Pregnancy
39 weeks and 3 days pregnant

Once labour starts your baby will no longer have room to place her hands on top of her head or by her face although, interestingly, she is still moving around – you probably won’t notice these movements as you will have other things on your mind.

The enquiries may begin flooding in this week and it will feel as though the whole world is awaiting news of your baby’s arrival.

In this final week of your pregnancy, the weight of expectation can be immense. It can feel as though everyone is waiting for you to pop, especially if it’s your first baby.

You’ll no doubt cope with it this week – and you may even enjoy getting all the attention – but if you happen to go overdue you might get frustrated by the constant calls and by having to repeat yourself. Try to be patient and remember people are simply excited for you and are just as frustrated with waiting as you are.

Matters aren’t helped by the due date. Everyone will have this estimated date in mind, but unfortunately not many babies stick to a schedule and they enter the world exactly when they are ready. Up to 42 weeks isn’t really considered that late in medical circles. If it all becomes too much, rely on others close to you to field all the calls and make it clear that you promise to be in touch with an announcement just as soon as there is any news.

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Text messaging can be a useful way of staying in touch with people in the final days. Sending out a circular “baby hasn’t arrived yet” message is a good idea.

I’ve heard about hospitals being understaffed and women who are in labour not getting a bed. Is this true?

There are concerns about shortages of midwives and beds. Many hospitals now employ ancillary staff and maternity support workers to provide back-up for midwives. Unfortunately, there have been times when maternity units are full, although this rarely happens. If no beds are available, a bed will be found at another hospital; many hospitals have “sister” units, to which they will transfer you. Most maternity units are not full for long and will organize for you to be transferred back as soon as possible.

You may experience deep and painful twinges , and practice contractions, known as Braxton-Hicks’, particularly towards the end of pregnancy. It’s easy to mistake these for the real thing, and you may find yourself rushing to the hospital when your body is really still practising. You may also experience regular contractions for a period, which then stop. All of this is normal.

One sign that labour may be imminent is that you lose your mucus plug; another is your waters breaking. In some cases, however, neither of these events takes place until labour is established, so don’t panic if they don’t happen to you.

You’ll definitely know you’re in labour when your contractions are occurring regularly, approximately every 15 minutes – time the gap between them. True contractions will get longer, stronger, and closer together as time goes on, and won’t go away when you walk around or change position.

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