Your baby is still about 14 inches long from head to bottom (21 inches from head to toe) and probably weighs a bit less than 7 pounds. She's completely ready for life on the outside at week 38. Her lungs are strong (as you'll soon hear for yourself) and her digestive system is fully mature. She's essentially ready to be born!
She's even collecting the material to fill her first diaper. Her intestines are lined with meconium, a thick, greenish substance made of lanugo (fetal hair), skin cells, and other waste products. And, yes, you will soon find this sort of thing interesting.
Her current home is getting more cramped and less inviting every day. Not only is she getting bigger, her space is getting smaller. By now, she has probably dropped down into the top of the birth canal. Her face is scrunched up and her arms are pinned to her sides.
With your baby in position, labor could start at any time. From your perspective, it probably can't start soon enough. But you should know that not every contraction is the real thing. If your contractions last for less than 45 seconds and don't seem to be following a pattern, you're probably experiencing "false labor."
Real labor contractions come close together at regular intervals and gradually increase in intensity. And while the pain of false labor may be focused in one part of your body, the sensation of true labor spreads through your entire uterus and into your pelvis and is usually very painful.
At this point, labor shouldn't be a surprise. You should already have your bags packed and your plans in place. By now, if you're not giving birth at home, you should have reviewed your birth plan with your doctor or midwife and taken a tour of the hospital or birth center where you'll deliver the baby.
When you start feeling regular contractions that are five to 10 minutes apart for about an hour, it's time to put those plans into action and make your way to the hospital. (You may want to leave earlier if it takes a long time to get to there.)
While you're on your way to the hospital, take a deep breath at the beginning of each contraction, exhale slowly, and then breath deeply again when the contraction ends. This doesn't always do that much for the pain, but it can help you relax and stay focused for the job ahead.
American Academy of Family Physicians. Pregnancy Calendar.
Campbell, Stuart, MD. Watch Me Grow. St. Martins Griffin.
Curtis, Glade, MD. Your Pregnancy Week by Week, 5th edition. Da Capo Press.
Shanahan, Kelly. Your Over-35 Week-by-Week Pregnancy Guide. Prima Publishing.