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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.

Sources

NHS Choices. You and your baby at 33–36 weeks pregnant. http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pages/pregnancy-weeks-33-34-35-36.aspx (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; https://doi.org/10.1111/1471-0528.14967.

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 http://publications.nice.org.uk/antenatal-care-cg62

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

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Comments

  • 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 pain.is 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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