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38 weeks pregnant - all you need to know

Your baby is about the length of a stalk of rhubarb.

Week 38 infographic.

What does my baby look like in week 38? 

Their soft lanugo fur has disappeared, fat is being laid down to give them energy for their first few days while the breastmilk is coming in and they're ready for the real world. Now it’s all about getting into position for the birth.

Your baby is still growing and filling the womb - but this doesn’t mean that their movements should slow down.

If baby is not moving as much as they were, or if you're worried about their movements for any reason, talk to your midwife or doctor immediately. A change in your baby's movements can be a sign that they need help.

Your pregnancy symptoms in week 38

Leaking nipples

Your breasts are producing colostrum - a very special milk rich in nutrients for the baby's first few days. Don’t be alarmed if you spot yellow marks in your bra, or any wetness.

If needs be, buy some absorbent breast pads - they may come in handy when your baby arrives too.

What to do in week 38

Go to sleep on your side if you're not already doing so

When you reach your third trimester, the advice is to go to sleep on your side because research has shown that going to sleep on your back is linked to an increased risk of stillbirth. This advice includes daytime napping and night sleeping. Read more about safe sleep positions in pregnancy.

I’m worried something is wrong

If you have any concerns get in touch with your midwife or labour ward. Don't hold back from reporting a concern. Here are some tips for speaking with midwives in pregnancy.

Do you have persistent stomach pains? Brown or pink discharge? A severe headache that won’t go away?  

Take a look at the list of symptoms you mustn’t ignore.

How will I know when labour has started?

This is a common question at this point of pregnancy. You might be feeling worried about going out, making plans or being alone in case you go in to labour.

However, in most cases labour starts slowly with contractions very widely spaced, leaving you plenty of time to get home. This is especially true if it’s your first child. So don’t feel like you have to stay in the house.

Babies can go up to two weeks overdue before induction (bringing on the birth) is recommended, so it may be better for your mental health to get out, meet friends for lunch, walk around, do the shopping and so on as normal.

You might also be worried about knowing when you should go into hospital, especially if it’s not close by. But it takes a while to go through the first phase of labour, the latent phase (especially if it is your first baby). 

When you are having a contraction every five minutes that lasts 30+ seconds), call your midwife, birth centre or hospital labour ward if you are giving birth there. If you have chosen a home birth, the midwife will come to you.

How will I know when I am in labour? 

What happens during labour?

Antenatal care

You’re likely to have an antenatal appointment at 38 weeks to check on you and your baby. The position of your baby will be checked to see if he is head-down.

If his legs or bottom are facing down, your baby is ‘breech’. Your doctor or midwife may arrange for you to have a procedure where the doctor tries to move the baby into a head-down position. This is called external cephalic version (ECV).

Stay active if you can

Get outside and go for a walk. You can carry on exercising as long as you feel well and comfortable, even up to the birth, but it’s important not to overdo it.

Walking and swimming are great ways to be active at this stage in pregnancy. If you feel any pain or discomfort, dizziness, tightening in your tummy or leaking waters, stop exercising straight away and contact your midwife, doctor or the hospital.

“Do lots of things that you won't be able to do for a while after the birth. I went to the cinema as much as I could (since having children I’ve made it about three times in the past five years!)” Anam, mum of three

After the birth

You may be wondering what you will be spending your days on after the birth if this is your first child. Minding a new baby is all-consuming. It may seem unlikely now, but keeping them fed and nappies changed is likely to take up all your time.

Newborn babies do not sleep through the night so staying in bed in the morning, after the time you would normally get up, to get an extra hour or two can make all the difference to your day. Keep the curtains closed and if your partner goes to work, see if they can get ready in another room.

Read more about after the birth.

Your body will be sore from the birth and you will also need to look after yourself. If you have a c-section planned, find out how to prepare your home here.


NHS Choices. You and your baby at 33–36 weeks pregnant. (Page last reviewed: 31/03/2017 Next review due: 31/03/2020).

Heazell AEP, Li M et al (2017) Association between maternal sleep practices and late stillbirth – findings from a stillbirth case-control study. BJOG 2017;

Stacey T, Thompson JM et al (2011) Association between maternal sleep practices and risk of late stillbirth: a case-control study. BMJ. 2011 Jun 14;342:d3403. doi: 10.1136/bmj.d3403.

Gordon A1, Raynes-Greenow C et al (2015) Sleep position, fetal growth restriction, and late-pregnancy stillbirth: the Sydney stillbirth study. Obstet Gynecol. 2015  Feb;125(2):347-55. doi: 10.1097/AOG.0000000000000627.

NICE (2008) Antenatal care for uncomplicated pregnancies, NICE Clinical Guidelines 62. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence

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    Last reviewed on June 28th, 2018. Next review date June 28th, 2021.

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    Please note that these comments are monitored but not answered by Tommy’s. Please call your GP or maternity unit if you have concerns about your health or your baby’s health.
    • By Sadia (not verified) on 7 Mar 2020 - 02:21

      I’m 37 weeks and 3 days pregnant i am coughing and block nose is it harm my baby??? My 1st baby was born by c section now i planed vaginal birth. i’ve back pain legs cramping is it possible i will start this time by labour pain if yes how???

    • By lerato (not verified) on 21 Feb 2020 - 16:04

      is it noumal to feel your babys heart with your fiengs in my vagern when am barthing

    • By jane (not verified) on 15 Jan 2020 - 14:36

      im 38 weeks pregnant from now but i dont have feel any pain what tondo??

    • By Benedicta (not verified) on 20 Dec 2019 - 16:21

      Am having severe headache could that be a sign of labour

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 23 Dec 2019 - 16:50

      Hi Benedicta
      I can't diagnose from this information what's causing your headaches, but I would advise you to contact your maternity unit labour ward ASAP to discuss this and any other symptoms which you may have.
      Severe headaches are not a sign of labour, but can be associated with a serious condition known as pre-eclampsia and therefore it's important you contact your hospital ASAP.
      Best wishes

    • By Cynthia (not verified) on 16 Dec 2019 - 19:55

      38weeks, feeling very week with lots of headache

    • By Tamara (not verified) on 2 Dec 2019 - 11:49

      I'm feeling stiffness in the tummy find it hard to walk leak from the breast and voginal discharge thick and white and ichty is that narmal

    • By Anonymous (not verified) on 4 Dec 2019 - 13:00

      Go to the hospital

    • By Langa (not verified) on 22 Nov 2019 - 04:30

      Hi sir my wife is 38 weeks and she feels pains on her left side headache on her left side and her vigina is itching with creamy discharge is it normal

    • By Sdanile (not verified) on 24 Oct 2019 - 00:41

      Im 38 wks 2day.i have a problem of tightening tummy. And my heard is very saw. What can i do

    • By Am funky (not verified) on 27 Aug 2019 - 09:53

      Am 38 weeks 3 days pregnant no sign of but feeling Nausea plz advise me

    • By Navi (not verified) on 23 Aug 2019 - 05:24

      I am 37 weeks and 3 days today. I am so exhausted with my bump and discomfort. Is it good idea if i think to artificially induced labor and go for birth. Everything is challenging around me.

    • By Zama (not verified) on 15 Aug 2019 - 20:43

      Im 38 weeks pregnant and I have had this itchy rash all over my vagina..I have tried applying creme and powder and it doesn't go away..its very itchy and it will.affect my baby..please assist

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 16 Aug 2019 - 15:58

      Please contact your GP or midwife for treatment for your symptoms as soon as possible

    • By Tiffany (not verified) on 2 Aug 2019 - 19:10

      I am just wondering if any of you can help me. Im 37+5 with my secound child. My midwife has informed me that my baby is engaged. I have severe pelvic pain and pressure, back pain thats coming and going, i have the urge to pass urine alot more frequent. I feel very sick. Ive been having mild cramps near my pelvic llast couple of days and tightenings at night. Im just concerned as im in so much pain and normal pain relief doesnt when touch thebpain.the pain

    • By Fatima (not verified) on 27 Jul 2019 - 12:39

      Hello. I'm almost 38 weeks . I'm having dull lower back pain from last 2 days with stomach tightening that comes and goes. Suddenly feeling urge to poo but nothing comes out when I go to toilet. I'm very confused is this back labor or what? In my last pregnancy i had a back labor in 38 weeks. Please give me some advice.

    • By Rama (not verified) on 18 Dec 2019 - 20:55

      In 38 week 3days can go for baby delivery

    • By Martie Kruger (not verified) on 4 Jul 2019 - 00:46

      I am 38 weeks pregnant and I am experiencing terrible pains in my viginal area... Like scratching also in both my sides like ovulation pains....
      Then I have this funny sensation like baby is having hiccups and she also is kicking me terrably....

    • By Babz (not verified) on 28 Jun 2019 - 22:34

      Hi, I'm 37 weeks and 5 days. iv been getting this itchy rash since over a week now it's really unbearable I can't stop itching. It started with my stomach red and lumpy on stretch marks and now I have this tiny tiny little red spots everywhere in my body. Seen the GP no tablets cream working. Done blood test they all fine. What can I do to make the itch and rash go away. I never had any allergy nd haven't been exposed to sun at all always inside the house in cool environment I don't know why I have this.

    • By Revathi (not verified) on 5 Jul 2019 - 18:35

      Hi, I had the exact same problem a few weeks back when I was 36 weeks pregnant. Its called PUPPPs rash. Use bath showers that has oatmeal and creams that has Calamine to soothen itchiness. However please bear in mind that there is no solution to this except for delivering baby. You can ease the itchiness by putting cool or ice packs. Hope you feel better soon

    • By Jean (not verified) on 14 Jun 2019 - 04:45

      Im on my 38 wks now but not feeling any pain sometimes my stomach is tightening especially when im walking. But i didnt yet have and labor pain like backpain and menstrual cramps...Is this normal?

    • By Nishas (not verified) on 20 Jun 2019 - 17:28

      Yes ,it is normal... Even some babies take extra days than due date of delivery... If still there is no symptoms of delivery then doctor ll give you artificial pains to deliver baby...
      You can ask your doctor for more details please.

    • By Favour (not verified) on 11 Jun 2019 - 13:45

      I don't even know how many weeks I am. My LMP says 40 wks, 2days but the ultrasound says 36wks, 3days. I v gestational diabetes and my doctor is suggesting induction next week. Am a bit worried as a first time mum bcos I don't know if my baby is due by den. I was asked to go for scan this week. Really worried

    • By Regy (not verified) on 15 Jun 2019 - 08:33

      Sailing in the same boat. There's a 28days difference between my LMP and ultrasound EDD. No signs of labour whatsoever at 38wks 2days. First pregnancy. I'm so confused.

    • By Bendetta (not verified) on 11 Jun 2019 - 13:38

      am 38 weeks and have started wetting my pants what could it be?

    • By Charls (not verified) on 21 Jun 2019 - 07:20

      Could be yr plug or could be yr waters breaking or leaking. I would run it by midwife because waters lost increases risk of infection.

    • By Dani (not verified) on 17 May 2019 - 08:23

      Hi I’m 38 weeks with my first baby and the last two days iv lots of pain in lower stumic , back and this morning it’s down my hip I am also going to toilet a lot more often than before with bowel movement and pee could this be a sign of early labour ?

    • By Tessa (not verified) on 25 Mar 2019 - 04:57

      Is it normal for ur bump to be in different shape when baby stiffens up inside. Some part soft and some part hard am worried .

    • By Angie Nyeks (not verified) on 18 Mar 2019 - 10:09

      I'm 38 wks pregnant now,I can't sleep I drink too much water and my weight is too much comparing to my previous experience,my blood pressure is fine ,a lot of back pains in the morning and for two weeks now been seeing some white stuff on my pants and sometimes I saw water.Is this normal

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 20 Mar 2019 - 10:24

      Hi Angie
      If you have seen water on your underwear, then it is very important that you go into your local maternity unit as soon as possible to check if your waters have broken, as once they break, your baby is at risk of infection if this is left undetected. If your waters have not broken, you may need to be treated for thrush as you report white discharge. Please take your pregnancy notes and go into be seen today! All the best, Tommy's Midwife

    • By Pamela (not verified) on 27 Feb 2019 - 02:10

      Am having a sharp pain on my left side of stomach...It will come and go..Am 38 weeks gone and no show yet...Pls can dis be a sign of labor

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 27 Feb 2019 - 14:14

      Hi Pamela
      You need to get seen at your local maternity unit as soon as possible. Abdominal pain , especially one sided, is not normal at any gestation of pregnancy. So please get seen TODAY and don't forget to take your pregnancy notes with you. Take care, Tommy's Midwife

    • By Isabella (not verified) on 21 Dec 2018 - 19:07

      Hi there im 38 weeks now, ive been having these terrible pains as early as 1am and the only thing that helps is standing up and streaching my bum and legs. Its a numb pain inside my hips down my butt. And i also battle to fall asleep. This whole pregnancy ive been unable to sleep. And im not stressed. My bloodpressure is always perfect and baby and scans are good. Its just me whos very uncomfortable and exhsusted. Any advice please?

    • By Misty (not verified) on 18 Jun 2019 - 19:14

      Hello. I can absolutely relate to the feelings that you are describing, but believe me, they sound completely normal. I am currently 38 weeks pregnant with my 6th child and with the numb sensation you are describing, it sounds like the baby is laying on and pinching a nerve in your pelvis that is responsible for your discomfort. I have the same feeling during this stage of this pregnancy and it is very uncomfortable, but very normal and nothing to worry about. I went to see a chiropractor, she adjusted my pelvis alignment and I have felt 100% better ever since. Good luck, mama, your baby will soon be in your arms and all of this will have been well worth all of it!

    • By Aafreen Rizvi (not verified) on 29 Oct 2018 - 05:47

      Hello I am 38 week pregnant last night I feel pain like Periods pain and I feel baby come low abdomen and like pressure in pubic bone

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 1 Nov 2018 - 14:18

      Hi Aafreen, Thank you for your comment.

      It can be normal to start to feel some niggle pains towards the end of pregnancy as your baby's head will start to engage and your body gets ready for labour. If you feel that this pain is getting stronger, you have any bleeding or you are worried about your baby's movements then please call you local maternity unit to get checked out. Hope this helps, take care Tommy's Midwives x

    • By sajad (not verified) on 28 Oct 2018 - 17:00

      sir,my wife is at thirty eight week but she feels severe pelvic there any way to know about normal delivery or surgery.some two months ago scan shows posterior lateral placenta.she is worrying about what to do

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 1 Nov 2018 - 13:02

      Hi Sajad, Thank you for your comment.

      If your wife is in this much pain then she should really call the local maternity unit to be seen. Pelvic pain can be normal in later pregnancy as the baby's head starts to go down and engage but as she is in so much pain then please call your midwife or local maternity unit to be seen. Take Care, Tommy's Midwives x

    • By Mmabatho (not verified) on 22 Oct 2018 - 16:49

      I'm 38weeks and since 37weeks I've been having this pressure like i need to poop,it comes and go and back pains are severe,also I sometimes feel pain at my pelvic area.could it be beacon hicks?

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 23 Oct 2018 - 14:07

      No it is unlikely to be Braxton hicks as these little contractions are painless. If you have pain, please see your midwife or doctor for review and advice. It may be nothing but it is always better to ask.

    • By Mrs kamran (not verified) on 28 Aug 2018 - 23:46

      i m 38 weeks pregnant and tomorrow i m going to hospital for my last scan
      i have very severe backpain since 17 weeks but now its more worst i feel very uncomfortable night time i can’t sleep on my back even on my side !
      i have visited physiotherapists couple of time but it doesn’t really work!

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 30 Aug 2018 - 16:00

      Hi Mrs Kamran,
      Thank you for your comment, we are sorry to hear that you have been in such discomfort through this pregnancy. If you have been having physiotherapy sessions only a couple of times, it may be that you need a few more sessions to see if they will help with the pain. You should call your GP or midwife and tell them that you are in a lot of discomfort and that it is now effecting your sleep. Try and rest as much as you can, you can always take paracetomol if this will help but only take 2 tablets every 4-6 hours and don't take any more then 8 tablets in 24 hours. Hope this helps, take care, Tommy's Midwives x

    • By elen (not verified) on 30 Aug 2018 - 22:53

      Why evwryone has scans but not me. I only had 12 weeks and 20 weeks scan

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 31 Aug 2018 - 15:15

      Hi Elen,
      As a routine you would only be offered these two scans during your pregnancy however there are many reasons why someone may need extra scans if there is something else going on in their pregnancy.
      Best wishes
      Tommy's midwife

    • By thandokazi (not verified) on 5 Aug 2018 - 20:11

      painful kicks and my back is also painful and its my first baby should i worry??

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 6 Aug 2018 - 11:23

      Many women find things difficult at 38 weeks. You are nearly there. Back pain is common in pregnancy. We advise to keep mobile and to see a physiotherapist or osteopath, but you may deliver before any treatment and for many women these symptoms resolve after pregnancy. Take care x

    • By Chelsea (not verified) on 4 Jul 2018 - 18:27

      I’m 38 weeks and the kicks are now getting a painful any advice? Many thanks

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 5 Jul 2018 - 14:24

      Hi Chelsea, Thank you for your comment.
      You are nearly there now and you are bound to be getting very uncomfortable. It can be especially uncomfortable when your baby is active and they are trying to get into a position. If this is causing you a lot of pain and discomfort then it may be worth contacting your midwife or GP who may be able to refer you to a women's physiotherapist so that they can give you some exercises that may help with the discomfort. The pregnancy hormones can relax all the ligaments and may start to cause you pain so please get yourself checked over so that you feel more reassured and hopefully start to become more comfortable. If you think that this pain is getting worse or you have any bleeding then please contact your local maternity unit. Take Care, Tommy's Midwives x

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 9 Feb 2018 - 16:05

      Hi Emma,
      Sorry to hear that you are experiencing an anxious time at the moment in this pregnancy. It is great that you have been referred for a scan to check your baby's presentation. It is unfortunate that they are unable to scan you until next week, in the meantime if you start to get any tightenings or if you think your waters have broken then you need to go to the maternity straight away. As for anyone at this stage of pregnancy, it is important to monitor your baby's movements and any concerns then contact the hospital straight away. They should be able to scan you on the ward if needed to confirm how your baby is lying. If they scan you next week and do find that your baby is breech then they should discuss with you birth options and if they can offer you an ECV (a way to try to turn the baby). I hope this helps, if we can support you further then please do be in touch.

    • By Emma (not verified) on 9 Feb 2018 - 14:49

      My midwife told me 2 weeks ago my baby was head down and engaged, I had my 38 week check today and they think baby is breech, they can’t do a scan until next week I feel so anxious now

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