Third trimester pregnancy: What to expect
Third trimester pregnancy: What to expect
The third trimester of pregnancy can be physically and emotionally challenging. Your baby's size and position might make it hard for you to get comfortable. You might be tired of pregnancy and eager to move on to the next stage. If you've been gearing up for your due date, you might be disappointed if it comes and goes uneventfully.
Try to remain positive as you look forward to the end of your pregnancy. Soon you'll hold your baby in your arms! Here's what to expect in the meantime.
Third trimester pregnancy: Your body
As your baby grows, his or her movements will become more obvious. These exciting sensations are often accompanied by increasing discomfort and other third trimester pregnancy symptoms.
Continued breast growth
Braxton Hicks contractions
When you sit, choose chairs with good back support. Apply a heating pad or ice pack to the painful area. Ask your partner for a massage. Wear low-heeled — but not flat — shoes with good arch support. If the back pain doesn't go away or is accompanied by other signs and symptoms, contact your health care provider.
Shortness of breath
To reduce swelling, lie down or use a footrest. You might even elevate your feet and legs while you sleep. It can also help to swim or simply stand in a pool.
Spider veins, varicose veins and hemorrhoids
If you have painful varicose veins, elevate your legs and wear support stockings. To prevent hemorrhoids, avoid constipation. Include plenty of fiber in your diet and drink lots of fluids.
Continue to watch for signs of a urinary tract infection, such as urinating even more than usual, burning during urination, fever, abdominal pain or backache. Left untreated, urinary infections increase the risk of pregnancy complications.
Third trimester pregnancy: Your emotions
As anticipation grows, fears about childbirth might become more persistent. How much will it hurt? How long will it last? How will I cope?
If you haven't done so already, consider taking childbirth classes. You'll learn what to expect — and meet other moms-to-be who share your excitement and concerns. Talk with women who've had positive birth experiences, and ask your health care provider about options for pain relief. Tell yourself that you'll simply do the best you can. There's no right or wrong way to have a baby.
The reality of parenthood might begin to sink in as well. You might feel anxious and overwhelmed, especially if this is your first baby. To stay calm, revel in the experience of being pregnant and think about the joy that will come from loving a new human being. Consider:
It's also helpful to plan ahead. If you'll be breast-feeding, gather any supplies you might need, such as a special pillow to use while breast-feeding and a breast pump. If you're expecting a boy — or you don't know your baby's sex — think about what's right for your family regarding circumcision. Consider who'll be your baby's principal health care provider. Make plans for your first few weeks together.
Appointments with your health care provider
During the third trimester, your health care provider might ask you to come in for more frequent checkups — perhaps every other week beginning at week 32 and every week beginning at week 36.
Like previous visits, your health care provider will check your weight and blood pressure and ask about any signs or symptoms you're experiencing. You might need screening tests for various conditions, including:
Your health care provider will also check your baby's size and heart rate. Near the end of your pregnancy, vaginal exams can help your health care provider determine your baby's position inside your uterus. He or she might also check your cervix to see whether it's begun to soften or dilate in preparation for birth — although cervical exams aren't a reliable way to predict when labor will begin.
If you have specific desires or preferences for labor and birth — such as laboring in water or avoiding medication — you might want to define your wishes in a birth plan. Review the plan with your health care provider ahead of time to prevent any misunderstandings.
As your due date approaches, keep asking questions. How can I tell the difference between false labor and the real thing? When do I need to go to the hospital? Could I be too late for an epidural? Remember, there's no silly question. Understanding what's happening can help you have the most positive birth experience.
Last Updated: 2012-12-04
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