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38 Weeks Pregnant: Week by Week Pregnancy

Symptoms, Tips and Fetal Development


You’re 38 weeks pregnant, what’s known as early term. Learn what you might experience during the 38th week of pregnancy.

Baby at 38 weeks pregnant

At 38 weeks, your baby is about seven pounds and 20 inches long. S/he is producing more surfacant to prevent the air sacs in the lungs from sticking to each other when breathing begins. Your baby only needs to shed some vernix – the greasy coating protecting the skin – and lanugo, the downy hair dusting the body, and his/her in-utero look will soon be a thing of the past. 

Although your baby is running out of room inside your belly, you should still feel regular movements. If you don't notice movement, call your healthcare provider.

Of course you won’t be surprised to know that your baby’s brain and nervous system are working better every day! This development continues throughout childhood and even into the teenage years.

Your body at 38 weeks pregnant

Get this: your uterus has increased 20 times in weight since before you were pregnant. It now weighs about 2.5 pounds and has stretched to hold your baby, the placenta, and almost a quart of amniotic fluid.

You’re probably seeing your care provider every week until the baby comes. A routine pelvic exam is not typically part of this checkup, but your doctor might do one to check your cervix if s/he thinks you’re in the early signs of labor.

pregnancy week 38 embryo
Weekly development of a human fetus at 38 weeks pregnant.

Speaking of labor, when you're 38 weeks pregnant every single pain and twinge can feel like the start of labor. It's common to feel impatient, but remember that the baby will arrive when s/he's ready!

Many women report feeling weak from low blood sugar at this stage in their pregnancies. This is because your baby at 38 weeks pregnant is taking glucose from your bloodstream. If you're not feeling well, make sure to keep your blood sugar up by keeping a stash of healthy snacks nearby.

38 weeks is how many months pregnant? 

At this stage in your pregnancy, you're nine months two weeks (9m2w) pregnant. 

How big is my baby at 38 weeks pregnant?

a winter melon, which is roughly the size of a week 38 human embryo

At 38 weeks pregnant, your baby is the size of a winter melon, measuring 19.5 inches long and weighing close to seven pounds on average.

Common symptoms at 38 weeks pregnant

These are some of the most common symptoms women report at 38 weeks pregnant.

  • Increased vaginal discharge: You may notice more vaginal discharge than normal. Thick discharge or stringy mucus that’s clear, pink, and tinged with blood is common in the weeks before labor.
  • Loss of the mucus plug: As the cervix thins and relaxes in preparation for labor, you may lose the mucus plug that’s been in place at the cervical opening to help keep bacteria from getting into your uterus. If this happens you could notice a jelly-like plug and/or heavy discharge come from your vagina. Surprisingly, the loss of mucus plug and the beginning of labor aren’t directly related; it doesn’t mean that labor is imminent. You can lose the plug two weeks before labor starts, immediately before, or anytime in-between.
  • Heartburn and constipation: Your poor digestive system is under literal pressure from the weight of your belly. This can cause heartburn and constipation, although it may lessen if the baby drops and takes some of the pressure off of your stomach. 
  • Leaking breasts and inverted nipples: Your boobs may be leaking colostrum, the thick and creamy milk that nourishes babies in their first days. During pregnancy, your nipples might have inverted. This is not a big deal and breastfeeding is still possible; speak to a lactaction consultant for guidance.
  • Waddling when you walk: Doing a duck walk? Blame the seven-pound baby that’s taken up in your pelvis.
  • Need to pee frequently: Your uterus is applying a lot of pressure on your bladder. You might also notice some leaking when you laugh, cough, or sneeze.
  • Clumsiness: Your body’s preparations for labor are overruling your body’s need for balance, as the hormone relaxin works on loosening the ligaments that are holding your three pelvic bones together. This ligament relaxing will allow your pelvis to open wider during childbirth, but it may cause some clumsiness, back, and pelvic pain, and loose-feeling limbs in the meantime.
  • Dilating cervix: Your cervix may have begun to open or dilate a little in anticipation of labor, when it needs to reach 10 centimeters before you begin pushing. Not all women’s cervixes dilate ahead of labor, however. Your doctor may check you at your weekly visit and declare you’re not dilated even one centimeter, and you could go into labor that day. Other women walk around dilated to as much as a five for a couple of weeks before labor begins for them.
  • Pain “down there:” Occasional twinges or sharp pains in your vagina are normal at this point, as are aches and feelings of pressure in your perineum (the area between your vaginal opening and anus) as your baby’s head presses on the pelvic floor. 
  • Ruptured membranes: In about 10% of women, their amniotic sac (their “water”) breaks or leaks, signaling the start of labor. The fluid may come out as a trickle or a gush. If your water breaks, contact your care provider because s/he will want to evaluate you right away.
  • Slowing weight gain: Your baby’s beginning to put the brakes on rapid weight gain, and your body might have too. Some women even lose a pound or so at the end of pregnancy.
  • Feeling tired of being pregnant: At this point, you might be really quite over being pregnant. Some factors contributing to this feeling probably include having trouble sleeping, always needing to pee, and feeling huge. 

Pregnancy checklist at 38 weeks pregnant

Cross these things off your to-do list at 38 weeks pregnant.

  • Rest and relax: The end of your pregnancy may leave you feeling exhausted and anxious. If you're feeling tired or run down, listen to your body. Get lots of rest – you won't be sleeping much when your baby arrives!
  • Find a back-up birth partner: If your birthing partner works out of town or far away, it's a good idea to have someone who can step in as a standby birthing partner if necessary – just make sure they understand the type of birth that you want so they can advocate for you if it's needed.
  • Set up diaper and wipes deliveries: Ordering diapers and wipes online is an easy way to get good prices on these items, and delivery to your door is so convenient. Plus some retailers offer discounts for recurring deliveries. Set up your account and place your first diaper delivery now. Because you don’t know how big your baby will be, skip the bulk order of newborn diapers in favor of size one diapers.

What to Expect at 39 Weeks Pregnant

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