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Week #42 of Pregnancy

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Your Pregnancy: Week 42

By Erin Horner, edHelperBaby

Your Baby
           If your baby has not yet arrived there is a good chance that your due date, not your baby, has missed its mark.  If your doctor calculated your due date solely by the date of your last period, it is quite possible that your due date was simply calculated incorrectly and that you really haven't been pregnant for all of these past 42 weeks.  In fact only 5% of women whose due dates are calculated or re-evaluated using an early ultrasound are still left awaiting the arrival of their little one at 42 weeks.  If your baby really has been hidden away inside of you for 42 weeks, by now he may be have a very full head of hair and some very long fingernails, all of which might be ready for a trim right after delivery.  His skin may be a bit red or flaky as the vernix that has protected it from the amniotic fluid for all of these weeks is continuing to diminish.  While your sweet pea may have grown to well over eight pounds in the past weeks, this week he may actually loose a bit of weight as the placenta may no longer be able to provide him with the vast array of nutrients that were readily available earlier in your pregnancy.  Rest assured that your doctor will keep a very close eye on the health of your baby over the next few days, and will more than likely induce his delivery soon so that your long (really long!) awaited face-to-face meeting can finally occur.


Your Body
           Are you starting to feel like an elephant this week?  No, I am not talking about your round belly or swollen ankles, but rather the fact that an elephant's gestation seems never ending.  Did you know that the average female elephant is pregnant for 21 months and when she finally delivers her "little" one, it usually weighs between 169 and 248 pounds? Regardless of how tired, big, and swollen you may feel this week, I promise you that you will not be pregnant for another 11 months and when your precious baby finally arrives he or she will weigh a lot less than 248 pounds!  See, there are still pregnant gals out there who have it worse than you!

       As you anticipate the arrival of your little one, which really will occur, it is a good idea to prepare yourself for all that your body will experience post-partum.  It is normal for women to experience many physical as well as emotional changes after the birth of a baby.  Many women not only feel sore, tired and moody, but also experience night sweats, bleeding and sore breasts.  The following are post-partum facts that are good for you to be aware of before you experience them.
  • Recovery If you deliver your baby vaginally, allow yourself six weeks to recover from your delivery.  If you have a caesarean delivery, your recovery may take as long as eight weeks.
  • Delivery Discomfort While it is no secret that the human body is able to do amazing things in order to bring a child into this world, the fact of the matter is that pushing a baby the size of a watermelon out of a hole the size of a lemon, is bound to leave you with a bit of discomfort.  If you have had an episiotomy or stitches from either a tear or a c-section delivery, those areas will be a bit tender as well. One of my favorite post-partum recovery tips was shared with me by a great friend.  She took several large and absorbent sanitary napkins and wet them with witch hazel.  She then placed them in Ziploc bags and put them in the freezer.  After delivering her little girl she found that the coolness of the pad, combined with the witch hazel eased her discomfort, reduced her swelling and sped-up her healing.  If you require an over-the-counter pain medication, acetaminophen (more commonly known as Tylenol) is safe to take.  If you require a stronger pain medication, be sure to contact your physician regarding its safety, especially if you are nursing your newborn, as your medication can make its way into your breast milk.
  • Cramping As your uterus works diligently to shrink back to its pre-pregnancy size, you may experience some "after pains" or considerable cramping.  This uncomfortable sensation tends to take most women by surprise as they do not anticipate the intensity of the cramping that they end up experiencing.  These cramps may also occur while you are breastfeeding.  Breastfeeding causes your body to release the hormone oxytocin, which in turn causes your uterus to contract.  These contractions will not only help your body continue to dispel any blood clots remaining in your uterus, but will continue to help it and your abdomen return to its normal size.  A heating pad or acetaminophen may aid in these discomforts as well, but remember, "no pain, no gain" or in this case, "no pain, no loss!"  Skinny jeans, here you come!
  • Bleeding  After giving birth you should anticipate a few weeks of vaginal bleeding as your body continues to rid itself of the uterine lining that so diligently held your little one in place for all of those months.  Lochia, as it is referred to in the medical community, is similar to a monthly period, but lasts anywhere from two to six (or more) weeks.  During this time it is important that you only use sanitary napkins, not tampons for at least six weeks after giving birth.  Inserting a tampon into your vagina during this recovery time would not only be terribly uncomfortable, but could also introduce bacteria into your vagina and uterus and therefore lead to an infection.  The bleeding is usually heavy at first and then begins to taper off gradually.  It is normal to pass several clots during this time, but if you feel as though you are bleeding too much, that your discharge has a foul odor, or if you begin running a fever, be sure to contact your medical provider as they may want to see you and rule out the possibility of an infection.


  You're Wondering. . .
            One of my friends suggested that I hire a post-partum doula.  Who are they and what do they do?

       A post-partum doula is someone who helps to care for a family after the delivery of a baby.  Post-partum doulas specialize in the physical and emotional recovery that occurs after the birth of a baby. Unlike a baby nurse or nanny, a post-partum doula focuses on everyone in the family.  Her main goal is to help gracefully ease an entire family through the post-partum transition and into a healthy family lifestyle.  A post-partum doula will assist you with cooking, light housekeeping, childcare for your newborn or older children as well as breastfeeding issues.  Most doulas work by the hour and can therefore be available to your family when their services are most needed and beneficial.  The best way to find a great post-partum doula is by seeking out recommendations from friends or family members who have employed one.  There are also websites for the DONA international organization that may be able to assist you in finding qualified post-partum doulas in your area.


  Your "To-Do" List
           If you are feeling a bit stressed by this point in your pregnancy (and who wouldn't be?) top your to-do list with this: Relax!  While I recognize that this is easier said than done, especially when all you want to write down on your to-do list is "go into labor," the unfortunate truth of the matter is that no amount of emotional stress is going to encourage your baby to arrive a minute sooner than he or she has already planned.  Take a moment this week and encourage your body to unwind from the top of your head to the tips of your toes by trying the following exercise.
  • Starting at the top of your head, tense all of your facial and forehead muscles and then relax them.
  • Next, move to your shoulders.  Tense your shoulders and upper back, then relax them.
  • Continue tensing and relaxing all of your muscles, one small group at a time until you make your way all the way down your body, ending at the tips of your toes.
  • As you do this exercise, remember to breathe deeply and slowly and pay close attention to the way each of your muscle groups feel as you encourage them to relax.
  • After relaxing your entire body, feel free to do it again! This time work your way from the bottom of your toes up to the top of your head.

       When you are finished relaxing all of your muscle groups, you should feel noticeably calmer.  You may also notice that your heart rate has slowed a bit.  If you are still feeling anxious by the time this exercise is complete, look on the bright side.  For at least ten minutes your mind was focusing on something other than the inevitable "When is this baby ever going to arrive?" question.  Who knows, maybe some of those muscle tensions around your abdomen will encourage your body to start the real tensions you've been waiting for: contractions!


Your Homework: Preparing For Parenthood
           If you have been reading or receiving these weekly pregnancy updates from EDhelperBaby for the majority of your pregnancy, and have been following our "Preparing for Parenthood" suggestions, you are now well on your way to becoming a marvelous mother!  Over the past 42 weeks we have shared suggestions with you that have helped you physically and emotionally prepare yourself and your partner to be the best parents possible.  This week, as you look forward to the much anticipated arrival of your little one, I have one last homework assignment for you.  I would like for you to finish this sentence, "To me a great mother is someone who___________________________."  What are the characteristics that you most want to exemplify as you raise this precious baby?  What are the things that you want your child to learn from both your actions and words?  What are the values and priorities that you hope your child will glean from your lifestyle?

       As you reflect on the past 42 weeks, think about some of the many things that you have accomplished.  You have possibly endured illness, exhaustion, and raging hormones.  You have persevered through the many "unknowns" of pregnancy.  You have adjusted to countless changes, both physically and emotionally.  You have strived to create both a womb and world environment that will allow your little one to thrive.  Over the past nine months you have created and put into practice many traits that characterize a great mother.  Congratulations, momma!  You are well on your way to becoming the wonderful mother that you desire to be.


  My Experience
           When I look back on my pregnancies, I realize that everything that I did (or didn't do) was a direct result of the fact that I wanted to be the best mother possible for my children, even before they were born.  I strived to make healthy food choices, sacrificed my daily caffeinated cup of coffee, and read every pregnancy and parenting book available.  I realize that even before holding my daughter for the very first time, my lifestyle choices were saying that I desired to be the kind of mother who would do whatever it took to insure my child a great start in this world.   When I finish the above mentioned sentence, it sounds like this:  To me a great mother is someone who is so full of love and compassion that my children will never have to wonder if their daddy or I are on their team or in their corner.  I want to be the kind of woman who places the needs of my children and husband above my own, while still caring for myself so that I can best care for them.  I want to be the kind of mom who kisses away hurts, wipes away worries, and encourages my children to follow their dreams.  I want my children to leave my home with well established roots to keep them grounded, but with even stronger wings to help them fly.

       I hope that your pregnancy has been full of wonderful memories, and wish you a season of parenting that is full of countless more wonderful memories yet to be made. All the best to you and your beautiful baby!


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