Pregnancy Week by Week – Week 40

Preparing for Labor and Birth

If you are in your 40th week of pregnancy, you may be experiencing preliminary signs of labor such as a lingering backache and frequent Braxton-Hicks contractions.

You are finally reaching your due date this week! Congratulations on your healthy pregnancy. You might be noticing some changes as your body prepares to go into labor. Perhaps you are wondering if the contractions you are getting are still Braxton-Hixk contractions or true labor contractions. Find out more about Week 40 of pregnancy.

What is happening with Your Baby?

Your baby is now full-term and may be as much as 8 pounds (3600 grams) in weight or as long as 19 inches in length (or about 48 cm.) If your baby is born this week, he will have very little vernix, the white, cheesy coating on his skin, left on his body.

You may only notice vernix in the creases or folds of his skin at this point during pregnancy. The only remaining lanugo (fine body hair) left will be on her shoulders and upper body by Week 40.

Your baby will also have a strong sucking reflex as you reach your due date, so that she will be ready to nurse only moments after she is born.

What is happening with You?

Your body is in its final preparation for labor. You may notice that some of the possible signs of labor are starting including frequent Braxton-Hicks contractions, loose bowel movements and lingering back pain. Remember that the only two signs of labor are your water breaking or progressing contractions.

Have you lost your mucous plug? This is the egg-whitish like mucous that protects the uterus during pregnancy. As your cervix begins to soften, efface and dilate, you will lose this plug. It is not a definite sign of labor however, since your cervix will simply make more mucous if you do not go into labor.

If your water breaks this week, you should contact your care provider. She may want to admit you to your place of birth fairly soon after your water has broken if you have tested positive for Group B Strep. Or if you are negative for GBS, you may be able to stay at home until labor contractions begin.

In most cases, you can go to your place of birth when your contractions are about 3-5 minutes apart, lasting for one minute for at least 1 hour or more. The contractions should be intense so that you are unable to talk much even in between contractions when you go to the hospital or birth center.

To Do List:

1. Pack your hospital labor bag.

2. Identify possible signs of labor.

3. Identify definite signs of labor.

4. Time contractions if labor starts this week.

Check out Week 41-42 if you are past your due date.