Only a few weeks to go until your baby's birthday! Most likely during your frequent prenatal office visits, your health care provider will be carefully monitoring your baby's position in the uterus. At this point, your unborn baby should be positioned with his head facing down toward the cervix and vagina. Her added weight combined with higher water content and more vascularity naturally helps the body prepare for birth by softening the cervix.
If your baby is turned so that her bottom is facing your pelvis, then she's in what's called the breech presentation. Your provider may recommend exercises you can do at home to help your baby move into the proper position with her head downward. Sometimes these exercises will stimulate your baby to move, but as you near your due date your provider might recommend trying to manually move your baby into the right position.
Your provider will perform an external cephalic version by placing her hands on your abdomen and trying to push your baby so that he's facing down. This procedure is normally performed in a hospital with medication given to relax you and your muscles. Before the provider attempts to move the baby, she'll most likely request a non-stress test to monitor your baby's heart rate. Then an ultrasound will confirm your baby's breech presentation. The ultrasound will help your provider pinpoint your baby's position and have a better idea how to turn the baby. After the procedure, you will be given another fetal non-stress test to check that your baby's heart rate is normal.
Attempting to move your baby into the facedown, or vertex, position might not work. In fact, your provider might perform the external cephalic version more than once. Trying to move the baby manually does carry some risk of inducing preterm labor or other complications, which is why your provider will monitor you and your baby throughout the procedure. If your baby still insists on the bottom-first position, your provider will discuss your delivery options. Often babies in the breech position are delivered by cesarean section.
Either way, your baby will continue to add weight in the form of extra fat until delivery. Those nails are so long, in fact, that she might even scratch herself in utero. The only organ that isn't fully mature yet is her lungs.
The placenta's role is coming to an end and producing fewer hormones now that your baby's body is capable of being more independent from yours. Your baby has developed a nicely functioning pair of kidneys, and her liver is processing some of her waste products. You still provide antibodies for your baby through your bloodstream. These antibodies can protect your newborn from whooping cough, mumps, measles, and even mundane coughs and flu.
As your baby has grown inside you, she has developed a sucking reflex. She's tested out that reflex on her own thumbs and fingers. Now she's well equipped to nurse. Her gums are hard and ridged — almost as if teeth are emerging — and those will help her latch on to a nipple to feed herself when the time comes.
External cephalic version: Also called a version, in this procedure a health care provider tries to manually move a baby in utero into the proper position for birth. Most often performed at 36-37 weeks' gestation, the provider attempts to shift the baby's position from side-lying or bottom facing downward, into the headfirst placement.
Images courtesy of the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine (AIUM.org).