Third Trimester of Pregnancy Guide
You and your belly may be two-thirds of the way there, but your baby still has plenty of growing to do. Here’s more on what to expect in the third trimester of pregnancy.
Your pregnancy: 33 weeks
The skull bones can compress enough to fit through the birth canal during labor. It may feel as if there’s no way your belly can get any bigger, but there’s no doubt about it — it will get bigger over the course of the third trimester of pregnancy. Alot bigger. Here’s what to expect from your body and your rapidly-maturing baby in these final few weeks.
WHEN DOES THE THIRD TRIMESTER START?
The third trimester begins in week 28 of pregnancy and lasts until you give birth, which may be around week 40 of pregnancy. It’s likely, however, that labor will start a couple of weeks earlier or later — in fact, at least 50 percent of all babies are latecomers. If you do make it to (or past) week 40, you can try a few tricks to naturally induce labor on your own. But once you reach week 42 of pregnancy, you’ll be officially considered overdue, at which point your doctor will induce labor if it doesn’t begin on its own.
BABY’S GROWTH DURING THE THIRD TRIMESTER
Your little one will get a whole lot larger in the third trimester, growing from about 2 1/2 pounds and 16 inches long in week 28 of pregnancy to between 6 and 9 pounds and 19 to 22 inches long in week 40. Indeed, your baby is growing fast — so don’t be surprised if his increase in size along with a decrease in living space leads to some serious kicks and pokes in your gut.
Here are a few of the highlights happening in your third trimester of pregnancy:
- Bones: As your baby transforms cartilage to bone in months 7 and 8, he’ll be getting all of her calcium from you — so be sure to eat plenty of calcium-rich foods.
- Hair, skin and nails: By week 32 of pregnancy, baby’s formerly see-through skin will become opaque. In week 36, fat continues to accumulate as your baby sheds his vernix (the waxy substance that protects his skin from your amniotic fluid) and lanugo (the hairy coat that keeps him warm in there).
- Digestive system: In the final weeks of pregnancy, meconium — or baby’s first poop, consisting mostly of blood cells, vernix and lanugo — starts to build up in baby’s intestines.
- Five Senses: Your baby’s touch receptors will be fully developed around week 29 or week 30. By week 31 of pregnancy, your baby will get signals from all five senses,perceiving light and dark, tasting what you eat, and listening to the sound of your voice.
- Brain: In the third trimester your baby’s brain will grow faster than ever, test-driving some nifty skills including blinking, dreaming and regulating his own body temperature.
Around week 34 of pregnancy, baby’s body turns southward, settling into a heads-down, bottom-up position — unless, of course, your baby remains stubbornly in the breech position (in which case your doctor will likely attempt to manually turn baby around week 37).
CHANGES IN YOUR BODY
With that busy baby inside your belly, you’re probably feeling lots of fetal activity. You may also be experiencing changes in your body as your bump gets bigger than ever, including:
- Abdominal achiness: As your round ligaments (which support your lower abdomen) stretch to accommodate your growing bump, you may feel crampy or sharp pain. There’s not much you can do other than take it easy.
- Fatigue: You’ll feel more zapped this trimester because of the demands pregnancy is putting on your body, so eat well and frequently, stay active and solve pregnancy sleep problems.
- Heartburn: In the last few weeks of pregnancy, your uterus will push your stomach and its contents upward, causing that persistent burn. If it’s really bothering you, talk to your doctor about proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs) or H2 blockers, which are safe to use during pregnancy.
- Braxton Hicks contractions: Your body’s way of preparing for labor, you’ll start to feel these irregular practice contractions now until real labor starts.
- Varicose veins: You may notice these bulging veins (including hemorrhoids, which are actually a type of varicose vein) in your lower body due to all of the extra blood you’re pumping. The good news: If you didn’t have them before pregnancy, they’ll likely disappear after you deliver.
- Stretch marks: These tiny tears, which appear in skin that’s being stretched to the limit during pregnancy, are usually a result of genetics. Moisturize to minimize their appearance.
- Backache: As the pregnancy hormone relaxing loosens your joints and your growing belly pulls your center of gravity forward, you may start to have an achy back — another reason to put your feet up, literally. (Sharp, shooting pain from your back down your legs, on the other hand, may be a sign of sciatica.)
- Crazy dreams: Your dreams may be more vivid than ever as you near your due date, likely due in part to pregnancy hormones. They’re totally normal — so take them with a grain of salt and have fun swapping stories with a loved one.
- Clumsiness: Your hormones are on overdrive, your belly is throwing you off balance and you’re more forgetful than ever. You’re in good (pregnant) company — so just try to be careful and have a sense of humor about it!
- Lack of bladder control: You sneeze = you pee. Indeed, all that extra weight on your pelvic floor makes it harder to stay dry. To the rescue: Your daily Kegels regimen.
- Leaky breasts: Your body’s warming up to feed your baby.
With all of these pregnancy symptoms and more weighing on you, just try to keep your eye on the prize: your beautiful baby, who you’ll meet in just a few weeks!
SYMPTOMS TO HAVE CHECKED OUT
As D-day approaches, and you may experience false labor symptoms. A few of the real signs of labor to watch out for include:
- Lightening: By about week 36, you may find yourself waddling as your baby drops in your pelvis.
- Bloody show: This stringy mucus tinged pink or brown with blood is a sure sign labor is well on its way. You also may or may not notice the discharge of your mucous plug (which seals off your uterus from the outside world).
- Labor contractions: Compared to Braxton Hicks contractions, these intensify, rather than diminish, the more you move around.
- Your water breaking: This may not even happen, however, until you’re already at the hospital.
Your doctor will likely tell you when it’s time to call or head to the hospital — likely around the time active labor starts. Congrats! Baby is on the way.
If at any point, however, you experience heavy vaginal bleeding, a fever over 101.5 F, severe lower abdominal pain, sudden weight gain, signs of preterm labor or any other signs that warrant a call to your doctor, don’t hesitate to reach out — you’re always better trusting your instincts and staying on the safe side when you’re expecting.
THIRD TRIMESTER TO-DOS
- Keep track of fetal movement. From about week 28 on, you’ll want to count baby’s kicks regularly and note any changes in activity, especially during month 9.
- Watch your weight. Your pregnancy weight gain will pick up speed at the beginning of the third trimester and taper down as your due date nears (you may even lose a pound or two). If you’re not gaining enough (or if you’ve gained too much), work with your doctor to adjust your pregnancy diet to get back on track.
- Keep moving! As long as you have your practitioner’s OK and you follow a few fitness safety precautions, it’s safe to continue pregnancy-safe exercises up until your due date.
- Schedule your third trimester checkups. Expect tests for glucose levels, anemia and group B strep in months 7 and 8. In month 9, your practitioner will perform an internal examination of your cervix to see if effacement and dilation (the thinning and opening of your cervix) have begun. If you’re classified as “high-risk,” your doctor may also schedule a biophysical profile ornonstress test in the last few weeks just to be sure everything is proceeding as expected.
- Take a hospital tour. If you haven’t already, month 7 is a great time to take a tour of the hospital or birthing center where you plan to give birth.
- Choose your baby’s pediatrician. Interview a few candidates with a list of questions around week 32 and pick your favorite.
- Buy baby gear. Make sure you have the baby gear essentials — especially a crib, stroller, car seat (which you’ll need to bring your baby home from the hospital), changing table and baby monitor. On that note, take your car seat in to be professionally installed.
- Get educated. In addition to a childbirth class — which will help you to feel more prepared for the entire birth process — you may also want to consider classes on infant CPR and baby care.
- Prepare to breastfeed. Read more about why and how to breastfeed before baby arrives, and possibly even take a breastfeeding class. And don’t hesitate to ask your doula or a lactation consultant for help later if you need it.
- Learn about the stages of labor. Get prepared for baby’s birthday by learning what to expect during early, active and transitional labor as well as pushing baby out and delivering the placenta.
- Consider how you’d like to manage labor pain. Want an epidural or other medication to manager labor pain? Thinking about having a natural birth, possibly in a birthing tub? Now’s the time to discuss your options with your practitioner.
- Check your birth plan. From whether or not you want an epidural to when and who cuts baby’s umbilical cord, make or finalize your birth plan. (Just remember, when it comes time to push baby out, not everything always goes exactly as planned — the important part is keeping you and your baby safe and healthy!)
- Set up your nursery. Get all of the essentials you’ll need for your nursery. And don’t forget baby basics like bottles, baby clothes, diapers, wipes, pacifiers and formula (if you’re not planning to breastfeed).
- Commemorate your baby bump: Arrange a professional baby bump photo shoot or take some beautiful bump shots of your own — you can hang them in the nursery or add to your baby’s photo album later.
- Stock your fridge. You may want to whip up a few meals to keep in your freezer for the first few weeks, when you’ll be busy with a new baby and recovering from birth.
- Plan financially. Consider the costs of having a baby and start following a new family budget accordingly.
- Pack your hospital bag. Pack light — but don’t forget a fewcomforts from home that you’ll want to have with you at the hospital.
- Arrange for cord blood banking. If you’re considering cord blood banking — public or private — be sure your practitioner is aware of your plans, and don’t forget to pack any cord blood kit the bank sends you in your hospital bag.
- Learn what happens after birth. Read up on what happens in the first 24 hours after birth as your body repairs and you begin to adjust to your new role.
- Prepare for baby’s first year. Learn more about all the exciting milestones that happen in baby’s first year of life — there’s so much to look forward to!