Infants born between 37 and 42 weeks of pregnancy are delivered full-term. With a normal pregnancy lasting 38 to 42 weeks from conception, if your baby is born at week 38, your chances for a routine delivery are good as there is little risk of medical complications.
Get to know the signs of labor. While you have no way to predict exactly when you might go into labor, as you approach your due date, your body starts preparing to give birth. You may begin to feel less pressure on your diaphragm as your baby’s head descends lower into your pelvis. Even though you may be able to breather easier, the downside is that you may have to make more trips to the bathroom. Frequent urination in the latter months of pregnancy is common as the uterus enlarges and puts pressure on the bladder.
Pay attention to any contractions. You may think you are going into the early stages of labor when in reality you are probably experiencing false contractions. False contractions usually stop if you walk or change positions. Although they may be irregular at first, true labor contractions persist and eventually come at regular and shorter intervals. Lamaze International points to the benefits of allowing labor to start on its own, when the baby is fully developed and ready to be born.
Monitor your baby’s movements more closely, especially if Braxton Hicks contractions become more frequent and intense. This is normally a sign that your cervix is dilating. The pain you feel may be similar to that of having menstrual cramps. Braxton Hicks contractions during the final weeks of pregnancy essentially help the cervix to soften. Once the cervix is dilated to four centimeters, you are considered to be in the active stage of labor. However, delivery could still be days or even weeks away.
Remain calm if you have a bloody show. You may notice an increase in vaginal discharge that can have streaks of pinkish or brownish blood. This could mean that you are passing a plug of thickened mucus, which blocks the cervical canal leading to the uterus. When this happens, the onset of labor generally occurs within a few days. However, obstetricians point out that a vaginal exam can also cause a blood-tinged discharge.
Call your doctor to let him know you are on your way to the hospital. When your water breaks, regular contractions normally begin. Once the membrane ruptures, some women experience a sudden gush of amniotic fluid while others may only have a trickle. In either case, this is a sign that labor will begin soon.
- Contact your physician without delay if you begin to run a fever, have vaginal bleeding or experience constant pain.