38 weeks pregnant: baby's development, leaking nipples and staying active

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

Your baby’s development this week

At 38 to 40 weeks, your baby will weigh between 3 and 4kg (6.5 to 9lb).

Remember that your baby has all the room they need and this stage and should not be moving less. You should feel your baby moving right up to and during labour. Contact your midwife or maternity unit immediately if you think your baby’s movements have slowed down, stopped or changed.

Your pregnancy symptoms in week 38

Tiredness and frustration

Many people start getting a little impatient, tired and frustrated by this point. This can sometimes be made worse by well-meaning comments such as ‘not long now!’ from those around you. 

“I was a very angry very pregnant lady. I found that crafting really helped with the frustration, I became a blanket knitting machine, it felt good to have something productive that I could do for the baby, but also something really repetitive that helped fill those days (which felt so long!).”

It’s natural to feel a little stressed but try to relax as best you can. Follow our 10 tips to relax in pregnancy.

Leaking nipples

It’s normal to leak from the nipples during the pregnancy. This is usually colostrum, which is the first milk your breasts make for your baby. Don’t be alarmed if you spot yellow marks in your bra, or any wetness.

You can use tissue in your bra to absorb the milk. You can also buy breast pads in some pharmacies or supermarkets. 

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?

There are several signs that labour may be starting, including:

  • contractions or tightenings
  • a ‘show’, which is when the plug of mucus from your cervix (entrance to your womb) comes away
  • backache
  • an urge to go to the toilet, which is caused by your baby's head pressing on your bowel
  • your waters breaking.

Call your midwife or hospital straight away if you think labour has started. 

Find out more about what to do when labour starts

Antenatal care

Most women go into labour naturally by 42 weeks. But your midwife may talk to you about your options if this does not happen during your 38-week appointment. These options include:

Your midwife or doctor can talk to you about the pros and cons of each option. 

Stay active if you can

Get outside and go for a walk if you can. If you are having an uncomplicated pregnancy, you can carry on exercising if 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, stomach pain 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 3 times in the past 5 years!).”

After the birth

You may be busy thinking about the birth, but don’t forget about what happens next!

The first 12 weeks after your baby is born (also known as the fourth trimester) can be both exciting and overwhelming. We’ve got the information you need to find your feet as a new parent.

1. Regan, Lesley (2019) Your pregnancy week by week, Penguin Random House, London

2. Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists (2012) https://www.rcog.org.uk/en/patients/patient-leaflets/your-babys-movements-in-pregnancy/

3. NHS. Leaking from your nipples. https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/related-conditions/common-symptoms/leaking-nipples/ (Page last reviewed: 26 January 2021. Next review due: 26 January 2024) Accessed: September 2021

4. Heazell AEP, Li M, Budd J, Thompson JMD, Stacey T, Cronin RS, Martin B, Roberts D, Mitchell EA, McCowan LME. Association between maternal sleep practices and late stillbirth – findings from a stillbirth case-control study. BJOG2017; https://doi.org/10.1111/1471-0528.14967.

5. NHS Choices. Signs that labour has begun. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/labour-signs-what-happens/#know-the-signs (Page last reviewed: 30 November 2020 Next review due: 30 November 2023)

6. NICE (2008). Inducing labour. National Institute for health and care excellence https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg70

7. ACOG. (2015) Physical activity and Exercise during pregnancy and the postpartum period. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. https://www.acog.org/clinical/clinical-guidance/committee-opinion/articles/2020/04/physical-activity-and-exercise-during-pregnancy-and-the-postpartum-period

Review dates
Reviewed: 11 July 2022
Next review: 11 July 2025