© The Anatomical Travelogue
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.
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.
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.