Week 38 of Your Pregnancy

Week 38 of Your Pregnancy

Believe it or not, your baby is almost here. You may have a good sense of your baby's personality by how often it moves or is quiet, or how it responds to warmth, cold, light, and sounds. You may even know what kind of music your baby likes.

At birth, your baby will weigh about 6 to 9 pounds and will measure 19 to 21 inches in length. Your newborn will be able to hear, smell, taste, feel your touch, and see things that are about 8 inches away.

By now, you have a better idea what to expect during delivery. You may have talked about your birth preferences with your doctor. But even if you are hoping for a vaginal birth, it is a good idea to learn about Cesarean births. Cesarean birth means your baby is born through a cut (incision) in your lower belly. Sometimes a Cesarean birth is the best choice for the health of the baby and the mother.

This article can help you understand Cesarean births. It also gives you more information about breast-feeding, birth control options after delivery, and postpartum depression.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It’s also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

Learn about Cesarean birth

  • Cesarean birth is the best birth option when:
    • The mother’s pelvis is too small, or the baby’s head is too big to pass through the pelvis.
    • The baby is not facing head-down in the birth canal (breech).
    • The baby is not getting enough oxygen through the umbilical cord.
    • The placenta is blocking the cervix.
    • A herpes outbreak means the baby could catch herpes coming through the birth canal.
    • The cervix has stopped opening (dilating), even though you are in active labor.

Know what to expect after delivery and how to plan for the first few weeks at home

  • You, your baby, and your partner or coach will get identification bands. Only people with matching bands are allowed to pick up the baby from the nursery.
  • You will learn how to feed your baby, care for the umbilical cord stump, diaper and bathe, and care for a circumcision (if your baby is circumcised).
  • Encourage visitors to wait to see you at home. Ask them to wash their hands before they touch your baby.
  • Make sure you have another adult in your home for at least 2 or 3 days after the birth of your baby.
  • During the first 2 weeks, limit when friends and family can visit.
  • Do not allow visitors who have colds or infections. Never let anyone smoke around your baby.
  • Try to nap when the baby naps.

Prepare to breast-feed

  • If you are breast-feeding, continue to eat healthy foods. Avoid alcohol and drugs, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, unless your doctor says it is okay.
  • Your newborn will need to be fed about every 1½ to 3 hours.
  • You will know that your baby is getting enough food if he or she has 4 to 6 wet diapers a day for the first 5 days. After that, he or she should have 6 to 8 wet diapers a day.
  • Stools in the first days after birth will be dark. If your baby is breast-fed, his or her stools will then turn yellow and look like cottage cheese. Your baby should have at least 3 or 4 yellow stools each day.
  • Feeding your baby in the correct position helps you avoid sore nipples. Nurses will help you learn to do this.
  • At first, nipple soreness is common. It may hurt for a minute while the baby latches on. But any pain should go away after that. If you feel pinching after the baby latches on, make sure:
    • You tickle the baby’s lower lip with your nipple and wait for the baby to make a wide “O” with his or her mouth before you put the baby onto the breast.
    • The baby's head is at the level of your breast and his or her face, chest, and knees are turned toward you.
    • The baby takes the nipple and a good portion of the area around the nipple into his or her mouth.
    • The baby’s nose touches your breast.
    • The baby’s tongue is below your nipple. If the mouth is open wide, the tongue automatically goes down.
    • The inner surface of the baby’s lower lip is against your breast.
    • You insert your finger between the baby's gums to open the mouth first when you take your baby off the breast to reposition.

Be aware of postpartum depression

  • "Baby blues” are common for the first 1 to 2 weeks after birth. You may cry or feel sad or irritable for no reason.
  • For some women, these feelings last longer and are more intense. This is called postpartum depression.
  • If your symptoms last for more than a few weeks, or you feel very depressed, ask your doctor for help.
  • Postpartum depression can be treated. Support groups and counseling can help. Sometimes medicine can also help.

Choose the right birth control after your baby is born

Women who are breast-feeding can still become pregnant. Use a birth control method if you want to lower your pregnancy risk.

  • Intrauterine devices (IUDs) work for women who have only one sex partner and who want to wait at least 2 years before getting pregnant again. They are safe to use while you are breast-feeding.
  • Depo-Provera, a shot you get every 3 months, can be used while you are breast-feeding.
  • Birth control pills work well, but you need a different kind of pill while you are breast-feeding. When you start taking your pills, make sure to use another method of birth control until you start your second pack.
  • Diaphragms, cervical caps, and condoms with spermicide work less well after birth. Diaphragms and cervical caps need to be refitted after you deliver.
  • Tubal ligation (tying your tubes) or vasectomy are both permanent. Choose these options when you feel that you have completed your family.
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