The third trimester of pregnancy is often the most tiresome for women. Their bodies feel uncomfortable and they are preparing not only for childbirth, but for adding a baby to their lives. The third trimester is 27-40 weeks of pregnancy.
Your Baby in the Third Trimester of Pregnancy
This is an exciting time for you and your baby. According to the Mayo Clinic, your baby's organs and systems are fully formed and most of what your baby is doing is gaining weight while layering fat beneath her skin. In addition, your baby's fingernails and toenails will grow to the end of her fingers and toes. In some babies, the nails may actually need to be cut after birth.
Your baby is very reactive to her environment. At birth, your baby will actually know your voice, your partner's voice, sibling's voices, and familiar noises such as your family dog's barking or your favorite song. Your baby will respond to loud noises and familiar sounds. Inside of you, your baby can respond to a light shown on your belly and may actually use her hands to block her eyes or might kick or wiggle around.
By the eighth month, the lanugo or fine body hair mostly disappears. If you deliver a premature baby around 35-36 weeks, you may see some lanugo on your baby's body. It's nothing to worry about and will fall out naturally.
This trimester, your baby will gain around three and a half pounds and grow over five inches.
One of the big things your baby will probably do during the third trimester of pregnancy is move head-down so she is in the birthing position. The majority of babies do turn head down, but 3-4 percent do not. These babies assume the breach position with feet or bottom facing downward. Some doctors and midwives will allow a breech vaginal birth, though most doctors are more comfortable with a scheduled cesarean birth. Your doctor may also try to turn your baby before birth. This is called an external version and comes with risks you need to be aware of. There are also natural techniques that may turn help your baby turn head down. If your baby is breech, your care provider will discuss options with you.
Your Body in the Third Trimester
You will notice many changes in your body during the third trimester of pregnancy. Your belly and breasts will continue to get larger as your baby grows and you will probably be gaining a pound per week.
As your baby continues to get bigger, you may notice that you have more difficulty breathing or have to urinate more. Listen to your body and get plenty of rest. These symptoms will go away after you deliver.
You may notice swelling in your feet or hands. Continue to drink lots of water and try not to stand too much. If you notice sudden and rapid swelling in your hands, feet, or face, contact your care provider immediately. This can be a symptom of a preeclampsia.
During the last weeks, your breasts may start to leak colostrum or first milk. Colostrum is thick and is yellowish or whitish, although it is nothing to worry about. If you notice that you're leaking through your bra, you can insert disposable bra pads and throw them out every couple of hours whether or not it looks like you've leaked. If you buy reusable bra pads, change them every couple of hours and wash them in hot water to prevent thrush. You do not need to prepare your nipples for breastfeeding, no matter what your grandmother may say. Simply wash your nipples with water. If they get cracked or dry, you can try some nipple cream with lanolin.
You may notice lots of painless contractions during the third trimester of pregnancy. These are called Braxton Hick Contractions and help prepare your body for childbirth according to WebMD. You may notice other early labor symptoms such as lightening, a burst of energy, or flu-like symptoms. Your care provider may also start vaginal exams around week 37 to see if your cervix is getting ready for labor.
What You Should Do in the Third Trimester
- If you haven't taken your childbirth education class, you need to make this a priority. You will probably be able to take a class at your local hospital or can also look into hiring a private childbirth educator. Some women may want to find a Bradley or hypnobirthing instructor. If you want to hire a doula, you should start interviewing and learning what it is you want from professional labor support.
- If you plan on breastfeeding, you should look into taking a breastfeeding class at your local hospital. You can also attend La Leche League meetings for local assistance.
- This is also a good time to start looking into what you want to bring to your birthing facility. Some people want a birthing ball, massage materials, music, and aromatherapy products. If you don't have these things, now is a good time to get them ready to take to your birthing facility.
- You need to buy and install a car seat. Your local police/fire station will be able to help you install your car seat correctly.
- If you want specific things from your birth and have designed a birth plan, you should discuss it with your doctor to make whatever changes and compromises you need.
- You need to finish preparing for your baby. This can mean different things to different families. Some families need to have the baby's room completely decorated and finished before childbirth. Other families simply need to be stocked with a few diapers, baby blankets, clothes, and a sling.
- Your doctor's visits will become more frequent during this time; you will probably have weekly checkups, including tests and exams outlined at the Mayo Clinic website. This is to make sure that you and your baby are healthy and to prevent the likelihood of complications.
Nearing the End
As this last trimester draws to a close, mothers-to-be may experience a wealth of emotions from anxiety to happiness. Although you may feel as if you don't have enough time to do everything you need to do to prepare for your baby's birth, you should also take it easy. Sooner than you know it, you'll have a new bundle in your arms and that long nine-month wait will finally be over.