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Week 38 of Your Pregnancy: Care Instructions

Fetal development at the 32nd and 40th weeks

Your Care Instructions

Believe it or not, your baby is almost here. You may have ideas about your baby's personality because of how much he or she moves. Or you may have noticed how he or she responds to sounds, warmth, cold, and light. You may even know what kind of music your baby likes.

By now, you have a better idea of what to expect during delivery. You may have talked about your birth preferences with your doctor or midwife. But even if you want a vaginal birth, it is a good idea to learn about caesarean births. Caesarean birth means that your baby is born through a cut (incision) in your lower belly. It is sometimes the best choice for the health of the baby and the mother.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

This care sheet can help you understand caesarean births. It also gives you information about what to expect after your baby is born. And it helps you understand more about postpartum depression.

How can you care for yourself at home?

Learn about caesarean birth

  • Most C-sections are unplanned. They are done because of problems that occur during labour. These problems might include:
    • Labour that slows or stops.
    • High blood pressure or other problems for the mother.
    • Signs of distress in the baby. These signs may include a very fast or slow heart rate.
  • Although most mothers and babies do well after C-section, it is major surgery. It has more risks than a vaginal delivery.
  • In some cases, a planned C-section may be safer than a vaginal delivery. This may be the case if:
    • The mother has a health problem, such as a heart condition.
    • The baby isn't in a head-down position for delivery. This is called a breech position.
    • The uterus has scars from past surgeries. This could increase the chance of a tear in the uterus.
    • There is a problem with the placenta.
    • The mother has an infection, such as genital herpes, that could be spread to the baby.
    • The mother is having twins or more.
    • The baby weighs 4 to 4.5 kilograms or more.
  • Because of the risks of C-section, planned C-sections generally should be done only for medical reasons. And a planned C-section should be done at 39 weeks or later unless there is a medical reason to do it sooner.

Know what to expect after delivery, and plan for the first few weeks at home

  • You, your baby, and your partner or coach will get identification bands. Only people with matching bands can pick up the baby from the nursery.
  • You will learn how to feed, diaper, and bathe your baby. And you will learn how to care for the umbilical cord stump. If your baby will be circumcised, you will also learn how to care for that.
  • Ask people to wait to visit you until you are at home. And ask them to wash their hands before they touch your baby.
  • Make sure you have another adult in your home for at least 2 or 3 days after the birth.
  • During the first 2 weeks, limit when friends and family can visit.
  • Do not allow visitors who have colds or infections. Never let anyone smoke around your baby. Make sure all visitors are up-to-date with their vaccinations.
  • Try to nap when the baby naps.

Be aware of postpartum depression

  • "Baby blues" are common for the first 1 to 2 weeks after birth. You may cry or feel sad or irritable for no reason.
  • For some women, these feelings last longer and are more intense. This is called postpartum depression.
  • If your symptoms last for more than a few weeks or you feel very depressed, ask your doctor for help.
  • Postpartum depression can be treated. Support groups and counselling can help. Sometimes medicine can also help.

Where can you learn more?

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.