What is The Third Trimester?
The third trimester (7th month to delivery) follows the first trimester and second trimester – marking a very exciting time as the mother-to-be and baby begin preparations for labor and delivery. This period spans from week 28 up until birth, and you can deliver anytime from between the 38th and 42nd week even though the 40th week is usually the last week of pregnancy.
Prenatal care remains very important. Regular consultations with your physician or obstetrician is a must and prenatal visits will entail checking your weight, blood pressure, position, growth and development of the fetus, fetal heartbeat, performing urine tests, as well as relieving any symptoms or discomforts. Prenatal visits will become more frequent by the 29th week, and you may now see your physician every two weeks or once every week.
Eating healthy, well balanced meals and exercising regularly is also beneficial for both you and your baby. Taking childbirth and breastfeeding classes can also help you prepare effectively for the big day. Reading childbirth books and baby magazines will provide useful information that any new mother is bound to find handy. Spending time with your partner and involving him in all the birth preparations will strengthen your relationship and help him to feel closer to the baby.
How does the baby develop during the third trimester?
During the third trimester, the baby grows rapidly in weight and size. By the end of this trimester, the fetus weighs approximately between 6 to 9 pounds and measures approximately 19 to 21 inches in length.
The baby’s development in the third trimester involves:
- Baby can see and hear, and responds to touch
- Lungs and brain continue to develop throughout this trimester but will be fully matured by 38 to 40 weeks
- Head drops down the pelvic area by the 36th week (this process is referred to a lightening) to prepare for entry into the birth canal
- Loses most of the lanugo (downy hair) from his or her body
- If you gently feel your abdomen, you can feel your baby’s arms and legs
- Fingernails and toenails are already long
- Skin becomes thicker and is covered with a creamy colored protective coating called vernix on the skin
- Can suck his or her thumb and is able to cry
Changes in the mother’s body
Many women become extremely uncomfortable during the third trimester of pregnancy. Because the baby grows so rapidly, the uterus of the mother has to expand to accommodate it and this brings about quite a bit of discomfort.
Women experience a number of physical and emotional changes and symptoms during this trimester and these include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Increase in skin temperature, feeling hot
- Frequent urination
- Swollen hands, ankles and face (edema)
- Leg cramps
- Numbness or weakness in the hands (carpal tunnel syndrome)
- Hair may become coarser
- Itchy dry skin
- Skin pigmentation with dark patches on the face
- Stretch marks may appear on breasts, abdomen, thighs and buttocks
- Decrease in woman’s libido
- Varicose veins
- Colostrum may leak from the nipples
- Increase in a whiteish, mucus like vaginal discharge
- Braxton-Hicks contractions may occur at irregular intervals
- Mood swings
Complications that my occur during the third trimester
Common complications that may occur during the third trimester include:
- Premature labor
- Decreased fetal movement
- Placental abruption
- Post-term pregnancy
Symptoms and signs that labor is nearing
Tell tale signs that labor is not far off is when the fetus drops into the pelvis (process of lightening). Cervical effacement and dilation occurs – this is when the cervix thins and opens, and your physician will check for this during the prenatal exam.
Braxton-Hicks contractions (false contractions) are stronger and more severe. Cramping may also develop in your lower back, groin or rectum. Your membrane may rupture either before labor starts or after labor starts and this signals that your water has broken – call your physician immediately or go to hospital.