40 Weeks Pregnant – Symptoms, Tips, and Stages of Labor

The time you have been waiting for has finally arrived. You’ve reached the 40th week of your pregnancy. Your baby is ready to make the grand entry to this world, and you are eagerly waiting for that moment to arrive. Waiting can be stressful, but you mustn’t worry too much. Your baby will arrive when he is ready, and you will know when the time comes. 

Pregnancy week 40

You have completed nine months of your pregnancy now, and our baby could arrive any day now. Your placenta is still providing antibodies to your baby, which he needs to ward off infections during the first few months of his life.

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Just because your due date is this week does not mean you will give birth this week. Around 30% of pregnancies last longer than 40 weeks. Your doctor won’t let your pregnancy last longer than 41 weeks.

Symptoms

1. Braxton Hick’s contractions

You will continue to feel Braxton Hick’s contractions this week. Don’t confuse them with the real thing. If your contractions don’t increase in frequency or severity, they are Braxton Hick’s contractions.

2. Slower fetal activity

Your baby doesn’t have much room to wriggle now, and his movements may have slowed down. However, you should still be able to count ten movements of your baby in one hour.

3. Swelling in hands and feet

Swelling is normal during this stage of pregnancy. Prop up your feet to a level that is higher than your heart to reduce swelling. You can also do some simple stretches and exercises for your hands and feet.

Sudden swelling in your face, hands, and feet can be a sign of preeclampsia. Call your doctor immediately.

4. Leg cramps

The extra weight that you are carrying may be responsible for your leg cramps. Gently flex your ankles and toes back towards your shin to reduce the pain of these leg cramps.

5. Snoring

Pregnancy hormones can cause your nasal passages to dry out. You may end up snoring more than usual as your due date approaches. Place a humidifier in your room or use nasal strips while sleeping.

6. Losing mucus plug

The mucus plug seals off the cervix to prevent bacteria from entering the uterus. You lose this plug when you go into labor or sometimes even days before you go into labor. You may notice a thick discharge with traces of blood in it.

7. Pelvic pressure

As your baby drops lower into your pelvis, you may feel additional discomfort.

Signs you are in labor

1. Contractions

When your contractions start coming at regular intervals and get more intense with time, you know that you’re going into labor. These contractions, unlike Braxton Hick’s, do not go away when you move or change positions.

2. Water breaking

When your amniotic sac ruptures and releases the amniotic fluid, it signifies that you are in labor. In some cases, water can break hours before labor starts. Some moms experience a gush of fluid; others notice only a trickle.

Stages of labor

Early labor

During early labor, you will experience contractions that are irregular and not very painful. These contractions last between 30 to 45 seconds. Your cervix will continue to dilate and efface. Early stages of labor can last 12 to 18 hours. There is no need to rush to the hospital yet. Your water can break any time during this phase (1).

Active labor

Your contractions are getting regular and are coming closer together. Your contractions will now last 60 to 90 seconds and are getting stronger. Start your breathing techniques now. Your cervix will dilate from 4 cm to 7 cm. It is now time to head to the hospital or the birthing center. Active labor lasts between 5 to 7 hours.

Transition

This phase is the shortest (30 minutes to 2 hours)and the most challenging phase of labor. Your cervix will dilate from 8 cm to 10 cm during this phase. During this stage, your contractions will last between 60 and 90 seconds, and there will be 30 seconds to two minutes of rest between two contractions. You may experience hot flashes, chills, nausea, and gas (2).

Pushing

During this stage, your baby’s head will begin to emerge from your vagina. The baby is crowning when the baby’s head remains visible without going back inside. You will see your baby within one hour.

Delivering the placenta

This stage is the final stage of labor. Once your baby is born, you will expel your placenta. Nursing your baby helps to contract the uterus; this helps to expel the placenta.

Your baby at week 40 of pregnancy

Your baby now measures between 19 to 21 inches and weighs 6 ¾ to 10 pounds.

  • All the bones of your baby have become hard except for the bones that make up the skull.
  • Your baby’s movements have slowed down as he is cramped inside your uterus.
  • Your baby may still have some remnants of lanugo and vernix.
  • When your baby is born, his eyes are swollen.
  • You may also see blue tines on your baby’s hands and feet.
  • Your doctor may suction the mucus or amniotic fluid out of your baby’s mouth and nose.

Tips to follow when you are 40 weeks pregnant

1. Eat a healthy diet

Labor is hard work, and it needs a lot of energy. Eat a diet that is high in nutrition. Add foods rich in iron and vitamin C into your diet.

2. Relax

Thoughts about labor and birth are taking up too much of your mind space and causing stress. Keep yourself busy and meditate. Take a walk or read a book.

Your pregnancy week 40 doctor’s visit

Don’t be surprised to find yourself at your doctor’s office this week. Only 5 % of babies arrive on their due date.  If your pregnancy lasts one week past your due date, your doctor will start checking your baby more closely. You will have a non-stress test or a biophysical profile to check your baby’s heart rate, movement, and other aspects of his health. Both biophysical profile and non-stress tests are done twice a week after you have passed your due date.

Your doctor will discuss inducing labor with you during this visit. The different ways to induce labor are –

  • Breaking water
  • Using medicines
  • Sweeping the membranes

Tips for the partner

Your partner may be stressed that your baby has not made an appearance yet. Encourage her to get out and exercise a bit. Massage her feet, shoulders, and legs if she is feeling sore.  If she thinks she is in early labor, call up your doctor to check.

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Get your partner to the hospital when the contractions are three to five minutes apart. At the hospital, do all that you can to get your partner comfortable. Hold her hand and just be there.

When you arrive home, help your partner take care of the baby as she has to focus on her recovery. Take charge of your older children so that your partner can better take care of the new baby.

Final thoughts

When you are 40 weeks pregnant, you are officially at the end of your pregnancy. While some of you will go into labor this week, some will have to wait a few days more. Your baby now measures between 19 to 21 inches and weighs 6 ¾ to 10 pounds. Tiredness, stress, swelling in hands and feet, pelvic pressure, and leg cramps are a few of the symptoms you may be feeling this week. Continue to eat healthily and relax; you may soon notice signs of labor like water breaking and contractions.

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