38 Weeks Pregnant: Symptoms, Baby Size, Body Changes & more

38 Weeks Pregnant: What to Expect

Medically Reviewed By
Dr. Sabiha Anjum (Gynecologist/Obstetrician)
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When the mother is at 38 weeks of pregnancy, the baby is lowered into the pelvic region where the baby might bump into various super-sensitive nerves. This will give the mother multiple sensations in the legs as well as the vagina. Yes, the mother will go through various new experiences during this period. The baby could be delivered anytime and it is best to try and relax till that time.

Video : 38 Weeks Pregnant : Symptoms, Baby Growth, Do’s and Don’ts 

Your Baby’s Growth During Pregnancy – Week 38

During week 38 of the pregnancy, the baby will be plumped up, having a strong and firm grasp. The mother will be able to experience this when she holds the baby’s hand after the delivery, for the very first time. All the organs of the baby will be developed completely by this week, ready for experiencing life outside the mother’s womb. The baby will continue shedding lanugo and vernix. Amniotic fluid will be swallowed by the baby. This will then get accumulated in the baby’s intestine. The intestine will also have bile, shed cells and, other waste products. This accumulation in the baby’s intestine will be the first bowel movement of the baby once delivered. Other changes during week 38 are minor but quite important. The brain, as well as the nervous system of the baby, will continue to be fine-tuned.

Your Baby's Growth During Pregnancy - Week 38

Thinking about the baby’s eye colour? If the baby is born with brown coloured eyes, the colour is likely to remain the same. Although, if the baby is born with dark blue or steel grey eyes, it is likely the colour might stay blue or grey or could also turn hazel, green or brown by the age of 9 months. This is mainly because the irises of the baby may gain some pigment within the first few months after birth. The colour mostly will get darker, but not lighter.

What Is the Baby’s Size?

The baby’s length can be compared to the length of a leek. While the mother is 38 weeks pregnant, the baby size will be over 19.5 inches and the baby will weigh around 3 Kgs.

Common Body Changes

During week 38, the body experiences changes which signal the culmination of pregnancy such as effacement and cervical dilation. Some of these changes can be felt by the mother, such as the feeling of the baby dropping into the pelvic region. This can be identified due to the increased pressure in the pelvic region and reduced breathlessness. The mother could also have leaky breasts. A yellowish liquid called colostrum is secreted which is majorly composed of antibodies and has very less sugar and fat. Not all mothers experience this. This colostrum protects the newborn and is secreted even after the birth along with the breast milk.

Symptoms of Pregnancy at Week 38

Some of the common symptoms a mother experiences during the 38th week of pregnancy are listed below:-

Braxton Hicks contraction

Braxton Hicks contraction

The mother can expect to experience cramps or the tightening of the tummy known as the Braxton Hicks contractions. If the painful contractions disappear as the mother switches positions, this can still be identified as Braxton Hicks contraction or practice contractions.

Troubled sleep

Mothers might find it difficult to have a restful night either due to the aches or due to the anxiety.

Increase in vaginal discharge

There might be an increase in vaginal discharge, which is a mucus-like, thick substance known as mucus plug. The presence of this mucus plug is completely normal. This increase in discharge is due to the dilation of the cervix.

An itchy tummy

The mother’s belly is stretched to its maximum extent, making it increasingly sensitive. Hydrating the skin of the belly can help in such cases. It is recommended to opt for moisturisers which are heavy-duty. It is also advised to consume lots of liquids and water. A doctor is to be consulted only if a rash is developed.

Swelling in the ankles and feet

Swelling in the ankles and feet

This symptom can be eased by sitting back and putting the feet up. Regular walks will reduce this swelling by maintaining the blood flow.


This is quite common among pregnant women. To ease anxiety, it is better to keep the mind occupied and watching a movie or spending time with friends and family can be quite relaxing.

What Are the Signs of Labour

The complicated process of labour will be experienced differently by each woman. Some pregnant women may experience excruciating pain while others may experience tightening of the uterus. The water might break even before experiencing any of these contractions. When labour begins, the mother will start experiencing regular contractions which become more frequent as well as stronger. These contractions begin at the top portion of the mother’s uterus and usually proceed downward in a wave-like movement. These contractions push the baby in a downward direction, into the mother’s pelvis, thereby putting pressure on the cervix. Hence, the cervix effaces and dilates so that the baby can pass through the mothers birth canal at the time of delivery.

Inducing Labour at 38 Weeks

It might become a medical necessity to induce labour during the 38th week of pregnancy due to complications like gestational diabetes, uterine infections or placental problems. There are other instances such as when the mother experiences bleeding or is expecting twins, when the doctor might recommend inducing labour. This situation is nothing to worry about. It is not recommended to induce labour naturally during the 38th week of pregnancy. Certain methods of doing so are considered unsafe. It is better to take the opinion of a doctor and even better if the mother waits to bring the pregnancy to its full term.

Belly at 38 Weeks of Pregnancy

The mother’s belly at 38 weeks of pregnancy is quite big, resulting in neck strain, back strain, and fatigue. As the belly grows, the mother continues to increase in weight.

Belly at 38 Weeks of Pregnancy
It is recommended to take in small but frequent quantities of nutritious food as this reduces pressure on the digestive system.

38 Weeks Ultrasound

During the final few weeks of pregnancy, the baby has reached a bigger size resulting in less space to move about inside the mother’s womb. If there are any concerns regarding the baby’s health and development, the mother can opt for an ultrasound checkup. This confirms the heartbeats of the baby and checks if the heart rate is within a normal range.

What to Eat

38th-week pregnancy food should majorly include the essential nutrient Choline. Choline helps improve brain function and is not only helpful in overcoming the issues you may be facing due to ‘pregnancy Brain’ (shrinking of the mother’s brain during pregnancy) but also helps the baby’s brain and spinal cord to develop. Some choline-rich foods you may include in your diet are:

  • Spinach
  • Shellfish
  • Liver
  • Wheat Germ
  • Eggs
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Broccoli
  • Peanuts
  • Milk Chocolate

In addition, it is a good idea to snack on high-energy foods which can provide the strength needed for labour and help start breastfeeding. These include:

  • Nuts
  • Fresh Fruit
  • Raisins, apricots and any other dried fruits
  • Bananas
  • Cereal bars

It is also important to stay hydrated in this week, and keeping a bottle of water of fresh juice handy is helpful.

Tips & Care

Here are a few tips and care for a mother during the 38th week of pregnancy.


  • Make sure that the contractions are regular. Try changing positions to see if they stop as they could easily be Braxton Hicks Contractions.
  • Stock up the fridge so that there is no need to run out and get food. Prepare for delivery and breastfeeding by reading pregnancy-related books.


  • Don’t drink alcohol as it can affect brain development in the child.
  • Do not overdo any work as it could lead to trauma and fatigue.

What You Need to Shop For

Here is a list of items a mother needs to buy during this time:

The 38th week is a time when you have to be ready to move to a hospital at a moment’s notice. Packing your bags for the hospital is essential. Use this time to mentally prepare yourself for labour and ready yourself to hold the baby.

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