At week 39 the baby is full size. The average term baby in the United States is about 7 1/2 pounds so you can expect your baby to be in this range. Babies born at week 39 are the same as babies born on the due date as far as complications go. So if the baby is born at 39 weeks and it has some difficulty, it would have had this difficulty even if it was born on the due date. For this reason we schedule elective c-sections at week 39. If you are having a c-section because of a previous c-section, non-vertex presentation, or other reason for a scheduled c-section it is typically done during week 39.
Elective inductions can also be done at week 39. I still caution my patients regarding elective inductions. there is a higher risk of ending up with a c-section after an elective induction. Most women perceive more pain from labor that starts as an elective induction than labor that starts spontaneously. With an elective induction women will spend more time in the hospital than labor that starts on its own. For these reasons, elective inductions should be carefully considered. We often induce patients with medical issues such as diabetes or hypertension at week 39 and in these cases the benefits outweigh the risks. If you are considering an induction just because you are tired of being pregnant you should really consider the disks of induction.
At week 39 double check that you have everything ready for that trip to the hospital. You should have a bag packed that has the things you will want to make the hospital stay more comfortable. You will need a car seat for the baby. You should have all your plans in place for who you want to have with you at the hospital, who will be watching your house and pets, who will take care of your other children, and all the other details that go along with the exciting day.
When you are having contractions that take your breath away and are coming every 3- 5 minutes, it is time to head into the hospital. If your water breaks go to the hospital, its time. It is very common for people to go to the hospital thinking they are in labor or that the water broke only to be sent home and told they are not in labor. Do not be discouraged or embarrassed if this happens to you. I brought my wife to the hospital thinking her water was broken for our second baby and it was not. If it can happen to an obstetrician it can happen to you. It is always better to be seen and evaluated, even for a false alarm, than to stay at home with a problem.