The last few months of your pregnancy mean your due date is just around the corner. Expect some challenges in the third trimester as your energy subsides and your belly bulges. Try to remain positive and know that you’ve got this. Soon you’ll be holding your precious baby in your arms.

It’s normal to get tired of being pregnant (and of being just plain tired) as you approach week 28 and beyond. While every pregnancy is different, here some ideas of what you can likely expect during the last phase of pregnancy.

How your body changes

The third trimester is described by many women as the most uncomfortable period of pregnancy. Symptoms and physical changes you might experience include:

  • Fatigue and crankiness
  • Tired and emotional
  • Shortness of breath due to an expanding uterus
  • Bladder pressure leading to more frequent urination
  • Backaches from the added weight you are carrying
  • Tight and itchy skin, plus facial acne
  • Swelling in your legs and feet
  • Braxton Hicks “warm-up” contractions to prepare you for the real labor to come
  • Heartburn and constipation/hemorrhoids

If you experience any of the following symptoms before week 37 of your pregnancy, please contact your health care provider right away as these may be signs of preterm labor:

  • Change in vaginal discharge (bloody, watery or mucus)
  • A sensation of pressure on your pelvis or lower belly, like baby is pushing down
  • Constant low, dull backache
  • Belly cramps with or without diarrhea
  • Contractions that make your belly tighten like a fist
  • Your water breaks

This can be not only a physically challenging time, but also emotionally challenging. Even if you have had a child before, you may get nervous about delivering a baby. If you are a first-time mom-to-be, you might add to this the fear of raising a child. Try talking to other moms who have had a positive birth experience to help ease your mind. If you find your anxiety puts you in a constant state of unrest and panic, share your fears with your health care provider. Here are some ways to conquer the unknowns of childbirth.

What to expect at the doctor

You and your OB/GYN or midwife will visit more frequently as you approach your due date. Your provider might ask you to come in for checkups every two weeks beginning at around week 32 and weekly beginning at around week 36.

Like previous visits, your provider will check your weight and blood pressure and ask about any symptoms you’re experiencing. Regardless of your vaccination status, a dose of Tdap (a combination of tetanus, diphtheria and acellular pertussis) is recommended during each pregnancy — usually in the third trimester. This shot can help protect your baby from whooping cough before they are old enough to be vaccinated.

You may also need screening tests for various conditions, including:

  • Iron deficiency anemia occurs when you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen to your body’s tissues. Anemia might cause you to feel so tired that you need to take iron supplements.
  • Group B strep. This test will look for signs of GBS, a type of strep that can be passed along to your baby during childbirth. If detected, your provider may put you on an antibiotic during pregnancy.
  • Diabetes screening. If you haven’t already been checked for signs of gestational diabetes, your provider will perform a blood test now.

Your provider will also check your baby’s size and heart rate. Near the end of your pregnancy, your baby’s position will be checked. This is a good time to discuss your preferences regarding labor and pain management as you get ready for delivery.

How your baby is growing

During this final trimester, your baby continues to grow and develop, and starts to change position to get ready for a grand entrance. Unless your baby stubbornly remains in the breech position, they will settle into a head-down position for delivery. They will be able to see, hear, suck their thumb and even cry.

Here are some other highlights of your baby’s development in the third trimester.

  • Cartilage will turn to bone in months 7 and 8, as your baby steals calcium from you (so be sure to eat plenty of calcium-rich foods).
  • By week 31, 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.
  • Baby’s brain will grow faster than ever and some nifty skills will develop, including blinking, dreaming and regulating their own body temperature. 
  • At around week 36, baby’s head should begin to move into your pelvic area, where it will stay for the final weeks of your pregnancy.
  • Baby’s digestive system will become active and their kidneys will mature.
  • By the end of week 40, baby’s soft body hair called the lanugo falls out.
  • By the end of pregnancy, a full-term baby usually is between 19 to 21 inches long and between 6 to 9 pounds.

Baby will be here before you know it. Understanding your pregnancy week by week can help you be prepared for the exciting time ahead. Learn more to help you prepare for your little one’s arrival.

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