Pregnancy Calendar: 39 Weeks Pregnant

How big is baby? Baby is nearing his or her final birthweight, and is probably about the size of a mini watermelon this week. Average size is about 7 pounds (3.2 kg) and 20 inches (51 cm) long. Boys often weigh a bit more than girls at birth.

What’s new this week? It may seem like your list of decisions never ends! It is time to consider cord blood banking and pain management options for labor if you have not already.

What’s next? If you will breastfeed baby, you may want to do some research on methods, best practices and sanity-saving tips over the next week or two.

Your baby’s birth is quickly approaching! Take some time to truly savor the feeling of your little one kicking in your belly. It is a surreal feeling that only happens for a limited amount of time during your life. Also this week, it is time to consider your pain relief options during labor and delivery, as well as your options for banking your baby’s cord blood for future use.

What’s happening with my baby?

This week, your baby is considered full-term! While his or her level of maturity is suitable for the outside world, he or she may choose to stay put for a little while longer. Fat is still forming under the skin—this helps regulate body temperature—and skin cells meant for life in amniotic fluid are shedding to help new ones form that will be more suitable for open air.

Nuchal Cord

A scary term you may hear during pregnancy or delivery is “nuchal cord.” Nuchal cord refers to the umbilical cord being wrapped around baby’s neck. While this is obviously a scary thing to learn, and complications can certainly occur, it is important to note that most cases of nuchal cord resolve themselves with no danger to the baby.

Umbilical cords are protected by gelatinous filling referred to as “Wharton’s jelly.” This keeps the cord from compressing to any extremes.

If nuchal cord is detected, your medical care team will monitor baby during delivery. Should your baby’s heart rate start decreasing (very rare), your physician may encourage you to try different laboring positions or may perform an emergency c-section. Again, this condition is a common occurrence and many babies are born naturally with no issues. If you have any concerns, speak with your doctor or midwife.


Throughout pregnancy, your breasts are preparing to feed your baby—their increase in size is in-part due to milk ducts forming. If you plan to breastfeed your baby, it is an extreme undertaking (that is hugely beneficial to your little one!), so preparing yourself as much as possible before baby arrives is in your best interest. Here are a few resources to consider:

Additionally, you will want to invest in some gear to ensure your breastfeeding success, including: nursing bras, nursing camisoles, a nursing pillow (Boppy is a good example), breast pads for leaks and a breast pump (should be free through insurance).

Myth: The size of your breasts will dictate how much milk you produce. Reality: Breast size has nothing to do with your the amount of milk you produce or your ability to nurse successfully.

Medical Pain Relief Options for Labor

Today, there are two main options when it comes to medical pain relief during labor:

Opiates: These narcotics are usually the first step to medical pain relief. They are given in small doses in hopes of relieving the pain of contractions without potential side effects for mom or baby. Opiates can pass through the placenta to baby, which can affect the central nervous and respiratory systems. This can be reversed using the medication naloxone. The most common opiates are: Morphine, Stadol, Fentanyl, Nubain and Demerol. There are pros and cons to each, so if you choose to try this form of pain management, discuss which may be best for you with your medical care team.

Epidural anesthesia: This is an anesthetic injected directly into the spine. It is done this way so it bypasses the bloodstream and limits baby’s contact. It can be used for both vaginal and Cesarean deliveries. More than half of women who give birth vaginally choose to have an epidural. If you are interested in having an epidural, ask your physician when it will need to be administered. Once it is, a catheter will also be inserted, as you lose lower body sensation and will not know when you need to urinate. This numbness will also allow your uterus to contract without much pain.

There are other forms of pain management depending on your specific situation. Should your labor or delivery call for anything additional, your physician will discuss your options, as well as their delivery method, side effects and effects on baby.

Labor and delivery is a painful experience, so don’t hesitate to ask for the help you need. And don’t feel that you have failed if you need a little help. Your No. 1 goal is bring a healthy baby into this world, and a little pain management can help you do just that.

Cord Blood Banking

One decision you may not feel prepared to make is whether or not to store your baby’s cord blood for future use. Cord blood banking is the practice of gathering the blood left in your newborn baby’s umbilical cord and placenta and storing it for future medical needs.

The cells contained in this blood are known as stem cells and are valuable since they can produce other kinds of cells and indefinitely more cells of the same type. These types of cells have been known to cure a variety of blood and bone marrow diseases, blood cancers and immune disorders.

Currently, there are two options for banking cord blood:

  • You can donate to a public cord blood bank for anyone who needs it—your hospital team may ask if you would like to do this.
  • You can store it in a private cord blood bank for your family’s use. This option can be costly and is not guaranteed, and should be arranged beforehand.

If you would like to know more about cord blood banking for your baby, don’t hesitate to ask your medical care team. There is no right answer, so make the decision that is best for your family.