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Pregnancy Series

Up to 40 weeks

It can be difficult to calculate the exact date of conception, although most women have their fertile period about 14 days after the first day of their last menstrual period. Because of this doctors set an artificial, but convenient timescale of 40 weeks, calculated from your LMP, although a fetus actually reaches “full term”, meaning it is fully developed, after about 38 weeks.

Your baby’s progress
During this month your baby will usually shed almost all of the fine hair from his body. There may be some small patches left in odd places and perhaps some in his body creases.
His skin is smooth and soft and there is still some vernix caseosa left on it (mostly on his back), which will help his passage down the birth canal. He will be almost chubby prior to birth. His fingernails are long and may have scratched his face; they will need shortening after birth. His eyes are blue, although they may change in the weeks after birth; when he is awake they are open.
In these last weeks, your baby produces increasing amounts of a hormone called cortisone from his adrenal glands. This helps his lungs to mature in readiness for his first breath.  

Meconium
His intestine is filled with a dark green, almost black, substance (meconium). It is a mixture of the secretions from his alimentary glands together with lanugo, pigment and cells from the wall of his bowel. It will be the first motion he will pass after birth, but he may pass it during delivery.

Immune system
His own system is still immature, so to make up for this he receives antibodies from you via the placenta, which will protect him against anything that you have antibodies for, such as flu, mumps and German measles. After he is born, he will continue to receive antibodies from you via your breast milk.

The baby’s support system
The placenta now measures 20-25 centimetres (8-10) inches in diameter and is three centimetres thick, thus creating a wide area for the exchange of nourishment and waste products between yourself and your baby. There is now more than one litre of water in the amniotic sac.
The hormones produced by the placenta are stimulating your breasts to swell and fill with milk. This also causes swelling in your baby’s breast, whether it is a boy or girl. This will recede after birth. If your baby is a girl, the cessation of these hormones following delivery may cause her to have a light bleeding from her vagina (like a period) a few days after her birth.

Your Baby
Your baby prepares to be born; his lungs mature and the last of his brown fat is laid down.
Reproductive Organs
The tests of most boy babies will have descended by now. In a girl baby, the ovaries are still above the pelvic brim and do not reach their final position until after birth.

Movements
Although his movements will be a fraction of what they were earlier, you should still be able to feel him kick.

Baby’s Vital Statistics
By the end of this month, the crown to rump length will be about 35-37 cm (14-15in), and she will weigh about 3-4kg (6-8lb).

Your Baby at Term
The baby’s body is plump and round. By the last week of pregnancy, he only just fits inside your uterus and has to curl up very tightly. The baby is fully formed and has working organs; your baby waits to be born.

Mother
You will be seeing your doctor every week now. He or she will be checking that everything is going well.

Engagement
In most first-time mothers, the baby’s head drops down into the pelvis at about36 weeks. You will feel more comfortable and breathing will become easier. It is normal for the baby’s head not to engage until later; sometimes not until labour has started.

Posture
You may tend to make up for extra weight at the front by leaning backwards. This throws your head back so that your line of vision is different from usual. Your centre of gravity has altered, so you may bump into things or drop them.                     

Sleeping and Resting
It may be more and more difficult for you to get a good night’s sleep as your large abdomen makes finding a comfortable position difficult. However, rest as much as possible, with your feet up if you can.

Nesting Instinct
This usually occurs during pre-labour, this often seems to manifest itself in an urge to clean the cooker! Try to resist it – you’ll need all of your energy for giving birth. 

Only 5% of babies are delivered on their due dates, the rest are delivered two weeks prior or after the EDD (Expected Delivery Date).

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