Your baby is the size of	rhubarb

38 Weeks Pregnant: Your Baby’s Development

Your little one could arrive any time now. This is because only 1 in 20 babies are actually born precisely on their due date. In most cases, labour starts any time between 38 weeks and 42 weeks of pregnancy, and twins or triplets may arrive a little earlier than this.

Because you never know when your little one might arrive, it’s a good idea to have your hospital bag packed and ready to go.

It might surprise you to learn that your little one is busy practising facial expressions. At this very moment, he or she might be smiling, frowning or even silently going through the motions of crying.

This face-pulling is still just random, and not tied to any specific emotion like sadness or happiness, but it’s amazing to think that your little one is already preparing to melt your heart with that first smile!

Your foetus continues to gain weight and the lungs and brain keep on maturing at 38 weeks pregnant and beyond.

In fact, if you’re having a planned caesarean section, it may not be scheduled until you’re at least 39 weeks pregnant. This is to make sure your little one’s lungs are as well-developed as possible.

Keep in mind that this isn’t always the case though: In certain cases, the doctor may recommend an earlier caesarean section if this is considered the safest option based on a thorough assessment of all the risks and health benefits.

At 38 weeks pregnant, you’re likely to be familiar with your little one’s patterns of movement and general level of activity, although a kick counting app or chart can give you a useful point of reference if you’re still a little unsure.

The movements should continue right up until birth. If you think your foetus is moving less than usual, it’s very important to let your midwife or doctor know immediately.

Less movement could be a sign of an infection or other problem, and the sooner it’s checked out the better. This way, your little one will be able to get the right care if necessary.


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The Size of the Foetus at 38 Weeks Pregnant

Now that you’re 38 weeks pregnant, your foetus is about the size of a rhubarb, measuring close to 49.8 centimetres from head to heel, and weighing in at around 3 kilograms (6.6 pounds).

This illustration can give you a general idea of how your baby may be positioned at 38 weeks:

38 weeks pregnant

Mum’s Body at 38 Weeks Pregnant

At 38 weeks pregnant, instead of asking how many months pregnant you are, people that you meet could now be telling you that you look ready to give birth any moment.

It’s true that you may be feeling pretty large right now, but that’s hardly surprising. On average, mums-to-be gain between 10 and 12.5 kilograms (22 and 27 pounds) over the course of a pregnancy, although this figure can vary a great deal depending on your starting weight and many other factors.

Most of these extra kilograms result from the weight of your foetus, the placenta and amniotic fluid, but your own body is also storing fat for breastmilk production after your baby is born.

Much of this extra fat is stored in your breasts and bottom, so you may be noticing some expansion in these areas in particular.

Keep to your healthy diet and remain as active as you can.

If you’re finding your usual exercise routine more of an effort due to your changed body shape and the extra weight, consider switching to more gentle activities like walking.

Swimming or ‘aquanatal’ sessions are also a great way of staying in shape during the third trimester, as the water can support your bump and give you a feeling of weightlessness.

Remember, at 38 weeks pregnant or beyond, if you have any questions about what exercises are safe to do or any other questions about your health or pregnancy weight gain, ask your doctor or midwife for personalised advice.

38 Weeks Pregnant: Your Symptoms

Here are some of the symptoms you may be experiencing at 38 weeks pregnant:

  • Signs of labour. At 38 weeks pregnant, suddenly feeling sick could mean it’s nearly time for your little one to be born, especially if it’s accompanied by other signs of labour. A bout of diarrhoea might be another possible tell-tale sign. Lower back pain is a common complaint among mums-to-be at all stages of pregnancy, but an unusual or constant backache might also signal the early stages of childbirth. Some of the signs of labour are more obvious, however. A gooey, pink or blood-streaked discharge could be the mucus plug coming away – a sign that your cervix may be starting to soften and open up in readiness for labour. If you experience period-like pains and cramping or regular or painful contractions, or if you notice your waters breaking, call your midwife or doctor to let them know what you are experiencing. You can also call your midwife or doctor if you’re in any doubt about symptoms.

  • Braxton Hicks contractions. You may already have felt these seemingly random sensations of a tightening around the stomach earlier on in your pregnancy. Braxton Hicks contractions are your body’s way of getting into practice for the real thing. At 38 weeks, you might be wondering if you’ll be able to tell them apart from true labour contractions. In a nutshell, the two main giveaways are regularity, and severity: True labour contractions come at regular intervals, and they tend to get closer together and stronger as time progresses. Braxton Hicks contractions, on the other hand, don’t follow any noticeable pattern, and although they may feel strange or uncomfortable, they aren’t painful. Once you start feeling true labour contractions, it may help to count or time them so you know when it’s time to leave for the hospital or birthing centre. Your midwife or doctor will be able to tell you how to do this.

  • Frequent urination. The weight of your growing foetus and uterus, not to mention the amniotic fluid and placenta, may be putting extra pressure on your bladder, and this can give you the urge to pee more often. To compound things (literally), at 38 weeks pregnant your little one may have recently moved further down into your pelvis in readiness for delivery, resulting in even more pressure down there. (If this hasn’t already happened, it may occur at any time between now and the start of labour.) Drinking less isn’t an option, because it’s important to stay hydrated. Cutting down on caffeine-based drinks can help though, because these can stimulate the urge to urinate. Your best bet is to keep drinking plenty of water, but plan ahead so that you’re near a loo whenever possible.

  • Swollen ankles and feet. At 38 weeks pregnant your growing uterus and foetus may be putting pressure on blood vessels, affecting the flow of blood in your legs. This can contribute to swelling in your ankles and feet, as fluid builds up in these extremities throughout the day. To help, try to avoid standing for long periods at a time; wear loose, comfortable socks and shoes; put your feet up whenever you can; and drink plenty of water. It may seem counterintuitive, but staying hydrated actually helps flush the retained fluids out of your system.

38 Weeks Pregnant: Things to Consider

  • You’re likely to have another antenatal appointment around now, at 38 weeks pregnant. These check-ups are usually scheduled for every two weeks at this stage of your pregnancy. At these appointments, your doctor or midwife will take measurements to estimate the size of your uterus. They’ll also check your blood pressure and test a sample of your urine for protein, to make sure you’re not showing any signs of pre-eclampsia, a rare high blood pressure condition that can be dangerous if it’s not detected in good time. You may also be given information about what happens if your pregnancy goes beyond 41 weeks.

  • If you’re expecting to give birth vaginally, have you considered your pain relief options for labour yet? If not, your midwife can fill you in on what’s available to you, and the pros and cons of each method. The range of options may include gas, pain relief injections or an epidural anaesthetic, which is administered into the spine. There’s also a wide range of other comfort measures that can help make your labour and delivery more bearable. Ask your midwife for more information on which of these may be available to you. You might want to include your pain relief preferences in your birth plan, if you have one, but keep in mind that whatever you decide now, you can change your mind about when the time comes. For now, the important thing is to be aware of all the possibilities so you can make informed choices during labour.

  • You may want to choose a birth partner to be with you throughout your labour and delivery. This might be your partner, a family member, a friend, or even a trained professional, like a doula. Your birth partner can support you emotionally and provide encouragement. He or she can also give practical assistance, for example by timing contractions or offering a soothing massage. If you have a birth plan, talk it through with your birth partner so that he or she is familiar with your preferences.

  • If you haven’t got a hospital bag packed and ready to go at 38 weeks pregnant, it really might be a good idea to stock yours up now. Even if you’re planning a home birth, it’s good to have a hospital bag packed, just in case. Use our handy hospital bag checklist to make sure there’s nothing you’ve missed. Keep in mind, your bag should include all the things you’ll need during your hospital stay, as well as the things you’ll need for your little one and your birth partner.

  • If you’re considering breastfeeding your baby, you might like to research lactation consultants in your area. A lactation consultant can help you get started and help navigate any possible challenges associated with breastfeeding your baby, such as getting the proper latch, how to increase your breastmilk supply or dealing with sore nipples. You may be able to find one doing a simple online search, but your healthcare provider, your midwife, or perhaps a friend who’s used one before may also be able to recommend one.

  • Consider taking some time this week to read up on what may be in store during the postpartum period. Knowing ahead of time might help you feel more prepared and in control for the changes that may take place in those first weeks and months. We’ve collected some articles here that you may find interesting:

38 Weeks Pregnant: Ask Your Doctor

  • Is it safe to have sex during the final weeks of your pregnancy?

  • What is recommended if your baby is in a breech position?

  • Under what conditions might it be necessary to induce labour?

  • If you think you’re going into labour, who should you call? Should you call straight away or wait for something specific?

  • If you’re in labour, at what point should you start heading to the hospital or birthing centre?

  • If you’ve had breast implants or other breast surgery, will you still be able to breastfeed your baby?

  • How soon can you start breastfeeding after giving birth?

  • If things go well, how soon after you give birth are you likely to be discharged from the hospital?

38 Weeks Pregnant: Your Checklist

  • If you haven’t already had it, ask your healthcare provider when you will have the Group B strep test. This routine test checks whether you carry the GBS bacteria so your provider can give you the appropriate course of treatment if the test result is positive and you plan to give birth vaginally.

  • You may have started getting your hospital bag ready, but there might be a few things you’ll only be able to pack at the last minute because you’re still using them, like your phone charger and toothbrush. Make a list of these items and stick it to the fridge or put it on your hospital bag. That way, you or your partner can throw the last few items in the bag before you leave for the hospital or birthing centre.

  • If you haven’t done so already, make sure your baby’s car seat is securely installed in your car, so it’s ready to bring your baby home safe and sound.

  • Take some time to pamper and care for yourself – you may not have this kind of ‘spare time’ for some time once your baby is born. For example, you may like to do things like getting a haircut or going for a pampering pedicure.

  • Sign up for even more weekly pregnancy tips:

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 National Health Service (NHS). The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.