Pregnancy Calendar: 37 Weeks Pregnant

How big is baby? Baby now weighs a little over 6 pounds (2.8 kg) and measures about 19 inches (48 cm) from head to toe. This is about the size of a bunch of swiss chard.

What’s new this week? Prepare yourself for a cervical exam. It may be a bit painful, but it can tell your physician a lot about the state of your pregnancy.

What’s next? Have you chosen a pediatrician yet? If not, it’s time to investigate. Make sure you are comfortable with your choice before baby arrives.

Baby is so close to being in your arms! Your next doctor’s visit may give you some clue as to how soon he or she may make a grand entrance. And if you haven’t already, start considering who will provide care to your baby once they’re here. Below are some helpful guidelines for choosing a pediatrician.

What’s happening with my baby?

Baby is happy to stay put for at least another two weeks, giving the lungs and brain time to fully develop. (However, if baby were to be born now, he or she would likely be perfectly fine, barring any other health issues.) If your medical care team has already determined you will deliver via Cesarean, this will not be scheduled until at least 39 weeks of gestation, unless there is another medical reason to deliver baby sooner.

Pelvic Exam

At your next prenatal doctor visit, your physician may perform a pelvic exam to better understand how your pregnancy is progressing. He or she is looking for the answer to several questions, including:

  • Are you leaking amniotic fluid? If you believe you might be, let your doctor know.
  • Has your cervix effaced (thinned and softened) or dilated? You may be dilated a small amount for days (or even weeks) before labor begins.
  • What is the presenting part of the baby? Your physician will want to know what’s coming first: head, feet or bottom.
  • What is the baby’s station? This refers to how low the baby has descended into the birth canal.

Your healthcare provider may speak using medical jargon, such as “1cm, 50% and -1 station.” This means you are 1 cm dilated, your cervix is about halfway thinned, and baby’s presenting part is still above the birth canal. (A +1 station would mean baby is lower, and the presenting part has passed into the birth canal.)

You may want to write down these numbers so you can share them when you register at the hospital. This will help the medical care team know how much your situation has changed since your last checkup.

Cesarean Delivery

Today, about one-third of all births are via Cesarean (or C-section) delivery. This increase (only about 4 percent were via Cesarean in 1965) sometimes gets a bad rap, but really is due to safer procedures and better fetal monitoring.

Cesarean may end up being the safest way to deliver your baby. As you labor, your medical team will monitor your baby’s heartbeat. If it signals distress, your physician may choose to perform a C-section. Other reasons may include having had a previous Cesarean delivery, preeclampsia, a compressed umbilical cord or active herpes. Placental abruption, placenta previa or a baby in breech position are all conditions that may also require a C-section.

If baby is too big to fit through the birth canal (called cephalo-pelvic disproportion or CPD), a C-section may be recommended, especially if the baby is estimated to be more than 9.5 pounds. However, your physician may not know baby is too big until labor has begun.

If it is concluded that you will need a Cesarean delivery, you will receive pain medication, most often spinal anesthesia. Your physician will make a 5 to 6 inch above your pubic bone down to the uterus. Through this incision, the doctor can reach in and pull out the baby. While you are numb from pain, you may still feel discomfort as your baby is removed and your organs are moved throughout the abdominal cavity. You may also feel pressure under your rib cage as baby is removed.

Each layer of muscle and skin is sewn up using stitches that can be absorbed by the body. From start to finish, a C-section lasts less than an hour. If you were awake through surgery, you may be able to meet your baby immediately after delivery! You may even be able to breastfeed him or her.

Cesarean deliveries are considered major surgeries, and they carry all the risks of a surgery. They also require longer recovery time than a vaginal birth. Expect to be in the hospital for 2 to 4 days and spend time recovering at home for 4 to 6 weeks. You will not be able to drive for two weeks or pick up anything heavy, so ask for help. You deserve it!

Tip: Many women who have a C-section often experience feelings of guilt or like “they didn’t really give birth.” Acknowledge these feelings, but know there is no truth to them. This was not a failure—you carried your baby for many months and delivered a happy, healthy baby.

Preparing Pets for Baby

Adding a baby to the family will be a big adjustment for your pet, too. Help pets prepare for baby as early as possible. Here are a few tips:

  • Create a special baby-free zone for your pet. Place a food bowl, a water bowl, toys and blankets somewhere baby won’t be able to bother your pet, and allow him or her to begin getting comfortable there.
  • Start getting your pet used to little hands touching them in areas they may not be used to. At least once a day, pet your dog or cat between paw pads; in the ears; on the belly, face and tail. For dogs, you may want to get them used to being touched inside the mouth, too. Do this during meal or play time so your pet associates these touch sessions with happy events.
  • Ask your partner or a family member to take a blanket or hat your baby has worn at the hospital home to let your pet sniff. This way, your pet will know baby’s scent before he or she arrives.

If you are worried your pet will not be gentle with baby, enlist the help of a professional trainer. Most dogs can become great family pets with consistent training.

Choosing a Pediatrician

At the hospital, you may be asked who your pediatrician will be. If your current physician is a family practitioner, you may want him or her to continue seeing your baby. Otherwise, you will need to choose a pediatrician or family practitioner for your new baby. Babies need care immediately and within three days after birth, so it is good to get this decision made now.

You may want to ask your obstetrician for recommendations within the same health system. Otherwise, you can ask other parents who they see if you’d like. Look up your top choices online, and search specifically for qualifications and training, hospital affiliations and if they are board certified. Based on this information, you can narrow down your choice to one doctor.

Don’t be afraid to ask to meet your choice in person before baby is born. Most physicians will welcome this, as it gives them a chance to know you, as well. Bring a list of questions to this appointment. Some questions to guide the conversation include:

  • Will you perform the newborn exam?
  • Will you perform a circumcision if I have a boy and choose to do so?
  • What is your office schedule and availability for phone calls? What about after hours?
  • Can we get same-day appointments if my baby is acutely ill?
  • Who else works in your office and may see my baby?
  • Do you offer preventative, developmental and behavioral support?
  • Can you support my breastfeeding efforts should I need help?
  • Do you accept our insurance?
  • What ER do you recommend?

Following your visit, determine if your doctor’s philosophies align with yours and your partner’s and if you felt he or she was genuinely interested in your questions and concerns. Take note of the office: Was it clean? Did you feel comfortable there? Was the staff friendly and helpful?

This person will have a big effect on your baby’s first years. Choose someone you trust and feel comfortable with. And if issues arise, don’t hesitate to ask to see another physician. Your baby is your first priority.

Tip: Don’t forget to install baby’s car seat if you haven’t already! You will need it to bring baby home from the hospital.