Your pregnancy is considered full term once you reach the 39th-week mark, meaning your baby can arrive any day now [1]. According to a study done by The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, babies born after week 39 have significantly lesser chances of developing any problems with breathing, temperature control and feeding as well as complications like cerebral palsy and sepsis [2].

39 weeks pregnant: baby development

Brain Development

Your baby’s brain is still developing rapidly, already being 30% bigger compared to its size four weeks ago [3]. The brain development will continue at the same pace until your baby reaches about 3 years of age.

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Fat and skin development

The growing fat layer is in the final stage of its development, with a thick fat deposit over his blood vessels giving your baby a smooth and chubby appearance. His skin is finally turning whitish from pink, regardless of what color skin he will have later. It will change into the permanent shade during the first years of his life, as the pigmentation starts developing [3]. New skin cells begin to form around this time with the older skin layer sloughing off to be replaced by the developing one underneath [4].

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39 Weeks Pregnant Picture

39 Weeks Pregnant Picture

Internal organ development

The endocrine system, responsible for producing hormones, is already preparing for birth as it will produce more stress hormone during the delivery than it is ever going to in the entire life of your baby. These hormones also help to manage the functioning of your baby’s internal organs and systems after birth, when the placenta will no longer be there to help [5].

Like the brain and nervous system, the lungs also continue to develop until the day your baby is born [6]. During these last few weeks, the lungs are manufacturing surfactant, the chemical substance that makes sure the baby’s air sacs do not stick together as he takes his first breath. In fact, the lungs are usually matured enough by this stage to enable your baby to breathe on his own without any respiratory assistance if he was born this week [7].

Immune system development

The placenta supplies the baby with antibodies and nutrients from your body to prepare him for fighting diseases and infections outside the womb [8]. He will get even more antibodies after you breastfeed him after birth [9].

How big is your baby?

Being 20 inches (50.8 cm) long, he has already achieved the average newborn length by the 39th week [10]. He is now about the size of a small watermelon, weighing around 7.25 pounds (3.29 kg) [11].

Pregnancy week 39 baby position and breech baby

By this time, your baby’s head is probably engaged in the pelvis, ready for delivery; however, it is also normal for babies to engage only after labor starts. After week 37, the baby starts to move down your pelvis, settling in the proper head down birth position. His body may lie straight, in a “longitudinal” position or he may be in an “oblique” position, lying at an angle [7].

In cases where the baby remains in a breech (feet down) or transverse (lying sideways) position, the doctor might recommend the ECV or external cephalic version to turn him by putting pressure on certain parts of your abdomen [12]. A cesarean section might be scheduled for the 39th week, in cases where the ECV fails to turn the baby, due to the risks of life threatening complications associated with delivering a breech baby vaginally [13].

Pregnancy week 39: changes occurring in your body

Your weight gain slows down or ceases altogether in these last few weeks [14] as your baby has now reached the average birth weight and there is more of the baby than amniotic fluid in the womb now.

Your baby travelling down the abdomen and pelvis may cause your baby bump to drop a little lower [15]. However, dropping of the bump does not necessarily mean that the baby is coming immediately, as most babies engage weeks before the start of labor, especially in first time pregnancies. The baby dropping lower in your abdomen may relieve the symptoms of heartburn, indigestion, chest pain and shortness of breath by allowing more space for the stomach, diaphragm and lungs to stretch.

39 weeks pregnant exams and ultrasound

The doctor will check your blood pressure on every prenatal visit to assess the chances of developing High BP or preeclampsia during the last stage of the third trimester or before delivery [16]. Other routine procedures include fundal measurement and checking your baby’s heartbeat to ascertain proper fetal health.

Your doctor is also likely to perform a cervical exam to see if the cervix has started softening, dilating (open) and effacing (thinning) in preparation of childbirth [17].

A biophysical profile may be ordered in case of decreased fetal movement detected during kick counts, or a chance of complications like reduced amniotic fluid levels and any placental irregularities [18]. It involves checking the fetal heartbeat and performing an ultrasound scan.

39 Weeks Pregnant Ultrasound Picture

39 Weeks Pregnant Ultrasound Picture

A regular week 39 ultrasound shows your baby look almost exactly as he would on the day of delivery, with fuzzy hair and chubby checks.

39 weeks pregnant signs and symptoms

  • Pelvic pain
  • Braxton Hicks contractions [19]
  • Leg cramps
  • Feeling pressure and occasional short sharp pain in the pelvic or lower abdomen area
  • Edema or swelling of the extremities
  • Restless leg syndrome and insomnia
  • Round ligament pain
  • Joint (hips, knees, jaws) and back pain
  • Headaches and hot flashes/chills
  • Sore throat runny nose and occasional nosebleeds
  • Fatigue and lightheadedness [20]
  • Stretch marks, especially around the belly and thighs
  • Itchy skin, usually around the expanding abdomen and breasts
  • Varicose veins and hemorrhoids
  • Constipation or diarrhea/frequent bowel movement
  • Depression and mood swings
  • Frequent urination (as the bladder is now under more pressure due to the baby travelling further down the pelvic) [21]
  • Leaking breasts as your body continues to produce colostrum – the first milk for your baby, fortified with nutrients and antibodies [22]

39 weeks pregnant signs of labor

As mentioned above, at 39 weeks you are considered full term, meaning the labor can begin anytime now. The earliest signs include:

  • Over 5 contractions in an hour that does not go away when you change position, with each contraction lasting for around 30-70 seconds [23]
  • Bleeding/spotting
  • Change in the vaginal discharge
  • Brownish, pinkish or bloody mucus discharge or losing the mucus plug [24]
  • Lots of clear, thin or watery discharge or leaking amniotic fluid, indicating the water breaking
  • Throbbing lower back pain and period-like abdominal cramps [25]
  • Nausea and diarrhea

39 weeks pregnant: inducing labor

Doctors prefer letting the baby complete his 40 weeks inside the womb so his organs and systems can mature to the utmost measure before he enters the world. However, there are several instances that might lead your doctor to induce labor. Having a complication like preeclampsia or gestational diabetes, or developing an infectious condition that might be harmful for the baby are some of the reasons for inducing labor [26]. Other causes may include having too little amniotic fluid, breaking your water long before the labor starts as well as other issues like kidney stones.

Natural ways to induce labor

Castor oil, raspberry leaf tea [27], evening primrose oil and balsamic vinegar are some of the best known natural measures believed to help induce labor. Pineapples, eggplants and spicy foods are also considered by many to help bring on labor and contractions [28]. However, there is a lack of research based evidence regarding their safety and effectiveness [29], so it is recommended to consult your doctor before considering these measures.

When to call the doctor

  • Noticing a reduced fetal movement [17]
  • Having any of the above-mentioned signs of labor
  • Sudden changes in vision, extreme fatigue and dizziness accompanied by persistent headaches, upper abdominal pain, sudden edema of the face and hands, feeling out of breath, sudden weight gain, nausea and vomiting (might indicate high blood pressure and preeclampsia) [30]
  • Burning sensation during urination and dark/cloudy urine along with lower back pain (around the kidneys), thick white or greenish yellow jelly-like discharge, pain during sex, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea (might indicate a kidney/yeast infection [31] or UTI [32])
  • Extreme thirst, dry mouth and nausea with tiredness, increased urgency to urinate, decreased urine output (might indicate gestational diabetes) [33]
  • Unilateral swelling or one hand or feet more swollen than the other (might indicate a blood clotting disorder)

Tips for a healthy pregnancy, childbirth and baby

  • Doing prenatal yoga or following a daily light exercise routine like going for a short walk or swimming as it helps manage many of the pregnancy related pains
  • Following a proper diet containing lots of vitamin D, especially if you are going to breastfeed your baby, as this is one of the nutrients known to be deficient in breast milk (baby will need around 400 IU of vitamin D every day); another essential nutrient at this stage is calcium, with the recommended intake being about 1000 mg a day [9]
  • Taking some time out for yourself to relax and maybe get some sleep, as waiting for labor can sometimes make you nervous and agitated; taking a warm (not hot) bath, reading a book or playing a white noise in the background can help you relax [7]
  • Few twin pregnancies continue into the 39th week as most twin babies arrive by week 37-38; so, it is recommended to consult your doctor regarding inducing labor if your pregnancy goes past week 38, as carrying them further may lead to certain complications

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