Pregnancy week 40

Your baby is probably one of the 96% of babies who is head down and deeply snuggled into your pelvis (the other 4%, or thereabouts, will be breech). The immune system is still immature and the baby receives antibodies from the placenta and after birth they will receive antibodies continually from your breast milk. Most of the lanugo has fallen off the baby’s body, although you may still find some hidden spots, particularly in the creases, and around the shoulders or ears.

The average baby will be about 7.5lb (3.4kg) and 20 inches long at birth. Your baby will be judged at birth and five minutes later with an apgar score.

Your baby is now ready to be born and the organs are fully developed. However, it’s not unusual for pregnancies to go on into the 42nd or 43rd week so don’t worry if you haven’t had any signs of labour yet. The last two weeks can be really tiresome and frustrating because you know it could happen at any moment and yet you could still be waiting another two or three weeks.

There are a number of pain relief options for women in labour. They include gas and air, which is breathed in through a mask and helps you to cope with contractions, pethidine, which is injected into your buttock or thigh every 3-4 hours, and TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation), a battery-operated device that helps your body to release its own natural painkiller hormones.

If the pain becomes more than you can cope with, you may decide to have an epidural. This is an injection of anaesthetic into the spine that numbs the nerves along your spine. This is a tricky procedure so you can’t decide to have it at the last moment.

Women who go a long time over their estimated due date may be given the option of having the labour induced. This can be done by artificially breaking your waters, giving you a pessary of hormones that are absorbed into your cervix, or giving you hormones straight into your blood through an oxytocin drip.

Inductions are the artificial means used to bring about labor. They can be medically managed, like pitocin or amniotomy (breaking your water), or by non-medical means. Give a great deal of thought to the risks and benefits of inductions.

Friends and relatives will be advising you to do everything you can to bring on labour – like drinking raspberry leaf tea, walking up and down stairs, having hot baths or eating curries. You may try anything and nothing but generally it all happens once your baby and your body are ready.

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