Being able to say that you're due to give birth "next week" is somewhat of a surreal experience, but it's true! There's just one week left until D-Day and Baby can be expected to make an appearance any time now (although some naughty babies keep Mom on the edge of her seat until 42 weeks, or even more!).
The two of you are pretty much done growing, you may be glad to hear. Your belly won't get too much bigger between now and the birth, although you may still notice a few cheeky stretch marks making a last minute appearance. If you're opting for a caesarean birth, you may well be scheduled to have your baby this week, which reduces the risk of labor starting to happen naturally. The closer to your due date, the higher chance of this happening.
Baby: What's Happening?
Your baby will probably weigh somewhere between 6 and 9 lbs and measure around 19 or 20 inches long. He or she isn't up to much, just chilling out and waiting to be welcomed into the world. Most of the lanugo hair and vernix caseosa have disappeared now and your baby looks, well, baby-like! However, even babies who are born on time still may have a little of the greasy white coating remaining, but this is easy to clean off.
Your baby's organs are functioning well and are raring to start supporting Baby on their own after the clamping of the umbilical cord. Your baby's brain, however, is continuing to develop as rapidly as ever and will continue to do so throughout childhood. You'll be amazed at how quickly your baby learns things, and if it seems like they gain a new skill every day, then they probably do!
As the brain develops, Baby can do more and more, even inside the womb where, let's face it, there's not really much stimulation. One skill Baby may start practicing now is muscle flexing, although they'll look more chunky in their first year than they do muscley. Baby's are well known for their cute chubby look but you better enjoy it while you can, as they soon start to slim down and beef up once they become active.
You: What's Happening?
If Baby's head is slipping further into the pelvis you may find even the shortest of walks increasingly difficult, although any pressure on your lungs should start to ease off. Many Moms who have previously been nervous (or downright terrified!) about the birth report a feeling of calm now. Some argue that it's simply that by this point a great deal of expectant mothers are so fed up of being pregnant that they don't care how it happens, they just want the baby out, while others claim it's nature's way of mentally preparing parents for the birth. It's up to you what you believe but one thing's for sure: you should be taking advantage of this new found serenity.
You could be starting to lose your mucous plug now, and your cervix may be beginning to dilate and efface. You won't know this for sure unless you have an internal examination. It's uncomfortable, but it's not painful. It's also your choice as to whether you have it or not. It's not a necessity unless there's a medical reason for the check.
Braxton Hicks contractions could be happening quite frequently and could cause a bit of panic, so it's important to remember the differences between these "practice" contractions and real contractions. Braxton Hicks contractions won't be overly painful, won't get more severe or closer together, and can often be reduced by taking a walk, having a glass of water or by distraction techniques. Real contractions, on the other hand, will become more frequent and more intense over time, and the pain can't be stopped.
If you're hanging out, waiting for a natural labor, it may be a good time to re-read your birth plan and any information given to you by your doctor, midwife or from an antenatal class. It can be amazing how much you don't take in at the time due to all the other information being pushed into your head. It's a good way to do some final preparation, like last minute cramming before a test.
If you're scheduled for a C-section this week, congratulations Mamma! You'll want to ensure you arrive at the hospital with an empty stomach - that means no eating for at least 12 hours before the operation. If your operation is delayed this can be difficult, but you won't be able to have your operation if you've eaten. Try and stick to small sips of water.
Make sure to pack some slip on shoes as bending down could be difficult afterwards, and ensure there's someone to drive you and Baby home as you won't be permitted to drive for 6 weeks after the birth. Lifting Baby should be fine, but try to avoid anything heavier than that, including the vacuum and any of Baby's furniture that needs assembling. A caesarean section is a major operation; don't be afraid to ask for help!