You’ve made it to week 39 of your pregnancy, and are probably so very eager to cross the finish line. What if you aren’t seeing any signs of labor yet? How will you know when labor is approaching? What’s normal for baby’s movement in these last weeks? Let’s look at all these things and more!
Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
Updated August 8, 2021
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Week 39 Pregnancy: A Look Inside
With just days or weeks left until baby arrives, your little one looks just like she will when you meet her! In the 37 weeks since conception, she has grown to about 7 1/4 pounds. She is around 14 1/2 inches long from crown to rump, and probably close to 20 inches in total length (1). (These numbers are just an average. As you get closer to the end of your pregnancy, baby’s size varies more than in the beginning. Your little one likely weighs somewhere between 7 and 8 pounds and is between 19 and 21 inches long.) What else is going on with baby?
- She continues to gain fat.
- Her lungs are more mature every day, and ready for the task of breathing on her own when she’s born.
- Baby’s brain weighs 14 ounces! (It wasn’t that long ago that your entire baby was only 14 ounces!) Brain growth is rapid at the end of pregnancy, and your little one’s brain weighs 30% more than it did just a month ago! Her brain will continue to increase in size and will weigh 20 ounces by her first birthday.
Your weight gain is probably plateauing at around 25 – 35 pounds. Perhaps a bit less if you entered pregnancy overweight or obese.) You may gain a little in the time you have left; baby is still growing after all. And odd as it sounds, you may also lose a little weight. Changes in estrogen and progesterone levels cause fluid loss and electrolyte shifts, and this may mean that you lose up to a few pounds (2).
Week 39 Pregnancy Symptoms
Most of what you’re experiencing now are the same symptoms you’ve had for the last few months. But this close to the end, there are some things that may be particularly difficult.
Your baby is taking up so much room that everything else inside is pretty cramped, including your stomach. This — combined with progesterone relaxing the muscles in your body and potentially affecting the valve that should keep your stomach contents in your stomach — means that acid from your stomach can creep up into your esophagus. The best way to deal with heartburn and acid reflux is to eat small amounts frequently instead of a few large meals and to limit things like spicy food and caffeine.
Your baby may have dropped lower into your pelvis in preparation for being born. This can cause several types of pain. As her head presses on your lower spine, you may have back pain. You may have pain in your pelvis from baby’s bony skull settling low. But a sensation that might surprise you or even worry you is shooting pains in your crotch. The pain may feel like it’s in your cervix, vagina, lower abdomen, or even shooting down your thighs. This is actually normal and is a result of baby’s head hitting sensitive nerves. A belly band that helps support baby’s weight may help. Fortunately, the pain usually only lasts for a few seconds.
No Signs of Labor?
At this point, you may be convinced that you’ve been pregnant since the beginning of time, and wondering as each day passes if you’ll continue to be pregnant until the end of time. Waiting is a strange feeling, isn’t it? You’re walking around knowing that labor could kick in literally any minute, but also knowing that it may still be weeks before you meet your little one.
While your baby is full term now, remember that an average pregnancy is between 37 and 42 weeks, and it’s completely normal that you’re still waiting. Also, remember that labor looks different for everyone. Some women begin to dilate weeks before delivery, and some don’t dilate at all until labor starts. Some women contract on and off for days before labor, and some experience almost no contractions until labor starts. Don’t be disheartened by the fact that you haven’t experienced any signs of labor yet. And don’t assume that baby is still weeks away if prelabor signs haven’t started, because not everyone has a long or noticeable prelabor stage.
Week 39 Pregnancy: Labor Approaching
At this point in the game, it’s hard to think of anything but baby’s arrival. Continue to be mindful of the signs to look for. We won’t do a full description of labor signs this week since we did so last week. Let’s just recap the major signs you’re looking for, and if you want to dig deeper and learn all about them, head on over to 38 Pregnancy: 1 cm Dilated & Signs of Labor.
Signs of Labor Include:
- Lightening (also called baby dropping)
- Braxton Hicks contractions
- Cervical changes
- Bloody show
- Rupture of membranes (water breaking)
- Sudden burst of energy
- Weight loss
- Diarrhea, indigestion, or nausea
Your little birdie is going to hatch very soon and you may be feeling the urge to get your nest just right before the big day. Many women describe feeling a burst of energy that kicks in during the final weeks or days before baby is born.
While some consider it an old wives’ tale, it can still be helpful to take advantage of any extra energy to make sure you’re packed for the hospital, that you’ve purchased and installed a car seat, and that you have plans in place for your other children, if you have any. Even light cleaning, simple household tasks, and errands can benefit from your nesting instinct. Just be sure not to drain yourself too much; you’ll need lots of stamina for labor and delivery.
Take it Easy
As a rule, don’t move heavy furniture or large objects. And stick to small projects you can complete in a few hours or less. At 39 weeks, you’re at the point where you could need to drop everything at any time. You wouldn’t want to leave with all your furniture half-rearranged or all of your closets emptied out.
Week 39 Pregnancy: Baby Movement
In the last few weeks, you’ve likely noticed that your baby moves differently than it used to. There’s just not as much room anymore for the rolls and flutters that your smaller baby was known for. Now baby is bigger and quite cramped in your uterus. Movements may seem slower and stronger.
When baby’s movements change in late pregnancy, some women feel like there is less movement than there used to be, and this can lead to worry. And you’re not alone — a study shows that just over half of women report that they have been worried about baby’s movement at some point during pregnancy (3). If you’re concerned that you haven’t felt baby move in a while, you can usually put your mind at ease by doing a kick count.
A kick count is just what it sounds like… a count of baby’s kicks. It’s recommended that you do it during a time of day when baby is usually active; a good time is often after a meal. Find a comfortable position and avoid distractions. Count baby’s movements — each kick, wiggle, squirm, etc. Track how long it takes baby to make 10 movements (5).
If baby isn’t moving at all, he or she may be asleep. Sleep cycles usually last 20 – 40 minutes (4). Try waking baby with a loud noise, a sweet drink (like orange juice), or some exercise, and then return to a restful position to begin counting.
If baby doesn’t move 10 times in 2 hours, call your healthcare provider. He or she may want to check on baby, or may just want you to continue to monitor movements for a while.
Come back next week to read about week 40, the date you’ve likely been counting toward since the beginning!
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- Glade, B.C., Schuler, J. (2011). Your Pregnancy Week by Week, 7th edition. First Da Capo Press
- Ladewig, P., London, M., & Davidson, M. (2006). Contemporary Maternal-Newborn Nursing Care, 6th edition. Pearson Education Inc. Upper Saddle River, NJ.
- Linde, Anders, et al. “Fetal Movement in Late Pregnancy – a Content Analysis of Women’s Experiences of How Their Unborn Baby Moved Less or Differently.” BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, BioMed Central, 1 June 2016, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4888620/.
- The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (2010). Your Pregnancy and Childbirth Month to Month, 5th edition
- Simkin, P. (2010). Pregnancy, Childbirth and the Newborn, 4th edition. Meadowbrook Press