Women's Healthcare Topics

37 Weeks Pregnant

Reviewed by James Brann, M.D.
On-Page Content

Pregnant Belly Changes

Congratulations!

You are now considred early term. This means that if you were to deliver your baby this week, there is a good chance that he or she would be perfectly healthy.

Labor can start at any second from this week onward. You should be on the look out for any signs of labor.

Learn about your symptoms and changes during the 37th week of pregnancy.

A term baby can be born anytime between 37 weeks and 42 weeks of pregnancy.

Term pregnancy is divided into:

  • early term ( between 37 weeks 0 days and 38 weeks 6 days )

  • full term ( between 39 weeks 0 days and 40 weeks 6 days )

  • late term ( between 41 weeks 0 days and 41 weeks 6 days )

  • post-term ( between 42 weeks 0 days and beyond )

Though your due date is three weeks away, keep in mind that only five percent of babies will be born on their estimated due date. Over 80 percent of babies are born between pregnancy week 37 and 42 weeks.


Do you Think you are Going into Labor?

Think you are Going into Labor?

What is term labor? - Term labor begins when you have contractions between 37 and 42 weeks of pregnancy. Your due date is set at the first day of the 40th week. When you have contractions that begin before 37 weeks, it is called preterm labor and if they wait to start past 42 weeks you are considered post-term.

What are the signs (Braxton Hicks Contractions) that labor is starting, here is a list:

  • When you feel that the baby has moved lower in your belly. This is called lightening or the baby has dropped.

  • When the fluid coming from the vagina is a thick mucus and/or slightly bloody. This is called the mucus plug or bloody show.

  • Increase lower back discomfort or lower abdominal cramping.

  • You will start to feel the uterus tighten. This sensation can be mild at first, only to become painful later on.

What are the signs of true labor:
True labor contractions can be difficult to distinguish from false labor (Braxton Hicks) contractions. But here are a few general rules:

  • Contractions that come every couple of minutes and become more regular and frequent are true labor contractions.

  • Contractions from true labor do not go away with rest. False labor contractions can come and go and usually stop with rest.

  • The best indicator of true labor contractions is that they get stronger and stronger with time, whereas false labor contractions do not get stronger.

When you start having contractions you should time the interval between them and note if they are becoming stronger. You will need to use a clock with a second hand or a stop watch app. Makes sure to write down the time between the start of a contraction and the start of the next contraction. If the interval is becoming shorter you may be in true labor.

When you think you have started true labor your physician will want to know this, and will give you instructions on what to do next. You should call your doctor also if you have an increase in bloody mucus or if your bag of water breaks.

Make sure to call your physician if you think labor has started before 37 weeks of pregnancy.


Pregnancy Health Section



When does Labor Start for Twins?

When does Labor Start for Twins?

At 37 weeks pregnant, you are considered "early term," which means your baby (or babies) may arrive any day now. If you are pregnant with twins, you'll want to be on the lookout for labor this week. A majority of twin pregnancies end in premature infants. The average pregnancy for twins ends at 35 weeks, though some women can carry their babies until 40 weeks of pregnancy.

Many healthcare providers typically recommend that women carrying twins induce their labor between 37 and 40 weeks pregnant to avoid potential complications. Studies have indicated that twins that are delivered from 37 weeks pregnant until pregnancy week 40 have the best outcomes.

If you haven't gone into labor yet, you will want to prepare for it at any second. Make sure that your hospital bag is packed and ready to go by the door, and double check that both of your infant car seats are properly installed. You will not be able to go home with your newborn twins without their car seats.


Birth Plans

Have you made a birthplan yet?

At 37 weeks pregnant, it is the time many women consider creating a birth plan. A birth plan is simply a way that you can convey your ideas and desires regarding the birthing process to your healthcare team before, during and after labor.

Many women use birth plans to list their expectations regarding the birth process. A birth plan can help your healthcare team better understand your needs and desires, and it can help you prepare to welcome your baby into the world in a manner you deem fit.

You don't have to use anything fancy to create a birth plan, you can simply write down your ideas on paper. There are some common things; however, you probably want your birth plan to address. Among the more common areas covered by a birth plan include:

  • Whether or not you wish to receive pain medications during labor.

  • What kind of pain relief you prefer.

  • Whether you plan to breastfeed or bottle feed.

  • Whether or not you want a circumcision performed if you are having a boy.

  • If you want to listen to music or other forms of entertainment while giving birth.

  • Whether or not you want to use a tub or shower if available to relax in during labor.

  • Describe what positions you prefer to be in during birth.

  • Whether or not you agree to an episiotomy, or if there are certain steps you would like your healthcare provider to take in order to avoid one.

  • Whether or not you have any special requests related to the birth process.

  • Who is allowed in the room at the time of delivery?

Not sure where to begin? Simply start by writing down a list of your hopes and expectations about the birthing process. Then number and list them to make sure the most important of your needs gets addressed.

You should also consider having your partner contribute to the birth plan. Your partner may come up with a request that you hadn't considered. You should be comfortable sharing your plan with your healthcare provider, nurses, and anyone else that might be interacting with you during the labor and delivery process.

Remember that even with a birth plan surprises do happen during labor and delivery. You may state that you do not want a Cesarean Section for example, but sometimes a Cesarean Birth may be necessary to protect the well-being of you and your baby. Keep an open mind about your birth plan, but also remember that you have a right to inform your team of your preferences and desires.


Breech Position and How it Complicates Labor

Breech delivery

At 37 weeks pregnant, your baby has already flipped into his birthing position. Most babies will be in the head-down position, which is the best position for a vaginal birth.

In some cases, your baby may be in the breech position (where his bottom or legs are close to your pelvis but his head is upward) or a transverse position (lying sideways). These abnormal positions can complicate your labor and delivery, and they may require you to have a Cesarean Section.

Your doctor or healthcare provider will check your baby's position at your prenatal visits. If your baby is breech, your doctor may attempt to "turn" your baby with a procedure called an External Cephalic Version (ECV).

Breech Position and External Cephalic Version
During an External Cephalic Version (ECV), your doctor will try to gently guide the baby into the head-down position by pressing his or her hands on your belly. This procedure can be uncomfortable and painful, so you will often be given medication to relax your uterine muscles beforehand.

To avoid any harm to your baby, the ECV procedure is monitored with both an ultrasound and electronic fetal heart monitor. If your baby shows signs of fetal distress (such as a heart rate that suddenly drops) during the procedure, the attempted External Cephalic Version will be stopped.

How Successful is an External Cephalic Version?
An external cephalic version has a success rate of 60 percent. In the event that an ECV procedure fails, your doctor may choose to deliver your baby via C-section. (Most cesarean sections are scheduled for 38 to 39 weeks of pregnancy).

Risks of an External Cephalic Version
If you are interested in having an External Cephalic Version, keep in mind that the procedure does come with certain risks. These include:

  • Twisting of your baby's umbilical cord, which can restrict oxygen and blood flow to your little one. This can sometimes lead to fetal distress, that requires an emergency C-section.

  • The onset of premature labor

  • Premature rupture of the membranes (your water breaking before your baby is ready to be delivered)

  • Your baby turns back into the breech position after the ECV procedure

  • Mother or baby experience blood loss. This may cause mixing of blood from mother and baby.

Because there is a possibility of bleeding, women who are Rh-negative will be given an RH immune globulin injection to prevent Rh sensitization (Rh sensitization is where you produce antibodies against the baby).

Though the risks of complications are very small, your doctor or healthcare provider may not perform External Cephalic Versions. In this case you will be given a referral to high risk specialist to do the procedure.


Baby Section

Your Baby at 37 Weeks

A 37 week baby delivered.

At 37 weeks pregnant, your baby may weigh over 6.3 pounds and he or she might be as long as 19 inches.

As your baby moves downward into your pelvis, in preparation for delivery (a process called "engagement"), you will feel less pressure underneath your rib cage. You may also find that you can breathe more easily than in the previous weeks, because your lungs now have more room to expand.

Your baby continues to gain weight. Fat now covers his or her arms, legs, and belly. When your little bundle of joy is born, he or she will look very similar to how he or she looks now.

The lanugo hair that has covered your baby's body until now is being shed and replaced by short, fine hairs called "vellus hairs" (more commonly known as "peach fuzz").

Your baby's ears are fully developed. Since noises easily penetrate the womb at this stage in your pregnancy, you may notice that loud noises startle your baby. You and your partner should also spend time speaking to your baby, since he or she can hear you. In fact, it's the mother's voice that all babies first recognize after birth.

Now that you are early term, the level of amniotic fluid surrounding your baby will slowly decrease from here on out.



Doctor's Corner

Pregnancy Week by Week - Women's Healthcare Topics

Giving Birth Do’s and Don’ts

The birth of a baby is one of the most magical and remarkable days in a woman’s life. As you look back upon that day, it will seem as though it flew by in mere seconds, but at the time that it is happening, it might feel as though the whole delivery is occurring in slow motion. Perhaps the anticipation of the day you get to meet your son or daughter for the first time is what makes that day feel so laborious (no pun intended).

In the meantime, it may behoove you to get ready for the birth of your baby by learning as much as possible about the labor and delivery process. There are a lot of misconceptions about what actually takes place on the day the baby is born, as well as how it is handled by the medical team.

You can only make decisions based on what you know; therefore you should equip yourself with as much qualified information as possible to make sure the birth of your baby runs smoothly. Ultimately, having a baby should be a joyful experience.

It is essential to know a few “do’s and don’ts” about the labor and delivery process.


DO'S of Giving Birth

Do: Research/Plan Ahead
Doing your own research, asking your doctor the right questions and creating a flexible plan for your baby’s delivery will ensure a smooth process. From the moment a woman discovers she is expecting, the opinions and advice of others will come pouring in. Some of these opinions are not suitable for every woman, which is why she should find trusted sources to give her the assurance she needs. Reading is essential, especially for first-time moms. As she is faced with many decisions regarding her newborn, the well-researched mom will be better equipped to determine the best choices for herself and for her new baby.

Do: Communicate Your Needs
Your partner, the medical team and your doctor are not mind readers. If you have a personal vision for your labor, such as whether or not to receive epidural, natural delivery or cesarean, pain medication or none, etc. then you must communicate these issues before you are actually going through with the birthing process.

When you are in pain is not the time to express those needs, although no one can predict any complications that could arise at the last minute. Just like riding a motorcycle, you should wear a helmet and protect yourself from any unforeseen circumstances that may arise! Have a backup plan, just in case.

Do: Participate in Lamaze or Yoga Classes
There are many benefits of taking childbirth classes. Many women experience easier labor and delivery as a result of learning breathing techniques, practicing meditation and relaxation, as well as the exercise aspect. You will also meet other expectant mothers, which can become a strong support system during your pregnancy. The instructors also give you valuable insight and assistance.

Do: Get to Know Your Body to Recognize Contractions
It is common for first-time mothers to rush to the hospital at the sign of their first contraction, but you should wait until they are less than ten minutes apart. Most women have contractions for ten to twenty (or more) hours before the baby’s arrival, which means they should keep occupied until the contractions become more intense or until the water breaks. Don’t wait until the last minute, but don’t drive at breakneck speeds to get to the hospital only to discover that it is a false alarm or too early, either. Count the minutes in between your contractions to know when it is the right time to go.

Do: Keep Moving During Labor
Most women lie in bed while enduring labor pains, but this is not the best method. It may be easier for a woman to endure the delivery process to keep moving, either through the help of her partner or by walking slowly around the room. You could also bring an exercise ball or try doing some light squats and yoga exercises to open up the hips and help the baby move through gracefully.

Do: Have a Coach or Doula by Your Side
A doula can help you get through the birthing process, even if your partner is present. This is a woman who is professionally trained to offer emotional support, as well as pulling you through the physical difficulty of childbearing. Having a doula, midwife or birthing coach present can make your delivery more memorable, pleasurable and safer for you and your baby, especially if you plan on having a natural childbirth.

Do: Delay the Cord Cutting for at Least Two Minutes
Science has revealed that the blood in your baby’s umbilical cord offers an abundant source of iron, which is something the baby cannot produce on its own for a few months. Traditionally, the medical team cuts the cord almost immediately upon birth, but you can ask them to wait at least two minutes so that the baby can extract as much iron as possible before the umbilical cord is snipped.

Do: Create the Skin-to-Skin Connection With Your Baby Right Away
Most hospitals take the baby away from its mother right away, placing the infant in an incubator, where it remains hooked up to a monitor for a few hours. You are the mother and have a right to ask to hold your baby, and it is recommended that you do! Commonly referred to as the “Kangaroo” Method, the concept of putting the naked baby on the mother’s bare chest creates a powerful bond, while promoting breastfeeding and infant-mother attachment right away.

Do: Give Breastfeeding a Chance
It may take your baby a day or two to learn how to latch on, but some new mothers give up too easily on breastfeeding because they are afraid the baby will starve. Breastfeeding is natural and there are many benefits of breastfeeding, both for the baby and the mother. It builds up the baby’s immune system, helps the mother recover quickly, as well as strengthening the bond between them. Babies who breastfeed have a higher IQ than those who do not, studies reveal. Plus, formula is expensive, so opt for nature’s abundant source and choose breast milk; if you are able to do so.


Don'ts of Giving Birth

Don’t: Elect an Episiotomy
Some outdated practices still include giving a woman an episiotomy, which is an incision that enlarges the vaginal opening. Why did doctors do this? Many believed that it would prevent mothers from getting incontinence or having a rip that would be difficult to fix. Others believed it would prevent fetal head trauma by lessening the need for forceps, while improving healing. This is false!

Episiotomies are very risky and can lead to increase of blood loss, infection, clotting or other objectionable side effects. The only reason to have an episiotomy is if your baby is in distress or if the labor persists, whereupon this type of incision can speed up the baby’s ability to come out of the womb. It should not be done as a routine procedure, so ask your doctor and express your desire that it should be done only as a last resort.

Don’t: Schedule Early, Induced Labor
Although this is becoming more common with today’s modern technology, getting induced early poses more risks to both the baby and the mother. Mainly, this is becoming a common practice for convenience’ sake, because doctors can schedule other things around the patient’s delivery. Some studies have pointed to an increase in complications among newborns who were delivered too early, so this should only be an option out of medical necessity, rather than opportuneness.

Don’t: Choose a C-Section Over Natural Birth
Some women opt for a caesarean because of personal reasons, such as wanting to get tubes tied, or doctor going on vacation, or because they are afraid they will be too “loose” down there after having a baby naturally; or just because they heard from another mother that it was easier. This is actually not true, and can harm the baby.

The C-Section should only be used as an emergency measure. It requires major abdominal surgery, with more blood loss and longer healing time. It can be very painful to recover from a C-Section, whereas women who give birth naturally often bounce back quickly. Your stomach muscles can heal, meaning less likeliness of having that “pooch” and some ugly track marks where the incision is made, typically just at the bikini line.

The other reason is for the baby’s sake. Babies born by caesarean are far more likely to spend time in NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) due to fluid in their lungs, etc. than babies born vaginally. By all means, give a natural childbirth your best attempt!

Don’t: Rush to Say ‘Yes’ to an Epidural Without Knowing the Risks
Understandably, childbirth is uncomfortable and painful. Despite the many mothers out there who will tell you to willingly get an epidural – without knowing what it entails – you should be informed. The epidural numbs the lower half of your body, and if done too soon, it can double the chances of needing a C-Section delivery. An epidural can also leave intense side effects, such as itching, shaking, coldness, maternal fever, or a migraine headache. For the baby, it could double the chances of having to use forceps or lead to head trauma, vacuum extraction or increased chances of the baby not lining up properly to exit the womb. The epidural is administered through a long needle in your spine, so if done improperly, can damage your spine. Be careful!

Don’t: Take Pain Medications Without Fully Understanding the Effects
Your doctor might offer opioid narcotics to help you ease through the pain, but do not readily accept them until you know what they can do. Some common pain meds include Nubian, Stadol or Demerol, which are supposed to dull your brain’s perception of pain. Some of these come with side effects, such as nausea, drowsiness, plummeting blood pressure, vomiting or headaches. They could also affect your baby and make your newborn unresponsive upon arrival. No matter what the medical team says, it is up to you. Use caution.

Don’t: Be Discouraged if Things Don’t Go As Planned
Just like you can’t predict the weather, you cannot predict the things that may happen during childbirth. Sometimes you just have to “roll with the punches” and remain positive, flexible and less rigid. Things will work out for the best.

There is no question, having a baby is a life-changing event. Every woman has her own personal reasons for the choices she makes, but the best thing is to go with what your heart tells you to do in all matters, including the delivery and labor of your baby.

(next week)


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