Now you’re on the home straight, your body and baby are really gearing themselves up for the big day. Find out what you could be doing right now, what to expect from your antenatal appointments and what might happen if your baby decides to postpone their due date!
Preparing for birth
The waiting game
Preparing your body and mind
Writing a birth plan
Now’s the time to think about writing your birth plan. No matter what kind of delivery you have in mind, a written birth plan is definitely a good idea. If nothing else, it encourages you to find the time to research your options in detail. Ultimately, this means you’ll be better prepared when the big day arrives. Just bear in mind that your baby won’t have read your birth plan, so you’ll need to remain flexible on the day!
We’ve created a short video to help you prepare for birth, which includes advice on writing your birth plan, and the sorts of things you might want to include in it.
In routine pregnancies, your antenatal appointments may be every two weeks from week 34 until delivery. During these appointments, the midwife will check the following1:
- The size and height of your uterus to ensure your baby is growing appropriately
- Your blood pressure
- Your urine for signs of infection, sugar and protein
Also, as the due date approaches, your baby’s position will be noted. If, for example, your baby is in the bottom-first breech presentation, an appointment will be made for you to see your consultant obstetrician. If your baby stays in the breech presentation at 36 weeks, it’s more unlikely that it will turn on its own, so you will need to discuss your delivery preferences, including caesarean section, along with your options for trying to turn your baby around so that their head is downwards1 (external cephalic version [ECV]).
Whatever happens, the doctor will explain all your delivery options and the risks involved, so you can make an informed decision on what option to choose
In the last month I stopped sitting on the sofa to watch TV, and instead leant forward and rolled about on my birth ball. I’m convinced it helped my baby get into the best position for labour.
-Helen, mum to Hamish
How your body is preparing
As you approach your due date, your body really starts getting ready. Vaginal discharge and mucus may increase2 and you may also experience more Braxton Hicks contractions. Often known as ‘false labour’ or practice contractions3, Braxton Hicks are uterine contractions. They tighten and relax periodically and can occur throughout pregnancy, becoming more noticeable in the later stages. They are irregular, and can last for a few hours, but always stop4. They tend not to be as long as a true labour contraction, which will increase in intensity, frequency and duration.
Towards the latter stages of pregnancy, your uterus stops pressing on your diaphragm, so you should find it easier to breathe. However, as your uterus is instead pushing on your bladder, you may have the urge to run to the bathroom every two minutes.
Prepare to be patient
The final weeks may seem like a long haul with no end in sight. Keep in mind, your baby's due date is only an estimate – birth is just as likely to occur 14 days either side of that. In fact, only around 5% of babies are actually born on their due date. In the meantime, be good to yourself and try to relax.
Your midwife may suggest induction if pregnancy has continued long enough. Some women welcome this, while others want to avoid it. Be sure to make your wishes known; including them in your birth plan is a good idea. If your baby hasn't arrived by 40 weeks, your midwife may offer you a membrane sweep at 41 weeks to try to get your labour started1. She will also book you in for an induction either at 42 weeks or just before.
- Once you’ve written your birth plan, go through it carefully with your birth partner and midwife to make sure they are clear about what you want on the big day.
Learn more about Labour & Birth
- NHS. Your antenatal appointments [Online]. 2019. Available at https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/your-pregnancy-care/your-antenatal-appointments/ [Accessed July 2021]
- NHS. Vaginal discharge [Online]. 2021. Available at https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/related-conditions/common-symptoms/vaginal-discharge/#:~:text=Towards%20the%20end%20of%20pregnancy,cervix%20during%20pregnancy%20comes%20away [Accessed July 2021]
- Raines DA, Cooper DB. Braxton Hicks Contractions. [Updated 2021 Jan 29]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK470546/