Weekly Guide to Pregnancy: Week 39
How big is my baby?
Fetal size: crown-rump 36cm (14.4 inches), crown-toe 48cm (21.5 inches). Fetal weight: 3.25kg (7 pounds).
Your baby will still gain weight during the last week or two of pregnancy. By now, there is very little room for your baby to move.
All your baby's organs are developed and in the right place. The lungs are the last thing to mature, and your baby is still receiving your antibodies in order to produce surfacant (the lining of moisture present on healthy lungs). The brain also steadily grows and matures during this last week.
What pregnancy symptoms will I be experiencing?
You will now be about as big as you can get during pregnancy, and no doubt you feel it too! Your weight shouldn't increase much, if at all from Week 39. Up to and including Week 39 your total weight gain should be between 9-13.5kg (20-30 pounds).
Before you have your baby, you will probably have an opinion about procedures such as episiotomy, and you may have included instructions about such procedures in your Birth Plan.
An episiotomy is an incision (either down and away from the vagina and perineum, or straight down through the perineum between the vagina and anus) that helps to deliver your baby's head and avoids natural tearing. An episiotomy isn't always needed, and healing of episiotomies can be less efficient than that of natural tears.
It is possible to avoid natural tearing and episiotomy by refraining from pushing while your baby's head is being born. This means the head has time to ease out, rather than being delivered suddenly, giving your perineum time to stretch slowly to accommodate your baby's head.
An episiotomy may be necessary if:
- your baby's head is too big
- your baby's birth is happening too quickly for you to stretch slowly, or if you are unable to control your pushing
- your baby is distressed, or other complications arise
- you require other methods of intervention (such as forceps or vacuum extraction)
- your baby is in the wrong position
You should know if an episiotomy is necessary when your baby's head reaches the vagina. At this point you should ask if it is necessary and discuss the reasons why.
After you have had your baby, your episiotomy and the resultant scar may be the most painful part of your recovery. It can take weeks or even months for you to recover fully. If this is the case, talk to your health care professional about what can be done to ease the pain and promote healing.
You may want to ask your hospital if they have a cord blood donation scheme, and if so, give some thought to donating your cord blood. Cord blood is obtained from the umbilical cord and placenta after the birth of your baby. Cord blood contains the same cells that are found in bone marrow and can be used to treat cancer and other genetic diseases that are being treated with bone marrow transplants, especially childhood leukaemia and other blood and immune diseases.
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