38 Weeks Pregnant: Fetus, Belly, Symptoms and Weight Gain

When pregnancy enters Week 38, your belly might probably have swelled up until it seems like it is on the brink of bursting. You might find the act of standing up a chore now. When the baby drops, you might find that the joints in your legs and bones forming the sides of the pelvis called the pubis ache more often.

Now that you’ve entered the “early term pregnancy period” – 37 weeks 0 days and 38 weeks 6 days1– there is not much time left for you to prepare for your delivery! Is there anything left on the Week 38 checklist that you have not yet done? Let’s find out.

38 Weeks Pregnant: Pubis and hip joints hurt

pregnant woman pain

Your baby has most likely dropped down towards the uterus, even if you don’t feel it! As the nerves around the pelvic area are compressed by the weight of the uterus, you will feel numbness in your rear end, thighs and waist. When your leg muscles are cold, this will cause the muscles around the pelvic area to stiffen, and this makes the cervix close up as well.

38 Weeks Pregnant: Symptoms

  • Pubis, hip joints, waist and buttocks hurt or feels numb
  • The bladder is compressed and this causes urine leaks and increases the frequency of urination
  • Braxton Hicks contractions: Irregular, false labor pains come and go
  • Increase in amount of vaginal discharge
  • You don’t feel fetal movements as acutely as before
  • Headaches and back pain

Edema: Cause of weight gain

pregnant woman edema feet

By the time your pregnancy reaches term, you will have about 3 to 5 times more blood in your body in comparison to your pre-pregnancy state. With that much blood in you, it is no wonder that you might be having trouble coping with the swelling in your body.

Eating too much salty foods, not doing enough exercise, or having a poor blood circulation to begin with doesn’t help improve the water retention either. Even if you have religiously been doing all you can to combat the swelling, you might just see yourself piling on the pounds within the span of just this week alone.

If you feel that your condition has worsened, talk to your doctor and get some advice on how to stop your swelling from worsening. You might want to get a massage (first check if it’s safe for you!), soak your feet in hot water every day and pamper yourself more this week.

Signs of labor: Third trimester nausea

woman nausea

When your pregnancy is a “term pregnancy”, you might find yourself revisited by a ghost from the past in the form of the “third trimester nausea”. In the third trimester, the hormone levels in the pregnant mom’s body changes, the uterus becomes even bigger, and the stomach and intestines are compressed.

The strategies you can try to use to fight the third trimester nausea is the same as that used to fight morning sickness: Eat food that is easy to digest in small amounts, and refrain from lying down after eating.

If you have, in addition to your morning sickness, severe diarrhea or signs of dehydration, you should go to the hospital straightaway. These symptoms might be signs of infectious diseases or that your baby might not be getting enough nutrients.

Once you’re done with labor and delivery, morning sickness will go away – so grit your teeth and bear with it for now.

38 Weeks Pregnant: Sonogram of fetus in belly

Week38 scan

This week, the fetus is 6.0 to 7.1 lb (2.7 to 3.2 kg) and is 18.5 to 19.3 in (47 to 49 cm) long. If your baby is more than 5.5 lb (2.5 kg) now, it means that your baby does not fall in the low birth weight category. As there are individual differences in the size and weight of babies due to a variety of factors, even if your baby has a low birth weight, you can rest assured if the doctor gives you the all-clear on your baby’s health.

Baby’s skin, which was previously transparent, thickens and becomes more layered, turning from a semitransparent color to a whitish-pink or bluish-pink color. The baby is now in a relatively good state to be born: The body is fully-equipped with all the organs necessary for survival.

Surfactant, which keeps the aveoli from collapsing and helps the baby expand less energy to breathe, is continually being produced by the type II cells in lungs.2The umbilical cord connecting the mother to the baby is now about 60 cm long.

Fetus’ growth

  • Internal organs, except for the lungs, are completely formed
  • The skin thickens and fats continue to accumulate
  • The white cheese-like vernix caseosa and the lanugo drop off, are ingested by the newborn baby while still in the womb, and passed out in the meconium (first feces)

38 Weeks Pregnant: Pay no heed to old wives’ tales

pregnant woman tablet-type device

When your pregnancy reaches “full term”, waiting for the contractions to start can cause you to feel very restless. Also, most moms might have even replaced their nighttime skin care routine with using their smartphones or laptops to get as much information on the signs of labor as they can.

According to hearsay, spicy foods or eggplant, among many other foods are foods that should be avoided as they can induce labor. However, as this is not backed by any science, there is no need for you to let these sayings keep you at the edge of your seat.

Don’t believe everything you hear and let that stress you out – instead, since people have told you that if you exercise, that will cause your cervix to dilate and your baby will drop out, you should give that a go and see if you can shorten your labor and save yourself from having to go through all that pain. We’re kidding!

Bloody show makes an appearance

checkup pregnancy

The mucus plug is the mucus accumulated in the uterine cervix and which seals the cervix tightly. When the mucus plug becomes dislodged and is passed out, this means that your delivery date is approaching.

After your mucus plug is lost, you might see the bloody show – mucus tinged with blood because the blood vessels in the cervix rupture when your uterus gears up for labor and delivery. You won’t be seeing a lot of blood, so don’t worry! The color of the bloody show differs from individual to individual, so it can be pinkish, greyish or brownish.

In general, most moms see signs of their bloody show about 3 days before right up to the day of their labor itself. You might even see your bloody show a week before your contractions start, or even see it for a continuous 3 days. Try to keep calm when you see the bloody show, and use sanitary napkins as you would during your period.

Worrying won’t help, but what you can do is to be on the lookout for true labor contractions. About 1 in 2 mothers don’t see any signs of their bloody show, so even if your bloody show doesn’t show up and you go on to have contractions, that doesn’t mean that anything is wrong.

38 weeks pregnant: Signs of labor

pregnant woman sky

Week 38: A week where you might see yourself having a showdown with some Braxton Hicks contractions, the bloody show, your water breaking and other signs of labor. You might be going “oh, not again” every time you feel contractions start, but as this is something both inevitable and something you have no control over, face it with grit, guts and gumption!

From today on, practice your breathing exercises, prepare your hospital bag and leave it somewhere convenient so you can grab it on your way out, and make sure your body and mind are both ready to welcome the new addition to your life.