Pregnancy Calendar: 40 Weeks Pregnant
How big is baby? While each baby is unique, the average size of newborns is about 7.5 pounds (3.4 kg) and 20 inches (50.8 cm) long.
What’s new this week? Take some time to further bond with your labor coach, as he or she will be a huge help to you during labor and delivery.
What’s next? Recovering from birth is often a difficult time in any woman’s life, both mentally and physically. Think of it as a marathon, not a sprint, and don’t expect too much of yourself those first few weeks. Focus on caring for your newborn baby and loving your new-mommy self.
You’ve reached the final week of pregnancy. Congratulations, mama! You will get to meet your precious little one in just a matter of days. As you countdown the days (OK, minutes) until labor begins, consider the importance of your labor coach as well as how you can help your body recover following delivery.
What’s happening with my baby?
Baby is technically ready to enter the world, although many first-time moms go past their due dates. While you are likely uncomfortable and antsy to meet baby, try to savor these last few days with your little one in your belly.
Baby’s skull bones are not yet fully fused, which help baby move down the birth canal and through the cervix more easily. This may lead to a bit of a cone-shaped head for a few days after birth, but it should round out in no time.
Your Labor Coach
Choosing a labor coach is an important part of your laboring success. Whether it is your partner, your mom or another family member, make sure you are extremely comfortable with this person. His or her role is paramount in helping you relax during labor and push during delivery.
Ask your labor coach to join you during birthing classes or while you research labor and delivery online. He or she should know what to expect during all phases of the process. They should also be a positive, supporting force during your experience.
Allow yourself to rely on your labor coach. Research supports that when you feel safe and comfortable during labor, the pain of contractions can be decreased and eased. Follow along as they guide you through breathing exercises.
Additionally, your labor coach may be called upon to make decisions should you become incapacitated. Make sure your chosen person knows your wishes and has a copy of your birthing plan.
Once baby is delivered, he or she will be assigned an Apgar score. An Apgar test is performed within 1 minute of birth and again about 5 minutes later. It is used to better understand how well baby tolerated delivery and how well he or she is doing outside the womb.
A medical care professional will assess baby’s breathing effort, heart rate, muscle tone, reflexes and skin color at both the 1- and 5-minute mark.
Each category receives a 0, 1 or 2 based on the perceived condition. For example, if baby is not breathing, the score is 0. If breathing is slow and/or irregular, baby will be given a 1. If baby is crying and breathing is normal, baby will score a 2 in this category.
These scores are added for a final test score between 0 to 10. The higher the score, the healthier the baby appears. A score of 7 or higher is a sign of good health. A perfect score is highly unusual as most newborns’ limbs are still blue.
A score of 0 to 6 means baby needs medical attention. Most often a low score is caused by a difficult birth, Cesarean delivery or fluid in the lungs. After baby’s airway is cleared, he or she receives some oxygen and the heart has a chance to start beating regularly, the 5-minute test score usually improves.
It is important to understand a low Apgar score does not mean your child will have lifelong medical issues. The test is meant to understand immediate needs, not determine the future health of your child.
What to Expect After Birth
Your body has changed a lot over the past 9+ months. Keep in mind it will take a while for your body (and mind) to recover from giving birth. Most women may feel back to normal in just six weeks while others report not feeling 100 percent back to normal for an entire year. Both situations are normal, so try not to be too hard on yourself.
Immediately following birth, you will begin losing weight. Your baby accounted for about 6 to 8 pounds (2.7 to 3.6 kg) of your weight gain. Plus the placenta and amniotic fluid have been removed and weight lost. You can expect to leave the hospital 10 to 12 pounds (4.5 to 5.4 kg) lighter than when you arrived. It will take several more months for your body to return to its pre-pregnancy state. Strenuous exercise is not encouraged until after 6 weeks postpartum, but ask your healthcare provider when you are cleared to be safe.
Expect to continue bleeding for several weeks (up to six) following delivery. This bloody discharge is called lochia and is the lining of your uterus exiting the body. It will begin as bright red fluid then lighten in color before becoming yellow or white before stopping completely. Additionally, you may or may not get your period while you breastfeed, so talk to your doctor about birth control methods once you are cleared for sexual intercourse.
Finally, your hormones can still cause emotional swings postpartum. In fact, many moms experience “baby blues” as their hormone levels regulate. You may become sad, anxious or have trouble bonding with baby. Your appetite and sleep patterns may also be affected. This should pass in about two weeks. If it continues longer than two weeks, reach out to your medical care provider, as you might be experiencing postpartum depression.
Additionally, you should call your doctor if you pass blood clots larger than a golf ball, suspect an infection (fever, pain or foul-smelling discharge) or bright red bleeding that occurs more than four days following birth.
To help your body recover more quickly, make sure you are getting plenty of rest. Yes, this can be difficult with a newborn, but enlist the help of your partner, family members or friends so you can get a few hours of sleep at a time. Be mindful of your diet since your body needs proper nutrients to repair itself. And drink plenty of water—especially if you are breastfeeding!
You have produced a miracle! Baby is here and now the real journey begins. Enjoy every moment as your baby continues to grow and learn. You’ve got the rest of your life to love your baby more each and every day!