Week 40

At the end of week 40, you’ve finally reached your due date, as calculated by your doctor on the basis of your last period and the ultrasound measurements. Your baby may already have been born by now, or maybe they’re making you wait for another few days. Most babies are ready to be born 38 weeks after conception and are equipped with everything they need to survive on their own outside the womb. Your pregnancy will have given you all the feelings and instincts you need as a mum to look after a newborn baby and to nurture them as they grow through childhood into adulthood.

When is the baby going to come?

Sorry to tell you this, but it could be up to another week or two.

Some doctors will want to induce you (use medicine to start your labour) if your baby is one week overdue; others prefer to wait until two weeks past your due date, to see if labour will begin on its own. If you have a preference about inducing labour, it's a good idea to speak to your midwife or doctor about it as soon as your due date passes. Your doctor might have a medical reason to induce you, but he or she should also take your feelings into account.

Who will the baby look like? Will it be a boy or girl (or do you know already?) Dark or fair? You’ve probably picked out some names already, but it's a good idea to stay a little flexible - your baby may not look at all like a Ruby, and more like a Poppy!

Top tips You

  • You should now have your phone with you at all times in order to be able to call your midwife, your partner, your family and anyone else when the time comes.
  • Rest and relax as much as you can – it will help bring on the birth and make contractions more intense.
  • Even when you’re having contractions, you can still eat. Try to eat light food in small quantities, and don’t forget to drink: giving birth will require lots of energy and fluids. If you want, bring a small snack with you when you go to the hospital.
  • Don't worry if you feel extremely tired between contractions – it won’t hurt if you get some sleep then. You might not think it’s possible, but if it is, do it! It’ll help your body recover and build up its strength for the next contraction.

What it’s like for the mum-to-be in week 40

The months of longing and waiting are almost at an end, as you’ve reached your due date and your pregnancy is nearly over.

The end of your pregnancy also means the end of your steady weight gain: after you have your baby, you’ll shed your excess weight quickly as a result of the hard work of giving birth and beginning to breastfeed. This is natural and normal – because you need plenty of energy as a new mum!

Babies’ movements in the womb vary considerably at this stage. The parts of their body which aren’t as restricted could be very active, or your baby will be resting and waiting for your uterus to start contracting and birth to begin.

Pregnant women can also experience a wide range of different contractions. Some days you may feel that it’s finally starting now, only to then stop getting contractions and for things to calm down again. Think of it as the calm before the storm.

A new challenge for your body 

Symptoms can vary enormously in terms of severity and location in the last week of pregnancy, as your body is facing a new challenge and a lot of hard work. The cocktail of hormones causes your body to try to cleanse itself again, which may result in feeling nauseous and possible vomiting and/or diarrhoea. The intestinal contractions involved in diarrhoea stimulate uterus contractions, and irregular uterus contractions can also trigger diarrhoea – the two mechanisms support each other. Headaches, stomach aches and wind can also be signs that you’re about to give birth.

Stomach aches 

When labour begins, the contractions will cause stomach aches and an intense pulling sensation in your abdomen. These will initially occur at irregular intervals over a number of hours before they eventually become even more intense and occur more regularly. At this stage your cervix dilates, which can cause bleeding. Once your contractions are regularly occurring roughly every five minutes at medium-strong to strong intensity, tell your midwife or get your partner to take you to the hospital.