38 weeks 


Highlights this week

You're almost there!

Most women give birth within two weeks of their due date. Watch for these signs that labor is near.

The nesting instinct

Fueled by big bursts of energy, you may find yourself cleaning the nursery, setting up baby gear, and freezing lasagnas. Nesting is natural (and good!) – just don't overexert yourself.

Learn while you wait

While you wait for your baby to arrive, consider taking virtual classes on lifesaving infant CPROpens a new window, baby sleepOpens a new window, and physical milestonesOpens a new window from BabyCenter Courses.

Baby development at 38 weeks

Baby nails

Your baby's fingernails and toenails are fully formed – toenails have reached the tips of your baby's toes, and their fingernails may extend beyond their fingertips. Your baby may need a nail trim soon after birth, so get those baby nail clippers ready!

Looking good

Your baby is ready for their first pictures: They have a nice layer of fat for smooth skin, they've shed most of their lanugo (except perhaps some on their upper arms and shoulders), and they may have more hair on their head, too.

baby with fat accumulating around knees, elbows, and shoulders
Your baby at 38 weeks
Tap the plus for more details
Advertisement | page continues below

Your baby is about the size of a leek

leek illustration
head to toe
medical chart icon

Pregnancy symptoms during week 38

Swollen ankles

Some swelling in your feet and ankles is normal during these last weeks, but call your doctor or midwife without delay if you notice excessive or sudden swelling of your feet or ankles, more than slight swelling of your hands, any swelling in your face or puffiness around your eyes, or if you have a sudden weight gain. These can be symptoms of a serious condition called preeclampsia.

But most often, swelling is normal. It can even be a sign of healthy blood flow to your uterus – meaning your baby is getting exactly what they need, even if it leaves you a bit uncomfortable.

As your uterus expands, especially during late pregnancy, it puts pressure on your pelvic veins and the vein that carries blood from your legs to your heart. That slows the return of blood, causing it to pool and forcing fluid from your veins into the tissues of your feet and ankles.

The best way to counteract swelling is to relieve some of the pressure. Move around regularly and avoid sitting or standing for too long. When you can, elevate your feet. Something as simple as a stool to rest your feet on at work, or a pillow under your feet in bed, can make a big difference. Wear comfortable shoes and compression socks that will keep your blood flowing when you're on your feet. And always keep water on hand – staying hydrated can reduce swelling, even if that seems counterintuitive.

Trouble sleeping

Everyone talks about lack of sleep once your baby arrives, but you've probably noticed you're getting less shut-eye already. It may be harder than ever to get comfortable enough to sleep well at night. If you're not getting good sleep, you're not alone: About two-thirds of pregnant women report that they have insomnia late in pregnancy.

Having good sleep hygiene may help. Avoid big meals or drinking too much water in the evening. In the hour before bedtime, relax in a quiet, dimly-lit room, and avoid screens (yes, even your phone). Try reading or doing a guided meditation to help you drift off to sleep.

If that doesn't work, and you're not asleep within half an hour, don't stay in bed. Lying awake thinking about how you can't sleep can make matters worse. Instead, go into a different room and read or listen to music until you feel drowsy.

Insomnia is generally pretty harmless late in pregnancy. But if lack of sleep is interfering with your ability to function – if you find yourself making mistakes while driving, forgetting about food on the stove, or stumbling more often – talk to your provider.

Crazy dreams

Once you're finally asleep, you may be in for a whole new challenge: intense pregnancy dreams. Moms-to-be often find themselves having scary, joyful, or even erotic dreams. Scientists believe that the intensity of dreams during pregnancy is related to hormone surges.

Sometimes, dreams are a reflection of what you're thinking about (or worrying about) when you're conscious. Anxiety about labor and becoming a parent can fuel a lot of strange nighttime visions, especially at the end of pregnancy.

Other times, dreams have nothing to do with reality. So if you wake up feeling flushed after a steamy dream about your ex, don't feel guilty. It has nothing to do with your love for your current partner.

Lightning crotch

At 38 weeks pregnant, you may experience a sudden, jolting pain in your pelvis or groin. It's the dreaded lightning crotch, which can be just as jarring as it sounds. Luckily, it's harmless, and almost always short-lived.

Lightning crotch is usually a sharp pain – some women describe it as similar to an electric shock. It comes on suddenly and leaves just as quickly, only lasting a few seconds.

Doctors think that lightening crotch happens when your baby's head pushes against the nerves in your cervix and lower uterus. It's most common late in the third trimester, when your baby drops lower in your pelvis.

Wearing a supportive belly band may help prevent lightning crotch. When it strikes, try shifting positions to make it go away.

Different vaginal discharge

Now that labor is practically around the corner, you may notice a change to or increase in your vaginal discharge. In general, discharge that's white, creamy, or clear is healthy. Pink or red discharge can be normal as well, but if you have sudden bleeding, reach out to your provider. Also, call if you have green, yellow, or foul-smelling discharge, or discharge that burns or itches – this could indicate an infection.

At 38 weeks, you may notice mucousy discharge when you wipe or in your underwear. This is from your mucus plug, a clump of secretions in your cervical canal that protects your uterus from bacteria and other pathogens. As labor approaches, your cervix starts to dilate and efface and this can dislodge the mucus plug.

If you see some mucus, know that it's an early sign of labor approaching. But it doesn't mean that your baby will come today, or even this week, so stay patient. And if you don't see your mucus plug showing up in your undies, don't worry – many women don't.

You may also have (or not have) some "bloody show." This bloody discharge comes from the cervix as it thins out before labor. This is also a sign that labor's coming soon, but not necessarily that it's happening immediately.


For many women, heartburn is a challenge throughout pregnancy. At 38 weeks pregnant, heartburn and indigestion may be worse than ever, thanks to your ever-expanding abdomen.

Now more than ever, it's important to eat small meals if you're prone to heartburn. If indigestion tends to hit at night, try sleeping with your chest elevated. That way, gravity is on your side. Avoid foods that trigger your symptoms, no matter how tempting that bar of chocolate or cup of coffee might be.

Another unwelcome symptom to look out for at 38 weeks? Nausea. It often accompanies other unpleasant symptoms like gas and heartburn. But if you're suddenly having nausea or vomiting, call your provider. This can be a sign of preeclampsia.

Don't see your symptom?

Wondering about a symptom you have? Find it on our pregnancy symptoms page.

I miss my toes, sincerely, 38 weeks
baby in womb at 38 weeks compressing bladder
Your body at 38 weeks
Tap the plus for more details
checklist icon

Pregnancy checklist at 38 weeks

Watch for late-pregnancy complications

Unfortunately, serious complications can strike at the end of pregnancy. Be on the lookout for symptoms that require you to call your doctor or midwife.

Have your house cleaned

There's nothing better than coming home to a clean house with your new baby! See what other parents wish they had known about preparing for a newborn.

Read up on baby feeding

Now is a great time to think about how you'll be feeding your baby. Breastfeeding can be challenging, so talk to the experienced moms in your life about their best tips for breastfeeding successfully.

If you've decided that breastfeeding isn't for you, or you're not able to nurse, choosing to formula feed is a perfectly good choice. Even if you plan to nurse, brushing up on bottle feeding basics is helpful so others can help you feed your little one.

When it comes to feeding babies, even the best-laid plans can have some hiccups. It's important to expect the unexpected and have some flexibility in your approach. A healthy, fed baby and a happy, healthy mom are the most important outcomes!

Learn about newborn screening tests

All states require newborn screening tests for rare but serious conditions, including hearing loss, congenital heart defects, and metabolic disorders. These tests detect disorders that can cause long-term health problems, or even be fatal, if not diagnosed and treated promptly.

bumpie icon

38 weeks pregnant bellies

By 38 weeks, you probably feel like you know your bump pretty well. And yet, it can be surprising how much your belly can change this late in pregnancy. Your baby is still growing, so your belly will, too! You may also notice that your belly continues to drop, even when you didn't think it could get any lower.

You might notice some new sensations, too. Your uterus is pushing hard against your abdominal wall, stretching your belly tight like a drum. Your belly can feel very hard and heavy at 38 weeks. After all, everything is packed in very tightly.

By now, you're probably familiar with Braxton Hicks contractions that can cause a tightening sensation in your abdomen. These are useful at this point in pregnancy, perhaps helping your cervix efface (thin) and maybe even dilate (open).

38 weeks pregnant bellies

This week's video



BabyCenter's editorial team is committed to providing the most helpful and trustworthy pregnancy and parenting information in the world. When creating and updating content, we rely on credible sources: respected health organizations, professional groups of doctors and other experts, and published studies in peer-reviewed journals. We believe you should always know the source of the information you're seeing. Learn more about our editorial and medical review policies.

ACOG. 2021. How your fetus grows during pregnancy. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. a new window [Accessed December 2022]

Cleveland Clinic. 2020. Fetal Development: Stages of Growth. a new window [Accessed December 2022]

Mayo Clinic. 2021. Fetal development: The 3rd trimester. a new window [Accessed December 2022]

MedlinePlus (ADAM). 2021. Fetal development. a new window [Accessed December 2022]

Hadlock FP et al. 1991. In utero analysis of fetal growth: A sonographic weight standard. Radiology 181 (1). a new window [Accessed December 2022]

Hadlock FP et al. 1992. Fetal cross-rump length: Reevaluation of relation to menstrual age (5-18 weeks) with high-resolution real-time US. Radiology 182: 5-1-505. a new window [Accessed December 2022]

Vintzileos AM et al. 1984. The ultrasound femur length as a predictor of fetal length. Obstetrics & Gynecology 64(6): 779-82. a new window [Accessed December 2022]

Hadlock FP 1984. Estimating fetal age: Computer-assisted analysis of multiple fetal growth parameters. Radiology 152: 497-501. a new window [Accessed December 2022]

Kelly Burch

Kelly Burch is a freelance journalist covering health, entrepreneurship, family, and more. She's passionate about bringing complex topics to life through stories that are easy to read and informative. Burch lives in New Hampshire with her husband and two young daughters. When she's not at her desk, you'll find her kayaking or hiking in the wilderness around her home. Burch is currently writing a book about traveling around the United States in an RV with her family for seven months.

Advertisement | page continues below
Follow your baby's amazing development