Pregnancy by week

Your pregnancy: 39 weeks

Your baby’s neck muscles have strengthened and he can hold his head away from the chest wall, but that buoyancy is helped greatly by the amniotic fluid. Once he is born, you will need to support his head when you’re holding him.

felt bag of flour showing size of baby at 39 weeks pregnant


39 weeks pregnant: What’s going on in there

When you’re at the grocery store this week, head over to the baking section and pick up a bag of flour. Practise rocking it to sleep and you’re essentially training for what’s to come in a few short weeks (minus the enormous baby bump currently hindering your cuddling abilities). By 39 weeks pregnant, your baby weighs about 3.2 kilograms (seven pounds) and is about 51 centimetres (20 inches) long. The bones in his skull haven’t fused together yet—rather, they’re separated by membranes, which allow for greater squeezability through the birth canal. His stomach is tiny—about the size of a large marble—so he won’t need much breast milk or formula to satisfy him for the first few days after birth. His brain and nervous system are well developed, meaning that he can suck, swallow and stay awake long enough to eat after he is born, which isn’t always the case with babies born earlier.

39 weeks pregnant symptoms

Is this it?
Chances are, every weird feeling seems like it could be the start of labour. Aside from contractions (rhythmic, repeated cramps), some signs of labour include the baby dropping further into your pelvis and rhythmic back pain. Nausea and diarrhea are also possibilities as your muscles—including those in your intestines and rectum—loosen when labour approaches. Your water may break—either in a gush or a trickle—and kick off labour or your water could break after contractions have already started.


Stretch and sweep

When your doctor or midwife examines you during a regular appointment, she will use her fingers to check and see if your cervix is dilated. She may ask if you want a “cervical sweep” or “membrane sweep,” where she puts a gloved finger into the cervical opening to separate the amniotic membrane from the cervical tissue. The sensation varies from woman to woman, but chances are, this will hurt at least a bit. However, it’s considered a low-risk way to encourage labour because the sweep tells the uterus to start producing prostaglandins, which soften the cervix.  Photo: @partyforthree via InstagramWhy the cervix is so important during pregnancy

If you’re having a planned C-section, it may be scheduled for week 39 because that’s when your baby is officially full term. In some hospitals, there’s a trend toward “gentle C-sectionswhenever possible, where there isn’t a curtain or drape between you and the baby or the baby is laid on your chest for immediate skin-to-skin contact (if you’re both safe and healthy). Ask your doctor in advance if these adjustments are possible. Either way, familiarize yourself with what to expect with a C-section before the big day arrives.

Just for kicks

Pick up some pointers from Beyoncé and Jessica Alba or, hey, just be a little bit nosy and see how the stars give birth. We won’t judge.  

Baby names

Understandably, some parents want to wait until they meet their baby to decide on the name. But if you don’t have your list of final contenders yet, you’re running out of time! Here’s how to name your baby without the stress

Pregnancy to-do list: 39 weeks

Look at a cheat sheet of different labour positions to try. While TV and movies tend to show a labouring woman on her back in bed, there are actually lots of different moves that allow you to stay a little more comfortable and keep things moving. For example, you can lean into a wall, lean over the hospital bed, sit on an exercise ball, slow-dance with your partner with your head leaning against his chest or shoulder (music not required), do a lunge or lie on your side with your upper knee bent. There are also a lot of labour props, such as birthing stools, squatting bars and tubs.

For C-section moms, research what’s needed while you’re recovering from a C-section. For example, know that it’s OK to take pain meds if you’re breastfeeding.

Read more:
Final weeks of pregnancy: The waiting game
What to expect when your water breaks
Next up: 40 weeks pregnant


Watch Baby Grow!

Subscribe to Today’s Parent’s baby newsletter and find out what to expect for every stage and milestone, from birth to two years.