By week 38, your baby's organs are developed, his grip is firm, his fingernails now reach the tips of his fingers, and his lungs are ready to breathe thanks to ample surfactant and whirring brain activity. As baby preps for his big day on the outside, the placenta that gave him his essentials for life and growth begins to break down slowly. There is no need to fret; he will be out before it loses its capacity to support him. The placenta measures about 8-10 inches and is approximately 1 inch thick. Up to this point, the placenta has been providing the baby with the oxygen and nutrients he needs to survive and transporting waste products back to the mom's body for filtration. Soon the placenta will no longer be functioning well enough to support the baby, so few doctors will allow a pregnancy to extend beyond 42 weeks.
Your doctor has likely been monitoring your baby's position closely in the last few weeks to ensure that the baby has shifted into a head-down position. Some babies might still be in a breech presentation at this late stage which can mean that the cervix will not dilate appropriately without the pressure of the baby's head. This position can increase the time and discomfort of labor and might result in complications that require emergency interventions or cause distress for the baby. Recent research has shown that a C-section birth is safer for delivering a breech baby and for long-term neurological development. Only an experienced practitioner should attempt to move the baby's position and only at the request and guidance of your doctor as complications can arise, and there are inherent risks involved in the process.
- American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists - How Your Fetus Gros During Pregnancy
- American Pregnancy Association - Week 38