What's happening in week 40 of your pregnancy
Week 40 and beyond – time to get things moving!
At a glance
- Your baby is now more than ready to be delivered
- Your midwife will discuss your options for induction with you
- Your pregnancy may be over but you are just beginning your amazing journey with your baby
How big is my baby at 40 weeks?
Once you are at week 40, your baby is more than ready to be delivered, and you are no doubt more than ready to meet them! They’re likely to be around 50cm now and weighing between 6 and 8lbs which is a healthy weight.
Your baby’s vision at birth will have developed enough to see around 2.5cm so they won’t be able to see much of your face at birth, they will however be able to recognise the sound of your voice and your partner’s if you’ve been talking to them over the last few weeks of pregnancy.
If your due date has passed, your midwife will be keeping a close eye on you both, and in some cases may offer you an ultrasound scan to check on the well-being of your baby and your placenta (which could start to deteriorate if you go too overdue).
You midwife will also be regularly monitoring your unborn baby's movement and heartbeat, and will suggest an induction if there are any concerns.
Facts to know about your baby in week 40
- Only five per cent of babies are born on their due date (so don't count on it!)
- The skull bones are not yet fused, which allows them to overlap a bit if it's a snug fit through the birth canal during labour.
You at 40 weeks pregnant
You may be offered a date for an induction, once your 7-14 days past your due date. Make sure you understand why you’re being offered an induction and you can still use self-help techniques meanwhile. Whilst, there’s is no scientific research to back these up some mums try:
- Massage; relaxing can help labour begin
- Sex; even if it doesn’t work, it could be fun trying!
- Nipple stimulation; although it does have to be done for several hours!
- Acupuncture or reflexology, but make sure you see a qualified practitioner.
Medically, there are several ways to induce labour:
Your midwife or doctor does an internal examination to sweep their finger around the cervix to loosen the membranes and release the natural prostaglandins. These are hormones that help to start labour by encouraging the cervix to soften and shorten - allowing it to open and contractions to begin.
Prostaglandins given as a tablet or gel inserted into your vagina can also be given to help start labour. They may take a few days to get labour going.
You midwife can break your waters to help release the natural prostaglandins that start labour off.
If Prostaglandins or breaking your waters doesn’t work you may be given oxytocin through a drip. This is a synthetic form of the hormone that your body produces to naturally start labour off. You will be monitored continuously with an electric fetal monitor. Talk to your midwife about how you can move around and change position even if you have a drip. Many women find induced labour (particularly with a drip) more painful and you might choose to have an epidural for pain relief so keep an open mind.
Facts to know about you in week 40
- As pregnancy progresses, a woman breathes less deeply, until lightening occurs (when baby drops into the pelvis) in the last days of her pregnancy.
- An epidural is the gold standard of pain relief but can increase the length of labour.
- The most popular day to give birth on is Tuesday!
- Your placenta will trigger the hormones that signal the start of milk production.
What to think about in week 40
What else could there be to think about this week other than meeting and cuddling up with your new baby. You and your newborn have been on quite a journey over the past 40 weeks, and this is only the beginning!
Make the most of every precious moment, and enjoy those wonderful 'getting to know you' days with your baby son or daughter!
If you’ve made it to week 40, there’s no doubt you will be feeling more and more ready and impatient for your little one to make an appearance in the world. And it’s no wonder. You have your due date in your mind and as much as you are told it is an estimation, you can’t help getting wedded to the date and when you go past it you can start to feel fed up!
You may well be getting sick of hearing everyone’s advice by this point too. People mean well but sometimes you get advice that just isn’t helpful. Or – TMI! Every pregnancy and birth is different - just because your friend had a 4 day labour does not mean that you will! Take a lot of it with a smile and a pinch of salt.
`Now that there’s a good chance you’ll go overdue you may be wondering if you will end up needing an assisted delivery. Not necessarily.
The words 'assisted delivery' aren't words mums really want to hear, especially if you had your heart set on a natural and 'hands off' approach to birth. However, if your baby is in an awkward position, showing signs of distress or if you have been labouring for hours and are becoming too tired to push effectively, your doctors might decide that using forceps (curved metal tongs) or ventouse (a vacuum cap that attaches to baby's head) is the best course of action to deliver your baby swiftly and safely.
If these are used you will push whilst the obstetrician or midwife gently pulls. You may need an episiotomy and your baby could have marks from the equipment but these fade over the first few days.
A small tear might not need stitches but a larger tear or cut could. The area is numbed with an injection or if you have an epidural in place, it will be topped up. Stitches are dissolvable and don’t usually need to be removed, but do keep the area clean, bathe stitches every day and gently pat dry with soft tissues. You probably won't have a poo for a few days after the birth, but it's important not to let yourself get constipated. Eat plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables, salad, wholegrain cereals and wholemeal bread, and drink plenty of water. It might feel better if you hold a sanitary pad over the stitches when pooing. Try not to strain and if it stings when you wee, poor a cup of warm water over the stitches as you go.
Do make sure you tell your midwife if:
- you're finding it really difficult to pee
- you feel very sore
- you notice any oozing or an unpleasant smell – if there’s an infection, you might need antibiotics
Signs and symptoms at 40 weeks pregnant
By now you may be having real contractions not Braxton Hicks. This means you are in the first stage of labour and the contractions may be as much as 20 minutes apart as your cervix is beginning to open and widen to around 3cm. They might not be very noticeable, feeling like mild cramps or menstrual pains. It’s likely you’ll be able to function well through them without too much discomfort and may even find you can continue with your normal routine for now.
This late in your pregnancy you may be really struggling to sleep, with so much going on in your mind about what is to come. Other factors that may be keeping you awake include your body preparing for sleepless nights as well as how uncomfortable you may be this late in your pregnancy and finding it virtually impossible to get comfortable. There are some tips that can help you get a more restful sleep.
Watch our videos below:
Video 1: When would I be induced and what's involved? (NHS content)
Video 2: Bonding with a newborn
Video 3: How to position your sleeping baby
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