Congratulations! You’ve reached 37 weeks, and you’ll meet your little one in about 3 more weeks! Now that you’re 9 months pregnant, your baby could come any time, and you may be having a lot of Braxton Hicks contractions (which can be quite confusing this close to your due date!).
On your radar: cervical checks. At your next appointment, your doctor or midwife may perform a cervical check, also known as a pelvic exam or vaginal exam. But what exactly is your doctor or midwife looking for?
What is a cervical exam?
Your doctor will look for dilation, or how far your cervix has opened. Just a reminder: your cervix must open to 10 centimeters (about the same diameter as a rice cake) for your baby to pass through into your birth canal.
Your care provider will look at the consistency of your cervix, also known as cervical ripeness. Your cervix will start out being firm (like the tip of your nose) and then soften before labor (like the inside of your cheek).
Your doctor or midwife will also check for effacement – how thin your cervix is. Your cervix needs to be completely effaced before you start to push during labor.
As labor nears, your cervix will move from the back of your baby’s head to the top (and closer to the opening of your vagina).
Finally, your practitioner will try to get an idea of where your baby is in relation to your pelvis. Put simply, the lower your baby is, the closer you are to delivery.
Should I ask for a cervical exam?
Many people will ask for a cervical check to get an idea of whether or not things are progressing, but cervical exams can’t tell you when you’ll go into labor. These changes can happen overnight or gradually, over a period of weeks.
Can you refuse a cervical exam?
Cervical exams do carry some risks. Health care providers will typically try to limit cervical exams to reduce the chance of infection – especially once your water breaks. For this reason, some people choose not to get cervical exams altogether while others opt out until the 40-week mark.
Talk with your doctor or midwife about any concerns you may have, such as potential risks or adverse side effects.
In other news this week, your baby is the size of a cantaloupe. While their growth might be slowing, your baby is still packing on the pounds and storing energy – their way of preparing for the big day when they’ll finally get to meet you!
37 Weeks Pregnant Symptoms
We know you’re probably sick of all of the changes your boobs have gone through during pregnancy, but you might be in for a few more breast changes now that your due date is near.
Your nipples may become larger and more prominent as the milk-producing cells in your breasts continue to grow. They may also become extremely sensitive – so sensitive that even the slightest touch hurts. These are normal signs that your body is preparing to produce milk, and you may begin producing milk before your little one arrives! If you're experiencing leaking breasts or extra sensitive nipples, reusable nursing pads can help provide you with some relief.
Thought you left morning sickness and nausea behind? Now that you’re close to your due date, nausea might be a sign that labor is approaching. If the nausea is severe or if you begin vomiting, alert your doctor or midwife. They’ll want to rule out an illness or a pregnancy complication like HELLP or preeclampsia.
Pregnancy stretch marks might be another symptom that you thought you had said goodbye to, but you could see more pop up on your body at 37 weeks and beyond.
Spotting and Vaginal Discharge
You may experience some spotting as you enter the last part of your pregnancy. Your cervix is extra sensitive these days, and sex or cervical checks can irritate it and make it bleed.
If you experience heavier spotting or bleeding or foul-smelling vaginal discharge, call your health care provider right away. Also, if you feel a constant leaking or a flow, call your doctor or midwife as this could be a sign that your water has broken.
A Bloody Show
If you notice a discharge that’s tinged pink or brown with blood, it might be bloody show. It may sound scary, but it’s actually a normal sign that your cervix is getting ready for labor.
Having bloody show is different from losing your mucus plug. Your mucus plug may fall out weeks before labor starts (it usually comes out before your water breaks). You might not even notice you’ve lost your mucus plug since it can come out in bits and pieces over time.
The bloody show occurs when your cervix begins to dilate and efface, causing a small amount of blood and mucus to release from the vagina. It will be a jelly-like, stringy texture and not produce more than a tablespoon or two of discharge.
If you're seeing bloody show, make sure your hospital bag is packed, and let your doctor or midwife know. You can typically expect to be in labor in a few days at most.
Baby on Board
At 37 weeks, your baby is around 19 inches long and weighs about 6.5 pounds. Health care providers consider a pregnancy to be full term anywhere between 37 and 42 weeks, so if you go into labor now, your doctor or midwife likely won’t intervene.
Under Construction: Dexterity
Your little one is developing more dexterity in their fingers. They can now grab onto small objects such as their toes and may even find their umbilical cord.
Under Construction: Lanugo
Remember those tiny hairs that covered your baby just a few weeks ago? By now your baby has shed most of that fine hair – though some babies are born fuzzy.
Under Construction: Fetal Movement
You’re likely feeling more sweeping movements and fewer kicks or jabs these days. Your baby’s quarters are getting cramped, so you may feel stretching, rolling, and even turning.
What to Wear This Week
We know you're probably having trouble sleeping, so why not treat yourself to the maternity & nursing pajamas of your dreams? Our Clea Bamboo Classic Long Sleeve Pajama Set is super soft and made from our favorite temperature-regulating fabric, a dreamy viscose from bamboo. Pair this maternity pajama set with our Emmaline Robe for an extra luxurious pick-me-up.
If you haven’t bought a nursing bra yet, now’s the time. We recommend grabbing at least three (one to wash, one to wear, and one to spare). Our Sublime® Hands-Free Pumping & Nursing Bra is a great option whether you’re an experienced breastfeeding mom or this will be your first time nursing.
This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice that has been medically reviewed. Please reach out to your midwife or doctor with any questions.