Appointments with your health care provider

You'll probably see your health care provider once a week this month, until your baby arrives. As during previous visits, your health care provider will likely check your weight and blood pressure, as well as the activity and movements of your baby. Your health care provider may also measure your uterus and ask you about any signs and symptoms you may be experiencing.

You may have a pelvic exam this month. This exam will allow your health care provider to determine whether your baby is positioned headfirst, feet first or rump first inside your uterus. Most babies are positioned headfirst. As your due date draws closer, your health care provider may refer to the station of the presenting part. Presenting part is the medical term for the part of your baby's body that's farthest down in your pelvis. Station refers to how far down in your pelvis the presenting part is.

During your pelvic exams this month, your health care provider may also check your cervix to see how much it has begun to soften, as well as how much it has opened (dilated) and thinned (effaced). If this process has started, your health care provider will probably refer to it in numbers and percentages. For example, he or she may tell you that you're 3 centimeters (cm) dilated and 30 percent effaced. When you're ready to push your baby out, your cervix will be 10 cm dilated and 100 percent effaced.

Don't put too much stock in these numbers. This type of exam doesn't tell much, with the possible exception of how well labor induction might work. You may go for weeks dilated at 3 cm, or you may go into labor without any dilation or effacement at all beforehand. In fact, unless you're being considered for induced labor, your health care provider may prefer to forgo the cervical exam entirely.

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