40 weeks pregnant: baby's development, baby movements and labour symptoms

If you’re reading this, the chances are you’re still waiting for labour to begin. It will not be long now.

Your baby’s development this week

Remember that your baby has all the room they need and this stage and should not be moving less.

Movements do not slow down in late pregnancy.

Watch our film on why your baby's movements matter

Film was published in Oct 2016

Your pregnancy symptoms in week 40

Swollen feet and hands

Swelling in the legs, ankles, feet and fingers is normal in pregnancy. This is often worse in the later stages. Try to:

  • avoid standing for long periods
  • wear comfortable shoes and socks
  • try to rest with your feet up as much as you can
  • drink plenty of water – this helps your body get rid of excess water
  • try to take regular walks during the day or doing foot exercises.

Call your midwife or the maternity unit if you notice a sudden increase in swelling. This can be a sign of pre-eclampsia.

What to do in week 40

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.

Find out about membrane sweeps

If you go over your due date, you might be offered a membrane sweep by your midwife.

You may be also offered an induction, which is when labour is started artificially. Here’s what you need to know about induction of labour.

Your antenatal care

You should have a routine antenatal appointment booked for week 40. You should also have an appointment booked for 41 weeks in case your baby doesn’t arrive on time.

It's important not to miss your antenatal appointments in these final weeks. Your midwife or doctor need to keep a close eye on you and your baby.

Find out more about your antenatal appointment schedule.

What if I don’t love my baby?

Many parents ask themselves this question during pregnancy. Some people feel an intense love for their babies when they are born, but for many others it takes a few weeks or even months to adjust and to grow into loving their baby.

Either way, it’s entirely normal. It doesn’t have to be love at first sight for you to be a great parent. The more you hold, feed and talk to your baby, the closer you will feel to them. Find out more about ways to bond with your baby.

Talk to your doctor or midwife if you are struggling with these feelings. Don’t worry, they won’t judge you. They may be able to reassure you or help you get more help and support if you need it

Waiting to give birth

This can be frustrating. Your due date has been and gone, you feel huge and you’re tired of going to the loo every 5 minutes.

There are some things you can do to try and start labour naturally. But be aware that there is not enough scientific evidence to prove that any of them work.

It’s very important to get advice from your midwife before trying anything to get your labour going.

“For every day or two I went over my due date I gave myself a treat, like getting my nails done.”

Know the labour signs

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

  • contractions or tightenings
  • a ‘show’, 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.
  • Tell your midwife immediately if:
  • the waters are smelly or coloured
  • you're losing blood.

This could mean you and your baby need urgent attention.

If you’re having a vaginal birth, your labour will have 3 stages, from the first twinges to delivering the placenta. The early (latent) stage of labour can take some time.

Recovering after a c-section

If you’re having a c-section, remember that is major surgery. It’s important to give yourself a chance to recover. Find out everything you know about recovering from a c-section.

1. NHS. Swollen ankles, feet and fingers in pregnancy. https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/related-conditions/common-symptoms/swollen-ankles-feet-and-fingers/ (Page last reviewed: 10 March 2021 Next review due: 10 March 2024)

2. 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.

3. NHS. Signs that labour has begun. https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/labour-and-birth/signs-of-labour/signs-that-labour-has-begun/ (Page last reviewed: 30 November 2020 Next review due: 30 November 2023)

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