40 Weeks Pregnant

Jan 27, 2022 | 4 Minute Read

You are there, you've made it! Congratulations on reaching the 40th week of your pregnancy. Although you have probably thought many times you would never get to this milestone, take it as a personal accomplishment that you have. You may be totally sick of the whole pregnancy deal by now and just want it to be over and done with. You feel and look uncomfortable, and your energy levels aren’t what they usually are. It's hard to focus on anything for too long or make plans in case the baby comes. It's as if your life is on hold for the meantime.

Where’s the vacuum and mop?

However, not all women see getting to 40 weeks pregnant as cause for a well-earned rest. Some get into a frenzy of cleaning now and see dirt lurking in every corner. No room is immune and getting the house clean and organized for the baby's arrival becomes their number one priority. This 'nesting' phenomenon is well known and does make sense in terms of organizing a clean, safe environment for the new baby, however, take it easy on your body. You are 40 weeks pregnant!

Your physical changes this week

Lots of Braxton Hicks contractions this week which will promote a surge of oxygenated blood to your uterus and the baby. Sometimes they may seem quite intense but unless they are painful and regular, don’t be concerned. If you find they bother you, a warm shower or a change of position usually helps them to ease.

If your baby has engaged in your pelvis, your body shape will change and people may comment on the fact that you "have dropped". Although this means you can breathe a little easier, the extra pressure on your bladder is impossible to ignore. Your relationship with the toilet may be the closest one you have this week. Have trust that things are close to improving.

If you have a sudden gush of fluid from your vagina, a series of regular, painful uterine contractions which are coming approximately every 15 minutes, or a steady, continuous pain in your lower back, check with your pregnancy care provider. These can all be symptoms of true, early labor.

You will be feeling very heavy and congested in your pelvis this week. If you've had a baby before it can feel as if there really isn’t much holding the baby in, especially when you are standing. Your pelvic muscles are working overtime in supporting the concentrated weight of your uterus and like an overstretched sling, they are sagging at the critical points. Do them a favor and sit when you can. Find a comfortable chair and set yourself up with a drink, a good book and your phone by your side. You don’t need to explain yourself to anyone when you are 40 weeks pregnant, this is a waiting game.

The skin over your belly is stretched taut and tight like a drum. Your belly button looks as if it's been turned inside out, and your stretch marks look vivid. You’ll find it hard to imagine your belly could stretch any more but if you go past term, chances are it will have to. If you wrap your hands around, underneath your tummy, your fingers may not even touch.

Your emotional changes this week

You are probably feeling as if you are on pins and needles now. You've looked forward to this week for so long, and if nothing seems to be happening, you're bound to be disappointed. Close family and friends will be ringing to enquire if you've had the baby or are about to. You're likely to become tired of saying the same thing over and over. It's easier if you ask them not to contact you but instead, when something does happen you will get in touch!

You will be feeling a mixture of anticipation and excitement, anxiety, and impatience. This is a week full of emotion and it can be made worse by feeling as if you don’t have much control over what happens. If you are worried about how you will respond with the pain of childbirth, read everything you can about pain relief options. Speak with your pregnancy care provider about what you would like to have happen and include this on your birth plan.

Your baby's changes this week

Although you're feeling as if you've had enough, chances are your baby isn't perturbed. However, it is very cramped inside your uterus and its tenant will soon have to be evicted, no matter how cozy it is. Baby is so perfectly folded up that after he is born, you will wonder how he actually fit inside you. In the early days after birth, Baby will adopt the same positions and flexion that it did for all those long weeks of gestation.

Your pregnancy care provider will ask you about Baby's movements, how active he is, and if you have noticed any change in the pattern of activity. They may even ask you to keep a record or kick chart which you will need to bring to your prenatal appointments. You may need to have an NST (Non Stress Test), which monitors Baby's heartbeat as well as the muscle activity of your uterus. This will provide important information to your care providers in assessing the well-being of Baby.

Hints for the week

Don’t leave it until the last minute to pack your hospital bag. Having to scramble to find items at the last minute can create unwanted stress. If you have a vaginal birth, the longest you are likely to stay in the hospital is two days, so remember to pack light. Most women wear their normal day clothing rather than night wear through the day, so pack comfortable, easy front opening tops if you plan to breastfeed. If you want to be induced, discuss options with your pregnancy care provider. Choosing to induce labor is a personal decision and multiple factors need to be considered. Bear in mind that the incidence of needing an assisted birth may be higher in women who are induced, and did not go into labor themselves. If you have been scheduled for a caesarean birth, you are likely to have had your baby in the last week or so. Stay tuned for week 41!

The information of this article has been reviewed by nursing experts of the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric, & Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN). The content should not substitute medical advice from your personal healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider for recommendations/diagnosis or treatment. For more advice from AWHONN nurses, visit Healthy Mom&Baby at health4mom.org.