pregnancy at week 39

The size of a baby at 39 weeks is similar to a small watermelon. They are approximately 50.5cm from the top of their head to their heel (crown-heel length). Curled up, they are 35.4cm from the top of their head to their buttocks (crown-rump length). They weigh roughly 3.2 to 3.6kg. 

pregnancy week 39 fetus size and length compared to fruit

At 39 weeks, gestation is considered full term. The end of pregnancy and the beginning of a new life is near! 

Your baby at 39 weeks

During the last week of pregnancy, your baby has reached more or less what their birth weight will be. Their organs are fully formed and mature enough to work properly outside of the womb. That doesn’t make the final days (or possibly weeks) of pregnancy any less important though. 

Here are the key developments and updates of your 39 weeks fetus. 

First poo

Did you know that there’s a word for your newborn’s first poo? It’s known as meconium and it’s a thick, dark green substance. It lines their intestines prior to birth and will be released into their diaper in the hours and days after they are born. 

Some baby’s release this faecal matter into the amniotic fluid just before birth. If this happens, your baby should be fine. However, they will be monitored closely for complications just in case. 

Tear ducts

Your little one will likely make their tiny voice heard often in the form of crying. You won’t see tears right away, though. Their tear ducts won’t fully open until about one month after birth. 

Male genitalia   

If you’re having a boy, they might be born with testicles that seem proportionately large to their body. This is caused by water retention and hormones. Don’t worry, they will reach an appropriate size soon after birth. 

Your body at 39 weeks pregnant 

pregnant belly at week 39
Image from Heather Mount on Unsplash

Being pregnant at 39 weeks is a huge accomplishment. Your baby is considered full-term, which means they are less likely to experience complications after birth. You may be feeling the same symptoms you’ve been dealing with for the past few weeks. 

Some new, very important symptoms might also pop up that signal labour is near. Here are the things to look out for this week. 

  • Losing your mucus plug. As your cervix opens in preparation for labour, your mucus plug will fall out. You may lose it all at once, or it may be a more gradual process that you don’t even notice. 

For some women, this is a sign that labour is hours away. But for others, it could be another few days or even weeks before childbirth starts. 

  • Bloody show. If your vaginal discharge is tinged with a pink or brownish colour, you may be experiencing your bloody show. This is caused by your cervix dilating and usually means labour is imminent. 
  • Water breaking. One of the most common signs that labour is near is having your water break. This is caused by your baby’s head putting pressure on the amniotic sac, causing it to pop. It may produce a gush of fluid or just a steady trickle. 

If you’re not already experiencing contractions when your water breaks, they should follow within 12 to 24 hours. 

  • Diarrhoea. Another way your body naturally preps itself for labour is by releasing stool.  Emptying your bowels is thought to allow the uterus to work more efficiently. 
  • Back pain. At this stage in late pregnancy, your back pain could be worse than ever. Although this might just be caused by your large baby bump, it could also be an early sign of labour. If your backaches are accompanied by cramps, make sure to check in with your health care practitioner right away. 

Taking care of yourself during week 39 of pregnancy

hospital snacks for when you are in hospital and have a baby
Image from Annelies Brouw on Pexels

The lead up to giving birth can bring about a whole host of emotions. You might be feeling excited, anxious, worried – or all three! To help you feel more prepared, and hopefully less stressed, here are some things to focus on this week.  

  • Think about hospital snacks. Don’t forget to pack some snacks in your hospital bag. Labour is a tough ordeal, and you don’t know how long you’ll be in it for. Nutritious foods that give you energy are your best bet. Here are some ideas for easy to eat snack items:
    – Granola/breakfast bars
    – Fresh fruit, like apples, pears, grapes, and bananas
    – Dried fruit, like mango, raisins, and banana chips
    – Crackers
    – Rice cakes
    – Trail mix
  • Buy nursing bras. If you’re planning to breastfeed your baby, nursing bras will make your life a lot easier. They’re different from regular bras in that they have special panels and clasps that allow easy access to your nipples. 

A good nursing bra should fit comfortably. You don’t want it too tight, as this can cause issues with your milk supply and flow. 

  • Stay active. Getting up and moving around might be the last thing you want to do at 39 weeks pregnant. However, staying active is very beneficial for both you and baby. 

Although it hasn’t been medically proven, walking is thought to help bring on labour. It aids gravity in pushing your baby’s head further down your pelvis and onto your cervix. It’s this pressure that can help start dilation. 

Swimming is another great activity to enjoy late in pregnancy. It’s gentle on your body and will help take the pressure off of your joints. 

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