The Third Trimester of Pregnancy

by Shannon Bartlett

The Third Trimester of PregnancyYou're in the home-stretch! These last few months of your pregnancy are going to be pretty similar to the second trimester.

You might have lots of energy and find that you and your partner are in full "planning for the baby" mode. You could be so busy getting ready for baby that you forget to think about yourself. Don't let that happen!

In the third trimester, you're excitement is growing as the baby's birthday gets closer. You are probably also a bit fearful and concerned about labor if you haven't been through it before. Let's not forget the increasing discomforts you're going through, too. Don't be surprised if you're feeling ready to go ahead and have the baby already.

See how your baby changes in the week-by-week view of fetal development or learn more about pregnancy at 28 weeks, 29 weeks , 30 weeks , 31 weeks, 32 weeks, 33 weeks, 34 weeks, 35 weeks, 36 weeks, 37 weeks, 38 weeks, 39 weeks and 40 weeks.

Your Body

Pregnancy Symptoms: Your level of discomfort grows right along with your baby. Symptoms caused by the pressure and weight of your expanding uterus include hemorrhoids, varicose veins, swelling, leg cramps, backaches, and shortness of breath. Braxton-Hicks contractions, another third trimester pregnancy companion, give your uterus an opportunity to get ready for labor. These are "practice" contractions where the uterus contracts, hardens for a minute or so, and then relaxes back to normal.

Your Emotions: The third trimester can be an emotional challenge. While "zen" and "happy" described your attitude last trimester, you might be feeling anxious, edgy and impatient now. For some women, that euphoria you felt knowing your due date's approaching somehow transformed into "crabbiness". Hang in there; soon you'll be holding your baby in your arms.

Physical Changes: As the baby gets bigger, the space in the uterus gets more cramped so you might notice a decrease in fetal movement. Towards the end of the third trimester, the baby will drop to prepare for birth. Whew! Now you have more room to breathe, but unfortunately, that little head pressing on your bladder might mean make trips to the bathroom.

Weight Gain: You're expected to gain between 25 and 35 pounds by your due date if you started pregnancy at a healthy weight. The baby is responsible for some of those pounds, but so is the amniotic fluid, placenta, bigger breasts and uterus and increased blood volume.

Your Baby's Development

Seventh Month (weeks 28-31): Your baby does some serious filling and reaching out this month, measuring a whopping 15-17 inches long and weighing as much as four pounds. The bones are fully formed although still soft and pliable. The lungs are still developing but that doesn't stop your wee one from practicing breathing. At the beginning of the month, your baby began opening his or her eyes. By the end of this month even tiny toenails can be seen.

Eighth Month (weeks 33 to 36): Starting midway through this month, babies gain weight rapidly, adding as much as a half a pound a week. By the end of the month, your baby can stretch out between 16 and 19 inches long and probably weighs in over five pounds. It's getting a little crowded in the womb. Your baby might not have room to wind up for a punch, but you'll still feel lots of stretches, rolls and wiggles.

Ninth Month (weeks 37 to 40): Your baby's getting ready for birth. Near the beginning of this month, many babies shift positions, descending into a "heads down" position. At 38 weeks, your baby is considered full-term, but the extras days in the womb continues to prepare your little one for birth. The lungs mature right up until birth and you continue to supply your baby with antibodies that protect against disease. At birth most babies are about 19 to 21 inches and weigh anywhere from 6 3/4 pounds to 10 pounds.

Prenatal Appointments

During the third trimester, your prenatal visits ramp up. Your midwife or doctor will want to see you every other week, starting with week 32, and every week once you hit 36 weeks.

In addition to the checking your weight, blood pressure and urine, your health care provider will also check your baby's size and position. A vaginal exam can help determine your baby's position and check to see if your cervix has begin to soften or dilate.

Third Trimester Concerns

Preterm labor: Preterm labor is labor that occurs before the baby is full-term. Your baby has a very good chance of survival anytime during the third trimester, but might requires extensive medical care if born too early. The symptoms of premature labor are the same as of regular labor.

Bleeding: Bleeding during the last trimester most often is caused by placenta previa. An ultrasound can confirm the diagnosis. If the placenta continues to block the baby's passage into the birth canal, your baby will need to be delivered by c-section.

Group B strep: This type of bacteria can live in your vagina or rectum. It doesn't make you sick, but it could cause problems for your baby after birth. If you test positive for group B strep, your midwife or doctor will recommend antibiotics during labor.

Congratulations! You're almost there. As you're waiting for your baby's arrival, we encourage you to take advantage of the practical, thought-provoking and entertaining resources we've gathered up on pregnancy. Whether you'd like a peek at your baby's development, wonder what's happening with your body or want to meet up with others sharing this stage of pregnancy, we have what you're looking for.