Entering week 37 of pregnancy is a significant milestone for both expectant parents and the baby. At this point, the pregnancy reaches full term, and the anticipation of meeting the little one grows. In this article, we will explore the key aspects of week 37 of pregnancy. It provides information about why experts consider it full-term. Additionally, it covers the development of the baby’s lungs and the preparation of the baby’s digestive system for breast milk or formula.
Reaching the 37th week of pregnancy is a significant milestone, as it marks the beginning of what is medically considered “full term.” This means that while the baby grows and develops, they are mature enough to live outside the womb. This article looks at this crucial phase, discussing the baby’s developmental stages and the mother’s physical and emotional transitions. As contractions might become more frequent and the expectations intensify, it is a period filled with excitement, preparation, and reflection as parents-to-be await their arrival.
1. What Does Full Term Mean?
a. Full-Term Pregnancy Defined
Week 37 marks the beginning of the full-term pregnancy phase. A pregnancy reaches full-term when it reaches between 37 to 42 weeks. This is the optimal time for the baby to be born, as they have had adequate time to develop and grow within the womb.
b. Benefits of Full-Term Pregnancy
Full-term pregnancy ensures the baby is well-developed, increasing their chances of being born healthy and without complications. It also reduces the likelihood of preterm birth-related issues.
2. Baby’s Lungs: Likely Fully Developed
a. The Importance of Lung Development
By week 37, one of the most critical aspects of a baby’s development is the maturity of their lungs. Adequately developed lungs are essential for the baby’s ability to breathe independently after birth.
b. Surfactant Production
Around this time, the baby’s lungs are likely fully developed, producing surfactant—a substance that prevents the air sacs in the lungs from collapsing. This surfactant production is crucial in preparing the baby for life outside the womb.
3. Baby’s Digestive System Prepares for Breast Milk or Formula
a. Digestive System Development
Throughout pregnancy, the baby’s digestive system has been gradually maturing. By week 37, it is well-prepared to digest breast milk or formula after birth.
b. Storage of Meconium
During pregnancy, the baby stores waste in their intestines, known as meconium. The baby’s first stool is sticky, greenish substance, and they will expel it in the first few days after birth.
4. Physical Changes for the Mother
In week 37, some mothers may experience “lightening” when the baby drops lower into the pelvis, relieving pressure on the diaphragm. This can make it easier to breathe but may increase pressure on the bladder.
b. Braxton Hicks Contractions
Braxton Hicks contractions may become more frequent as the body prepares for labour. These contractions are typically irregular and often called “practice contractions.”
5. Preparing for Labor and Delivery
a. Signs of Labor
Expectant mothers should be careful with signs of labour, including regular contractions, a “bloody show,” or the amniotic sac rupture (water breaking). Contacting a doctor if any of these signs occur is essential.
b. Final Preparations
Week 37 is an ideal time for expectant parents to ensure that their hospital bags are packed and any last-minute preparations are completed.
6. Emotional Preparations
a. Anticipation and Anxiety
Entering week 37 can bring a mix of emotions for expectant parents, including excitement and anxiety. It is entirely normal to have some anxiety about the upcoming birth.
b. Support and Communication
Open communication from partners, family, and friends can help reduce anxiety. It also creates a positive environment as the due date approaches, offering emotional support.
Week 37 of pregnancy marks a significant step toward the birth of your baby. It is a time when many crucial developments have occurred, including the baby’s lung maturity and digestive system readiness for breast milk or formula. While the anticipation and anxiety may grow, this is also a time to celebrate the journey and the incredible changes in the womb. As you prepare for the arrival of your baby, remember to communicate openly, seek support, and consult with your doctor for guidance on this journey.