The Third Trimester

Weight Gain: Typical weight gain in the third trimester is about a pound a week, but each woman should consult with her doctor to know what weight gain is appropriate for her. A woman of average pre-pregnancy weight should expect to gain a total of between 25 and 35 pounds by the end.

Doctor's Visits

When to See the Doctor: At about 30 weeks, prenatal visits should increase to occur every 2 to 3 weeks. After 36 weeks, visits should occur every 1 to 2 weeks until delivery.

Third Trimester Prenatal Appointments: The checks from previous doctor's visits continue (weight, blood pressure, urine tests, fetal heart rate, and fundal height). If a woman is Rh-negative, she will receive a Rh-immune globulin injection between 28 and 29 weeks. She will also be tested between weeks 35 and 37 for Group-B strep (which is a potentially deadly infection that could be passed on to the baby during delivery). The doctor will also start to do internal and external exams to check the baby's size, whether the baby has dropped, as well as to check the cervix for effacement and dilation. These are all to check for progress towards labor.

Problems to Watch Out For

Bleeding: Bleeding at this stage is typically caused by placenta previa, or a placenta that is blocking the mouth of the uterus. This can be diagnosed by ultrasound, and may require a cesarean-section since the placenta is blocking the baby's passage into the birth canal.

Premature Labor: Premature labor is labor that occurs before the baby is full-term. The baby is considered full-term at 37 weeks. The baby has a very good chance of survival anytime during the third trimester, but ideally, the premature labor can be stopped with medication and bedrest, since the baby requires extensive medical care if born too early. Symptoms of premature labor are the same as of regular labor.

Stillbirth: The occurrence of stillbirth is fairly rare these days. Advances in fetal monitoring equipment have decreased the likelihood of the baby dying. However, stillbirth does still sometimes occur and is considered one of the most difficult experiences a woman will ever have to go through. Women who have experienced a stillbirth should be allowed to grieve their baby's death and be surrounded by support and love, just like any other mother who has lost a child.

Reprinted with permission from American Pregnancy Association