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Month 9

If you're feeling nervous about this month's grand finale, here's the thing: You've got this! Over the past nine months, your body has been slowly but steadily preparing for childbirth. Whether your pregnancy has been smooth sailing or encountered complications, don't doubt your own strength and perseverance. If you're like the vast majority of women, your childbirth experience will be completely normal and completely successful. Allow yourself to feel powerful. The birth of a child is one of life's most intense and rewarding experiences. Get excited! Your baby is almost here and all those aches and pains are almost on their way out!

Your Baby

You'll notice a change in your baby's movements during the last weeks of pregnancy as his or her once-roomy uterine home becomes more close quarters. Your baby's acrobatic kicks and jabs will settle into squirmier movements. As your baby tries to find a more comfortable position, don't be surprised to feel some tiny feet digging into your ribs. Ouch!

Other milestones in the ninth month include:

  • Your baby is considered full term at 37 weeks.
  • Your baby's fingernails reach past the fingertips. Don't be surprised if your baby is born in need of a manicure!
  • Your baby's brain growth continues right up until birth—and beyond. The brain is not finished with its development until your baby is a 2-year-old toddler.
  • Some babies will "drop" down into the birth canal a few days or weeks before birth. This is also called "lightening." If you have previously given birth, lightening might not happen until you are actually in labor.

Your Body

With your baby coming soon, you may feel tired one minute and energetic the next. What else can you expect during this final month of pregnancy?

  • Your weight gain may level off or even stop.
  • If your baby "drops" into the birthing position before delivery, pressure is taken off certain internal organs, and you may feel relief from heartburn and shortness of breath. More pressure is placed on the bladder, however, resulting in increased urination.
  • Your cervix begins to thin and dilate (although some women do not experience this until just before labor and delivery).
  • You may feel a sudden burst of energy to clean and prepare for your baby. This is called nesting. Take advantage of it!
  • You may notice signs of labor, including the loss of the mucus plug that protects the cervix, a leak or gush of amniotic fluid indicating that your water has broken, and regular contractions that gradually grow closer together.

Things to Start Thinking About

Prenatal Care: This month, prenatal care visits shift to once a week. Late third trimester ultrasound is often performed to estimate birth weight.

When Is It Time to Go to the Hospital? As you enter the home stretch, establish with your doctor guidelines on when to contact your doctor or report to the hospital during labor. For many women, a call or trip to the hospital is recommended when contractions are regular and strong, coming every four to five minutes for one to two hours. Other factors in your pregnancy may make it advisable to contact your doctor before this benchmark. Get this settled early on—and make sure you have important numbers programmed into your phone. (And your partner's phone!)

Last-Minute Details: What's left on your to-do list? According to Lizellen La Follette, M.D., OB-GYN at Marin General Hospital in Greenbrae, Calif., practical items to take care of include: "Make arrangements for your hospital stay and pack a bag with essentials. Arrange care for any pets while you are in the hospital. If you are nervous and anxious about labor and delivery, talk to family and friends who have had children for support." And lastly? "Try to relax and get plenty of rest, so you will be ready for the big day," she adds. Easier said than done, we know.

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