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Your Pregnancy: Week 38

The Anatomical Travelogue

Your Baby

Congratulations -- your pregnancy has reached full-term, which basically falls anywhere between weeks 38 and 42; your due date is simply the midpoint of this time period. Soon, you'll be able to hold your baby in your arms, look into her eyes, and welcome her into the world. She's between five and nine pounds now, and all her organ systems are in place. She has shed most of her lanugo and greasy vernix coating, both of which she'll actually ingest, along with some amniotic fluid; her body will turn this strange concoction into a dark, tarry stool called meconium. Her lungs and vocal chords are ready to wail -- a sound you'll hear once she makes her entrance.

Your Body

You may literally breathe easier these days if the baby's head has gradually dropped into position and shifted into the birth canal, giving your organs some room. This phenomenon is called lightening, and it may happen a few weeks before labor begins, right before, or even during labor. You haven't said goodbye to all discomforts, however; now that the baby's shifted downward, you may feel greater pressure on your groin, thighs, and bladder.

Do's and Don'ts

Make a list of all the important phone numbers you'll need once you bring the baby home, so you won't have to scramble to find them later. Place the list right next to your phone, and be sure to include anyone you think would be a great resource for you during those challenging early weeks (e.g., the pediatrician, doula, and lactation consultant). Collect a pile of menus from restaurants that deliver and tuck them under the phone; this way, if you and your partner are too busy with the baby to cook, a nutritious meal is just a call away.

Health

Learn to spot false labor by knowing its signs: Your contractions follow no discernible pattern and don't become longer, stronger, or closer together. (Changing positions, say, getting up if you've been lying down, should make the pain go away.) Also, in a false alarm, you'll feel the contractions in the front of your body; in true labor, they begin in the back and migrate toward the front.

Mom to Mom

"Make sure your husband takes great mental notes on everything that happens. I grilled mine later on the details that were a blur to me. Thank goodness he remembered!"--Jennifer Sikes, Durham, NC

Shopping

Don't want to spend a fortune to tell the whole world your baby's here? Many websites offer e-mail versions or downloadable birth announcements. Find them by doing a search for "birth announcements." You'll spend much less on supplies than you would for custom-printed versions.

Exercise

Rest up. During these last few weeks, when just getting out of bed feels like a chore, it's understandable if you want to bag the workouts altogether. Instead of worrying about going to the gym, take this time to relax and recharge. You need to save your energy for childbirth.

Relationships

If you've taken sex off the table now that you're so close to term, stay physically connected with your partner by taking showers together or giving each other massages.

Siblings

Tell your child who will stay with him when you go to the hospital (say "Grandma can't wait to visit you," for example). Encourage him to make specific plans--a visit to the zoo or a trip to the children's museum--so he can look forward to all the fun things he'll do while you're away.

Twins

If you plan to breastfeed your babies, practice the football hold, which works best for twins: Take one in each of your arms so that their backs are supported by your forearms and their heads are cradled in your hands. (That's the way a running back would carry a football, hence the name.)

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