Once a women reach the third trimester of pregnancy, they’re well over halfway there. As you look forward to the birth of your baby, there are plenty of things to plan for and decisions to make.
What is the third trimester?
The third trimester of pregnancy begins at 28 weeks of pregnancy and lasts around 40 weeks of pregnancy, but in reality, the trimester will end whenever your baby is born. Reaching your pregnancy means that you’re now in the third and final trimester.
Pregnancy is divided into three blocks of three months each – the first, second, and third trimesters.
A baby is considered to have been born full-term if he/she is born in weeks 37 to 42 of pregnancy. A baby born before week 37 is considered premature, and if a baby has not been born by week 42, labor may be induced.
How Many Weeks Is the Third Trimester?
Officially, the third trimester starts from 28 to 40 weeks of pregnancy, lasting about 13 weeks. But in real life, the third trimester ends when your baby is born. When a women reach the start of 39 weeks, her pregnancy is considered full term. Some women-to-be go into labor a little earlier than this and others give birth as late as 42 weeks. Only a small number of babies are born exactly on their due dates with most babies being born in the two weeks on either side of their estimated due date. Some babies are also, born before 37 weeks, which is called preterm birth. As you arrive in the third trimester, it’s important to know the signs of preterm labor, just in case, your baby decides to make an early appearance.
Third Trimester Symptoms
These are some of the most common symptoms of the third trimester:
Shortness of breath
As your uterus gets larger, grows higher in your abdomen, and presses on your diaphragm, breathing can be hard. You might feel that you can’t make it up a flight of stairs without getting winded. The best idea to do is just to take it easy, move more slowly, and stand up or sit up straight so your lungs have more space to expand. If your breathing changes dramatically, or if you have a cough or chest pain, consult with your healthcare provider right away. The good thing? Once your little one “drops” down into your pelvis in preparation for being born, breathing will become a little easier as the pressure is taken off your lungs.
When a woman enters the final weeks of her pregnancy, she may find herself needing to pee more often. This is because as her baby moves further down into her pelvis, she may press on your bladder too. You may also face leaks a little, especially when you laugh, sneeze, bend, or lift. If this bothers you, wear a panty liner. However, if you feel a gush or trickle of watery fluid, it could be your water breaking, which means labor is beginning.
Swollen feet and ankles
Many women face a type of swelling, called edema, in their ankles and feet because of extra fluid retention, hormonal changes, and weight gain. If you see this, it could help to elevate your legs whenever you can and to soak your feet in cool water. To help you feel more relaxed, you may need to buy bigger shoes.
As your belly grows during pregnancy, you may start to experience itchiness as your skin stretches and dries out. Gently applying a moisturizing lotion or cream and staying well-hydrated can help.
Sore gums and teeth feeling looser
Your gums may feel sensitive, and swell or bleed when you brush or floss. It might help to rinse with salt water and to try to use a softer brush. Hormonal changes also cause your ligaments to relax, and these same hormones may also affect the tiny ligaments that hold your teeth in place. Consequently, your teeth may feel looser. Healthcare experts say that it’s unlikely you’ll lose a tooth for this reason, and this feeling usually goes away after you’ve given birth. Keep brushing twice a day, flossing daily, and going to your regular dental checkups.
Braxton Hicks contractions
In the third trimester, and sometimes even earlier, pregnant women may experience false contractions, known as Braxton Hicks contractions. These “practice contractions” are good for your body because they help your muscles prepare for labor. It may be mild to start with and feel like a tightening of your abdomen, but as your due date nears they can become more painful. You may be thinking about how to tell the difference between Braxton Hicks and true labor contractions. Essentially, Braxton Hicks come irregularly and often go away if you move or change her positions; true labor contractions get more regular over time and don’t go away.
Your Baby’s Development in the Third Trimester
In the third trimester of pregnancy, your little one continues to grow at a fast pace. And your baby will gain about half of her birth weight during the final months of your pregnancy. By the time she’s born, her weight maybe about 6 to 9 pounds and be around 18 to 20 inches long. As your baby grows fat under her skin, she starts to look like the baby you expect to see at birth. By 36 weeks your baby will have done such a good job of growing that she won’t have much room to move throughout the rest of the pregnancy.
Fetal development milestones for the third trimester:
Here are some fetal development milestones for the third trimester.
28 Weeks: Eyes Wide Open
When you are 28 weeks pregnant, your baby can open and close his eyes, and can even sense changes in light.
30 Weeks: Shedding Hairs
During the second trimester, your baby grew a coat of fine hair, called lanugo, all over his/her body. Your little one may start to shed this hair sometime soon. But don’t be shocked if you notice a little leftover lanugo when your baby is born; some babies are born with patches on their shoulders, ears, and back. Unlike lanugo, most babies are born with some of that protective waxy coating called vernix still covering their skin. Around this week your baby may also start to grow normal hair on his head.
31 Weeks: Controlling Body Temperature
Your baby’s brain is maturing and growing speedily this week. It can now control her body temperature, so she no longer has to depend on the temperature of her amniotic fluid for temperature control. Practicing skin-to-skin contact after the baby is born will also help your little one regulate his body temperature.
34 Weeks: Turning Head-Down
Around the time you’re 34 weeks pregnant, or soon after, your baby will most likely turn head down in preparation for birth. She’s getting ready for her journey! If your baby is not in a head-down position as you near the end of the third trimester of your pregnancy — for example, if she is in a breech position — consult with your healthcare provider, he/she may recommend trying to turn your baby or may recommend a cesarean section.
39 Weeks: Full-Term Baby
During this period, your baby is considered full term. Of course, she’ll continue to grow, and vital organs like the lungs and brain will continue to develop in the years to come, but she’s ready for the outside world now.
How to stay healthy
To give your baby a healthy start, it’s vital to eat healthy and nutritious foods throughout pregnancy. Ensure pregnancy your diet is varied and includes a variety of fresh fruit and vegetables as well as sources of protein, iron, and calcium. Don’t forget to drink plenty of water and other fluids too.
Weight gain is a normal part of pregnancy and most pregnant women can expect to gain between 11 and 16kg.
A pregnancy weight gain calculator can be a helpful tool to track your weight gain through the third trimester.
Try to stay physically active throughout pregnancy – even in your third trimester. While it’s important to stick with safe, gentle exercise as you get closer to your due date, healthcare experts’ recommendations state that pregnant women without complications are encouraged to do regular exercise as part of a healthy lifestyle.
Things to consider
As you enter the third trimester don’t forget this list:
- pack a hospital bag
- book a hospital/birthing center tour
- arrange a properly-fitted car seat (to bring your little one home)
- consider what you will need when you bring your baby home – what will you need to buy, can you borrow from family or friends?
- if you have other children (or pets), plan for their care while your hospitalization
- consider shopping ahead – particularly for non-perishable staples (tinned foods, bathroom products, etc.)
cook double portions through your third trimester, and load your freezer for when things get busy once outside the world now.
In the third trimester of your pregnancy, take advantage of your excitement and focus your energy on getting your pre-birth tasks done. Just remember to rest often and don’t overdo it!
Three Months Out
- Ask your doctor about any vaccinations you need to get this trimester, including the Tdap vaccination (which helps protect your little one against whooping cough, diphtheria, and tetanus).
- Ask your doctor whether you are at a high risk of preeclampsia – a high blood pressure disorder – and what signs to look out for.
- Ask your doctor how long you can safely continue working.
- Learn parenthood skills with your partner. You’ll learn things like comfort measures, relaxation techniques, and stretching exercises. These parenthood classes will also help your partner learn about his important role. Your doctor will be able to recommend a good class near you.
- Read about labor, delivery, and baby care. This will help you to ease your anxieties and prepare you for the events ahead.
- Pre-register at the hospital or a birth center. If you’re unsure how to do this, ask your doctor.
- If you’re having a baby shower, ensure your baby registry is ready and that the organizer of your shower has the details.
- Stock up on household staples and supplies so that you don’t need to do any major shopping just before labor or in those first few weeks with the little one.
- If you’d like to have a birth plan, discuss your options and preferences with your doctor regarding labor and delivery.
- Gather some recommendations of experts for childcare and babysitters so that you are ready once your baby is here.
- If you have older children, it is important to start preparing them for the arrival of their baby brother or sister.
- Consider whether you would like to do cord blood banking, and discuss your preference with your doctor.
Two Months Out
- Keep going to all your prenatal appointments so that your doctor can follow you and your baby’s development as you approach your due date.
- Find out your options for pain management during labor and childbirth. Discuss your preferences with your provider and birth partner. If you are planning a natural delivery —in other words, labor and childbirth without medical intervention — find out what comfort measures and labor positions you could try as well as what facilities the hospital may have for you like a birthing ball or pool.
- If possible, tour your hospital or birth center.
- Plan, practice, and time the route you’ll take to the birth center.
- Think about who you want to be present at the birth center, and discuss your birth preferences with your birth partner. Go over things like who will cut the umbilical cord.
- Take a class — for example, try one about baby care, infant CPR, or breastfeeding.
- If you’re considered breastfeeding and would potentially like the help of a lactation expert start researching your options now.
- Finish your planning and decorating your baby’s nursery.
- Start writing thank you notes for baby shower gifts you’ve received from your relatives.
- Check out the baby gear and baby products. You don’t need to stress about having absolutely everything in place now, though, as you can still shop for anything you need once your baby arrives. Just ensure that you have all the essential gear like a crib, clothes, car seat, and diapers.
One Month Out
- Ask your doctor whether you will have additional checkups as you near your due date.
- Consider putting a waterproof cover on your mattress, just in case water breaks during the night.
- Wash everything that your baby will wear and organize clothes by size so you can find what you need.
- Stock up on diapers and wipes. Try to have a variety of diaper sizes (such as sizes N, 1, and 2) so equipped for when your baby arrives, no matter what size she is.
- Wipe down and sanitize anything else your baby may come in contact with the car seat, crib, and baby bottles.
- Prepare some healthy meals and stock your freezer.
- If friends or family members have offered to lend a hand now or after you give birth to your baby, go ahead and take this advantage of their help. Whether they’ve offered to help with minding your older children or doing grocery shopping.
- Think about and organize who will take care of your older children (and pets if you have them) during your labor and hospitalization.
- Read up on the postpartum recovery period so that you know what kinds of things to expect in the weeks and months after the birth of your baby.