36 - 40 weeks pregnant

May 27

  • labour
  • Pregnancy

36 - 40 weeks pregnant

You are on the home straight as you approach the end of the third trimester of your pregnancy and your baby will be in your arms very soon. It’s ti...

By Karen McEwen

You are on the home straight as you approach the end of the third trimester of your pregnancy and your baby will be in your arms very soon. It’s time to put the finishing touches to your plans for birth and the arrival of your newborn baby. You may be feeling like resting more than usual, so if possible listen to your body’s cues and take rest breaks in your day if this is possible. If you are over 40 weeks pregnant have a look at our blog about going over your due date.

At 36 weeks of pregnancy your baby weighs around 6lbs. Your midwife or doctor will check that your baby is presenting head down (cephalic). If your baby is breech or more uncommonly transverse, you will be offered external cephalic version (ECV), where an experienced doctor will try to gently turn your baby to a cephalic presentation. Look at our blog on breech presentation for more information.

At 37 weeks of pregnancy your baby is now considered full term and mature enough to be born and thrive. Their lungs should be producing a substance called surfactant, which helps with inflation and deflation of their lungs, therefore helping to prevent any breathing difficulties after birth.

At 38 weeks of pregnancy your baby should still be continuing to gain weight and be moving in their usual movement pattern. If you haven’t already, make sure you have everything to hand in your hospital or birth bag in case you go into labour.

At 39 weeks of pregnancy your baby is the size of a small watermelon. You may notice that your body has increased the frequency and intensity of the Braxton Hicks tightenings. This is a positive sign that your uterus is toning itself ready for labour and birth. In the days leading up to labour, your cervix will also be thinning down and softening, in readiness to dilate for labour and birth.

At 40 weeks of pregnancy your baby could weigh between 7 and 8lbs in weight. This is just an average and depends on individual factors, so your baby could weigh more or less than this. Don’t get fixated on your baby arriving on their due date, in fact only 5% of babies are punctual and arrive on their estimated due date. Full term pregnancy is actually a window of 35 days of potential due dates, from 37-42 weeks.

Preparing your body and mind for labour and birth

  • Consider using hypnobirthing techniques for your labour and birth to help you to reduce anxiety and relax. Hypnobirthing can be employed to deal with lots of different situations to help you stay in control and make decisions. You can search for face-to-face classes in your area, buy a book or CD or find further information online. More information can be found on our hypnobirthing blog.
  • Make sure that you have included all your wishes on your birth plan and that your birth partner(s) know how to advocate for you too when you are focusing on your labour.
  • Think about using music, however you decide to give birth. You can make a playlist of your favourite tunes or ones you think will be helpful during labour and birth. If you are having an elective caesarean, theatre staff are usually happy to put on your play list.
  • It has been shown that eating 6 dates a day from 36 weeks in your pregnancy can help labour to start sooner and to shorten the length of your labour. Worth a try for a few weeks even if you’re not that keen on them!
  • Drinking red raspberry leaf tea from 32 weeks pregnant will not help labour to start, but it will help to tone your uterus so it will work more effectively once labour begins. It is available in health food shops and most large supermarkets.


In summary, your baby could be born at any time now, so being prepared for the birth and their arrival will help the first few days to run more smoothly.