Your third trimester guide

Tips for weeks 29 to 40 of your pregnancy.

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28 January 2021
40 weeks
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Congratulations, you have reached the home stretch! You will soon be welcoming a beautiful new member to your family. You may be feeling more tired and uncomfortable in these last weeks, but you have a lot to look forward to!

How you are feeling
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How you're feeling

Some of the same discomforts you had in your second trimester will continue. Plus, many women find breathing difficult and notice they have to go to the bathroom even more often. This is because the baby is getting bigger and it is putting more pressure on your organs. Don't worry, your baby is fine and these problems will lessen once you give birth.

 

Common symptoms

While no two pregnancies are the same, some symptoms you may experience during your third trimester include:

  • Acid reflux (heartburn)
  • Haemorrhoids
  • Shortness of breath
  • Breast tenderness
  • Protruding belly button
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Swelling in your fingers, face and ankles

 

Self care

Because your baby is reaching full term, you may feel more uncomfortable during your third trimester than you did during your second. To manage some of the discomfort, try some of the below methods after checking with your health-care provider first. Remember, choices should always be made based on your preferences and what is available to you.

  • For heartburn, ask your health provider for advice on diet and lifestyle modifications. If these do not help, antacid preparations can be used for troublesome symptoms.
  • For difficulty sleeping, try using a pillow to support your whole body or just specific areas that need it to help ease tension while you rest.

Healthy foods and regular exercise are important during your third trimester and throughout your pregnancy. Keep up with your regular exercise routine, but do not exhaust yourself. As a general rule, you should be able to hold a conversation while working out. Always consult your health-care provider about exercise during pregnancy. Continue eating a variety of foods to make sure that you are getting adequate energy, protein, vitamins and minerals.

 

Braxton Hicks (false contractions)

During your third trimester, you will also experience contractions, which can be a sign of real or false labour. “False labour” pains are called Braxton Hicks and are your body’s way of preparing you for actual labour. They may feel similar to menstrual cramps or a tightening in the abdomen.

There is no medical treatment for Braxton Hicks, but there are some things you can due to ease discomfort, including:

  • Drinking water
  • Changing your position (if you are lying down, try going for a walk, and vice versa)
  • Relaxing by taking a nap, reading a book or listening to calming music

If these do not lessen the pain and if you notice your contractions becoming more frequent or intense, contact your health-care provider.

 

Going into labour

Most women give birth between 38 and 41 weeks of pregnancy, but there is no way to know the exact moment you will go into labour.

When labour begins, the cervix dilates and the muscles of the uterus begin to contract at regular intervals and will get closer together over time. Contractions will feel similar to menstrual cramps, but more intense. As your uterus contracts, you may feel pain in your back or pelvis and your abdomen will become hard. When your uterus relaxes, your abdomen will become soft again.

In addition to contractions, some other signs that labour is beginning include:

  • Lightening (the sensation that the fetus has dropped lower)
  • Loss of the mucus plug (you will notice an increase in clear or pink discharge)
  • Water breaking (rupture of membranes)

It is important to note that you might not notice some of these changes before labour begins. If you think you are in labour, contact your health-care provider.

How your baby is growing
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How your baby is growing

During this final stage of development, your little one is getting ready to leave the womb. Between the beginning of the third trimester and birth:

  • Eyes can sense changes in light
  • Head might have some hair
  • Can kick, grasp and stretch
  • Limbs begin to look chubby
  • Bones harden
  • Circulatory system is complete
  • Musculoskeletal system is complete
  • Lungs, brain and nervous system are developed
  • Fat continues to be added

Fetal growth can vary significantly for a number of reasons, but at the beginning of the third trimester, your baby will be around 35 cm (4 in) long and weigh from 1 to 2 kg (2 to 4 lbs). By the time you give birth, your newborn will be about 46 to 51 cm (18 to 20 in) long and weigh just over 3 kg (7 lbs) [Figures from the Cleveland Clinic]. For more information for your country, please refer to your ministry of health.

 

When should I meet with my health-care provider?

During your third trimester, you should have five appointments with your health-care provider: at 30 weeks, 34 weeks, 36 weeks, 38 weeks and 40 weeks. For recommendations in your country, please check with your ministry of health or health provider.

Things to look out for
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Things to look out for

While all women experience pregnancy differently, you should speak to your health-care provider if you experience:

  • Heavy bleeding
  • Headaches with spots or flashing lights that do not go away
  • Sudden or extreme swelling
  • Decreased fetal movement (your baby should be moving every day)
  • Your water has broken and you are not having contractions
  • Constant pain between contractions.