Image: Pregnant woman clasps her hands around her baby bump

Pregnancy weeks

Pregnancy Week 39

Which Signs of Labor Mean That I Need to Go to Hospital?

Fed up? Most pregnant women feel the same way during the final two weeks! Your bump has now reached its maximum size. Your entire abdomen probably feels like it is being pulled and squeezed – your body is clearly getting ready for the birth. Read on to find out when it is time to go to hospital (or call the midwife for an at-home birth), and discover the answers to two more key questions before the birth.

What's Going On in Your Belly at 39 Weeks Pregnant?

The fetus is around 19-20 inches long (crown to heel) and weighs approx. 7-8 lbs. The feet are roughly 3 inches long and the diameter of the head is around 4 inches.

Your baby is now about the size of a pumpkin.

Your baby is now about the size of a pumpkin.

Space is very tight now – your baby is probably not moving very much now. Maybe you are already familiar with the activity and sleeping phases of your little one. If you do not feel any movement at all for a day, contact your doctor to make sure everything is OK. A calm before the storm is not uncommon, but you should still feel your baby every now and then, even if it is sleeping a lot.

There is very little of the waxy vernix coating left now – just enough to make it easier for your baby to slide through the birth canal. Your baby will use the time that remains to put some weight on.

How Do You Feel at 39 Weeks Pregnant?

It's getting more exciting! And there are three questions that you will particularly want the answers to:

1. What are the signs of labor

There are some indications that things might start soon. These include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Tiredness
  • Inner restlessness – this can also manifest itself in the "nesting instinct" or "nest-building instinct". Shortly before giving birth, many women are overcome by the urgent need to clean the home thoroughly, wash curtains, clean carpets, and clean all the cupboards and drawers inside and outside. If it helps to relax you and makes you feel better, just do it. Just be careful not to put yourself and the baby at risk by climbing a ladder or lifting heavy things
  • The bump dropping and you finding it easier to breathe
  • An increased urge to urinate
  • Diarrhea
  • Back pain or period-like pains
  • Vomiting and/or nausea

These signs are a clear indication that labor is imminent:

  • Contractions that do not disappear or become stronger with the application of warmth. Dilation contractions last about 30-60 seconds.
  • A mucus discharge and/or bloody discharge – the mucus plug that seals the cervix during pregnancy to protect the baby comes away during labor, and sometimes one or two days beforehand. This is also called "having a show".
  • Watery fluid (rupture of the membranes) 

2. What do I need to think about or do before this happens? 

  • Who should be there at the birth?
  • Have you prepared a birthing plan (this contains information about who should be there with you, whether you would like music played during labor, whether you want pain relief and what forms of pain relief you can take, whether the baby should be passed to you for bonding immediately after the birth, whether you intend to breastfeed, etc.)?
  • Who will take care of your other children and/or pets while you are in hospital? Have you prepared everything for them (e.g., food, diapers, clothes, pet food)?
  • Can your birthing companion be contacted at any time?

3. At what point before the birth do I need to go to hospital?

  • When the contractions come every 5-7 minutes, last for 30-60 seconds, and are becoming stronger.
  • If you experience heavy bleeding.
  • If your membranes rupture – you should then be transported to hospital lying down (to avoid a prolapse of the umbilical cord).
  • Apart from that, you should also go to hospital or get in touch with your doctor anytime you experience pain, as this would make you feel less anxious.

If you have a midwife or doula, she can also answer many questions about the birth and stay with you until it is time to go to hospital. 

Photo Credit: Unsplash