Wow, you've made it to week 40 – officially the end of pregnancy, although you're still considered to be 'full term' up to week 42. Hopefully this week you'll go into labour and you'll meet your gorgeous newborn.
Waiting for labour can be boring and nerve-wracking and one of the things many new mums worry about is how they will even know when they're in labour. Trust us you'll know, but the rule of thumb is if you can't speak during a contraction you're in labour! Early labour can last a long time, so keep moving, bounce on your birthing ball, take a bath, have a snack and relax as much as you can. When your contractions get to 5 minutes apart it's time to go to hospital.
Lots of women go overdue, particularly with their first baby. Kickstart your labour by keeping mobile and taking short walks everyday as activity can help your baby get into position. Your midwife may offer you a membrane sweep which can help induce labour. At home, try nipple stimulation and sex! Female orgasms help to stimulate the first uterine contractions and semen contains prostaglandin which softens the cervix, so sex can really do the business. Some mums swear by raspberry leaf tea or pineapple to bring labour on and if you fancy a final dinner out make it a hot curry as spicy food is said to kick start birth.
Your baby now weighs around 3.4kg (7.5lb) and is ready to be born. Although your baby's eyes have been open for weeks now, the vision is poor at birth as the nerves inside the eyes are not fully developed. Happily, the optimum distance for your baby to see you from is about the same as the distance between your eyes and your baby when you're in feeding position: isn't nature wonderful? A few babies even have a tooth or two at birth.
On the outside
By this last week of pregnancy your uterus is now sitting around 16.5-20.5cm (6.5-8in) above your belly button and around 36-40cm (14.5-16in) from your pubic bone! If your baby's head has engaged, the weight against your cervix may mean it starts 'effacing' this week: this means it's starting to stretch and thin in preparation for labour. You may fear that your waters will suddenly break when you're out and about, but try not to be too concerned, as the majority of mums experience their waters breaking as more of a trickle than a gush, and some have to have them broken by the midwife to speed up labour. You could always wear a maternity pad in your underwear if you're a bit anxious, though. Try to rest as much as possible in this final run-up to the birth. Do take some light exercise daily, too, though: you'll need all your reserves of stamina and energy when the time comes.
Things to think about
You have a lot of techniques to practice that will help you through labour and birth. Keep going with the breathing exercises, especially the ones designed for the second stage of labour.
Your pelvic floor exercises will build up your vaginal muscles, giving you extra strength for pushing your baby out and help to prevent stress incontinence and tone your vaginal walls in preparation for resuming your sex life – something that may be pretty far from your mind immediately after the birth, but don't let that put you off!
If you're planning on using visualisation or self-hypnosis to help you through labour, start practicing regularly now so that the techniques become second nature. Tell your partner all about the different things you're planning to try so that he or she can coach you on the day. It would be lovely to think your midwife will be with you all the way, panting through your contractions and holding your hand, but in reality there are too few midwives to accompany labouring mums one-to-one throughout the whole process, so your partner will be an invaluable support – but only if you're clear about their role.
If you're going to use a TENS machine during the first stage, you'll have it by now, so do practice with it. It won't induce labour, but might well ease a low backache. Better to get familiar with the different programmes and how to adjust the intensity now than to wait until you're in the throes of labour.
The birth isn't far off now, so start to visualise life with your newborn and try to make the mental adjustment to becoming new parents. Talk to your partner about their hopes and fears: remember, you're in this together and it's a massive life change for them too. Above all, good luck – and a big welcome to your gorgeous newborn!