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Pregnancy Symptoms Week 38: Your Baby 'Drops' Lower Into Your Pelvis
PHOTO BY @xmee/iStock
  • It's all systems go at this point, mom. At 38 weeks, while your pregnancy is still not considered the full term, you can give birth at any time. You may have noticed your belly has dropped, and this is because your baby is already preparing for delivery (called "lightening) although the timing may be different for each woman. Now fully developed, your baby already weighs about 7 pounds and is about 20 centimeters long. Yes, he's ready to say hello to the outside world!

    Pregnancy signs Week 38

    At week 38 of your pregnancy, it's not just your belly that is big — you feel that everything from your head to your toes is swollen (nose, fingers, breasts — name it). But the most noticeable would be the water retention on your legs, feet, and ankles, which may have been aggravated if you gained a bit of weight. 

    The water retention is common for pregnant women, especially those approaching their due date. Your body's increased fluid production that helped nurture your baby starting at around 20 weeks is on full blast, thus the puffy appearance. However, be wary if the swelling seems excessive and is accompanied by symptoms like high blood pressure, as it could signal preeclampsia, which you don't want especially now that you're just a few weeks (or days) away from giving birth. 

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    Itchy tummy

    According to old beliefs, an itchy belly indicates that the baby inside your womb has a head full of hair. Not so. The real cause of your tummy's itchiness is the skin stretching that's happening along with your baby's growth. Skin becomes dry as it expands; thus it tends to feel itchy. Frequent application of moisturizers on the skin on your tummy should relieve the itching.

    However, some pregnant women sometimes experience a more severe-looking form of rashes, which are very itchy and bumpy. It's called pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy, or PUPPP. It's nothing serious, but you may need to remedy it with a cold compress or an oatmeal bath if it persists.

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    Pregnancy symptoms Week 38

    Trouble sleeping

    While your aching back and cramping belly are no doubt giving you a hard time to sleep, it's likely the anticipation and worries about the impending D-day (or a combination of all of these) that is really causing you sleepless nights. Turn off your gadget, read a book, adjust the AC to a more comfortable temperature — find what works for you.

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    Bloody show

    One of the signs any pregnant woman watches out for towards the final stage of her pregnancy is her water bag breaking. But a lot of times, before that even happens, you'll notice a tinge of blood on your underwear. It begins when you lose your mucus plug, a gelatinous glob of mucus. This means that your cervix is starting to open up in preparation for childbirth. As your cervix begins to dilate, the blood vessels rupture, and you get a pinkish or brownish discharge.

    Breasts leaking 

    Our bodies are so wonderfully made that it knows what to do to sustain life. With less than a month (at most) before your baby is born, your breasts are already preparing to produce breastmilk that will be your child's primary nourishment in the first few months of life. In the early days (or even before you give birth), you'll probably notice a yellowish fluid leaking from your breasts — this is colostrum or breast milk that has more protein, less sugar, and lots of antibodies. It's what your newborn needs because it is easily digestible. Mature milk will be produced after you've given birth. 

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    Braxton Hicks contractions

    You'll surely have felt contractions come and go by now. Determining which ones are "real" labor contractions from those that are not can be especially tricky in the last month of your pregnancy, because you're always thinking, "This might be it." If you experience cramping or tightening of your belly that goes away when you change positions or feel no pain along with it, it's probably not yet the real thing — they're Braxton Hicks contractions, or what is called "practice" contractions.   

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    Your baby's development at 38 weeks

    Your little one is almost ready to meet you! At this stage, you'll be seeing your ob-gyn more often so she can check if your cervix is already dilating, if the baby is in the proper head-down position if he has descended into the pelvic chamber, etc. Continue monitoring your baby's kicks regularly. 

    Inside, your baby's really just waiting to go out as he is fully developed. He continues to breathe in and digest amniotic fluid, which will form part of his first poop or meconium. His lungs are stronger and ready to let out a big cry once he's out.

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    A bit of trivia: Did you know that the eye color of your baby at birth is not yet his permanent eye color? Right after he is born, his eyes may look brown or gray to you, but exposure to the light will still change this. His real eye color will be visible when he turns one year old. 

    Your to-do list on Week 38 of your pregnancy

    Go over the contents of your hospital bags

    Do another check and see if anything is missing or needs to be replaced. 

    Practice delivery day

    Discuss once more your game plan with your husband or partner, to make sure he — and the other members of the household — know what to do in case you suddenly already go into labor. This includes knowing who to call (a list of phone numbers of your doctor and the hospital should be accessible to everyone), etc.

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    Review your postpartum care arrangements

    As you will be busy with a newborn, expect that you won't have time for anything else (not even yourself) in the first few weeks after childbirth. Have you talked about getting a night nurse or asked your mom (or a trusted relative or friend) for help? You should. It's also important that you plan how to still manage your household (with you and the baby as a priority) during these crucial first few weeks of motherhood. Let someone else take the helm (your husband, perhaps?), and make an outline of tasks on paper, which they can refer to later on.  

    More on your week-by-week pregnancy:

    Pregnancy Symptoms Week 37: Time to Get That Perineal Massage

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