Congratulations! Week 37 is a massive pregnancy milestone, with your baby now considered to be "full term". Although you still have 3 weeks until your official due date, low risk babies are perfectly capable of surviving outside of the womb from 37 weeks onwards. This means that if you went into labor now, you'd be able to have a midwife-led birth if that's what you wanted.
A very small number of babies still struggle if born this early, so it's still best not to encourage Baby to make an appearance yet unless there's a medical reason. Unfortunately, being anxious to meet your little one doesn't count as such! Even those opting for an elective caesarean may not be scheduled for another two weeks, just to ensure Baby is given the best chance.
Baby: What's Happening?
Ding! Baby's done! At just over 6 lbs and around 20 inches in length, your baby is perfect, although he or she will still add a little meat to their bones over the next few weeks, with many babies weighing between 6.5 and 9 lbs at birth.
The big development this week is that your baby's lungs should be mature enough to breathe independently, which is the reason why babies are considered to be carried to term at 37 weeks. All that inhalation and exhalation of amniotic fluid over the past 9 months has paid off, and your baby is now itching to take that very first breath of air.
Baby is probably going to town on those thumbs of theirs about now, which as well as acting as a method of comfort and a sleep aid, also plays a part in developing the suckling action that will help Baby take those first sips of breastmilk or infant formula from a bottle teat.
You: What's Happening?
It could happen any day now, so taking things easy, doing the last of the preparations and keeping an eye out for signs of labor are important. You may be feeling a little more tired than usual, and some women also report feeling a little sad; a combination of being perhaps a little fed up of the pregnancy, and an anxiousness about life with a newborn.
If you've been lucky enough to escape the dreaded stretch marks this far, you may start to notice a few red marks this week. The final weeks of pregnancy are notorious for creating new stretch marks as the skin covering the stomach is stretched to its very limits. These marks will fade as your uterus shrinks following the birth, although a few silvery lines may remain. They're nothing to be ashamed of, so wear them with pride!
You might be seeing your Doctor or midwife more frequently now as they keep an eye on Baby's position in the womb, and the state of your cervix. If you're uncomfortable with having internal examinations this early, speak up. They're not necessary and it's up to each individual mother if they wish to have internals. Some Moms-to-be even refuse internals during labor. Have a think about what you'd prefer.
Thickened and increased discharge is normal around now as your body prepares for labor. Anything particularly mucous-like is probably a part of your mucous plug that can fall out in pieces over a period of weeks, or all at once. It doesn't mean labor is imminent, but it's certainly an exciting sign that things are making a start.
If you're planning to have a vaginal birth, you may wish to start preparing your body. One way to do this is with perineum massage. It may sound a bit embarrassing, but it really can help prepare your downstairs bits for the stretching they'll need to do in order to get Baby out.
Tears are a common side effect of natural vaginal births, and while first and second degree tears are nothing to worry about, third and fourth degree tears are likely to require surgery, usually within an hour after the birth. Massaging the perineum and encouraging it to stretch can reduce the risk of extensive tearing.
Using natural oils, the best method is place the thumbs just inside the vaginal walls and place a little pressure onto the perineum. In a circling motion, work the perineum as if you were making a pizza base, slightly stretching it to the point where it's just a tiny bit uncomfortable but not painful. If you're finding it difficult, ask your partner, your birthing partner or a (very, very close!) friend to help out.