Technically, the third trimester of pregnancy begins at week 28 and continues until week 40, when you give birth. However, most babies aren’t born exactly on week 40; about 50% of babies are born late. You can attempt to naturally induce labor after week 40, but after week 42 your doctor will induce you.
During the third trimester, your baby will grow a lot! In week 28, babies are about 2.5 pounds and 16 inches long. By week 40, they’re closer to 6-9 pounds and 19-22 inches long. That’s a lot of growing – and a lot of room to take up in your stomach!
So, what exactly is going on in there? Between months 7 and 8 your baby is turning cartilage into bones. Make sure you’re getting enough calcium to aid this process. Between weeks 32-36 your baby’s skin thickens, fat builds up, and the vernix and lanugo are shed. The meconium – a.k.a. your baby’s very first poop! – builds up in the intestines. By week 30, your baby’s touch receptors have completely developed and by week 31, all five senses will be functional. Now is the time to start singing lullabies, because he or she is actively listening to and learning the sound of your voice. During all of this development, baby’s brain is also growing and experimenting with new skills like dreaming, blinking, and temperature regulation. At about week 34, your baby will settle upside down, preparing for birth.
With all this activity, you’re sure to feel some side effects. As the abdomen muscles stretch to make room for your growing baby you might experience cramps and sharp pains. You’ll also feel more exhausted due to the increased demands of pregnancy. Make sure you’re taking care of yourself so that your body can take care of baby! Heartburn may also occur as your uterus pushes your stomach upwards. You’ll experience Braxton Hicks contractions as your body starts to practice for labor, and varicose veins might develop in your legs due to the extra blood flow. Stretch marks could appear on your skin, but moisturizing will keep them small. Backache is also a common complaint due to relaxin, a pregnancy hormone, which is loosening your joints. This allows your stomach to pull your center of gravity more to the front of your body. Putting your feet up helps! Weird and vivid dreams are also common since your hormones are in overdrive, and clumsiness will become a part of daily life. And of course, leaky breasts and a weak bladder might also occur. Combat your baby’s extra weight on your pelvis with daily Kegels exercises. But you’re almost at the finish line, and finally meeting your baby will make everything you’ve gone through totally worth it!
So how do you know when the big day has arrived? It can be hard to distinguish false labor from real labor so always check with your doctor, but common signs can include waddling (as your baby drops lower into your pelvis), bloody discharge, actual contractions (these intensify the more active you are), and your water breaking (which may or may not happen before you arrive at the hospital). If you experience signs of preterm labor, heavy vaginal bleeding or discharge, serious pain in the lower abdomen, sudden weight gain, and/or a temperature of more than 101.5 F, call your doctor immediately. It might be nothing but it’s best to be safe.
While you’re waiting anxiously during the third trimester, there are some things you cando to keep busy and healthy.
– Starting week 28, keep track of baby’s kicks. Count them and mark any changes, especially in the final stretch.
– Keep track of your weight. You’ll gain a lot at the beginning of the third trimester, and then slow down or even lose a few pounds near the end.
– Exercise – as long as your doctor approves and you follow the appropriate safety precautions to keep baby safe.
– Make some appointments. In the third trimester, you should be tested for anemia, group B strep, and glucose levels between months 7 and 8. An internal cervix exam is due in month 9 to check for effacement and dilation.
– Tour the hospital
– Pick a pediatrician
– Get all the baby essentials – stroller, car seat, crib, changing table, baby monitor, and diapers. Lots of diapers.
– Take a childbirth class to help you prepare for labor, and look into classes on infant CPR and caring for your newborn.
– Learn about breastfeeding. You should know why and how to do it, and you can even take a breastfeeding class or find a lactation consultant.
– Educate yourself about the stages of labor. You need to know what to expect!
– Decide if you want an epidural or other medication to help with the pain during labor. If you’d prefer a natural birth, talk to your doctor about it now.
– Decorate and set up the nursery
– Go grocery shopping, cook like crazy, and then freeze those meals. Pulling meals out of the freezer for the first few weeks while you’re recovering and busy with baby will make life much easier.
– Don’t forget to take a few photos of your baby bump before it’s gone!
– Pack a light bag for the hospital.
– Take a look at your finances, and make a new family budget.
– Learn about what to expect with your body after you give birth, and with baby’s first year. There are so many exciting moments ahead of you both!