Your baby is the size of a watermelon

39 Weeks Pregnant: Your Baby’s Development

Even if you haven’t started experiencing any signs that labour is approaching yet, there isn’t long to wait now. At 39 weeks pregnant you’re probably only a few days or weeks away, at most, from being able to finally gaze into your little one’s eyes.

Contrary to what you may think, those eyes might not be blue when your baby is born. Depending on his or her genetic makeup, your newborn’s eyes could be anything from slate grey to black.

The colour of your baby’s eyes can change after birth, and their final hue may not be revealed for up to three years. Read up on when babies’ eyes change colour here.

To ease your little one’s passage into the outside world, his or her skin is now coated in a waxy, white substance called vernix. This slippery coating will make it easier for your foetus to pass through the birth canal, if you give birth vaginally.

The vernix helps protect your little one’s sensitive skin during birth, but that’s not all. This special coating will keep on working its magic for a little while afterwards too: It’s a natural moisturiser, and also protects against infection in the first few days after your baby’s born.

This is why it’s important to let any patches of vernix remaining after birth absorb naturally into your baby’s skin.


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The Size of the Foetus at 39 Weeks Pregnant

Now that you’re 39 weeks pregnant, your foetus is about the size of a watermelon, measuring close to 50.7 centimetres from head to heel, and weighing in at around 3.3 kilograms (7.2 pounds).

Space is at a premium inside your belly this week! This illustration can give you a general idea of how your baby may be positioned at 39 weeks:

39 weeks pregnant

Mum’s Body at 39 Weeks Pregnant

At 39 weeks pregnant, be on the lookout for signs that labour is approaching.

Some of the signs of labour include

  • period-like pains

  • regular and painful contractions

  • the breaking of your waters, which could be a flow or just a trickle of fluid from your vagina

  • a ‘show’, which is when the mucus plug sealing your cervix becomes detached and leaves your body via the vagina in the form of a pink or bloody mucus discharge. Although a show is an early sign that labour could start soon, a show doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be giving birth within the next few hours. It could still be a few days yet.

Other signs of labour can be more subtle, and perhaps easier to confuse with other symptoms of pregnancy. These might include feeling sick, diarrhoea or an unusual pain in the lower back.

Keep in mind, some symptoms that you may experience at around 39 weeks pregnant should never be ignored, as they could be a warning sign of a problem that needs immediate attention.

Call your midwife or doctor straight away if you experience any of the following:

  • Vaginal bleeding

  • A severe, persistent headache

  • Vision problems (blurred vision, sensitivity to light, seeing spots)

  • Sudden, extreme swelling of the face, hands, feet and ankles

  • Severe itching, especially if it’s worse at night

  • Pain just below the ribs

  • A high temperature of 37.5 degrees Celsius or more, with no other symptoms of cold or flu

  • Stomach pain that doesn’t go away.

39 Weeks Pregnant: Your Symptoms

Here are some of the symptoms you may be experiencing at 39 weeks pregnant:

  • Trouble sleeping. It may be more difficult to get a good night’s sleep at 39 weeks pregnant. The size of your belly may make it hard to get comfortable, and nerves and anxiety can keep you up, too. Try to make your bed and bedroom as comfortable as possible. The safest position to sleep in is on your side, especially in the third trimester, as sleeping on your back may interfere with the flow of blood to your foetus. Don’t worry if you go to sleep on your side and wake up in a different position though: It’s the position you’re in when you drop off that counts, as this is how you’ll spend most of the night. To get more comfortable, try using pillows to support your bump, and put another between your knees for extra support.

  • Lower back pain. At 39 weeks pregnant your bump probably sticks out a good way in front of you. This, and the extra weight you’re carrying, mean that your centre of balance has also moved forward. This makes you instinctively lean backwards, putting a strain on your back muscles. The pregnancy hormone relaxin is also loosening up the ligaments that bind your joints together, so those muscles have to work even harder. Getting plenty of rest and doing your best to maintain good posture are the best ways of avoiding back pain. Bend at the knees when picking things up, avoid twisting your spine when you turn, and keep a straight back when you sit or stand. If you think you might need pain relief for backache, ask your doctor what medication you can safely take at 39 weeks pregnant. Keep in mind that an unusual or constant pain in the lower back might also be a sign of impending labour, especially if it’s accompanied by other symptoms.

  • Piles (Haemorrhoids). Piles are painful or itchy swellings caused by enlarged veins in or around the rectum and anus area of your bottom. Symptoms of haemorrhoids can include an itchy or sore bottom or aching and swelling around the anus. Although you don’t have to be pregnant to get piles, certain pregnancy hormones can make them more likely to occur at this time. At 39 weeks pregnant, the weight of your uterus on your blood vessels can also make things worse. If you suffer from constipation, straining to pass a bowel movement can also cause those little veins to pop out. To help prevent this, make sure you drink plenty of fluids and keep to a healthy diet with enough fibre.

39 Weeks Pregnant: Things to Consider

  • Be aware that in some circumstances your doctor or midwife may recommend inducing labour. This might be because your little one is overdue, or labour hasn’t started spontaneously even though your waters have broken. Induction could also be necessary due to a complication that could endanger your or your foetus’s health. For example, you might have high blood pressure, which carries a risk of a rare but serious condition known as pre-eclampsia. Or your little one may not be growing. If the need arises, you’ll usually have a chance to discuss the pros and cons of induction with your midwife and doctor.

  • When your labour starts, depending on what your symptoms are, your midwife may advise you to stay at home a little longer, and time your contractions until they reach a certain level of intensity. You may also find it more pleasant to spend this early stage of your labour in the familiar, comfortable surroundings of your own home. Your midwife or doctor will advise you on what to do, but usually it’s time to head out of the door if your contractions are coming every 5 minutes and last for at least 60 seconds each. When discussing with your midwife when to leave for the hospital or birthing centre, make sure you factor in how long it will take to get there.

  • When you give birth, you may find that events unfold a little differently to what you had imagined or expected. For example, not all babies cry out immediately. If it takes a few seconds before your little one cries or splutters to clear his or her airways, don’t worry. The doctors are there to check on your little one and make sure things are going well. In the first minute of being born your little one will have his or her heart rate, breathing, muscle tone, responsiveness and skin colour checked. Don’t be alarmed by blue hands and feet, or redness in other areas of the skin, either. It can take a while for your baby’s circulation to get going.

  • For some mums it’s love at first sight, for others the bonding process can take a little longer. Activities that involve touch, like bathing your little one, can help strengthen that bond, but there’s no need to feel guilty if you’re flooded with all sorts of conflicting emotions after the birth. It helps to be aware of the signs of postnatal depression, which is more common among new mums than you might think. Don’t hesitate to ask for help if you need it. The first few weeks with a newborn can be a bit of rollercoaster ride at the best of times. It might help to keep in mind that this is just the very beginning of a lifelong process, which might hold plenty of challenges in store, but also promises to bring at least as many magical moments for you, your little one and all those around you.

  • You still have time to do some shopping (even if it’s online!) and source any of those missing items you need for your newborn. Check out our newborn essentials list to double check you have everything you’ll need.

  • What’s in store after you give birth? It might help you feel more reassured and comfortable with what’s to come if you read up on your postpartum recovery and healing as well as on newborn baby care basics like umbilical cord care and how to change a nappy.

39 Weeks Pregnant: Ask Your Doctor

  • How can you track your little one’s movements in these last few weeks of pregnancy?

  • If your baby is in a breech position, will an attempt be made to turn him into a head-down position?

  • IN what circumstances would labour need to be induced?

  • If you give birth vaginally, will labour and delivery be in different rooms at the hospital or birthing centre?

  • What will happen if you are scheduled to give birth via a caesarean section? Where should you go once you are at the hospital, and can someone be with you in the operating theatre?

  • How many people can be with you during labour and delivery at the hospital?

  • Is taking pictures or videos allowed in the delivery room?

  • What should you expect to happen in the first few hours after giving birth?

  • Can you expect skin-to-skin contact with your baby immediately after he or she is born?

  • What are the visiting hours should people want to visit you and your newborn?

39 Weeks Pregnant: Your Checklist

  • Take a moment here and there to take stock and enjoy those little kicks and your final few days or weeks of being pregnant. You’ve come a long way and you’ll soon meet your baby, but whether you’ve found pregnancy exhausting or magical – or a mixture of both, taking a moment to soak in the feeling of being pregnant is worth doing as it’s a time period you’ll remember forever.

  • If you’re still at work, start wrapping things up and leave notes or onboard your colleagues who will be managing things while you are on maternity leave.

  • If you plan to bottle feed your baby, stock up on baby formula.

  • If you haven’t already and you like the idea of keeping details of your little one’s first year written down, buy a ‘my first year’ baby book as a memento.

  • If you haven’t already, plan who will take care of your pets and older children when you go into labour and during your hospital stay.

  • Get a baby first aid kit and have it stocked up.

  • Protect your mattress with a waterproof sheet or cover in case your waters break during the night.

  • Stock up on nappies and wipes for your newborn.

  • 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.