Pregnancy week by week

You'll need to know about some key topics when you are pregnant, including healthy eating in pregnancy, antenatal care, decisions you need to make about labour and birth, coping with common pregnancy problems, and when pregnancy goes wrong.

You can find out about all these, and also read about your baby's development and your pregnancy week by week, by clicking on the links below. 

You and your baby in pregnancy

Find out what's happening to you and your baby at:

0-8 weeks pregnant

Three weeks after the first day of your last menstrual period, your fertilised egg moves slowly along the fallopian tube towards the womb. Find out what happens next. You might start to notice the first signs and symptoms of pregnancy.

9, 10, 11, 12 weeks pregnant

By now the face is slowly forming, and the eyes are more obvious and have some colour in them. You might still be feeling tired and sick, but this should clear up soon. Find out what else happens in the third month of pregnancy.

13, 14, 15, 16 weeks pregnant

At 14 weeks, the baby is about 85mm long from head to bottom. If you have been feeling sick and tired, you will probably start to feel better when you are around 13 or 14 weeks pregnant.

17, 18, 19, 20 weeks pregnant

Your baby's body grows bigger so that the head and body are more in proportion and the baby doesn't look so top heavy.

21, 22, 23, 24 weeks pregnant

When you are 24 weeks pregnant, the baby has a chance of survival if it is born. Most babies born before this time cannot live because their lungs and other vital organs are not developed enough.

25, 26, 27, 28 weeks pregnant

Your baby may begin to follow a pattern for waking and sleeping. Very often this is a different pattern from yours, so when you go to bed at night, the baby may wake up and start kicking.

29, 30, 31, 32 weeks pregnant

By about 32 weeks the baby is usually lying with its head pointing downwards, ready for birth.

33, 34, 35, 36 weeks pregnant

Your baby's bones are starting to harden now, even though the skull bones will stay soft and separated to make the journey through the birth canal easier.

37, 38, 39, 40 weeks pregnant

The amniotic fluid now turns into waste, called meconium, in the baby's intestines, and the soft hair (lanugo) that covered your baby's body is now almost all gone.

Over 40 weeks pregnant

Find out what to expect if you go overdue.

4-8 weeks

Weeks 1-3

Your weeks of pregnancy are dated from the first day of your last period. This means that in the first two weeks or so, you aren't actually pregnant – your body will be preparing for ovulation as usual. You ovulate (release an egg) around two weeks after the first day of your period (depending on the length of your menstrual cycle).

During the third week after the first day of your last period, your fertilised egg moves along the fallopian tube towards the womb. The egg begins as a single cell, which divides again and again. By the time the egg reaches the womb, it has become a mass of more than 100 cells, called an embryo. Once in the womb, the embryo burrows into the lining of the womb. This is called implantation.

Week 4

In weeks four to five of early pregnancy, the embryo grows and develops within the lining of the womb. The outer cells reach out to form links with the mother’s blood supply. The inner cells form into two, and then later, into three layers. Each of these layers will grow to be different parts of the baby’s body.

The inner layer, called the endoderm, becomes the breathing and digestive systems, including the lungs, stomach, gut, and bladder. The middle layer, called the mesoderm, becomes the heart, blood vessels, muscles, and bones. The outer layer, called the ectoderm, becomes the brain and nervous system, the eye lenses, tooth enamel, skin and nails.

In these early weeks of pregnancy the embryo is attached to a tiny yolk sac which provides nourishment. A few weeks later, the placenta will be fully formed and will take over the transfer of nutrients to the embryo.

The embryo is surrounded by fluid inside the amniotic sac. It's the outer layer of this sac that develops into the placenta. Cells from the placenta grow deep into the wall of the womb, establishing a rich blood supply. This ensures the baby receives all the oxygen and nutrients it needs.

Week 5

The fifth week of pregnancy is the time of the first missed period, when most women are only just beginning to think they may be pregnant. Yet already the baby’s nervous system is developing, and the foundations for its major organs are in place. At this stage the embryo is around 2mm long.

As the ectoderm develops, a groove forms and the layer of cells folds to form a hollow tube called the neural tube. This will become the baby's brain and spinal cord. Defects in the "tail end" of the neural tube lead to spina bifida, while defects in the "head end" lead to anencephaly (when the bones of the skull do not form properly).

At the same time, the heart is forming as a simple tube-like structure. The baby already has some of its own blood vessels and blood begins to circulate. A string of these blood vessels connects the baby and mother and will become the umbilical cord.

Week 6

By the time you are six to seven weeks pregnant, there is a large bulge where the heart is and a bump at the head end of the neural tube. This bump will become the brain and head. The embryo is curved and has a tail – it looks a bit like a small tadpole.

The heart can sometimes be seen beating on a vaginal ultrasound scan at this stage.

The developing arms and legs become visible as small swellings (limb buds). Little dimples on the side of the head will become the ears, and there are thickenings where the eyes will be. By now the embryo is covered with a thin layer of see-through skin.

Week 7

By seven weeks, the embryo has grown to about 10mm long from head to bottom. This measurement is called the "crown-rump length". The brain is growing rapidly and this results in the the head growing faster than the rest of the body.

The embryo has a large forehead, and the eyes and ears continue to develop. The inner ear starts to develop, but the outer ear on the side of the head won't appear for a couple more weeks.

The limb buds start to form cartilage, which will develop into the bones of the legs and arms. The arm buds get longer and the ends flatten out – these will become the hands.

Nerve cells continue to multiply and develop as the nervous system (the brain and spinal cord) starts to take shape.

Week 8

By the time you're eight weeks pregnant, the baby is called a foetus, which means 'offspring'.

The legs are lengthening and forming cartilage too. The different parts of the leg aren't properly distinct yet – it will be a bit longer before the knees, ankles, thighs, and toes develop.

The foetus is still inside its amniotic sac, and the placenta is continuing to develop, forming structures called chorionic villi that help attach the placenta to the wall of the womb. At this stage, the foetus still gets its nourishment from the yolk sac.

Your body in early pregnancy

Conception usually takes place about two weeks after your last period, around the time that you ovulate (release an egg). In the first four weeks of pregnancy you probably won’t notice any symptoms. The first thing most women notice is that their period doesn’t arrive. Find out about the signs and symptoms of pregnancy.

By the time you are eight weeks pregnant, you will probably have missed your second period. However, some women experience a little bleeding during the early weeks of pregnancy. Always mention any bleeding in pregnancy to your midwife or GP, particularly if it continues and you get stomach pain.

Your womb has grown to the size of a lemon by the time you are around seven or eight weeks pregnant. You’re probably feeling tired. Your breasts might feel sore and enlarged, and you are probably needing to pass urine more often than usual.

Some pregnant women start to feel sick or tired, or have other minor physical problems for a few weeks around this time. Most women stop having feelings of nausea (morning sickness) and start to feel better by the time they are around 14 weeks pregnant.

What to do if you're pregnant

Finding out you’re pregnant

The most reliable way of finding out whether you’re pregnant is to take a pregnancy test. Once you think you could be pregnant, it’s important to get in touch with a midwife or doctor to start your antenatal (pregnancy) care.

Help and advice for teenagers

Discovering you’re pregnant can be tough, but there is help out there.

Common pregnancy problems

From morning sickness to vaginal bleeding, find out how to cope with the minor and more serious symptoms that can occur in pregnancy.

Your feelings and relationships

Pregnancy is a time of physical and emotional changes that can affect your relationships, so get as much information and advice as you can to help you cope.

Antenatal care

The best way to make sure both you and your baby stay healthy is to make sure you get all the care available to you during pregnancy. This includes scans and checks, screening, and free dental care.  

9-12 weeks

Week 9

The face is slowly forming. The eyes are bigger and more obvious, and have some colour (pigment) in them. There is a mouth and tongue, with tiny taste buds. The hands and feet are developing – ridges identify where the fingers and toes will be, although they haven't separated out yet. The major internal organs (such as the heart, brain, lungs, kidneys and gut) continue developing.

At nine weeks of pregnancy, the baby has grown to about 22mm long from head to bottom.

Week 10

The ears are starting to develop on the sides of your baby's head, and inside the head its ear canals are forming.

If you could look at your baby's face you would be able to see its upper lip and two tiny nostrils in the nose. The jawbones are developing and already contain all the future milk teeth.

The heart is now fully-formed. It beats 180 times a minute – that's two to three times faster than your own heart.

The baby is making small, jerky movements which can be seen on an ultrasound scan.

Week 11

The foetus grows quickly and the placenta is rapidly developing (it will be fully formed at about 12 weeks).

The bones of the face are formed now. The eyelids are closed, and won't open for a few months yet.

The ear buds look more like ears as they grow. Your baby's head makes up one-third of it's length, but the body is growing fast – it is straightening, and the fingers and toes are separating. There are fingernails.

Week 12

Just 12 weeks after your last period, the foetus is fully formed. All its organs, muscles, limbs and bones are in place, and the sex organs are well developed. From now on, it has to grow and mature.

It's too early for you to be able to feel the baby's movements yet, although it's moving quite a bit.

Your baby's skeleton is made of tissue called cartilage and, around now, this starts to develop into hard bone.

Your body at 9-12 weeks pregnant

During this time your breasts will have got bigger, so consider wearing a supportive bra. You may also find that your emotions vary: you feel happy one moment and sad the next. Don’t worry – these feelings are normal and should settle down. You can find out more about feelings, worries and relationships in pregnancy.

If you haven't seen your midwife yet, contact your GP or maternity team for your booking appointment and to start your antenatal care. This appointment should take place by the time you are 12 weeks pregnant. You will be offered your first ultrasound scan when you’re between eight and 14 weeks pregnant: this can vary depending on where you live.

What to do at 9-12 weeks pregnant

Checks and tests you may be offered

You will be offered a range of checks and tests during your first antenatal visit to help monitor your health and spot any potential problems.

Where to have your baby

Choosing where to have your baby is a big decision. Your midwife and antenatal team can talk to you about all the options available to help you make an informed choice.

Healthy pregnancy diet

Eating a healthy, balanced diet is especially important for pregnant women. Find out about healthy eating and which foods to avoid.

Stay active, start exercising

Find out about exercises and keeping active.

13-16 weeks

Week 13

Your baby weighs around 25g.

Your baby's ovaries or testes are fully developed inside their body, and the genitals are forming outside their body. Where there was a swelling between the legs, there will now be a penis or clitoris growing, although you won't usually be able to find out the sex of your baby at an ultrasound scan at this stage.

Week 14

At 14 weeks, the baby is about 85mm long from head to bottom.

Around now, the baby begins to swallow little bits of amniotic fluid, which pass into the stomach. The kidneys start to work and the swallowed fluid passes back into the amniotic fluid as urine.

Week 15

Around this time, your baby will start to hear – it may hear muted sounds from the outside world, and any noises your digestive system makes, as well as the sound of your voice and heart.

The eyes also start to become sensitive to light. Even though your baby's eyes are closed, they may register a bright light outside your tummy.

Week 16

The muscles of the baby's face can now move and the beginnings of facial expressions appear. Your baby can't control these yet.

The nervous system continues to develop, allowing the muscles in your baby's limbs to flex. Around this time, your baby's hands can reach each other – they can form a fist, and hold each other when they touch.

Your body at four month's pregnant

If you've been feeling sick and tired with morning sickness, you’ll probably start to feel better when you're around 13 or 14 weeks pregnant.

Some women start to experience an increased sex drive around this time, possibly due to pregnancy hormones or increased blood flow to the pelvic area. Some women don’t, and this is perfectly normal. You can read more about sex in pregnancy.

You’ll notice a small bump developing as your womb grows and moves upwards. If you've been feeling the urge to pass urine more often over the last few months, it’s because your womb was pressing on your bladder. This should ease off now.

See your doctor if you notice any pain when you urinate. Urinary infections can happen in pregnancy and it’s important to treat them quickly to reduce the risk of kidney infections.

Tips for four months pregnant

Headaches

Getting headaches during pregnancy is common, but if they’re severe they could be a sign of something serious.

Teeth and gums

Your teeth and gums need a little extra care in pregnancy, and dental care is free for pregnant women (up until your baby is one year old).

Find out who’s looking after you

It's important to get to know who’s who in the maternity team, and learn more about each of their roles during your pregnancy.

17-20 weeks

Your baby's development

By the time you're 17 weeks pregnant, your baby is growing quickly, and now weighs around 150g. The body grows bigger, so that the head and body are more in proportion.

The face begins to look much more human, and eyebrows and eyelashes are beginning to grow. Your baby's eyes can move now, although the eyelids are still shut, and the mouth can open and close.

The lines on the skin of the fingers are now formed, so the baby already has his or her own individual fingerprints. Fingernails and toenails are growing and the baby has a firm hand grip.

The baby moves around quite a bit, and may respond to loud noises from the outside world, such as music. You may not feel these movements yet, especially if this is your first pregnancy. If you do, they'll probably feel like a soft fluttering or rolling sensation.

Your baby is putting on a bit of weight, but still doesn't have much fat, so if you could see your baby now it would look a bit wrinkled, although it will continue to put on weight for the rest of the pregnancy and will "fill out" by the last few weeks before birth.

By 20 weeks, your baby's skin is covered in a white, greasy substance called vernix. It's thought that this helps to protect the skin during the many weeks in the amniotic fluid.

Your body halfway through pregnancy

At 20 weeks pregnant, you're halfway through your pregnancy. You will probably feel your baby move for the first time when you're around 17 or 18 weeks pregnant. Most first-time mums notice the first movements when they are between 18 and 20 weeks pregnant. At first, you feel a fluttering or bubbling, or a very slight shifting movement, maybe a bit like indigestion. Later on, you can’t mistake the movements and you can even see the baby kicking about. Often, you can guess which bump is a hand or a foot.

You may develop a dark line down the middle of your tummy and chest. This is normal skin pigmentation, as your tummy expands to accommodate your growing bump. Normal hair loss slows down, so your hair may look thicker and shinier.

You’ll be offered an anomaly scan when you are 18 to 20 weeks pregnant – this is to check for abnormalities in the baby. Your doctor or midwife can give you information about this and answer any questions. Read more about screening for foetal abnormality.

Common minor problems can include tiredness and lack of sleep. Sleeplessness is common, but there is plenty you can do to help yourself sleep, including using pillows to support your growing bump. Some women also get headaches. Headaches in pregnancy are common, but if they’re severe they could be a sign of something serious.

Tips for mid-pregnancy

Keeping active

Exercise in pregnancy is good for you and your baby. Find out what's safe and when you should take care.

Having a healthy diet 

Eating healthily during pregnancy will help your baby to develop and grow, and will keep you fit and well. 

Ultrasound scans

You'll be offered ultrasound scans in pregnancy, including the anomaly scan between 18 weeks and 21 weeks and six days.

Warning signs to look out for

Vaginal bleeding

Bleeding from the vagina may be a sign of serious problems, so seek help.

Severe itching

Severe itching could be a sign of the rare liver disorder obstetric cholestasis.

21-24 weeks

Your baby's development

By 21 weeks, your baby weighs around 350g. From about this stage onwards, your baby will weigh more than the placenta (which, until now, was heavier than your baby). The placenta will keep growing throughout pregnancy, but not as fast as your baby.

Around this time, the baby becomes covered in a very fine, soft hair called lanugo. The purpose of this isn't known, but it's thought that it may be to keep the baby at the right temperature. The lanugo usually disappears before birth.

Your baby is beginning to get into a pattern of sleeping and waking, which won't necessarily be the same as yours. When you're in bed at night, feeling relaxed and trying to sleep, your baby may be wide awake and moving about.

The lungs are not yet able to work properly, but your baby is practising breathing movements to prepare for life outside the uterus. Your baby gets all its oxygen from you via the placenta, and will do so until it is born.

By the time you are 24 weeks pregnant, the baby has a chance of survival if he or she is born. Most babies born before this time cannot live because their lungs and other vital organs are not developed enough. The care that can now be given in neonatal (baby) units means that more and more babies born early do survive. But for babies born at around this time, there are increased risks of disability. Find out about premature labour and birth and special care for babies.

Your body at 21-24 weeks pregnant

Your womb will begin to get bigger more quickly and you will really begin to look pregnant. You may feel hungrier than before – try to stick to a sensible, balanced diet, and make sure you know what foods to avoid.

Not everybody gets stretch marks, but if you do develop them they will probably start becoming noticeable when you're around 22 to 24 weeks pregnant. They may appear on your stomach, breasts and thighs. At first they look red, then fade to a silvery grey. Your breasts may start to leak a little pre-milk – this is normal.

Tips for 21-24 weeks pregnant

Common minor problems can include backache, indigestion and piles. Find out how to protect your back, relieve or prevent indigestion and heartburn, and deal with piles (haemorrhoids).  

Warning signs to look out for

Vaginal bleeding

Bleeding from the vagina may be a sign of serious problems, so seek help.

Severe itching

Severe itching at any time in pregnancy could be a sign of the rare liver disorder obstetric cholestasis – talk to your midwife.

25-28 weeks

The baby is moving about vigorously, and responds to touch and sound. A very loud noise may make him or her jump and kick, and you'll be able to feel this.

Your baby is regularly passing urine into the amniotic fluid. Sometimes the baby may get hiccups, and you can feel the jerk of each hiccup.

The baby's eyelids open for the first time and he or she will soon start blinking. It's not until some weeks after the birth that your baby's eyes become the colour that they will stay. 

By now your baby's heart rate will have slowed to around 140 beats per minute. This is still considerably faster than your own heart rate.

Your baby's brain, lungs and digestive system are formed, but not fully mature they'll spend the rest of your pregnancy developing, so that they work properly when your baby is born.

By 28 weeks, your baby weighs around 1kg and is perfectly formed. The baby's heartbeat can now be heard through a stethoscope. Your partner may even be able to hear it by putting an ear to your abdomen, but it can be difficult to find the right place.

Your baby continues to put on weight, as more and more fat appears under the skin.

Your body at 25-28 weeks pregnant

You may get indigestion or heartburn, and it might be hard to eat large meals as your baby grows and takes up some of the space where your stomach normally is. You may also suffer from tiredness in pregnancy.

You may experience some swelling in your face, hands or feet. This might be caused by water retention, which is normal (try resting and lifting up your swollen feet to ease it). Be sure to mention any swelling to your midwife or GP, so that they can take your blood pressure and rule out a condition called pre-eclampsia, which can cause swelling.

Tips for 25-28 weeks pregnant

Maternity leave

If you are taking maternity leave from work, you need to tell your employer in writing at least 15 weeks before your baby is due. This is when you are 25 weeks pregnant. If your partner plans to take paternity leave (female partners can take paternity leave too) they also need to inform their employer at this time.

Maternity Allowance

If you're entitled to Maternity Allowance, you can claim from when you are 26 weeks pregnant. GOV.UK has information on benefits for families

Starting your birth plan

Think about your preferences for labour and birth, such as pain relief, and the positions you would like to be in. 

Warning signs during pregnancy

High blood pressure and pre-eclampsia

High blood pressure and protein in the urine are signs of pre-eclampsia, which can be life-threatening if untreated.

Severe itching

Severe itching at any stage of pregnancy can be a sign of the rare liver disorder obstetric cholestasis.

29-32 weeks

Your baby's development in pregnancy

Your baby continues to be very active at this stage, and you'll probably be aware of lots of movements. There is no set number of movements you should feel each day – every pregnancy is different. You should be aware of your baby's own pattern of movements, and if this pattern changes contact your midwife or hospital to tell them.

The sucking reflex is developing by now and your baby can suck its thumb or fingers.

The baby is growing plumper and the skin begins to look less wrinkled and much smoother.

The white, greasy vernix and the soft, furry lanugo (fine hair) that have covered your baby's skin for some time begin to disappear.

Your baby's eyes can focus now. The lungs are developing rapidly, but your baby wouldn't be fully able to breathe on its own until about 36 weeks.

By about 32 weeks, the baby is usually lying with their head pointing downwards, ready for birth. This is known as cephalic presentation. If your baby isn't lying head down at this stage, it's not a cause for concern – there is still time for them to turn.

The amount of amniotic fluid in your uterus is increasing, and your baby is still swallowing fluid and passing it out as urine.

Your body at 29-32 weeks of pregnancy

As your bump pushes up against your lungs and you have extra weight to carry around, you may feel breathless.

Leg cramps at night are common at around 29 to 32 weeks. You may find it hard to sleep because you can't get comfortable. Try lying curled up on your side with a pillow between your legs and a cushion under your bump, to see if it feels more comfortable. You might also find you need to pass urine a lot.

Read about more common pregnancy health problems.

If this is your first baby, your midwife or GP will measure the size of your womb and check which way up the baby is when you are 31 weeks pregnant. They will also measure your blood pressure, test your urine for protein and discuss the results of any screening tests from your last appointment.

Find out about the signs that labour has started.

Tips for pregnancy 29-32 weeks

Maternity leave

If you are taking maternity leave from work, you need to tell your employer in writing at least 15 weeks before your baby is due. This is when you are 25 weeks pregnant. If your partner plans to take paternity leave (female partners can take paternity leave too) they also need to inform their employer at this time.

Maternity Allowance

If you're entitled to, you can claim Maternity Allowance from when you are 26 weeks pregnant. GOV.UK has information about benefits for families.

Starting your birth plan

Think about your preferences for labour and birth, such as pain relief and the positions you would like to be in. 

Warning signs during pregnancy

High blood pressure and pre-eclampsia

High blood pressure and protein in the urine are signs of pre-eclampsia, which can be life-threatening if untreated.

Severe itching

Severe itching at any stage of pregnancy can be a sign of the rare liver disorder obstetric cholestasis.

33-36 weeks

Your baby's development in late pregnancy

By 33 weeks of pregnancy, the baby's brain and nervous system are fully developed. Your baby's bones are also continuing to harden, apart from the skull bones. These will stay soft and separated until after the birth, to make the journey through the birth canal easier the bones can move gently and slide over each other so that the head can be born safely, while still protecting the brain.

From around now, you may be aware of your uterus tightening from time to time. These are known as Braxton Hicks contractions, and are a normal part of pregnancy  your uterus is "practising" for the tightenings, or contractions, of labour.

Your baby is curled up in the uterus now, with legs bent up towards the chest. There is little room to move about, but he or she will still change position, so you'll still feel movements and be able to see them on the surface of your bump.

If your baby is a boy, his testicles are beginning to descend from his abdomen into his scrotum.

By 36 weeks, your baby's lungs are fully formed and ready to take their first breath when he or she is born. He or she will also be able to suckle for feeds now, and the digestive system is fully prepared to deal with breast milk.

Your body in late pregnancy

You need to slow down because the extra weight will make you tired, and you may get backache.

From about 34 weeks pregnant, you may be aware of your womb tightening from time to time. These are practice contractions known as Braxton Hicks contractions, and are a normal part of pregnancy. It's only when they become painful or frequent that you need to contact your midwife or hospital.

Only around 5% of babies arrive on their due date. More information can be found on the signs labour has started page.

If you have children already, you may want to make childcare arrangements for when you go into labour. Pack your bag ready for the birth if you are planning to give birth in hospital or a midwifery unit.

When you are around 36 weeks pregnant, make sure you have all your important telephone numbers handy, in case labour starts.

Find out about your options for where to give birth, and the signs of labour. 

You can also read information for the public from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) on the care of women and babies in labour.

Tips for late pregnancy

Pain relief during labour

Be prepared by learning about all the ways you can relieve pain during labour, so you can decide what's best for you.

Make your birth plan

Think about your preferences for labour, such as pain relief and positions you might want to be in. 

If labour starts early

Labour that starts before 37 weeks is considered premature. If your baby is born early, he or she may need special care in hospital.

Warning signs during late pregnancy

Vaginal bleeding

Bleeding from your vagina may be a sign of a serious problem, so seek help.

High blood pressure and pre-eclampsia

High blood pressure and protein in the urine are signs of pre-eclampsia, which can be life-threatening if untreated.

Severe itching

Severe itching at any stage of pregnancy can be a sign of the rare liver disorder obstetric cholestasis. 

37-40 weeks

Your baby's development at 37-40 weeks of pregnancy

At 37 weeks, your pregnancy is considered full-term.

The baby's gut (digestive system) now contains meconium – the sticky, green substance that will form your baby's first poo after birth. It may include bits of the lanugo (fine hair) that covered your baby earlier in pregnancy.

If your baby does a poo during labour, which can sometimes happen, the amniotic fluid will contain meconium. If this is the case, your midwife will want to monitor your baby closely as it could mean he or she is stressed.

In the last weeks, some time before birth, the baby's head should move down into your pelvis. When your baby's head moves down like this, it is said to be "engaged". When this happens, you may notice that your bump seems to move down a little. Sometimes the head doesn't engage until labour starts.

The average baby weighs around 3-4kg by now.

The lanugo that covered your baby's body is now almost all gone, although some babies may have small patches of it when they're born.

Due to the hormones in your body, the baby's genitals may look swollen when they're born, but they will soon settle down to their normal size.

Your baby is ready to be born, and you'll be meeting him or her some time in the next couple of weeks.

Your body at 37-40 weeks pregnant

When you are around 37 weeks pregnant, if it's your first pregnancy you may feel more comfortable as your baby moves down ready to be born, although you will probably feel increased pressure in your lower abdomen. If it's not your first pregnancy, the baby may not move down until labour.

Most women will go into labour between 38 and 42 weeks of pregnancy. Your midwife or doctor should give you information about your options if you go beyond 41 weeks.

Call your hospital or midwife at any time if you have any worries about your baby, or about labour and birth.

Find out what to expect if your baby is overdue.

Get ready for labour

Signs that labour has started

Find out what happens during labour and birth.

Pain relief during labour

Be prepared by learning about all the ways you can relieve pain during labour, so you can decide what's best for you.

Be ready for the birth

When to go to the maternity unit and what to expect

Find out at what point during your labour you should contact your antenatal team, and what to expect when you get there.

What your birth partner can do

Your birth partner, whether it's the baby's father, or a friend or relative, can support you during labour and birth.

Common concerns about giving birth

Breech birth

A breech birth is when a baby is born bottom first, which is more complicated than a head-first birth.

Caesarean section

A caesarean section is when you have surgery to deliver your baby.

Induction

Your maternity team may recommend that your labour be started artificially. This is called induction.

If your baby is born too soon

Premature labour

Labour that starts before 37 weeks is considered premature. If your baby is born early, he or she may need special care in hospital.

 

Warning signs during late pregnancy

Vaginal bleeding

Bleeding from your vagina may be a sign of a serious problem, so seek help.

High blood pressure and pre-eclampsia

High blood pressure and protein in the urine are signs of pre-eclampsia, which can be life-threatening if untreated.

Severe itching 

Severe itching at any stage of pregnancy can be a sign of the rare liver disorder obstetric cholestasis.

40 weeks plus

If your baby is overdue

Pregnancy normally lasts about 40 weeks (that's around 280 days from the first day of your last period). Most women go into labour a week either side of this date, but some women go overdue.

If your labour doesn't start by the time you are 40 weeks pregnant, and this is your first pregnancy, your midwife will offer you a "membrane sweep" at your 40 and 41 weeks appointments. If you have had a baby before, you will be offered this just at your 41 weeks appointment.

A membrane sweep involves having a vaginal (internal) examination that stimulates the cervix (neck of your womb) to produce hormones that may trigger natural labour. You don't have to have this – you can discuss it with your midwife.

If your labour still doesn't start naturally after this, your midwife or doctor will suggest a date to have your labour induced.

If you don't want your labour to be induced and your pregnancy continues to 42 weeks or beyond, you and your baby will be monitored.

Your midwife or doctor will check that both you and your baby are healthy by offering you ultrasound scans and checking your baby's movement and heartbeat. If there are any concerns about your baby, your doctor will suggest that labour is induced.

Induction is always planned in advance, so you'll be able to discuss the advantages and disadvantages with your doctor and midwife, and find out why they think your labour should be induced. It's your choice whether to have your labour induced or not.

Over 42 weeks pregnant

Most women go into labour spontaneously by the time they are 42 weeks pregnant. If your pregnancy lasts longer than 42 weeks and you decide not to have your labour induced, you should be offered increased monitoring to check your baby's wellbeing.

There is a higher risk of stillbirth if you go over 42 weeks pregnant, although most babies remain healthy. At the moment, there is no way to predict reliably which babies are at increased risk of stillbirth, so induction is offered to all women who don't go into labour by 42 weeks.

Having induction of labour after the date your baby is due does not increase the chance of having a caesarean section. There is actually some evidence that it may slightly reduce the chance of having a caesarean section.

Read about the signs that labour has started.