Pregnancy Calendar

Third Trimester

Body Changes | Self Care

Body Changes

Baby Development
Your baby is still growing and moving, but now it has less room in your uterus. Because of this, you might not feel the kicks and movements as much as you did in the second trimester. During this final stage of your pregnancy, your baby is continuing to grow. Even before your baby is born it will be able to open and close its eyes and might even suck its thumb. As your body starts to prepare for the birth, your baby will start to move into its birth position. You might notice the baby "dropping," or moving down lower in your abdomen. This can reduce the pressure on your lungs and rib cage, making it easier to breathe or not to get out of breath so fast. As you near your due date, your cervix becomes thinner and softer (called effacing). This is a normal, natural process that helps the birth canal (vagina) to open during the birthing process. Your health care provider can check your progress with a vaginal exam. And, your visits to your provider may increase the month before you give birth. The average baby is about 20 to 22 inches long and weighs approximately 7 1/2 pounds at birth, but anywhere between 5 lbs., 11 1/2 ounces and 8 lbs., 5 3/4 ounces is a healthy range for newborns.

You could still be having some of the same discomforts you had in your second trimester, but now you will notice that you may have to go to the bathroom more often or that you find it even harder to breathe. 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. You also might have some of these changes:

Prenatal Care
Continue to visit your health care provider, and ask him or her to answer your questions and address your concerns about labor and delivery. As the birth of your baby gets closer, you and your health care provider will discuss what kind of delivery you will have. Some women need to have a cesarean section (c-section), in which a surgical incision is made in the abdomen and uterus to remove the baby. If you are able to plan on a non-surgical, vaginal birth, you may want to have your baby naturally, without medications, and you may want to take a childbirth class. Many women find childbirth classes very helpful, even if they have already had a baby. And, women also bring their partners or a friend or relative to these classes, particularly if this person will be with them to offer support and coaching during the birth of their baby.

Inducing Labor
Only five percent of babies are actually born on their due dates. This is very normal and does not mean anything is wrong. Sometimes, though, there are problems or your health care provider has concerns about the baby's and/or your health, and labor needs to be induced. Inducing labor means that your health care provider will start your labor through artificial means. Most health care providers will wait one to two weeks after a woman's due date before considering inducing. There are other reasons why a woman might need to have labor induced. She might have a chronic illness like high blood pressure or diabetes that threatens the health of the baby, or the baby might not be growing or thriving in the uterus. Sometimes, the uterus can become unhealthy for the baby. A woman also might have the membranes that surround the fetus rupture (or have her "water break") without going into labor naturally within a reasonable amount of time. Labor can be induced during a vaginal exam - your health care provider might rupture or strip the membranes surrounding the fetus or insert a gel or suppository containing a hormone to stimulate contractions. A drug called Pitocin can also be given intravenously (put into your body through a vein in your arm or hand) to start contractions. Frequency of Urination
Frequent urination is common during pregnancy. Early in pregnancy, the growing uterus presses on your bladder. If you notice pain, burning, pus or blood in your urine see your health care provider right away. You might have a urinary tract infection that needs treatment.

Breastfeed or Bottle Feed
If you haven't thought about whether you will breastfeed or bottle feed your baby, this is the time to learn more about both, and make a decision about what you plan to do. Breastfeeding has many more advantages over formula for your health and your baby's health. But it is best to discuss it with your health care provider, and then make a decision that is right for you. Click here to learn more about the benefits of breastfeeding, how to make it work best for you, and for tips on breastfeeding after returning to work.

Before your due date, make sure to talk with your health care provider about how to reach him or her if you go into labor. It's also helpful to be familiar with the hospital or birthing center, where you should park, and where to check in ahead of time. Know that sometimes you can think you're in labor, but really are not (called false labor). This happens to many, many women, so don't feel embarrassed if you go the hospital certain that you are in labor, only to be sent home! It's always better to be seen by a health care provider as soon as possible once labor has begun.

Here are the signs of true labor:

  • Contractions at regular and increasingly shorter intervals that also become stronger in intensity.
  • Lower back pain that doesn't go away. You might also feel premenstrual and crampy.
  • Your water breaks (can be a large gush or a continuous trickle) and you have contractions.
  • A bloody (brownish or blood-tinged) mucous discharge. This is the mucous plug that blocks the cervix. Labor could be at any time, or days away.
  • Your cervix is dilating (opening up) and becoming thinner and softer (also called effacement). During a pelvic exam, your health care provider will be able to tell if these things are happening.

Leg Cramps
At different times during your pregnancy, you might have cramps in your legs or feet. This is due to a change in the way your body processes, or metabolizes, calcium. One way to prevent these cramps is to make sure to get enough calcium through nonfat or lowfat milk, and calcium-rich foods. You also get some calcium in your prenatal vitamin, but you might need to take a calcium supplement if you don't get enough through your diet. Talk with your health care provider first about taking calcium supplements.

You can relieve leg and foot cramps by gently stretching the muscle. If you have a sudden leg cramp, flex your foot towards your body. If you point your foot to stretch your leg, the cramp could worsen. Wrapping a warm heating pad or warm, moist towel around the muscle also can help the muscle to relax.