As you get toward the end of your pregnancy, you are likely going to start feeling done being pregnant. Trust me, I know the feeling. When I was pregnant with my son I had to be induced after watching my due date come and go. I have some tips on how to survive the last month of pregnancy while your baby does their last little bit of growing.
You may be feeling beyond uncomfortable at this point or just really anxious to meet your little one. Either way, I bet you’ve started looking for signs that labor may be starting soon and ways to can encourage it to move a little quicker. Try not to rush things too much because the closer to full term your baby is the better.
What Is Full Term?
By now you probably know that your due date is calculated as 40 weeks from your last period. A week before and a week after your due date though, you’re considered full term.
From 37 weeks to 39 weeks you are early term and your baby is at higher risk of things like low blood sugar and respiratory issues. At this stage in the game just try to keep that baby growing in there for a couple more weeks.
If you make it all the way to 41 weeks you are considered late term and your doctor will likely be talking to you about scheduling an induction if they haven’t already.
Signs Labor is Near
So now that you know where you stand on the timing side of things, there are a few signs you can watch for that baby might be ready soon. Unfortunately in the last couple weeks of your pregnancy, many of the symptoms you will experience could mean that baby will be coming today, or deliver could still be a month away.
- Dilation and Effacement – Starting around 36 weeks your doctor will likely start checking your cervix at each of your weekly visits. Dilation is measured in cm, with 10cm being fully dilated and ready for baby to be delivered. Effacement (thinning of the cervix) is measured in percent, with 100% being the ultimate goal. It is common for your cervix to dilate 1 or 2cm and to start to thin weeks prior to the start of active labor, so even though it’s a good sign that your body is preparing for labor, its not a reliable measurement of when labor will start.
- Baby “Drops” – As your baby gets ready for delivery, they will move lower into your pelvis. You may suddenly notice that its easier to breathe but you are making more trips to the bathroom. This is another thing that your doctor will be able to give you updates on at your weekly visits, but again it is something that may happen weeks prior to delivery or the day of.
- Vaginal Discharge – As you near the end of your pregnancy you will probably lose your mucous plug at some point. This may happen in one big clump or over time. It usually looks like snot and could be clear or may have a pink or brown hue to it. The mucous plug is like a cork in your cervix and as your cervix dilates, the mucous plug is released. Like dilation itself, you guessed it, this could happen weeks prior to labor or as labor is starting.
- Back and Hip Pain – You’re joints may start to loosen up in anticipation for labor so you may start to notice more pain and discomfort in your hips and lower back as you get closer.
- Nesting – Some women notice that they get a sudden surge of energy near the end of their pregnancy. If you find yourself wanting to clean and organize everything in sight, it could be a sign that your baby may be ready to meet you soon.
- Contractions – You may have started noticing contractions for a while now, or you may not have had any. When I was pregnant with my son I only had one or two sporadically during my 3rdtrimester. With my daughter I have had multiple bouts of almost regular contractions. Braxton Hicks contractions are likely more uncomfortable than painful and will usually come and go as your activity changes. Real contractions will be more consistent, more painful, and won’t go away with a change in activity or position. Either way it may be a good idea to start timing your contractions if you are having quite a few of them in a row.
- Water Breaks – In movies this happens every time in a big gush as labor starts, real life isn’t usually like that though. If your water breaks on its own, it may happen in one gush or it may be more like a leaky faucet that’s constantly running. This is generally a sure sign that labor is starting, but even when it comes to your water breaking there can be false alarms. As your baby gets lower in your pelvis (and on your bladder) you may find that you occasionally “leak”.
When to Call Your Doctor
When it comes to labor, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. If you aren’t sure if you are in labor or not, or something doesn’t feel right, give your doctors office a call and talk to them about what you are experiencing.
As a general rule of thumb, your doctor will probably ask that you call or go in if you are having contractions that last for 1 minute, are 5 minutes apart, and continue for an hour. If your water breaks, or you think it may have broke, call your doctor and start heading to the hospital.
What to do While You Wait
If you are anything like me you may drive yourself a little crazy looking for any sign that it might be time to meet your little one. As hard as it sounds, try to relax and take your mind off of it.
- Use this time to get some relaxation before you world gets turned upside down. Click here for tips on how to safely enjoy a bath while pregnant.
- Do some last minute projects in the nursery and make sure you have everything you need for when baby arrives. I have a list of all of your nursery must haves here.
- If you haven’t already, make sure your hospital bag is packed with everything you need for you, your spouse, and your new baby in the first couple days.
- Take a babymoon or enjoy a date night. You won’t have any more alone time with your spouse for a while so enjoy each other. Just don’t travel too far from where you plan on delivering in case you go into labor.