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Week #40 of Pregnancy

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Your Pregnancy: Week 40

By Erin Horner, edHelperBaby

Your Baby
           This is it, mom!  While only 5% of babies are actually born on their due date, this week contains that all important date that you have had circled on your calendar for the last nine (or ten) months.  If your little one isn't born this week, however, don't worry.  I promise that no woman has ever been pregnant forever....although at times it may feel like it!

       Did you know that since conception your little one's brain has grown over 100 billion neurons with more than 100 trillion connections!  You've grown a little brainiac, momma!  Way to go!  Did you also know that the twist of your baby's umbilical cord may effect their handedness?  Research has shown that babies born with an umbilical cord that twists to the right, tend to be right-handed as they grow-up.  Likewise, those born with a cord that twists to the left, tend to prefer using their left hand.  When you are counting your little one's fingers and toes after birth, peek at her cord.  Who knows, you may have just added a lefty to your family.


Your Body
           Believe it or not, by this week in your pregnancy your uterus is now the largest muscle in your body.  It's a good thing too, because it will take a lot of muscle to progress through the three different stages of labor and deliver your new bundle of joy.  The following list highlights the different aspects of each of the three stages of labor that you will experience:
  • Stage One. During this stage of labor your contractions will begin to come at regular intervals.  Each contraction is helping to thin out and stretch your cervix in preparation for delivery.  Towards the end of this stage, you will experience transition.  Transition marks the end of stage one and the beginning of stage two and is usually the most intense stage of labor.  It is during this time that many women feel sick to their stomach and worn out both physically and emotionally.  Hang in there, though!  Remember, that each contraction is only bringing you closer to having that sweet baby in your arms and out of your belly.
  • Stage Two. This stage brings with it the desire to bear down and push until your baby is delivered.  Many women, who are not using pain medication during delivery, describe this urge to push as a completely involuntary action.  The human body has a remarkable way of doing what needs to be done, and the act of delivering a child is a perfect example of this phenomenon.  It is during this stage of labor that your baby's head will begin to crown.  With each contraction your baby's head will begin to appear through the vagina, and then recede when the contraction finishes.  While this might seem like Mother Nature's way of performing a cruel magic trick, rest assured that each contraction and peek at baby's head is helping to prepare the way for your little one's ultimate delivery.  Your baby will continue to crown more and more until her head is completely delivered outside of your vagina.  At this point, you will be instructed to stop pushing (only momentarily!) so that your perineum can stretch rather than tear.  Some women still tear during birth and require some stitches, but by taking a moment to pant rather than push, you will greatly decrease the severity of any tear you may experience.  The very next contraction usually delivers your little one's shoulders and the rest of her body will immediately follow.
  • Stage Three.  You may be thinking, "Stage three?  What's left?  Didn't I just finish delivering?"  Don't worry, stage three does not involve the delivery of another baby that you did not know you were carrying (unless of course you have been pregnant with multiples).  The third stage of labor is the delivery of the placenta.  During this stage the placenta will detach itself from the wall of the uterus and then be delivered.  This stage can last as few as ten minutes or may take up to one hour to complete.  Regardless of the length, few women are even aware that it is occurring.  Instead, they are enjoying the sounds of their little one's first cries and busy watching the doctors care for their newborn baby.


  You're Wondering. . .
           My doctor said that she may strip my membranes this week.  I'm not sure what that involves, but it sounds painful!  Should I be nervous?

       The process of having your membranes stripped sounds more painful and awkward than it actually is.  When performing this procedure, your medical provider will run his or her finger around the inside of your cervix to help separate the amniotic membranes from the lower uterine wall.  This simple process can help to release your body's labor triggering chemicals and will often bring on your real labor within 12-24 hours of completion.   While this procedure is not pleasurable, it is also not necessarily painful.  If your doctor decides to strip your membranes, try to relax and breathe through any discomfort all the while remembering that this procedure will only bring you closer to the end of your pregnancy and the birth of your beautiful baby.


  Your "To-Do" List
           Nothing.  That's right!  This week allow your "To-Do" list to remain blank so that any extra time that you do find can be filled with things that you want to do rather than things you need to do.  Use your free time to take a nap, finish a novel or rent that great chick-flick that you've been wanting to see.  Take advantage of this last week (hopefully!) of pregnancy and milk it for all that it is worth!  If your partner teases you about not doing anything, tell him that for the last 40 weeks you've been busy growing a baby and for the next forty years you'll be busy raising one, so this week you are taking a well deserved vacation.


Your Homework: Preparing For Parenthood
           While you may be feeling tired, uncomfortable or downright huge by this week in your pregnancy, take a moment tonight or sometime this week and laugh.  Part of being a great parent is learning to see the joy and humor in all situations, especially those that at the time don't feel so humorous.  As parents, we model for our children the correct way to respond to different social situations.  They are constantly watching us and taking their cues from the choices that we make.  If we can take a tense moment and diffuse it with some light-hearted humor or by downplaying its seriousness, our children will learn to do the same.  I am not suggesting that you dismiss the thoughts and fears of your child and trivialize their emotions by carelessly joking about what they may be feeling.  Rather, I am implying that at times we all take ourselves too seriously and need to remember that most trying times in life, including a 10 month pregnancy (who ever said that 40 weeks equals only 9 months anyway?), will pass.  So enjoy it for what it is and take the time to smile.

       As you enjoy your belly this week why not paint it?  Gather some non-toxic paint and have your partner or older children paint designs on your beautiful belly.  Who knows?  Their designs may become animated if your little one decides to wake up and move during this art project.  Be sure to take pictures of your creations...and be sure to laugh!


  My Experience
           I was pregnant with my second child over the summer months and took advantage of the opportunity to use my belly as a canvas for my daughter to decorate.  As my belly grew, so did her artwork.  In August my daughter painted a bright yellow sun on my belly to celebrate summer.  In September we turned my tummy into an apple to symbolize the beginning of a new school year.  This special time together allowed us to laugh as a family, enjoy my tummy for a few more weeks, and make some precious memories before her little brother was born.  A few weeks ago she asked if we could paint my belly again.  I told her that she could try but that this time the "canvas" isn't nearly as tight as it used to be and probably wouldn't stay still while she worked.  She smiled and said she'd use paper instead.  Then I smiled, thankful for two beautiful children and a softer "canvas" that daily reminds me of 40 weeks (times two) when each of my children grew deep within me before joining our family.


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