38th Week of Pregnancy: Symptoms, the Baby's Development, and Recommendations

In the 38th week of pregnancy, the baby can be born at any time, so it's important to prepare for any eventuality. Learn more.
38th Week of Pregnancy: Symptoms, the Baby's Development, and Recommendations

Written by Diego Pereira

Last update: 24 October, 2022

You’re already in the home stretch! In the 38th week of pregnancy, your baby should be in excellent condition, as long as you’ve been going regularly to your prenatal checkups to be sure.

We’ve prepared the following lines with some interesting facts about these days, especially if you’re a new mother. Keep reading!

How is my baby in the 38th week?

A pregnant woman holding a stethoscope to her belly.

Since last week, your baby is at full term. This means that, under normal conditions, he or she should be ready to be born any day now. We know how excited you must be! That’s why we recommend you enjoy it as much as possible!

Although your baby’s growth, both in regard to weight and size, is slowly slowing down, it probably already weighs about 7 pounds and measures between 19 and 20 inches. It should be in its final position for delivery.

If the baby is in the cephalic presentation, i.e. head down, this is normal. If it’s in the breech position (buttocks down) or transverse position, the obstetrician will probably plan a cesarean section.

At this stage, all of your baby’s senses should be well developed, as well as the bone, cardiovascular, hematological, nervous, and digestive systems should be functioning well.

However, the lungs are still maturing. They’re working on the production of surfactant, a substance that will keep the alveoli apart once the baby begins to breathe air from the environment. This immaturity is physiological and doesn’t complicate survival if born now.

Also, it’s important to mention that the shedding of the vernix caseosa and the falling out of the lanugo continues. It’s likely that a part of both will remain in the newborn, to disappear in the first days outside the womb.

How might I feel during the 38th week?

Some of the symptoms that you may experience in the 38th week of pregnancy are the following:

You may have already experienced several of these symptoms in the previous weeks. You can comply with the treatment prescribed by your doctor to lessen these sensations. Of course, you should never opt for self-medication.

Tips and recommendations during the 38th week of pregnancy

It’s normal to be anxious during this stage. After all, labor’s getting closer and closer. Let’s see in detail if you should visit the doctor at this time, as well as some recommendations that you’re likely to find useful.

Is it necessary to visit the doctor during this period?

In the last weeks of pregnancy, it’s common for the doctor to plan weekly consultations. This is done in order to closely monitor the pregnancy, as there are still complications that can be avoided with proper control.

To do this, you should perform all the appropriate studies: Blood tests, urine analyses, and serology for infectious diseases. It’s very likely that you’ve already had them for 1 or 2 weeks.

Apart from your consultations, you should go to an emergency department if you present the following clinical manifestations:

  • Regular and painful contractions
  • The appearance of secretions through the genitals: Blood, a thick clear fluid, or a yellow to greenish jelly-like discharge.
  • Fever: A temperature higher than 100°F
  • Pain or burning when urinating
  • Diarrhea
  • You stop feeling the baby move

Differentiate between real and false contractions

It’s very likely that in recent weeks, you’ve experienced brief, sporadic contractions in your abdomen. These are known as Braxton Hicks contractions and only correspond to the preparation of the uterus for the moment of labor.

Real contractions are very different. They’re painful, regular, and last between 1 and 2 minutes each. They’re felt starting in the upper abdomen and descending to the pelvis.

If you have these last symptoms and have expelled the mucus plug (the gelatinous material inside the cervix), labor is beginning. You should go as soon as possible to a medical service to prepare everything.

Mujer embaraza en la consulta de la obstetra durante la semana 38.

Tips for new mothers

If this is your first pregnancy, we know how excited you may be. This happens not only to you but also to all your loved ones, who will live these last weeks with you intensely.

To make the process more enjoyable, it’s best to follow the recommendations below:

  • Check your maternity bag. A checkup this week never hurts.
  • Go for a walk. In addition to reducing swelling in your ankles and feet, this physical activity can help your baby’s head settle into your pelvis. There’s also scientific evidence that it can decrease the risk of developing preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, and excessive weight gain.
  • Don’t be afraid of pain during labor. Although it’s an intense process, nowadays, medications can be administered, as well as psychoprophylaxis techniques that are taught in childbirth classes.
  • If you’re a first-time mother, the cervix dilation process will last several hours, so be prepared to spend a long time waiting for your baby to be born!
  • Once you give birth, begin breastfeeding as soon as possible.

Frequently asked questions about the 38th week of pregnancy

Here, we’ll clarify some of the most common doubts that may arise during these days.

1. As the pregnancy is almost over, can I drink alcohol?

At no time during pregnancy should this substance be consumed. Although the baby should already be well developed, there are some medical complications that alcohol, as well as tobacco and drugs, could trigger.

2. Can I have sex?

In general, sexual intercourse during pregnancy isn’t contraindicated. However, excessive stimulation of the cervix during penetration could favor the onset of labor. If in doubt, consult your doctor.

3. Can I have my baby in the 38th week of pregnancy?

Yes, it’s possible that your baby will arrive now, and this is normal. In any case, avoid inducing labor on your own. The physiological signals from your body and your baby’s body will determine the timing of the exit from the uterus. In and of itself, a birth in the 38th week of pregnancy is to be expected and doesn’t constitute preterm labor.

An excellent time to reflect

If you’re in the 38th week of pregnancy, it’s a great idea to think about all the moments you’ve experienced in the last 9 months. If you had the opportunity to document several of them through writing, photographs, or videos, it’s a good idea to share these memories with your loved ones and prepare yourself peacefully for a new stage.

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