By Chris Woolston
At week 39, your baby is likely to be a bit over 14 inches long from head to rump (a little more than 21 inches from head to toe) and probably now weighs slightly more than 7 pounds.
He's a fully developed baby just waiting for the right moment to come out. He's already lost most of his fetal trademarks, including the vernix (waxy coating) and lanugo (fine hairs) that once covered his body. And even though space is at a premium, he continues to put on weight. He'll gain about half a pound in the next week -- unless he decides to find new accommodations.
Even if this isn't your first child, labor can hold some surprises. There's no way to know if it will be long and painful or quick and (relatively) easy. There's also no guarantee that everything will go according to your plans. If you're hoping for natural childbirth, you may still end up asking for pain medication when the serious contractions hit. And if you're hoping for a vaginal delivery, you may still need a cesarean section if you or your baby end up in distress.
Some c-sections are scheduled far in advance, but it's usually an on-the-spot decision. Your doctor may order the surgery if your labor isn't moving along quickly enough, if monitors show that your baby's in distress, if the umbilical cord is pinched or compressed, or if your baby is in an odd position.
American Academy of Family Physicians. Pregnancy Calendar. 2010.
Campbell, Stuart, MD. Watch Me Grow. St. Martins Griffin.
Curtis, Glade, MD. Your Pregnancy Week by Week, 5th edition. Da Capo Press.
Mayo Clinic. Caesarean delivery: When is it the best option? January 2009.
March of Dimes. What you need to know about C-sections. 2008. http://www.marchofdimes.com/pnhec/240_1031.asp
Last Updated: March 11, 2013
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