37th – Thirty-seventh week of pregnancy

37 week of pregnancy

With the thirty-seventh week the term of pregnancy is fast approaching.

Up to the thirty-ninth week of pregnancy the unborn child will not be considered “full-term” , however babies born in the thirty-seventh have excellent chances of survival without having long-term complications .

The longer your baby stays in the womb, the more time his lungs and brain will have to fully mature.

And you, do you already have everything you need ready to take to the hospital for the day of delivery?

Baby development in the 37th week of pregnancy

The development of its fat

The fat continues to develop, with small dimples becoming increasingly visible on the elbows, knees and shoulders; while the folds and wrinkles on the hips, neck and wrists are becoming more evident .

Preparation for childbirth

The baby’s immune system in the womb is still immature and therefore not equipped to deal with external insults. In the last three months of pregnancy, the baby receives her circulating antibodies from the mother’s circulation via the umbilical cord . .

These antibodies are stored by your baby and will help them fight off germs and disease once they enter the world outside the womb.

The development of his motor coordination

The baby is perfecting his motor coordination in preparation for the day of birth: he is now able to grasp objects (such as the umbilical cord ) with his small fingers  .

Shining a light on your baby bump may cause him to turn towards it.

How big is the baby

By this week, the baby is almost the size of a bunch of chard. It has grown approximately 42 centimeters in length , and weighs nearly 3 kilograms .

In these last weeks of the third trimester, he gains weight more slowly: only about 200 grams per week.

At birth, males tend to be heavier than females (about 150 grams more) .

The baby’s head, shoulders, abdomen and hips have the same circumference at the time of delivery , which facilitates its passage through the birth canal.

Fetal movements – the breech baby

By week 37, your baby will begin to descend towards the pelvis so that his or her head can be oriented for birth.

It is normal for children to prepare this between the thirty-second and thirty-sixth: especially in the first pregnancies.

However, it’s also common for babies to prep after labor sets in .

Babies who remain in the feet-down position in these last stages are called breech babies: at the end, one in 25 babies is positioned in this way  .

There are methods of manually turning a breech or transverse (lying on the side) baby even in the last few weeks.

Your doctor may proceed with an external cephalic version (VCE), which involves applying pressure to specific points on the belly in order to position the baby correctly .

A successful VCE may allow you to have a normal vaginal delivery, while its failure will necessarily lead to a caesarean delivery .

The woman at the thirty-seventh week

The baby descending into the pelvis means for you to have more space in the upper part of your abdomen: for the stomach, for the lungs, for the ribs and the diaphragm, therefore with an increase in your appetite and with the possibility of being able to breathe easier, resulting in the alleviation of chest pain as well .

Other symptoms, such as indigestion and heartburn, may also improve slightly  .

Moving the baby changes your center of gravity again, making you even more clumsy than normal .

The 37th week of the twin pregnancy

For twin pregnancies, the thirty-seventh week is an important point of reference: it is in fact considered the terminal week .

In fact, most twins are born before single babies, usually between 32 and 37 weeks, with a high probability of surviving with adequate medical care.

In the case of a twin pregnancy that continues after this week, the doctor may recommend induction of labor during the 38th week , in order to prevent possible complications.

Tests and ultrasound at the 37th week of pregnancy

A pelvic exam is usually done at each prenatal visit to assess the baby’s position, and to look for dilated cervix, as well as other signs of labor: in many women, it begins to dilate weeks before labor begins, while it is also it is normal not to have these symptoms until the day of delivery .

If it hasn’t already been done, the doctor will also screen for group B streptococci (GBS) to see if you are a carrier of these bacteria: women who test positive will receive antibiotic treatment during labor .

This week, an ultrasound will show the baby moving and breathing, it will show him (almost) looking like he will on the day of delivery.

While an ultrasound is not a routine exam this week, it may still be necessary to guide the doctor during a possible VCE.

The symptoms of the thirty-seventh week

In this period the most common symptoms consist of,

  • pelvic pain;
  • Braxton Hicks contractions 
  • pain in the round ligament of the uterus;
  • pressure and discomfort in the lower abdomen making it difficult to walk 
  • leg cramps;
  • joint and back pain;
  • edema or swelling in the extremities 
  • headache , flushing, and sore throat;
  • restless legs syndrome and insomnia;
  • itchy skin;
  • stretch marks;
  • constipation;
  • frequent urination (due to the uterus putting pressure on the bladder); 
  • varicose veins and hemorrhoids;
  • mood swings and depression;
  • brain from pregnancy, the so-called “pregnancy brain” .

The early signs of labour

Watch out for the following symptoms, especially if you’re pregnant with twins, as they could indicate the onset of labor:

  • feeling a lot of pressure in the pelvic area;
  • contractions that become more frequent over time (more than four in an hour) 
  • menstrual-like cramps;
  • throbbing pain in the lower back;
  • vaginal bleeding;
  • increased vaginal secretions;
  • brown or bloody mucous discharge or mucus plug loss 
  • nausea, vomiting and diarrhea or increased intestinal activity;
  • leaking clear, watery fluid (could be amniotic fluid) .

When to call the doctor

Contact your doctor in the following cases:

  • lack of fetal movements for periods longer than 2-4 hours;
  • if you experience the signs of labor described above;
  • persistent headache, tiredness and lightheadedness accompanied by sudden changes in vision, upper abdominal pain, feeling short of breath and sudden swelling of the face and hands (could indicate hypertension or preeclampsia) 
  • extreme fatigue and dizziness, accompanied by excessive thirst, dry mouth, shortness of breath, urgency to urinate, and recurring urinary tract infections (may indicate gestational diabetes) 
  • unilateral swelling, i.e. one foot or ankle more swollen than the other (could indicate a blood clotting disorder);
  • severe itching, especially of the hands and feet, which does not go away with usual remedies (may indicate cholestasis of pregnancy) 
  • pain and burning when urinating, together with other symptoms such as pain in the abdomen or back, cloudy urine, thick white or gelatinous and greenish/yellowish discharge with or without a characteristic odour, fever, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea (may indicate infections to the urinary tract, renal or candidiasis.

Some useful tips for a healthy pregnancy and baby

Some useful tips for you who are now at the end of your pregnancy:

  • educate yourself as much as you can about labor and delivery and ways to manage pain during labor, so that you are able to decide together with your doctor and midwife how you would prefer to give birth, depending on your health needs
  • engage in prenatal yoga or light physical exercise, such as swimming or walking, to manage pregnancy pain under the advice of your healthcare professional 
  • drink plenty of fluids, and avoid caffeine as much as possible, which helps you better manage leg cramps and drowsiness 
  • Eat frequent, light snacks rather than three “big” meals, as this aids your digestion, relieving heartburn and acid reflux, if any ;
  • Definitely consult your doctor before considering “natural” methods of inducing labor, such as castor oil. They may have unexpected contraindications for the baby or may not have been adequately tested for use during pregnancy.

Katherine Johnson, M.D., is a board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist with clinical expertise in general obstetrics and gynecology, family planning, women’s health, and gynecology.

She is affiliated with the Obstetrics and Gynecology division at an undisclosed healthcare institution and the online platform, Maternicity.com.

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