Week 38 of Your Pregnancy

A look at your body, your baby, and more

Welcome to week 38 of your pregnancy. Your baby is nearing full term and complete maturity. You may be literally breathing a little easier, now that baby is low, reducing upper abdominal pressure. That said, just getting up to get a glass of water may feel like a chore.

week 38 pregnancy highlights
Illustration by Verywell 

Your Trimester: Third trimester

Weeks to Go: 2

You This Week

At 38 weeks, your baby-to-be has inched further down your pelvis, compressing your bladder. This makes bathroom visits a frequent part of your daily routine. At the same time, your baby might be leaning on various nerves, causing sporadic pain and numbness in your legs, rear, and back.

And because baby’s head is so low, it can make the simple act of walking uncomfortable. On the plus side, this descent into your pelvis alleviates other discomforts you may have been experiencing as the result of your baby’s once-high positioning, such as shortness of breath and rib pain.

You’re almost to the finish line. In fact, labor usually starts within two weeks of your estimated due date. If you haven’t already lost all or part of your mucus plug, it may happen this week. This is thick discharge tinged with brown or red streaks, though it’s common for some women to overlook it altogether.

Your Baby This Week

Even though baby-to-be’s brain and lungs are still maturing, they’re considered appropriately developed at this point. In fact, at week 38, your baby (weighing between 6¼ to 7½ pounds and stretching to 17 to 20 inches) is pretty much done growing.

Right now, your baby’s irises are likely a dark blue-gray, and they may remain that way up to a year. (It takes about that long for melanocytes, cells that secrete melanin and create pigment, to finish developing baby’s eye color.)

At the same time, know that baby’s skin is not yet its final color either. Regardless of you or your partner’s ethnicity, your baby will look reddish or purplish upon birth. Not only has your baby yet to develop skin pigmentation (that can actually take up to six months), his or her circulation is not quite up to speed, which impacts skin appearance.

Finally, by this week, because of the drop down into your pelvis, your baby has more room to relax. Keep an eye out for any odd protrusions in your abdomen: It may be your baby’s foot enjoying the extra leg-stretching space.

At Your Doctor’s Office

Your healthcare provider will continue to check to make sure that your baby is in a head-down position. At the same time, a pelvic exam might be offered in order to see if your cervix has thinned and opened, which are signs that your body is readying for birth. It’s important to understand, however, that it’s nearly impossible to predict when your labor will kick in based on this exam.

Special Considerations

If you suspect your water has broken, change your underwear and lay down for 30 minutes. If the fluid was actually urine, nothing more will likely happen. If the fluid was indeed from the amniotic sac, it will pool in your vagina while you’re horizontal and continue to trickle out. Either way, contact your healthcare provider who will likely have you come in so he or she can test the fluid. If your water has, in fact, broken but you are not yet experiencing contractions, your midwife or physician may simply have you wait it out and allow labor to start over the next few hours.

If your water breaks at this stage of pregnancy, delivery (either via natural progression or induction) is eminent to reduce your and your baby’s risk of infection. But also know that some women go into labor without their water breaking on its own.

Upcoming Doctor’s Visits

You’ll be 39 weeks along at your next scheduled visit to your physician or midwife. At that point, your healthcare provider might ask about stripping your membranes. Here, he or she will insert a gloved finger through your cervix and move it in a circular motion to detach your amniotic sac from the uterine wall.

Taking Care

Your nesting instinct might be battling it out with both your anxiety and exhaustion right now. Let exhaustion win and rest. Know that your baby actually requires very little when you bring him or her home. If you have a car seat; a safe place for baby to sleep; diapers; wipes; a weeks’ worth of onesies; and an infant hat, you’re golden. If you aren’t planning on breastfeeding, then add bottles and formula to the short list of must-haves, too. Your partner or baby visitors can step in and get anything else you feel you need once your new baby arrives.

For Partners

You’ve spent many months focusing on your baby-to-be. Now that the last weeks of pregnancy are here, focus on you and your partner. Take time to relax or enjoy an activity together not only to distract you both from the waiting game, but to enjoy being just the two of you before your baby arrives and your family grows.

Verywell Checklist

  • Continue taking prenatal vitamins.
  • Continue drinking about eight to 12 glasses of water a day.
  • Continue doing your Kegel exercises daily.
  • Continue doing your daily perineal massages.
  • Enjoy time with your partner. If you have children, arrange for a babysitter to watch them so you can have at least some alone time.
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