At last, you are in to the home stretch. You may be experiencing all sorts of conflicting emotions. On one hand you are eager to hold the baby in your arms. On the other, you can’t help but wonder what kind of mom you’ll make. And just like the bride who goes screaming down to the altar, cold feet may be setting in.
So far, your day-to-day concerns haven’t been about labor and birth, but now, the reality of getting that baby out of your body is an inevitable fact. Suddenly, friends and family and acquaintances dump sensationalized birth stories upon you. Advice is everywhere, and there is no where to hide. How could you possibly hide with a belly the size of Mount Everest, anyway?
The third trimester has its shares of aches and pains. Still, you manage to decorate the nursery. With birth pending, you suddenly feel crazed to complete old projects, and get the house in ship-shape for Junior.
Speaking of which, the little one, now at 29 weeks, weighs two pounds and nine ounces and is 13 and three-fourths inches long. His or her lungs have been busy creating surfactant, a substance needed for breathing. If born today, your baby’s lungs would probably do just fine on their own; however, the last few weeks are important for the finishing touches of lung development.
By 32 weeks, your baby measures 15 and one-fourth inches long and weighs three pounds twelve ounces. Brain development is rapid. The eyes can now track movement and the iris’ respond to light and dark. The baby may move and sleep in more definable patterns, thanks to visual clues from outside light that filters in through the uterus.
Relaxin, a pregnancy hormone, is responsible for the softening of hip joints. As a result, you may catch yourself waddling. Also, the large uterus throws your posture off, causing you to have a slight swayback appearance. This can cause backaches throughout the final trimester if posture goes unchecked.
By 35 weeks, you baby weighs about five pounds and measures 16 and on-half inches long, although height and weight variations are more common now. From this point on, your baby will gain about a half-pound per week. The survival rate, if your child were born today, soars to 99 percent.
Suddenly, you have a lot of decisions to make. If you decided on a home birth, is it still advisable? Will you breastfeed or bottle feed? Would you like to avoid an episiotomy? Under what conditions would you consider induction? Does a natural, non-medicated birth appeal to you? By the time you complete the necessary reading you may be overwhelmed. No wonder you can’t seem to figure out what to pack in your hospital or birth center bag!
There are many factors that can alter your visions of the perfect birth. That’s why it is a good idea to look into birth plans. Discussing labor issues with your doctor or certified nurse-midwife can help you end up with a more ideal birth. However, always remember that the ultimate safety of mother and child must outweigh any decisions made previous to labor.
Toward the end of the pregnancy, you may be concerned with a decrease in fetal activity. While this is usually normal, due to less room in the uterus, it’s a good idea to notify your practitioner at once if you notice a sudden decrease in movement. Your practitioner may order a non-stress test, which can evaluate your baby’s well-being through an external fetal monitor.
You may find that your weight gain slows at the end. Often times, weight gain may even decrease right before labor. Despite this, your baby still gains rapidly. By 37 weeks, your baby weighs six pounds and measure 17 and one-half inches, head to toe.
Up until now, your baby has been covered with fine hair, called lanugo, and a creamy substance that protects its skin, called vernix. Both begin to disappear. The baby actually swallows some of this, and it is stored in the bowels. This meconium will be released during the days following the birth.
As you get down to the wire, fears about labor and delivery are common. Will you be in pain? Will the labor go on for days? Or will you be one of the luckier ones? Actually, the ideal length of labor, for both mom and baby, is between 11 and 15 hours. The average length of first time labor falls into this ideal by lasting approximately 12 to 14 hours. Most of longest part of labor, getting to three centimeters dilation, occurs during the first nine hours when contractions aren’t closely spaced together or very intense.
By your due date, levels of amniotic fluid begin to decrease. Your baby weighs about seven and a half pounds, although some babies can weigh as much as three pounds more or three pounds less. Most likely, your baby measures 20 or 21 inches from head to toe.
At last you are prepared for the birth. You mark off the calendar as your due date approaches … and passes you by! For the vast majority of women, labor occurs naturally before the 42nd week. More common in first pregnancies, postdate babies need to be monitored closely. If the womb environment becomes inadequate, the mother may be induced or a cesarean may be recommended.