Third trimester: A miracle in progress

You may find that your weight gain slows at the end. Often times, weight gain may even decrease right before labor. Despite this, your baby still gains rapidly. By 37 weeks, your baby weighs six pounds and measure 17 and one-half inches, head to toe.

Up until now, your baby has been covered with fine hair, called lanugo, and a creamy substance that protects its skin, called vernix. Both begin to disappear. The baby actually swallows some of this, and it is stored in the bowels. This meconium will be released during the days following the birth.

As you get down to the wire, fears about labor and delivery are common. Will you be in pain? Will the labor go on for days? Or will you be one of the luckier ones? Actually, the ideal length of labor, for both mom and baby, is between 11 and 15 hours. The average length of first time labor falls into this ideal by lasting approximately 12 to 14 hours. Most of longest part of labor, getting to three centimeters dilation, occurs during the first nine hours when contractions aren’t closely spaced together or very intense.

By your due date, levels of amniotic fluid begin to decrease. Your baby weighs about seven and a half pounds, although some babies can weigh as much as three pounds more or three pounds less. Most likely, your baby measures 20 or 21 inches from head to toe.

At last you are prepared for the birth. You mark off the calendar as your due date approaches ... and passes you by! For the vast majority of women, labor occurs naturally before the 42nd week. More common in first pregnancies, postdate babies need to be monitored closely. If the womb environment becomes inadequate, the mother may be induced or a cesarean may be recommended.

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