Week-by-week guide to pregnancy
Our week-by-week pregnancy guide is full of essential information. From advice on writing a birth plan to what to expect at antenatal classes, you'll find it all here. Happy reading!
Week 41+ – your third trimester
Hmm is this awkward, isn't it? Your bag's packed and ready to go. The nursery's ready. You've chosen a name. But your little one isn't ready yet.
Try to be patient! Your big adventure starts soon. You could use this extra time to relax with your feet up and plan your exciting future with your baby.
What's happening in my body?
It's not unusual to go past your due date, but obviously this can't go on forever. You know it. And your baby needs to know it too.
It's usually fine to go over by a week or so without any extra risks. However about 10 or 12 days after your due date, your placenta starts to work less well, and your chance of a stillbirth increases. Your care providers will discuss the best ways forward with you, which could involve extra monitoring or induction.
You might be offered a membrane sweep to start with. This is where your midwife or doctor sweeps their finger around inside you and separates your cervix from the membranes around your baby. The idea is to stimulate hormones that could bring on your contractions. You can watch a little video about it here.
For many women, it does the trick, and labour starts within 24-48 hours. However you may need a couple of sweeps to get going, and it doesn't work for everyone.
Tell us about your pregnancy!
We hope you're having a happy pregnancy. Please contact us through Start4Life's Facebook page and let us know. Have you found this website useful? Do you have any tips for other mums? Send us a picture, as we'd love to see you with your bump or your baby!
Let's get this party started
Around 1 in 5 births are induced, which means that drugs are used to get the labour going.
You might be offered a membrane sweep to start with - this can feel uncomfortable, but it doesn't harm you or the baby.
A drug called prostaglandin is then used to open up the cervix and get contractions going. It's put into the vagina as a gel or tablet. It can also be delivered through a pessary, which looks like a mini tampon and releases the drug over 24 hours.
You may need to have your waters broken if they don't break naturally. You may also be offered a drip containing another drug called syntocinon if the labour needs to be speeded up.
There's a lot to consider when you're offered an induction, so ask as many questions as you like. Here are a few things to consider…
- there could be medical reasons why it's important for your baby to be delivered sooner rather than later
- induction can often avoid the need for a caesarean
- it could be more painful than a spontaneous delivery - you may end up with an assisted delivery using forceps (which are a bit like tongs) or a ventouse (which is a special suction cup).
You can read more about your options here.
Third trimester pregnancy symptoms (at 41+ weeks)
You could be feeling very frustrated that your baby's dragging their heels. Try to stay calm, as that's best for you and the baby! Your mantra for this week is: "Only 5% of babies come on their due date".
Your signs of pregnancy could include:
- painless contractions around your bump, known as Braxton Hicks contractions
- tiredness and sleeping problems
- stretch marks
- swollen and bleeding gums
- pains on the side of your belly, caused by your expanding womb (round ligament pains)
- indigestion and heartburn
- bloating and constipation
- leg cramps
- feeling hot
- swollen hands and feet
- urine infections
- vaginal infections
- darkened skin on your face or brown patches - this is known as chloasma or the mask of pregnancy
- greasier, spotty skin
- thicker and shinier hair
- symptoms from earlier weeks, caused by pregnancy hormones, such as mood swings, morning sickness, weird pregnancy cravings, a heightened sense of smell, sore or leaky breasts , a white milky pregnancy discharge from your vagina and light spotting (seek medical advice for any bleeding)
Tommy's the baby charity has produced a pregnancy guide with a further list of symptoms.
What does my baby look like?
The average baby is now around 3-4kg. We won't be too precise now, but imagine that there's a small pumpkin or a watermelon sitting in your stomach. The fast period of growth is now over. Your baby should be chubby enough, and mature enough, to survive in the big wide world, without any assistance.
Overdue babies tend to have red, dry and peeling skin. This is usually because they've lost their vernix, which is the greasy layer that stops their skin from drying out in the amniotic fluid. Don't be tempted to moisturise your baby's rough skin, as it could make it even worse. The red layer will peel off after a few days, without any help, revealing perfect skin underneath.
You can find out more about what your baby will look like here.
You're probably feeling like a giant whale, and hardly photogenic, but get your partner to take a picture of you, right now, at your very peak of ripeness. One day, you'll look back and laugh…and your baby will love to see the photo when they're older!
This week you could also...
It's a good time to tone up those muscles 'down under'. Gentle exercises can help to prevent leakage when you laugh, sneeze, cough or jump around on your future baby's trampoline. Get the muscles going by pretending that you're having a wee and then stop the urine in midflow.
We can usually get enough vitamin D from sunlight, but as we are at home a lot more at the moment, you may not be getting enough. If you're pregnant, or breastfeeding, you should consider taking a daily vitamin D supplement. It's worth checking if you're entitled to free vitamins.
Get moving! It's recommended that pregnant women do 150 minutes of exercise throughout the week. You could start off with just 10 minutes of daily exercise - perhaps take a brisk walk outside. Check out Sport England's #StayInWorkOut online exercises (scroll to the pregnancy section). Listen to your body and do what feels right for you.
Don't eat for two! Eat for you. Now you're in the third trimester, you may need an extra 200 calories a day, but that's not much. It's about the same as 2 slices of wholemeal toast and margarine.
How are you today? If you're feeling anxious or low, then talk to your midwife or doctor who can point you in the right direction to get all the support that you need. You could also discuss your worries with your partner, friends and family. You may be worried about your relationship, or money, or having somewhere permanent to live. Don't bottle it up – you're important, so ask for help if you need it!
Getting pregnant again is probably the last thing on your mind! However now is a good time to start planning what type of contraception you would like to use after your baby is born. Making this decision when you're pregnant will give you one less thing to think about when you're looking after a newborn baby. Getting pregnant again could happen sooner than you realise and too short a gap between babies is known to cause problems. Talk to your GP or midwife to help you decide and get everything in place.
This week's treat
Get a new box set or book that will entertain you while you're waiting for your baby to arrive. Make it a good one – and then you can enjoy dipping back into it when the baby's born. You don't need to splash the cash – borrow from a friend, check charity shops, or visit your local library. Now put your feet up and enjoy it!
Go back to week 40