The third trimester (months 7-9) marks the beginning of the end of your pregnancy as you anticipate the approaching birth of your child. Your due date will mark the end of 40 weeks of pregnancy; however, only five percent of women give birth on their due dates. A full-term pregnancy is considered to range from 37 to 42 weeks. This trimester, many of your physical changes will be on view for the world to see. Enjoy this time, as you feel your baby growing and prepare for his or her birth.
As you and your baby gain weight, hormones relax the joints between the bones in your pelvic area. This can cause pain in your back and hips. If you must stand for an extended period, put one foot on a box or stool. Sit in chairs with good back support. Wear low-heeled - not flat - shoes with good arch support.
- Bleeding or spotting may be a symptom of a serious problem. Call your WellStar physician if you notice any bleeding.
- You may find yourself getting short of breath as your uterus expands, pushing up into your diaphragm and lungs. This symptom usually improves later in pregnancy after the baby settles into your pelvis. Until then, maintain good posture and sleep with your upper body propped on pillows to relieve pressure on your lungs. Ask your physician about aerobic exercise, which can help relieve this symptom, as well.
- You may develop heartburn as your growing uterus pushes your stomach out of position. Keep heartburn at bay by eating small meals and drink plenty of fluids. Avoid fried and spicy foods, carbonated drinks and citrus fruits or juices. If you still suffer from heartburn, ask your WellStar physician about antacids.
- Increased blood circulation may cause small reddish spots with tiny blood vessels on your face, neck or arms, especially if you are fair skinned. Varicose veins in your legs and rectum (hemorrhoids) are also common. If the varicose veins are painful, elevate your legs and wear support stockings. To prevent hemorrhoids, include lots of fiber and fluids in your diet.
- Your breasts will continue to grow, by as much as an additional 2 pounds of breast tissue. As delivery approaches, your nipples may leak colostrum - the yellowish fluid that nourishes your baby during the first few days after birth.
- As you get closer to delivery and your baby moves deeper into your pelvis, you'll feel increased pressure on your bladder. You may find yourself urinating more often, day and night. Extra pressure may also cause you to leak urine - especially when you laugh, cough or sneeze. Keep an eye out for signs of a urinary tract infection, such as urinating more than usual, burning during urination, fever, abdominal pain or backache. Left untreated, a urinary tract infection may damage your kidneys and can trigger preterm labor.
- Braxton Hicks contractions may be felt in your lower abdomen and groin as your uterus starts building strength for labor and delivery. These contractions are usually weak and unpredictable. Painful or regular contractions may be a sign of preterm labor. Call your WellStar physician immediately if this happens.
- You will continue to gain weight as your baby grows throughout this trimester, but other factors, besides your baby, contribute to weight gain as well: placenta, amniotic fluid, larger breasts and uterus, extra fat stores and increased blood volume. By your delivery date, you will likely have gained 25 to 35 pounds over the course of your pregnancy.
- An increased amount of vaginal discharge is common at the end of pregnancy. However, if you saturate a panty liner within a few hours or think you may be leaking amniotic fluid, contact your WellStar physician. Near your delivery date, you may see a thick, clear or slightly blood-tinged discharge, called your mucus plug. This discharge is a sign that your cervix is dilating in preparation for labor. A sudden rush of fluid may mean your water broke, an uncommon occurrence before contractions begin. Call your WellStar physician as soon as possible if your water breaks.
- Often a growing uterus puts pressure on the veins that return blood from your feet and legs, making swollen feet and ankles a problem. Your face and eyelids may swell, especially in the mornings due to fluid retention and dilated blood vessels. Reduce swelling with cold compresses on the swollen areas. Lie down or prop your feet up to help relieve ankle swelling, even while you sleep. Let your WellStar physician know if you have persistent face or eyelid swelling.
- The energy you may have felt during the second trimester has likely vanished, leaving you feeling worn out again. The extra weight you’re carrying, coupled with lack of sleep from getting up during the night to use the bathroom, and the discomfort that may be making it tough to sleep, all can sap your energy. A healthy diet and regular exercise can help boost your energy level. When you feel tired, try to nap, or at least relax for a few minutes. You’ll be glad you rested once the baby arrives and you discover what it really means to get no sleep.
- Watch for signs of true labor, which generally occurs within two weeks on either side of a due date. False labor pains are most often in the lower abdomen and groin. True labor pains may start in the lower back and spread through the entire abdomen. Real labor also becomes stronger and more powerful as time passes.
- At 26 weeks your baby measures about 9.2 inches from crown to rump and weighs almost 2 pounds. With fully developed hearing, your baby will react to sounds, often moving in rhythm to music.
- At 28 weeks, your baby is gaining weight, smoothing out the wrinkles in his or her skin.
- At 29 weeks, your baby's bones are fully developed, but still soft and pliable. You may notice your baby doing fewer acrobatics as he or she grows to fill your womb, but you may feel more kicking and stretching.
- At week 33 your baby will begin to grow very quickly, gaining more than half its birth weight in the next seven weeks. It will move even less as it runs out of room and will curl up with arms and legs crossed, knees bent and chin on chest.
- At 37 weeks, your baby will be considered term. His or her organs are able to function on their own. Your baby may descend into the head-down position in preparation for birth.
- Week 40 and your due date, may come and go without your baby’s birth. Don't be alarmed. It's perfectly normal to deliver a baby a week or two late.
Routine Exams and Tests
During the third trimester, your WellStar healthcare provider may want to see you every other week beginning at week 32 and every week beginning at week 36. These visits will include:
- Weight and blood pressure checks
- Questions about any symptoms you may have been experiencing.
- Pelvic exams, as you get closer to your due date, so your physician can:
- Check the baby's position. As your due date approaches, your baby's head should move into your lower abdomen at the top of the birth canal. If your baby doesn’t move in this direction or is bottom or feet first (breech), your physician may recommend trying to turn the baby by applying pressure to your abdomen. If your baby remains breech, you may need a C-section.
- Detect cervical changes. Your cervix will begin to soften, open (dilate) and thin (efface) as you get closer to delivery.
- Screening tests, if needed, for:
- Gestational diabetes
- Group B Strep is a common bacterium in adults that can cause serious illness in newborns. The test, given at 36 weeks, involves swabbing your vagina and rectum. If positive, you’ll be given antibiotics during labor to prevent passing it to your baby.
Talk with your WellStar healthcare team ahead of time about:
- Your options and preferences for labor and delivery
- Symptoms of labor
- When to go to the birthing center
- Breastfeeding vs. bottle feeding
- Any other questions or concerns you have as you near your delivery date
- Sign up for childbirth and early parenting classes.
- Safe Kids Child Safety Seat Inspection Station at the Cobb County Safety Village for a demonstration on how to properly install a child safety seat.
- Sign up for a tour of the Women’s Center by calling 770-956-STAR (7827).