Week 39 of Your Pregnancy

A look at your body, your baby, and more

Welcome to week 39 of your pregnancy. Your baby is finally considered full term. You may feel like “it’s time,” and it very well could be. Not all women stay pregnant long enough to deliver at the 40-week mark.

week 39 pregnancy highlights
Illustration by Verywell

Your Trimester: Third trimester

Weeks to Go: 1

You This Week

At 39 weeks, your baby is situated low in your pelvis and is gradually inching closer and closer to your cervix. At the same time, your cervix is softening, shortening, and thinning out. This process is called ripening or effacement. For some women, effacement and dilation (the opening of the cervix) come on slowly and steadily over weeks. For others, it all happens rather quickly. And for second-time moms, dilation actually happens prior to effacement.

All of the above occurs, in part, because you are experiencing an uptick of prostaglandins, hormones that help ready your cervix. However, prostaglandins can also bring about loose stools. If you’re experiencing some diarrhea, labor is in your near future.

Your Baby This Week

Right now, your baby’s organs are fully developed and are now capable of functioning normally outside the womb. But that doesn’t make these final days and weeks of pregnancy any less important. “It’s actually a critical time for your baby to properly position him or herself for labor,” says Allison Hill, M.D., a private practice OB-GYN in Los Angeles.

That’s not to say nothing is going on with your baby’s development. The important insulating fat layer underneath his or her skin is still maturing. (This is key for your baby to have the ability to properly regulate his or her body temperature upon birth.) At the same time, baby-to-be is beginning to form new skin cells to replace the old. And your body is busily supplying your baby antibodies via the placenta that will help bolster his or her immune system for the first six to 12 months of life.

By week’s close, your baby will stretch between 18 and 20½ inches long; he or she will weigh about 6½ to 8 pounds; and the half-an-inch thick umbilical cord will measure about 22 inches long.

At Your Doctor’s Office

At 39 weeks, your physician or midwife may offer to strip your membranes. In order to do this, your healthcare provider will sweep his or finger around your cervix, gently detaching your amniotic sac from your uterine wall. At the same time, this action can stimulate prostaglandins.

While not every doctor or midwife does this, Dr. Hill notes that this may reduce the need for induction and lower your chance of being post-term. Know that the procedure may cause discomfort (akin to menstrual cramps) and you’ll likely experience some spotting up to three days afterward, but all of that is perfectly normal.

Special Considerations

Many mothers fear that the umbilical cord, also called nuchal cord, might wrap around baby’s neck. While it’s true that this is a common occurrence (present in 20 percent to 30 percent of births), the nuchal cord rarely impedes baby’s descent or delivery, according to research in the Journal of Midwifery and Reproductive Health.

“The potential concern is not that baby can’t breathe, but that the blood flow through the cord would cease,” says Dr. Hill. “But the two arteries and vein in the umbilical cord are protected by a thick substance called Wharton’s jelly, which cushions the vessels from serious damage.”

Most of the time, the umbilical cord is loosely wrapped, so your healthcare provider can easily slide it over baby’s head during delivery. If the umbilical cord is tightly wrapped, your physician or midwife may cut the cord before your baby is born. (Here, two clamps are applied to the cord; your healthcare provider cuts between them.)

Upcoming Doctor’s Visits

Fingers crossed that the next time you see your doctor or midwife is in the delivery room. But remember, a due date is a best-estimated guess. If there are no signs of labor at your visit, your healthcare provider will likely offer to sweep your membranes (perhaps, again). He or she may also encourage you to try some of the below tips.

Taking Care

Ready to birth that baby of yours? There are a few things you can do at home that may gently encourage baby’s exit. If your doctor is not trying to keep you from going into labor for any reason, you can:

  • Take walks. Some believe that being upright and moving encourages baby to slide further down and put pressure on your cervix, prompting dilation.
  • Stimulate your nipples. This spurs the release of oxytocin that can then stimulate contractions. (You can massage your breasts, apply warm compresses, use a breast pump, or enlist your partner to help.)
  • Have sex. Some believe that the prostaglandins in semen can encourage labor. Others note that oxytocin released during orgasm is what can help coax baby out. Neither are scientifically proven. That said, if you’re up for it and it will help take your mind off of being 39 weeks pregnant, it is worth a try.
  • Take evening primrose oil. This contains linolenic acid, which stimulates the production of prostaglandins. While scientific evidence to support this is in short supply, it appears to be totally safe. Try two or three 500 mg capsules daily, notes Dr. Hill.

For Partners

As you can see above, sexual intercourse, female orgasm, and nipple stimulation may help encourage labor. But all of the above likely won’t do a thing unless mom-to-be is relaxed and in the mood for intimate interactions. If she is medically cleared to go into labor (meaning her healthcare practitioner hasn’t explicitly said otherwise) and both of you are interested in trying to get things started in this manner, do what you can to make her feel at ease. And remember:

  • Intercourse is not allowed if your partner’s water has broken.
  • Intercourse is not advised if your partner is experiencing bleeding.
  • It’s her orgasm and pleasure that’ll spur the release of oxytocin.
  • Ejaculation needs to happen inside the vagina for semen’s prostaglandins to do their job.
  • Certain sex positions may be more comfortable for her than others.

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.
  • Try intercourse, orgasm, and/or nipple stimulation to help spur labor.

Last Week: Week 38

Coming Up: Week 40

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