You should be visiting the doctor weekly at this stage, and during your appointments, your doctor will be checking your stomach to look at your baby’s growth and development. If you don’t go into labour on your own, your labour will usually be induced between one and two weeks overdue, or even sooner if they deem the risk of waiting greater than the risk of delivering your baby immediately. 

While you’re waiting, keep paying attention to your baby’s movements and let your doctor or midwife know immediately if they seem to decrease, as the baby should remain active right until the birth, and any noticeable slowing down of movement could signal a problem.

Common symptoms to look out for:

  • Water breaking: One of the best known signals that labour is near, your water breaks when the amniotic sac breaks and fluid gushes out. But unlike the movies, most women are already in labour and in hospital when their water breaks. If you think your water has broken early, call your doctor right away, even if it’s only a trickle. 
  • Haemorrhoids: While you may have experienced this earlier on in your pregnancy, the piles may be less painful now as you may be experiencing diarrhoea and therefore there’s less strain on your bowels (hey, we never said pregnancy was glamorous!). Make sure you have a good supply of the medicine that brought you relief last time, as many women experience aggravated haemorrhoids after pushing during labour. 
  • Heartburn: Nearly half of pregnant women experience heartburn, and it may be particularly acute now thanks to pregnancy hormones. Try to drink before and after meals rather than during meals, as too much fluid and food together will aggravate heartburn, and if you can, try to have six small meals a day rather than the traditional larger breakfast, lunch and dinner. 

What to do this week:

Though it might be a terrifying thought, it’s time to start understanding what happens at each stage of labour to prepare yourself for the big day. In a nutshell, these are the three stages of labour:

  1. Stage one is the lengthiest part. You’ll experience the contractions to open up and dilate your cervix. It can take between six and 12 hours for a first pregnancy.
  2. When your cervix is fully dilated (around 10 centimetres), then you’re in stage two. During this phase you’ll be helping push the baby through your vagina with your contractions.
  3. Congratulations! By stage three, your baby will be safely in your arms. The only thing left for your body to do is for your womb to contract and push the placenta out.

Take me back to week 38

Take me to week 40

Read next: The essential hospital bag checklist: 

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