After many weeks of anticipation and preparation, your baby is here! Or maybe not — only 5% of women deliver on their estimated due dates, and many first-time mothers find themselves waiting up to 2 weeks after their due date for their baby to arrive.
A baby born at 40 weeks weighs, on average, about 7 pounds, 4 ounces (3,300 grams) and measures about 20 inches (51 cm). Don't expect your baby to look like the Gerber baby right off the bat — newborns often have heads temporarily misshapen from the birth canal and may be covered with vernix and blood. Your baby's skin may have skin discolorations, dry patches, and rashes — these many variations are completely normal.
Because of the presence of your hormones in your baby's system, your baby's genitals (scrotum in boys and labia in girls) may appear enlarged. Your baby, whether a boy or a girl, may even secrete milk from the tiny nipples. This should disappear in a few days and is completely normal.
Right after birth, your health care provider will suction mucus out of your baby's mouth and nose, and you'll hear that long-awaited first cry. Your baby may then be placed on your stomach, and the umbilical cord will be cut — often by the baby's dad, if he chooses to do the honors! A series of quick screening tests, such as the Apgar score, will be performed to assess your baby's responsiveness and vital signs, and he or she will be weighed and measured. If your pregnancy was high risk, or if a cesarean section was necessary, a neonatologist (a doctor who specializes in newborn intensive care) will be present at your delivery to take care of your baby right away. If your baby needs any special care to adjust to life outside the womb, it will be given — and then your newborn will be placed in your waiting arms.
This week you'll experience the moment you've been anticipating — your introduction to your baby! Before you can meet your baby, though, you have to go through labor and delivery. You may have learned about the three stages of birth in your prenatal classes. The first stage of labor works to thin and stretch your cervix by contracting your uterus at regular intervals. The second stage of labor is when you push your baby into the vaginal canal and out of your body. The third and final stage of labor is when you deliver the placenta.
If you don't go into labor within a week of your due date, your health care provider may recommend you receive a nonstress test, which monitors fetal heart rate and movement to be sure that the baby is receiving adequate oxygen and that the nervous system is responding. Talk to your health care provider to find out more about this test.
Sometimes mother nature may need a little coaxing. If your labor isn't progressing, or if your health or your baby's health requires it, your health care provider may induce labor by artificially rupturing the membranes or by administering the hormone oxytocin or other medications. If your pregnancy is high risk, or if there are any other potential complications, you may require a cesarean section delivery.
Some women know ahead of time that they will be delivering via cesarean section and are able to schedule their baby's "birth day" well in advance. If you're one of them, you've probably been able to prepare yourself emotionally and mentally for the birth — which can help to lessen the feelings of disappointment that many mothers who are unable to deliver vaginally experience. But even if you have to undergo a cesarean section that wasn't planned, rest assured that you'll still be able to bond with your baby. It might not be the birth experience you imagined, but your beautiful newborn has arrived nonetheless. The months of waiting are over!
Good luck with your baby!
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