What does the baby look like in the 38th week of pregnancy?

By (embryologist) and (fertility counselor).
Last Update: 11/19/2014

In the 38th week of pregnancy the woman is in the final stretch of gestation and in two weeks the probable delivery date will arrive. However, only a small percentage of babies are born exactly on this estimated date. Therefore, the woman should be attentive to the signs that indicate that the time of delivery has come.

These remaining two weeks may be a bit long. The size of the belly and the wedging of the baby in the maternal pelvis will cause the woman to become increasingly uncomfortable and even have some difficulty walking. Therefore, it is a good time to rest as much as possible to be prepared and full of energy for the baby's arrival.

What does the baby look like in the 38th week?

Due to the proximity of the end of gestation, the baby already looks very similar to what it will look like at birth. The baby is about 49 cm long and weighs about 3200 grams in the 38th week of pregnancy. However, every pregnancy and every baby is different and measuring a little over or under may be perfectly within the normal range.

The size that the baby has already acquired makes the woman notice the fetal movements more and more intensely, due to the lack of space. The baby continues to move until the end of the pregnancy, and the mother may even notice the baby hiccuping inside her womb. This should not be a cause for concern, as the fetal hiccups serve as breathing training.

In the 38th week of pregnancy, the baby's skin is soft and rosy. The lanugo (fine hair) and vernix caseosa (a whitish, greasy layer) that used to cover his little body have begun to disappear. Nevertheless, it is possible that the baby may be born with more or less caseous vernix remains, or with some lanugo, which will eventually fall off on its own.

On the other hand, the so-called meconium is accumulating in his intestine, which will constitute his first stool meconiumwhich will constitute its first stool. Meconium is sticky, has a rather dark greenish color and is formed, among other things, by the detached lanugo that the baby swallows when it swallows amniotic fluid.

Changes and symptoms in the mother in week 38

In the 38th week of pregnancy it is common for a woman to feel a mixture of emotions. On the one hand, the joy that there is little time left to hold your baby in your arms and, on the other hand, the nerves and doubts about what the birth and postpartum will be like.

This will be compounded by fatigue and exhaustion, since in this final stretch of pregnancy a woman will find it difficult to sleep and rest. Therefore, pregnant women should take the opportunity to rest whenever possible in order to face the upcoming stage full of energy.

On the other hand, when the baby's head fits into the mother's pelvis, the pregnant woman will notice that her belly is lower. This will result in increased pressure and discomfort in the pelvic area, as well as an increased urge to urinate. On the other hand, the woman will be able to breathe better and will have less acidity.

Other possible symptoms in the 38th week of pregnancy are:

  • Swelling in legs, ankles, feet and hands. Venous return is more difficult and fluid retention occurs. However, if there is sudden swelling of the face and hands, it may be a symptom of preeclampsia and a specialist should be consulted as soon as possible.
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • Increased vaginal discharge.
  • Colostrum secretion, although this symptom may not appear.
  • Most frequent Braxton Hicks contractions.

In this period, it will be especially important to differentiate Braxton Hicks contractions from labor contractions. Braxton Hicks contractions are irregular, non-painful and do not increase in frequency and intensity. On the other hand, labor contractions are regular, painful and do increase in frequency and intensity, and you should go to the hospital if they appear, because the moment of labor has arrived.

Recommendations for week 38

In the 38th week of pregnancy, staying active may be more difficult than in previous weeks. However, it will be very useful to continue practicing the exercises in preparation for childbirth. In addition, it is a good idea that the person who will accompany the woman at the time of delivery also attends childbirth preparation classes.

On the other hand, asking the professionals all the doubts and concerns and expressing preferences regarding childbirth will help the pregnant woman to feel more confident.

As for nutrition, in the 38th week of pregnancy it is still important to eat healthy foods and maintain good hydration. To make digestion lighter, it is better to eat little and often.

Finally, if not already prepared, it is time to prepare the bag to be taken to the hospital at the time of delivery.

FAQs from users

Can the mucus plug be expelled in the 38th week of pregnancy?

By Silvia Azaña Gutiérrez B.Sc., M.Sc. (embryologist).

Yes, it would be possible. The mucus plug is a mucous-like secretion found in the cervix (cervix) and serves as a barrier to prevent the passage of microorganisms from the vagina into the uterus during pregnancy.

Its expulsion means that the time of delivery is near, but this does not mean that it is imminent and it may take days or even weeks.

Is the baby still moving in the 38th week of pregnancy?

By Silvia Azaña Gutiérrez B.Sc., M.Sc. (embryologist).

Yes, the mother may notice that the baby's movements are different in the 38th week than earlier in the pregnancy when the baby was smaller, but it should still be moving.

The reason is that in the final stage of pregnancy the baby has less and less room to move and you may notice less movement, but in a more intense or abrupt manner.

The specialist usually instructs the mother to keep track of the baby's movements and, if a decrease in activity is detected, the mother should go to the hospital to check that everything is all right.

Is it normal to have swollen hands in the 38th week of pregnancy?

By Silvia Azaña Gutiérrez B.Sc., M.Sc. (embryologist).

It may be normal to have some swelling in the hands and especially in the ankles, legs and feet in the 38th week of pregnancy. However, if there is sudden swelling in the hands and face, it may be a symptom of preeclampsia and you should see a specialist as soon as possible.

Other symptoms of preeclampsia include sudden weight gain, headache and vision changes, nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain and decreased urine production.

If you are 38 weeks pregnant, you may also want to know what will happen in the next week. For this, we recommend you to access the following link: What happens in the 39th week of pregnancy? Expulsion of the mucus. .

On the other hand, if you want to read more about childbirth, you can visit the following article: Childbirth: preparation, types and possible complications.

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FAQs from users: 'Can the mucus plug be expelled in the 38th week of pregnancy?', 'Is the baby still moving in the 38th week of pregnancy?' and 'Is it normal to have swollen hands in the 38th week of pregnancy?'.

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 Silvia Azaña Gutiérrez
Silvia Azaña Gutiérrez
B.Sc., M.Sc.
Graduate in Health Biology from the University of Alcalá and specialized in Clinical Genetics from the same university. Master in Assisted Reproduction by the University of Valencia in collaboration with IVI clinics. More information about Silvia Azaña Gutiérrez
License: 3435-CV
Adapted into english by:
 Sandra Fernández
Sandra Fernández
B.A., M.A.
Fertility Counselor
Bachelor of Arts in Translation and Interpreting (English, Spanish, Catalan, German) from the University of Valencia (UV) and Heriot-Watt University, Riccarton Campus (Edinburgh, UK). Postgraduate Course in Legal Translation from the University of Valencia. Specialist in Medical Translation, with several years of experience in the field of Assisted Reproduction. More information about Sandra Fernández

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