Your baby doesn’t have much room to maneuver now that he’s over 18 inches long and tips the scales at 5 1/4 pounds (pick up a honeydew melon).
How your baby’s growing:
Because it’s so snug in your womb, he isn’t likely to be doing somersaults anymore, but the number of times he kicks should remain about the same. His kidneys are fully developed now, and his liver can process some waste products. Most of his basic physical development is now complete – he’ll spend the next few weeks putting on weight.
How your life’s changing:
Your uterus – which was entirely tucked away inside your pelvis when you conceived – now reaches up under your rib cage. If you could peek inside your womb, you’d see that there’s more baby than amniotic fluid in there now. Your ballooning uterus is crowding your other internal organs, too, which is why you probably have to urinate more often and may be dealing with heartburn and other gastrointestinal distress. If you’re not grappling with these annoyances, you’re one of the lucky few.
From here on out, you’ll start seeing your practitioner every week. Sometime between now and 37 weeks, she’ll do a vaginal and rectal culture to check for bacteria called Group B streptococci (GBS). (Don’t worry – the swab is the size of a regular cotton swab, and it won’t hurt at all.) GBS is usually harmless in adults, but if you have it and pass it on to your baby during birth, it can cause serious complications, such as pneumonia, meningitis, or a blood infection. Because 10 to 30 percent of pregnant women have the bacteria and don’t know it, it’s vital to be screened. (The bacteria come and go on their own – that’s why you weren’t screened earlier in pregnancy.) If you’re a GBS carrier, you’ll get IV antibiotics during labor, which will greatly reduce your baby’s risk of infection.
This is also a good time to create a birth plan. Using our form will help you focus on specifics – like who’ll be present, what pain management techniques you want to try, and where you want your baby to stay after you deliver. It will give you a starting point to discuss your preferences with your medical team. Childbirth is unpredictable, and chances are you won’t follow your plan to the letter, but thinking about your choices ahead of time – and sharing your preferences with your caregiver – should take some of the anxiety out of the process.
Questions About…Arriving at the hospital
Q1. How can I prepare for my arrival at the hospital?
Long before you go into labor, you and your partner should map out the most direct route to the hospital or birth center. Find out where to park, keeping in mind that you’ll be leaving your car for at least 24 hours. Ask the hospital staff where you should enter if you arrive after-hours. Most hospitals offer tours of the obstetrical floor at designated times. Taking advantage of these tours will give you a chance to do a dry run before the big day.
Q2. What should I do when I get to the hospital?
If you’ve preregistered, you should follow the instructions you’ve been given, which probably include breezing right by the front desk and going directly to the maternity ward. If you haven’t preregistered, you can probably still head directly to the maternity ward. There’s usually a check-in desk once you get there. The staff there will help you deal with any necessary paperwork.
A nurse may lead you directly to a birthing room and pair you with a labor and delivery nurse. If it’s not clear that you’re in active labor or need to be admitted for other reasons, she’ll most likely bring you to an exam room first. Your caregiver will evaluate you there to see if you’re ready to be admitted.
The nurse will ask you for a urine sample and have you change your clothes. Then she’ll check your vital signs and ask when your contractions started and how far apart they are, whether your water’s broken, and whether you’ve had any vaginal bleeding. She’ll also want to know if your baby’s been moving, if you’ve recently had anything to eat or drink, and how you’re coping with the pain.
Your caregiver will check the frequency and duration of your contractions as well as your baby’s heart rate. Then she’ll perform an abdominal and vaginal exam. If it looks like you’re not in labor or are still in early labor- and everything is okay with you and your baby – you’ll probably be sent home until your labor is further along. Otherwise, you’ll be admitted.
Q3. What will happen once I’m admitted?
The nurse or your caregiver may ask if you have a birth plan. Even if you don’t have a written plan, share your needs and preferences with the staff, including your feelings about using pain medication during labor.
Then you’ll have blood drawn (to find out your blood type among other things) and an IV may be started. You’ll definitely need an IV to get antibiotics if you test positive for Group B strep, for hydration if you can’t keep fluids down, if you want a spinal or an epidural, if you need oxytocin (Pitocin), or if you have any health problems or pregnancy complications.
Your nurse or caregiver should also orient you, showing you where everything is in your room and where your partner can get ice for you. Don’t be shy about requesting things you might need, like a rocking chair, a cool washcloth, or another blanket, or asking any lingering questions you might have. And if you’re going to have continuous electronic fetal monitoring and are interested in how it works, ask her to explain which lines on the strip show your contractions and which show the heartbeat, and let her know if you’d prefer the volume on the machine to be turned up or down.
This Week’s Activity:
Prepare food to eat after your baby’s born. If you cook, start doubling recipes and freezing half. You and your partner will be too exhausted to cook in the first weeks after you bring your baby home and you’ll be thrilled to have healthy meals you can heat up fast. If you don’t cook, go around your neighborhood and pick up all the takeout and delivery menus you can find. You’ll be grateful for all the options at your fingertips.