At week 37, health care providers consider a pregnancy to be full term, meaning that you could give birth now with a relatively low risk of complications for your baby. However, he's likely to stay in there for another couple of weeks while he grows a bit more and exercises his lungs.
Tip of the week:
Many women aren't comfortable with perineal massage because it leaves them feeling exposed. You may consider trying the massage in a warm bath, which will not only provide a little privacy, but the warm water can help the skin stretch as well.
Currently, he weighs roughly 6.5 pounds and will put on about a half pound per week during the remainder of his gestation period. He's hard at work breathing amniotic fluid in and out of his lungs to help them get stronger. Additionally, your baby is getting ready to breastfeed by sucking his thumb, and he's blinking and turning from side to side like a pro.
Delivery day is drawing near, which may have you thinking a lot about what could happen in the hospital, such as an episiotomy. This is a procedure in which the skin between the anus and the vagina, known as the perineum, is cut during delivery to make way for the baby to come through the vaginal opening. Yeah—ouch. Episiotomies were once common practice in vaginal deliveries. In 2002, they were performed in more than one-fourth of vaginal deliveries, but the usage of episiotomy has declined in recent years.
In 2006, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommended restricted use of episiotomy during labor, encouraging physicians to use clinical judgment to decide when the procedure is needed. Recent studies show that episiotomies do not significantly improve labor, delivery and recovery, and the procedures can cause harm, such as increased tearing, sphincter dysfunction and painful sex. Talk to your health care provider about his or her philosophy on doing episiotomies and discuss techniques that may help you avoid the need for an episiotomy.
One technique that can potentially prevent episiotomy is a perineal massage. This is perhaps not the kind of massage you're likely to get excited about, but it can be enjoyable for some women and their partners. To begin, whoever is performing the massage, whether you or your partner, should have clean hands and trimmed fingernails. Next, sit in a comfortable position, and place lubricated thumbs inside your vagina and press downward toward your rectum. The idea is to gently stretch the skin so it becomes more resilient and less prone to tearing.
Kegel exercises, which you may have been performing all along, may also help prevent an episiotomy. To perform these, contract the pelvic floor muscles, a movement that will feel like you're stopping the flow of urine. Hold the muscle contraction for 10 seconds (don't hold your breath) and slowly release. Practice this five times a day, working up to 20 holds each time. You can practice this anywhere—standing or sitting. Kegels will help you gain better control over your pelvic muscles, which can aid in problem-free childbirth.