Third trimester of pregnancy: what to expect?

Third trimester of pregnancy: what to expect?

Now that you have successfully navigated two thirds of your pregnancy, what can you expect in the last three months?

The third trimester of pregnancy, from weeks 28 to 40, is a remarkable period of growth and development for your baby. This is when your baby begins to develop fat under her skin, so that she starts to look like the baby you expect to see at birth.

Portrait in miniature

  • By the end of week 32, your little one is likely to weigh about 1.8 kg (4 pounds) and be about 28 cm (11 inches) long. She will continue to gain weight rapidly so that by the time she's born, she'll weigh about 3.2 to 3.7 kg (7 to 8 pounds).
  • She'll begin to develop a sleep-wake cycle, and you may start to be aware of when she's awake and moving and when she's asleep and quiet.
  • You may also notice periods of rhythmic movement that probably mean she has the hiccups.

In your third trimester, your baby now begins to suck her thumb or make sucking movements with her mouth, so that she'll already have learnt how to nurse by the time she's born. Her eyelids are no longer fused, which means she can open and close them regularly. She develops her ability to see and hear, and you'll notice that she becomes responsive to stimuli in your environment, such as noises, music or light.

The comfort zone

In the third trimester, you’re probably experiencing the physical discomforts, most of them due to the increasing size and weight of your baby. You may find yourself feeling short of breath as your baby begins to press up against your diaphragm and lungs, so that climbing a flight of stairs or taking a brisk walk around the park is no longer an easy task. Backache and fatigue may slow you down because of the increased weight you're carrying around.

Easy does it

  • Take this chance to slow down and make fewer demands on yourself. Ask friends or family members to help you whenever possible.
  • It may be hard to find a comfortable sleeping position at night, and you may find yourself making frequent bathroom runs as the baby presses on your bladder. Cutting down on fluids just before you go to bed will help.
  • Many women notice swelling (also called oedema) in their ankles and feet because of extra fluids in their body. Elevating your legs whenever you can will help relieve this swelling.
  • Emotionally, you may find that you're getting downright impatient with this pregnancy. You want your baby in your arms, not in your uterus any longer!

Here are some more tips for making your third trimester comfortable and fulfilling:

  • If weather permits, take a leisurely walk outdoors a few times a week. The fresh air will invigorate you, get your blood circulating and decrease some of the aches and stiffness you may be feeling.
  • Attend a childbirth class to learn comfort measures and stretching exercises. Use the relaxation exercises taught there, along with some visual imagery and music, to help you relax and focus on the excitement ahead.
  • Sleep on your side at night for comfort. Use pillows to support your upper leg and your back. Get at least seven hours of sleep each night and nap during the day so you approach childbirth as well-rested as possible.
  • Read, read and read. Information about labour, birth and baby care will help to decrease your anxieties and prepare you for the events ahead.
  • Keep your weekly pre-natal appointment so that your healthcare provider can follow your progress and your baby's as you approach birth. Knowing that all is well will enable you to relax and enjoy the last few weeks of being pregnant.

Looking ahead

Knowing that your baby is growing and healthy, feeling her move and kick ever more vigorously, preparing for her birth, choosing a name, buying baby clothes and getting all the things ready to care for her in your home, and realising that in just a number of weeks she'll be here all make this time special.

It is an incredible time, so try to relax and enjoy it. You're almost there!

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