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Week #41 of Pregnancy

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Your Pregnancy: Week 41

By Erin Horner, edHelperBaby

Your Baby
           Have you seen the cartoon drawing of a very pregnant mommy and her very busy baby?  The image is of a worn out woman and the baby that she is still carrying in her belly.  The baby appears to be kicking and screaming into a bullhorn, "Let me out of here!" and the woman is responding with, "I'm trying!"  It turns out that that caricature may not be too far fetched, in more ways than one.  While you may be doing all that you can to encourage your little one to leave his cozy confinement, medical experts believe that in his own way, when ready to make his grand entrance, your little one will send his own, "Get me out of here!" message, except he'll use his hormones rather than a bullhorn. By this week in your pregnancy, your baby's endocrine, or hormone, system is staying very busy.  It is theorized that when your baby is ready to be born he will send a message, via his hormones, to the placenta.  These hormones will then set into motion the long awaited turn of events that will begin your labor.

       Your little one's endocrine system is also busy producing stress hormones.  Did you know that your 8 pound 20 inch baby will produce more stress hormones during birth than at any other time in his life?  And you thought your part of the labor and delivery process was going to be stressful!  These all important stress hormones are essential to the health of your baby.  They will help him quickly adjust to life outside of the womb and will kick his survival reflexes in to gear once he is no longer relying on the placenta and umbilical cord that have sustained him throughout your pregnancy.


Your Body
           Now that your due date has come and gone, you may find yourself feeling a bit discouraged.  This is a completely normal emotion and a completely normal response.  You have spent the last nine (or ten) months eyeing one particular date, and when that square gets marked off of the calendar without your newborn's all important stats recorded on it, you are bound to feel a bit defeated.  Remember, however, no woman has ever been pregnant forever. Your little one's delivery day will come, your doctor and I promise!

       If this is your first child, statistics show that your baby will probably be born four days after your due date.  If you don't go into labor on your own this week, your doctor may have you come in for some special testing to check on your little (or by this week, big) one.  Your doctor may want you to stop by his or her office or the labor and delivery department of your local hospital to have a "nonstress test" performed.  Your medical provider will have you lie down with a fetal heart monitor attached to your abdomen.  Every time your baby moves, you will make a note of it, either electronically with the push of a button or by recording it on a piece of paper.  While you are recording your little one's movements, the monitor is recording your baby's heart rate.  Normally, when a baby moves, his or her heart rate increases.  This test and the data gathered from it will help your doctor determine how well your baby is handling life in the womb, now that he has nearly outgrown his once spacious accommodations.  Your doctor may also set up another ultrasound appointment where he or she can evaluate your little one's growth, positioning and the amount of amniotic fluid left.

       If after performing these tests and possibly others, your doctor feels that your baby is not under stress (unlike her very pregnant mother!) he or she will probably encourage you to let nature take its course and allow your body to go into labor when it is ready.  If, however, he or she feels that the tests indicate that your baby is becoming a bit distressed in the womb, he will probably go ahead and schedule you to be induced.

       When your labor is induced, it is usually done so in two stages.
  1. Ripening of your cervix  Many physicians today will help a woman's cervix thin and dilate before formally inducing her labor.  This is usually done the day before a woman's induction is scheduled and involves two types of gel medication (typically Prepidil and Ceridil) being placed in the vagina and on top of the cervix.  If your doctor decides to do this, he will most likely have you come into the labor and delivery department of the hospital so that your baby can be monitored during the brief procedure.
  2. Induction of Labor When you arrive at the hospital to be induced, you will begin receiving oxytocin, more commonly known as Pitocin.  This will be administered intravenously.  The dosage of medication will be continually increased until your contractions begin.  These contractions will then help your body go into labor and will eventually help you deliver your little one.  It is, however, important to remember that the induction of your labor does not necessarily guarantee a vaginal delivery.  While your labor is being induced, your doctor and nurses will be closely monitoring your baby for any signs of fetal distress.  If they begin to feel that your little one is under too much stress, or that your labor is simply not progressing quickly enough, a cesarean delivery may still be necessary.  Remember that as the medical expert, your doctor has both your health and the health and well being of your little one as his utmost concern.  If he recommends a cesarean delivery, it is because he feels that it is better for your baby to be delivered quickly.  Rather than hold tight to a vaginal birth plan that you developed weeks ago...trust your doctor's wisdom and you will soon be holding on to something far more precious, your baby!


  You're Wondering. . .
           Is there anything that I can do to encourage my labor along?  My doctor is planning to induce me next week, but I'm ready to have this baby now!  Do you have any helpful hints?

       You know the expression, "a watched pot never boils"?  It seems that the same can be said of an overdue pregnancy.  No amount of "are you still pregnant?" phone calls or belly gawking at the grocery store seem to encourage your little one to arrive any sooner.  While Mother Nature most definitely has a mind and a time table of her own, if you are ready to see your baby face-to-face (and your toes again, for that matter) here are a few labor inducing tips to try:
  • Just keep walking, walking, and walking  Walking is a wonderful way to encourage your body to begin going into labor.  The movement of your swaying hips from side to side may help your baby make her way into the birthing position.  It can also help to increase your contractions and can help alleviate their discomfort at the same time.
  • Just do it By "it," I mean the grand act that got you into this glorious state nine (or ten) long months ago.  Sexual intercourse has been known to help women go into labor for several different reasons.  First, semen can help to soften a woman's cervix thanks to the prostaglandins that it contains.  Secondly, an orgasm during intercourse may help to bring about some more contractions.
  • Mucho Mexican food  Some women swear that a hearty helping of spicy Mexican food finally brought on their labor.  While there is no scientific evidence to substantiate or refute this claim, be aware that any amount of spicy food will most definitely leave you with a gnarly case of heartburn and possibly still pregnant.  If it does cause your labor to begin, you may find yourself in a bit of a bind.  Think: tummy full of spicy food, painful contractions, and lots of pushing.  It might not be a very good combination!
  • Horner's horrific hair day This is my personal favorite labor inducing suggestion that I share with all of my pregnant friends.  While there is little (okay, no) scientific evidence to back it up, it worked for me and several friends as well.  When you are determined to meet your baby and have decided that you want to look picture perfect for all of those impending newborn snapshots, your baby will arrive.  The problem is, he or she will only arrive when you are having the worst possible hair day.  Head to the gym or go out for a long walk.  Upon returning home, take a shower, wash your hair and then head straight to bed.  No blow drying.  No styling products.  Just one wet head and off to bed.  In the morning you will wake up with one funky case of impossible to tame bed head, and in any luck (like me) in labor.  If you aren't in labor, you will at least be able to peek in the mirror and have a great laugh at your hip and happening hairstyle.  And face it, by this stage of your pregnancy a good belly laugh can be hard to come by! As a side note, I still have a good chuckle when I peek at my stylish hairdo in each of my son's newborn baby pictures.

       On a serious note, always be sure to speak with your health care provider before attempting any of these labor inducing strategies.  He may feel that it is safer for you to attempt a different method of induction and because he is the expert, be sure to trust his expertise!


  Your "To-Do" List
           While everything in your tired and swollen body may be begging your baby to make his or her way out of your womb, and into your arms, this week do your best to enjoy these last few pregnant days.  I know that you feel as though you have been pregnant forever, and that you are ready to meet your little miracle.  Remember this though, after your sweet one arrives, you have to share her with the rest of the world.  For right now, she is all yours.  While you might be ready to share some of your parenthood responsibilities (it would be nice if someone else could take over for your aching back for a while, wouldn't it?) within the next few days you will no longer have your sweet one all to yourself.  You have spent the last nine (or ten) months bonding with your baby, and you, and you alone truly know what it has been like to grow your precious child.  So as best you can, this week enjoy every last day of this pregnancy, because believe it or not, you just might miss it!


Your Homework: Preparing For Parenthood
           By this stage of your pregnancy, many commonplace things have become extremely uncomfortable if not down right impossible.  You may no longer be able to wear shoes that require tying, and if by chance you can, someone else most definitely has to tie them for you (and make sure that they match since you can no longer see your feet.)  You are probably feeling like it is difficult and uncomfortable to breathe, eat, and sleep, all of which are inevitable in your daily routine.  Heartburn may be such a constant companion that you are having a hard time remembering what it was like to eat a meal without feeling like your throat is on fire.  While these end-of-pregnancy side effects are unpleasant (maybe even miserable!) your entire pregnancy has not been plagued with such symptoms (hopefully not, at least!).  As you think back over the last 41 weeks, what are some of your favorite pregnant memories?  When your little one is sitting in your lap (you remember your lap, don't you?  Its that space on top of your legs that has been temporarily taken over by your mega-momma belly), what will you want to tell him about the nine months that you carried him in your womb?  Think back to the beginning of your pregnancy.  How did it feel to tell the world that you were pregnant?  How about the first time that your sweet one moved deep within you?  What about the night that you and your partner decided on a name for your baby, and for the first time you said your sweet one's first, middle and last name, not as a possibility, but for the first time as the future name of your child?  If you have kept a journal throughout your pregnancy, re-read your entries and create a top ten list of your favorite pregnant moments.  Think of it as a highlight reel of the past 41 weeks.  While these last few days of pregnancy can seem never ending and a bit trying, like all things in life and parenthood, they are part of a season, and this season will soon pass.  Part of being a great parent is being able to develop the ability to focus on and remember the good times when you find yourself right smack-dab in the middle of the tough times.   By focusing on the positive aspects of parenthood you will find that you are able to keep a healthier perspective on your precious role as a mother whether you are worn out and 41-weeks-pregnant, wiped out with a 41-day-old newborn, or wrung out after your 41-month-old throws his fifth tantrum of the day!


  My Experience
           I have found that on occasion (OK, more often than I like to admit) my "mommy meter" is not only on empty by the end of the day, it is running on fumes.  Not unlike a car that is barely making its way to the nearest gas station, I am painfully aware of the fact that I need a top-off in the worst way.  Blame it on the moon (or whatever I attempted to make for dinner) some days it is just harder to be a parent than others.  When I find myself in the middle of one of these "mommy-melt down" moments, I always stop, take a deep breath and remind myself of ten great things that have happened with my family throughout the day.  One evening as I replayed my day these are a few thoughts that came to my mind:
  1. I had the blessing of experiencing nature with my little boy.  Granted it was in the form of a huge spider that I really didn't want in my house, but it left him fascinated, me frightened and both of us giggling.
  2. I was able to overhear my little girl read a story book to her grandparents over the phone.  Even though I really wanted the phone back so that I could finish the long distance conversation, I was awed as I listened to my five-year-old nonchalantly read her above-grade-level book to them like it was no big deal.
  3. My little boy really wanted to bless me by helping to clean the house so he tried to clean off the window screens and the tracks in our guest room.  They were really dirty.  I knew that--thanks to the muddy paper towels that he left all over the crisp, white linens on the bed.  Did I mention that my in-laws were coming into town the next week and that everything in my guest room is white?

       As I thought back through the day's events, and focused on all of the great things that had occurred, I was reminded of the privilege of parenthood. My husband and I are the only ones who get to experience these day -to-day wonders with our children.  In the midst of cleaning up muddy paper towels, I could see the delight and pride in my son's eyes because he was attempting to be such a big helper.  As I rewound the telephone conversation with my parents, I was blown away remembering the way that my young child was able to maturely carry on a conversation and read to them as though they were sitting on the couch next to her.  I know that it made her Nana and Papa's day and I suspect that it made hers as well.  After focusing on all of the good that had occurred during my day, I found that I was still tired, but I was also inspired to finish off another great (although a bit trying) family day, get my sweet peas to bed and then head to bed myself anticipating all of the memories that tomorrow would provide just waiting for us to make.


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