Your Pregnancy: Week 37
A few weeks before labor begins, you may (or may not) notice a change known as lightening, in the way your abdomen looks and feels. As the head of the baby drops into the birth canal, you might see that your stomach looks lower, there’s less pressure on your upper abdomen (meaning more room to breathe!) and much more pressure on your pelvis, bladder and rectum – which may make you feel like the baby is ready to fall out. This might (and probably will) feel uncomfortable, but it’s a good sign that the baby’s gearing up for the big day, anxious to finally be held and kissed.
Good news: You are officially full term, meaning there wouldn’t be much of a risk if you were to deliver this week. However, that doesn’t mean he/she is finished growing and developing.
Your baby will be arriving any day now! Be on the lookout for these early signs of labor.
If there are any little errands you need to get done, do them now. Even if they seem insignificant, there won’t be much spare time during your first postpartum weeks.
Plan a romantic pre-baby date night.
You’ll be spending more time than ever at your practitioner’s office (you should be having weekly appointments now), so stock up on some good office reading or other entertainment!
Advice from Dr. Shari E. Brasner
When the baby has ‘dropped,’ which you may have also heard referred to as ‘lightening,’ he or she is beginning preparations to be born. We don’t know for sure what causes a baby to begin the descent, but we do look to this significant clue (or its absence) as an indication of the mother’s readiness for labor. When the baby’s head is fully engaged, we know with some confidence that the largest part of the baby has entered the pelvis and, barring other complications, can be born vaginally.
Sometimes a pregnant woman definitely knows that her baby has dropped. She’ll come into my office and tell me that the placement of the baby feels different to her and that she’s lost that breathless sensation she’s been experiencing for weeks – she no longer feels totally stuffed full of baby. But sometimes the baby’s descent also causes a woman to feel some new discomfort, which is caused by the baby’s head literally pressing down against the pelvis. She might feel this as increased lateral pain in the hips, especially when she’s walking, or as groin pain.
But the absence of a felt change isn’t particularly meaningful; just as often, women have no idea that the baby has dropped, and they are surprised when I examine them and impart this information. There is no way to know which category you fall into; over the years I’ve seen all the permutations.”
Babble recommends Dr. Brasner’s pregnancy book, Advice from a Pregnant Obstetrician.
Mom-To-Mom Advice: Letting Go of Your Dream Birth
While it’s true that birth is not a predictable experience, it’s also perfectly reasonable to imagine how your birth is going to play out and nearly impossible to avoid some kind of preconceived notions. It’s in our nature to try to find out as much as we can, whether it’s from asking friends, reading birth stories or tuning in to birthing TV shows. Learning about the various procedures and possibilities can make you feel more informed and less at the mercy of unfamiliar bodily functions and hospital policies. Physical, mental and logistical leg-work (like touring a hospital and practicing some labor positions) can give you a feeling of being prepared, whether or not you end up using what you know. It’s also normal to harbor some hopes and expectations.
If it makes you feel more prepared, you can write yourself a birth plan. But it’s a good idea to try to keep it short – perhaps short enough that you can convey it in a few simple sentences to your doctor, midwife or any nurses or residents you encounter. Pick a couple of the things that matter the most to you, and talk with your doctor or midwife about them beforehand. A more detailed list will give you more things to feel you need to live up to, and increase the chances that you’ll feel disappointed if you don’t fulfill them all perfectly.
The real task is to inform yourself without cornering yourself: to keep an open mind, staying aware of how information is being framed. Learn whatever techniques you want and imagine away – but then be willing to toss those ideas (and possibly ideals) out the window if things take a new and unpredictable turn.
Babble recommends From the Hips, by Rebecca Odes and Ceridwen Morris.