After all those months of being pregnant, you've finally reached your due date. Here's what to expect now that you're 40 weeks pregnant and could go into labour any day now. Plus, what your options are if you go overdue.
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What’s happening at 40 weeks?
Here are the key things you can expect from your pregnancy at this stage:
- Your baby is ready to make an appearance any day now.
- You'll have a 40-week midwife appointment this week (if this is your first baby).
- Learn what to expect if your waters break.
- Get organised for labour – there's still time!
How big is your baby?
Your baby is now pretty much the size of a small wedding cake. You'll find out exactly how much they weigh very soon (once they've made their way out!) but the average birthweight for a baby in the UK is about 3.5kg (7lb 11oz), and the average length is about 50cm from top to toe.
Your baby may not be rolling around any more if they're firmly lodged in a head-down position in readiness for delivery, but you should still feel regular movement.
According to Tommy's , a charity that aims to reduce the risk of stillbirth in the UK:
- It is NOT true that babies move less towards the end of pregnancy.
- You should continue to feel your baby move right up to the time you go into labour and while you're in labour too.
If you don’t feel movements for a while and are concerned, let your midwife know straight away. They'll arrange for you to be monitored to check all is well.
It's important to seek medical advice as soon as possible. Chances are, there's nothing wrong; but if your baby is struggling, urgent medical care could save their life.
What's going on with your body?
Right now ,you're probably wondering what it'll be like when your waters break. Will it be like on TV where a huge puddle of water leaves you embarrassed and in need of a mad dash to the labour ward?
The answer is probably not.
Most women start to notice a wetness running down the leg (often the first thought is that you might have wet yourself – pelvic floor not being all it used to be!). Although for some women it can also be more of a gush.
Your waters breaking doesn’t always mean labour will happen immediately, but it’s important to let your midwife know they have broken, as you and your baby could be vulnerable to infection after this point.
In particular, let your midwife know straight away if your waters are smelly, or any colour other than pale straw. This could be a sign that your baby is in distress and needs to be born quickly.
Don't worry if your waters don't break at all. Some women have them manually broken by a midwife while being induced or even during the later stages of labour .
At 40 weeks, you may already notice your body preparing for labour . If you have a dodgy tummy or backache, irregular contractions, or are feeling moody and premenstrual, it could be a sign that things are starting to move!
The NHS offers these tips for coping with early labour :
- If your contractions start at night, try to get some sleep. It'll likely be many hours before it's time to hit the hospital, so conserve your energy; you'll need it later!
- If your contractions start during the day, try to stay upright (for example, go for lots of walks). This will put pressure on your cervix and can help to move things along more quickly.
- Practice some active birthing positions, like squatting, kneeling and leaning on a bed, or leaning on your partner. Just keep moving however feels best for you.
- Have a warm bath or shower to ease early labour aches and pains. (Just don't make it too hot though. If your skin goes pink, add more cold water.)
- Practice your breathing exercises, taking deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth.
- If you have a partner, ask them for a massage. Getting your partner involved is a lovely way for them to feel more part of the experience, and research suggests it can mean a better birth for you, too.
- Have a healthy snack to keep your energy up, such as a banana or low-fat yoghurt. Avoid fatty foods that could make you nauseous. You may feel the urge to grab something sweet for an energy boost, but bear in mind that you'll be going a while and the last thing you want is a sugar crash in the middle of labour.
- Relax as much as you can. Watch your favourite box set, read a great book, spend some time outside or try some mindfulness exercises – whatever helps keep you calm.
And remember to call the midwife or hospital when your contractions last for at least 60 seconds and come every five minutes.
What to expect this week: your 40-week appointment
Firstly, only 4% of births happen on their due date, with 90% arriving within the two weeks before or after. (That's according to research from the Perinatal Institute, a non-profit organisation.)
So if your due date has been and gone, with not even the faintest early sign of labour, don't worry. It's quite common to feel a bit disappointed if nothing's happening – no surprise when you've been focusing on that due date since you first did a pregnancy test all those months ago now!
If it's your first baby, you'll have a midwife appointment this week where you can find out what happens next and you can ask any questions you have about:
Your midwife or doctor should give you more information about both of the above options, as well as booking in your next appointments.
If this is your first baby, you'll probably be offered a membrane sweep this week. Head to our 41 weeks pregnant page to learn more about what this involves.
If you've had pregnancy complications such as gestational diabetes (GD) or intrahepatic cholestais of pregnancy (ICP), or your midwife is worried about your baby's health, they may offer to book you in for an induction sooner rather than later.
Your midwife or doctor will also:
- use a tape measure to measure the size of your bump
- measure your blood pressure
- test your urine for protein
This could be your last chance to ask any questions about labour and birth before the big day! So as usual, be sure to note down any queries you have and take them with you. Midwives are also trained in caring for babies just after the birth, so feel free to ask any last-minute baby care questions, too.
What to do this week: get organised
Baby brain is a hell of a thing. Even if you've made your own lists of exactly what you need to do in the days leading up to your baby's birth, it's so easy to overlook something vital.
So even if you think you've been super organised, there's no harm in double-checking the following:
- Make sure your hospital bag has everything you and your newborn will need – even if you're planning a home birth , it’s still wise to have a hospital bag in case you need to transfer to a ward.
- Have your antenatal notes with you at all times, in case you go into labour while you're out and about. Leave a note on your front door reminding you to take them to the hospital or birth centre.
- Have the phone number for your midwife, hospital, antenatal triage and/or labour ward in your phone ready to make that call.
- Pin up a list of important numbers – your midwife; labour ward; your partner and birth partner (if different); the person who is going to look after your other children or pets, and your own hospital reference number, which is on your card or notes (you will be asked for this when you phone in).
- If you’re having a home birth, have your sterile pack and any other home birth essentials to hand, and make the preparations your midwife will have told you about.
- Check the car’s fuel tank is full!
- If you already have children, make sure the plans are in place for them to be looked after. If possible, have a plan B in place, just in case.
- Have drinks and snacks for you and your partner ready in the fridge, plus a cool box with the packs in the freezer ready to go.
- Make a list of people to phone when your baby is born. It won't be long before you can share the exciting news!
- It may also be worth making a list of who can visit and when. You might want people around to help straight away, or you might want a bit of space to enjoy being a family of your own. Oh, and forward this list of tips for visitors to friends and family – it'll make your life that little bit easier in the early days with your baby.
Your 40 week to-do list
1 Keep calm and carry on - easier said than done, but the chances of your waters breaking at the shops or out and about are fairly slim and are more likely to be a trickle than a TV-esque gush!
3 Practise some of the relaxation and breathing techniques that will see you through labour and birth. It’s a great idea to familiarise yourself with them again now in any case, and you might just feel the benefit.
4 Have a last-minute haircut if you want one. It may be a while before you have another chance.
5 Distract yourself by reading up on looking after your baby in our must-read baby section .
What to watch this week...
Get expert tips on what to expect at 40 weeks pregnant from our midwife.
Go to Your Week of Pregnancy
What happens next week...
Want to know what happens when you're 41 weeks pregnant ? Or maybe you've already forgotten what you read last week ? Just click on the numbers above to find out more about what to expect when you're that number of weeks pregnant.