Third Trimester: What to Expect and How to Prepare

Apr 25, 2024 | Obstetrics

The third trimester is the final chapter of pregnancy, encompassing weeks 28 through birth. This period is filled with excitement and anticipation as you prepare to meet your baby. It also brings significant changes and challenges, both physically and emotionally. This guide will walk you through what to expect during the third trimester, including the development of your baby, changes in your body, and important preparations for labor and delivery.

Baby’s Development

During the third trimester, your baby’s growth accelerates:

  • Weeks 28 to 32: Your baby’s bones are fully developing, though they remain soft and flexible. The baby starts to store vital minerals, such as iron and calcium.
  • Weeks 33 to 37: The baby continues to gain weight and layers of fat. This is crucial for temperature regulation and metabolism after birth.
  • Weeks 38 to 40: By now, your baby is considered full-term. The organs have matured and are ready for life outside the womb. The baby’s position may shift to prepare for birth, typically moving head-down in the pelvis.

Physical Changes and Symptoms

The third trimester can be physically demanding. Common symptoms include:

  • Braxton Hicks contractions: These are “practice” contractions and are usually painless. They help prepare your uterus for the actual labor.
  • Backaches and joint pain: As your baby grows, the extra weight can strain your back and joints. Your body’s natural hormones also cause joints and ligaments to relax in preparation for birth.
  • Shortness of breath: The growing uterus puts pressure on your diaphragm, making it harder to breathe.
  • Heartburn and constipation: These are caused by hormonal changes and the physical pressure of the uterus on your stomach and intestines.

Preparations for Birth

As your due date approaches, it’s important to prepare for the birth:

  • Prenatal visits: These will become more frequent. Your healthcare provider will monitor your health and your baby’s development, check the baby’s position, and discuss your birth plan.
  • Birth plan: Consider your preferences for labor and delivery. Discuss these with your partner and healthcare provider. Include decisions about pain management, who will be present during the birth, and what interventions you’d prefer to avoid if possible.
  • Hospital tour: Familiarize yourself with the place where you plan to give birth. Knowing where to go and what to expect can ease your anxiety when the time comes.
  • Packing a hospital bag: Pack essentials you’ll need for yourself and your baby. Include items like your ID, insurance information, comfortable clothing, toiletries, and infant car seat.

When to Contact Your Healthcare Provider

It’s crucial to know when certain symptoms require immediate medical attention:

  • Persistent or severe pain: Any severe pain should be assessed by your healthcare provider.
  • Vaginal bleeding: Any amount of bleeding in the third trimester should be evaluated promptly.
  • Fluid leakage: This could indicate that your water has broken. If you suspect this has happened, contact your healthcare provider.
  • Decreased fetal movement: Less movement from your baby can be a sign of distress. Familiarize yourself with your baby’s pattern of movements and report any significant changes.

The third trimester is a time of preparation and anticipation. Understanding the changes in your body and your baby’s development can help you better prepare for the birth. Take care of your physical health, finalize your birth plan, and communicate regularly with your healthcare provider. Soon, you’ll be ready to welcome your new baby into the world!

This blog post provides an overview of the third trimester for educational purposes and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor at Complete Women’s Care in Virginia Beach, VA with any concerns or questions about your health and your pregnancy.

Further information:

Mayo Clinic: