Most women go into labour naturally by the time they’re 42 weeks pregnant.
If your pregnancy lasts longer than 42 weeks and you decide not to have your labour induced, you should be offered increased monitoring to check your baby’s wellbeing.
There’s a higher risk of stillbirth if you go over 42 weeks pregnant, although most babies remain healthy. At the moment, there’s no way to reliably predict which babies are at increased risk of stillbirth, so induction is offered to all women who don’t go into labour by 42 weeks.
Having induction of labour after the date your baby is due doesn’t increase the chance of having a caesarean section. There’s actually some evidence it may slightly reduce the chance of having a caesarean section.
If you’ve had a baby before, you’ll be offered a membrane sweep at your 41-week appointment.
A membrane sweep involves having a vaginal (internal) examination that stimulates the cervix (neck of your womb) to produce hormones that may trigger natural labour. You do not have to have this – you can discuss it with your midwife.
Because of the hormones in your body, the baby’s genitals may look swollen when she or he is born, but they’ll soon settle down to their normal size.
The fine hair (lanugo) that covered your baby’s body is now almost all gone, although some babies may have small patches of it when they’re born.
Pregnancy normally lasts about 40 weeks – that’s around 280 days from the first day of your last period. Most women go into labour a week either side of this date, but some women go overdue.
You may be offered an induction of labour – it’s your choice whether to have this or not.
In the last weeks, some time before birth, the baby’s head should move down into your pelvis. When your baby’s head moves down like this, it’s said to be “engaged”.
When this happens, you may notice your bump seems to move down a little. Sometimes the head does not engage until labour starts.
Pre-eclampsia is a serious pregnancy related condition. Not everyone with pre-eclampsia has symptoms, but the urine and blood pressure tests at your antenatal visits check for it. Symptoms can include severe headaches, vision problems, such as blurring or seeing flashing lights, pain just below the ribs, and sudden increase in swelling of the hands, face or feet.
There are several signs that labour might be starting. These may be different for different women – find out what labour signs to look out for and when to call your midwife.
If your baby does a poo during labour, which can sometimes happen, the amniotic fluid will contain meconium. If this is the case, your midwife will want to monitor your baby closely as it could mean he or she is stressed.
Most women go into labour between 38 and 42 weeks of pregnancy. Your midwife or doctor should give you information about what to expect if your baby is overdue.
At 37 weeks, your pregnancy is considered full-term. The average baby weighs around 3-4kg by now. Your baby is ready to be born, and you’ll be meeting them some time in the next few weeks.
Your baby’s gut (digestive system) now contains meconium – the sticky green substance that will form your baby’s first poo after birth. It may include bits of the lanugo (fine hair) that covered your baby earlier in pregnancy.
When you’re around 37 weeks pregnant, if it’s your first pregnancy, your baby moves down ready to be born. You may feel more comfortable when this happens, and you’ll probably also feel increased pressure in your lower abdomen.
If it’s not your first pregnancy, the baby may not move down until labour.
You may notice your breasts leaking some fluid, and this is normal.
By 36 weeks, your baby’s lungs are fully formed and ready to take their first breath after the birth.
The digestive system is fully developed and your baby will be able to feed if they’re born now.
From around now, you may be aware of a tightening feeling in your lower tummy from time to time. These are a normal part of pregnancy, known as Braxton Hicks contractions – your uterus is “practising” for the tightenings, or contractions, of labour.
Find out about signs labour may have started and what happens.
When contractions become longer, stronger and more frequent, it can be a sign that labour is starting.Information:
Call your midwife or hospital when your contractions are in a regular pattern, coming every 5 minutes and lasting at least 60 seconds.
It can help to keep a record of how long your contractions are and when they come, so you can tell your midwife when you call.
Your baby is curled up in the uterus now, with legs bent up towards their chest. There’s little room to move about, but he or she will still change position, so you’ll still feel movements and be able to see them on the surface of your bump.
If your baby is a boy, his testicles are beginning to descend from his abdomen into his scrotum.
Labour that starts before 37 weeks is considered premature. If your baby is born early, he or she may need special care in hospital. Find out what to expect if labour starts early.
You’ll probably find you need to slow down because the extra weight makes you tired, and you may get backache.
You should still be feeling your baby move, right up until they’re born. If you notice any change in your baby’s movements, call your midwife straightaway so your baby can be checked. Do not use a home handheld device (Doppler) to check your baby – these are not reliable, and even if you hear a heartbeat this does not guarantee your baby is well.
Your baby’s bones are continuing to harden, apart from the skull bones. These will stay soft and separated until after the birth to make the journey through the birth canal easier.
The bones can move gently and slide over each other so the head can be born safely while still protecting the brain.
You at 34 weeks
Pre-eclampsia is a condition that affects some women in pregnancy, usually after 20 weeks, and it can be serious.
The blood pressure and urine checks you’re offered at your midwife appointments check for the early signs.
Know the others signs of pre-eclampsia to look out for, including a bad headache, swelling and vision problems.
Gas and air (Entonox) is a form of pain relief you can be offered in labour, including at a home birth.
By 33 weeks of pregnancy, the baby’s brain and nervous system are fully developed.
Too much caffeine in pregnancy can cause miscarriage or for your baby to be born with a low birthweight.
If you’re pregnant, don’t have more than 200 milligrams (200mg) of caffeine a day – that’s about the same as 2 mugs of tea, plus 1 can of cola.
Heartburn or acid reflux in pregnancy is common, caused by hormonal changes and the growing baby pressing against your stomach.
Changes to your diet and lifestyle may be enough to control your symptoms. If not, your midwife or GP can recommend treatment.
Find out how you can ease indigestion and heartburn in pregnancy
Your placenta grows in your womb during pregnancy. It brings oxygen and nutrients to your growing baby and takes waste products out of your baby’s blood.