Pregnancy and baby

You and your baby at 37-40 weeks pregnant

Your baby's development at 37-40 weeks of pregnancy

At 37 weeks, your pregnancy is considered full-term.

The baby's gut (digestive system) now contains meconium – the sticky, green substance that will form your baby's first poo after birth. It may include bits of the lanugo (fine hair) that covered your baby earlier in pregnancy.

If your baby does a poo during labour, which can sometimes happen, the amniotic fluid will contain meconium. If this is the case, your midwife will want to monitor your baby closely as it could mean he or she is stressed.

In the last weeks, some time before birth, the baby's head should move down into your pelvis. When your baby's head moves down like this, it is said to be 'engaged'. When this happens, you may notice that your bump seems to move down a little. Sometimes the head doesn't engage until labour starts.

The average baby weighs around 3-4kg by now.

The lanugo that covered your baby's body is now almost all gone, although some babies may have small patches of it when they're born.

Due to the hormones in your body, the baby's genitals may look swollen when they're born, but they will soon settle down to their normal size.

Your baby is ready to be born, and you'll be meeting him or her some time in the next couple of weeks.

Your body at 37-40 weeks pregnant

When you are around 37 weeks pregnant, if it's your first pregnancy you may feel more comfortable as your baby moves down ready to be born, although you will probably feel increased pressure in your lower abdomen. If it's not your first pregnancy, the baby may not move down until labour.

Most women will go into labour between 38 and 42 weeks of pregnancy. Your midwife or doctor should give you information about your options if you go beyond 41 weeks pregnant.

Call your hospital or midwife at any time if you have any worries about your baby or about labour and birth.

Find out what to expect if your baby is overdue.

Get ready for labour

What happens in labour

Find out how to tell if labour is starting, and what happens in each of the three stages of labour.

Pain relief during labour

Be prepared by learning about all the ways you can relieve pain during labour so you can decide what's best for you.

Be ready for the birth

When to go to the maternity unit and what to expect

Find out at what point during your labour you should contact your antenatal team, and what to expect when you get there.

What your birth partner can do

Your birth partner, whether it's the baby's father, or a friend or relative, can support you during labour and birth.

Common concerns about giving birth

Breech birth

A breech birth is when a baby is born bottom first, which is more complicated than a head-first birth.

Caesarean section

A caesarean section is when you have surgery to deliver your baby.

Induction

Your maternity team may recommend that your labour be started artificially. This is called induction.

If your baby is born too soon

Premature labour

Labour that starts before 37 weeks is considered premature. If your baby is born early, he or she may need special care in hospital.

Special care for ill or premature babies

What to expect if your baby is born early, or is ill and needs to be cared for in a special care baby unit.

Warning signs during late pregnancy

Vaginal bleeding

Bleeding from your vagina may be a sign of a serious problem, so seek help.

High blood pressure and pre-eclampsia

High blood pressure and protein in the urine are signs of pre-eclampsia, which can be life-threatening if untreated.

Severe itching 

Severe itching at any stage of pregnancy can be a sign of the rare liver disorder obstetric cholestasis.

Pregnancy week by week

Find out what's happening to you and your baby at:

0-8 weeks pregnant

9, 10, 11, 12 weeks pregnant

13, 14, 15, 16 weeks pregnant

17, 18, 19, 20 weeks pregnant

21, 22, 23, 24 weeks pregnant

25, 26, 27, 28 weeks pregnant

29, 30, 31, 32 weeks pregnant

33, 34, 35, 36 weeks pregnant

Over 40 weeks pregnant

 

Giving birth at home or at the birth centre

A midwife explains the alternative options for women who don't want to give birth in hospital, and a mother describes her experience of giving birth at home.

Media last reviewed: 19/09/2012

Next review due: 19/09/2014

Page last reviewed: 17/02/2013

Next review due: 17/02/2015

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The 1 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

Lyledrin said on 16 November 2012

I am 36w pregnant with my first baby and went for an appt. with my midwife on Tuesday. There was a student nurse with her who measured my fundal height etc. and told me the baby is 3/5 engaged - about half way down. Today, however, I saw the consultant at the hospital maternity clinic who told me that she was concerned, as my baby's head was 5/5 - free and that they would keep an eye on the lack of engagement. Is it possible for my baby to move his head back out of the pelvis?

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Signs that labour has begun

Including contractions, waters breaking, backache and having a "show"

What your birth partner can do

Practical and emotional ways that your birth partner can help you during labour

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