40 weeks pregnant
40 Weeks Pregnant: Your Baby’s Development
At 40 weeks pregnant, your little one could arrive any day, but he might also prefer a few more weeks in the coziness of your belly. If you don’t go into labour within a week of your expected due date, your healthcare provider will keep an extra close eye on your baby’s heart rate and movement to be sure that all is well.
Your baby’s head has likely dropped lower into your pelvis, and his body is curled up tightly. He doesn't have much choice — it's pretty crowded in there. If your baby is in a breech position (rump down), your provider may attempt to turn him by placing firm pressure on your abdomen. If that doesn't work, your provider may discuss the possibility of a cesarean delivery with you.
You've been getting ready to meet your baby, and he's been getting ready to meet you too! His little body has been gaining fat up until this point so that he can more easily adjust to life outside the womb, and his liver, lungs, and brain are also still developing.
How Big Is Your Baby at 40 Weeks?
Your baby is the size of a pumpkin. On average, babies weigh between six and nine pounds at birth, and measure between 18 and 20 inches from crown to rump. This is just an average — pretty soon you’ll know your baby’s exact birth weight and length.
Mom’s Body at 40 Weeks Pregnant
Your body has done an amazing job of housing and nourishing your baby throughout your pregnancy. If you’re having a vaginal birth, when the time comes you’ll go through three stages of labour before you get to meet your baby. During the first stage, which includes two phases called early and active labour, your cervix will start to open by stretching and thinning. At this stage you’ll feel contractions that start out in your back area and move towards your belly. These contractions move your baby lower down into the birth canal.
Although each woman's labour experience is different, some moms-to-be can be in the early labour phase for as many as 14 to 20 hours before progressing to active labour, which is when the cervix is dilated about 6 centimetres. Active labour may last between four and eight hours. It’s not uncommon to spend most of early labour at home; your healthcare provider will be able to give you personalized advice as to when you should head to the hospital. When you start to notice the early signs of labour, try to make the time as relaxing as possible. You might want to go for a walk or take a warm bath at home, or you could listen to your favourite music or start practising any breathing techniques you’ve learned in your childbirth education classes.
Once your cervix is fully dilated (10 centimetres), you’ve made it to the second stage of labour. This is when you will be encouraged to push to help move your baby through the birth canal and out into the world. This part is usually a bit quicker (lasting between about half an hour to three hours, on average) but can be more physically demanding and painful than the earlier stage of labour.
Finally, after you deliver your baby, you’ll reach the third and final stage of labour. This is when you’ll deliver the placenta. You’ll probably still feel contractions as the placenta detaches from the uterus and comes out, but this stage is usually quicker and less uncomfortable than delivering your baby.
Not all moms-to-be deliver vaginally, though. You may have a scheduled cesarean section, or your healthcare provider may decide that a c-section is the best course of action once you’re already in labour. For a cesarean delivery, you’ll first be given anaesthesia to numb you or put you to sleep before surgery. Then, after being prepped for surgery, your doctor will make an incision in your abdomen and uterus and remove the baby and placenta manually. If your c-section is planned, it’s likely that your partner will be allowed in the operating room with you during surgery.
You and your healthcare provider have likely been monitoring your weight gain over the course of your pregnancy. Most of this weight comes from your own stores of fat, your baby’s body weight, and extra blood and fluid volume. You’ll lose most of the weight you’ve gained during pregnancy once your baby is born.
40 Weeks Pregnant: Your Symptoms
Snoring. Most moms-to-be experience some changes in their breathing during pregnancy, and you might be snoring more than usual as you approach your due date. This could be because hormonal changes can cause your nasal passages to dry out. If snoring is a problem for you or your partner, try using a humidifier in your bedroom or sleeping with nasal strips across your nose.
Losing the mucus plug. During pregnancy, this plug sealed off your cervix to prevent bacteria from entering your uterus. When you go into labour — or even a few days or weeks before — you’ll lose this plug. You might not even notice it but, if you do, it can look like a pinkish, bloody, or clear discharge.
Contractions. You may have felt Braxton Hicks contractions earlier in your pregnancy, but you’ll know it’s the real deal when your contractions hit at regular intervals and come more and more frequently. Another way to tell true labour contractions from the false variety is that true labour contractions will not subside when you move or change positions. If you think you are experiencing true labour contractions, or you’re unsure, contact your healthcare provider for advice.
Water breaking. This happens when the amniotic sac surrounding your baby ruptures, releasing the amniotic fluid. It can be one of the signs of labour at 40 weeks pregnant. Your water can break several hours before labour starts or even once labour has begun. When it happens, you might find it’s not as dramatic as the movies would have us believe. Some moms-to-be experience a gush of fluid and others only notice a trickle. Watch our video guide to learn more about what happens when your water breaks.
40 Weeks Pregnant: Things to Consider
Don’t be surprised if your baby doesn’t arrive exactly on his due date. In fact, your pregnancy won’t be considered to be post-term until you hit 42 weeks. Keep in mind that your due date is just an estimate. If you give birth a bit later than expected, it could be because your baby just wants a little extra time in your comfy belly.
During the final weeks of your pregnancy, you’ll probably visit your healthcare provider about once a week. At these visits, your cervix and the baby’s health and movements will be checked. If you haven’t gone into labour by 41 or 42 weeks, your healthcare provider might make a plan for inducing labour. After 40 weeks of pregnancy, the amount of amniotic fluid in your uterus may start to decrease, and the placenta may not be as effective at nourishing and protecting your baby as it once was. Try not to worry, as your healthcare provider is keeping a close eye on you and your baby and will know the best course of action. If you do go into labour but it doesn’t progress normally, your healthcare provider may recommend inducing labour or suggest another method to help labour progress.
Though you're eager to greet your baby, try and consider these final days as an opportunity for a little self-indulgence. If you’re 40 weeks pregnant and see no signs of labour, why not treat yourself to a pedicure, take in a movie, or read a book from cover to cover? Once your baby is born, you'll be on call 24 hours a day, and it'll be a while before you can squeeze in a little “me time.”
When the time comes, let your birth partner support you during labour. Your partner can help keep you company, help time your contractions, and offer you a soothing massage to help take your mind off any pain or discomfort.
40 Weeks Pregnant: Ask Your Doctor
At this stage, do you recommend waiting or inducing labour?
What, if anything, can I do to jumpstart labour?
Is it safe to have sex so close to my due date?
What should I expect in terms of recovery after I give birth?
I’m interested in breastfeeding my baby. When can I start breastfeeding after giving birth?
How we wrote this article
The information in this article is based on the expert advice found in trusted medical and government sources, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.
40 Weeks Pregnant: Your Checklist
Treat yourself to a pedicure, book, or movie before your baby arrives
Read about how your body will change and recover after you give birth
Get excited! You baby is almost here!
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