A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

Third trimester tips: Expect big changes in late pregnancy

Pregnant woman sitting in a chair feeling her tummy and smiling - Third trimester expectations

The third trimester is a good time to prepare your home for your baby, pack a hospital bag and take childbirth classes.

At the same time your body is undergoing changes and your baby is rapidly growing, it’s time to get your home ready for a tiny new human.

Welcome to the third trimester.

Dr. Melissa Stoffel, a Marshfield Clinic OB-GYN physician, explained what to expect during the final stretch of your pregnancy.

“It’s normal to feel fear, excitement and anxiety and have questions about delivery and newborns,” she said. “Don’t feel guilty about asking questions.”

Growth spurts for mom and baby

The third trimester is an important time for the baby’s growth. That means a jump in weight gain for expectant moms starting around 28 weeks.

“By 36 weeks the baby is gaining about a half pound a week,” Stoffel said. “It’s not uncommon to see moms gain a pound a week after 36 weeks.”

The growth spurts and weight gain can make late pregnancy uncomfortable. Back pain, pressure on the rib cage, vaginal pressure and swelling in the legs, hands and feet are common and worsen as the due date approaches. It may be hard to get out of bed, roll over or even walk.

You may experience milk leaking from your breasts during the third trimester. Nothing is wrong and that doesn’t mean breastfeeding is going to be hard or easy, Stoffel said.

If you notice vaginal bleeding, bad headaches, vision changes or decrease in the baby’s movement, you should contact your doctor.

More frequent prenatal appointments

Prenatal appointments increase in frequency to every two weeks in the third trimester and weekly starting at 36 weeks.

Your doctor will weigh you, check your blood pressure and possibly take a urine sample. He or she will listen to the baby’s heartbeat and check the size of your uterus to figure out how much the baby is growing.

Your doctor will test for Group B strep infection (GBS) at 35 or 36 weeks. GBS is a type of bacteria that can make the baby sick if it’s present during childbirth. One in four pregnant women test positive for GBS and need antibiotics to clear the infection before the baby is born. A woman may have a positive GBS test during one pregnancy and a negative test during another pregnancy.

After 40 weeks, a non-stress test is used to monitor the baby’s movement, heartbeat and contractions. Your doctor will induce labor at 42 weeks to reduce risk of delivery complications and stillbirth. However, you and your doctor may agree to induce labor between 39 and 42 weeks.

Get ready for delivery

Childbirth classes or videos and books on childbirth will help you know what to expect on the big day. Try to tour the labor and delivery unit during your pregnancy so you’re familiar with the setting where you’ll give birth.

Get ready to bring your baby home by installing the car seat around 36 weeks. Visit a car seat inspection location to make sure it’s installed correctly.

You may want to start protecting your couch cushions, car seats and mattress with towels in case your water breaks.

By 37 weeks, have your hospital bag packed and phone numbers of people you can call when labor starts. Stay within an hour of the hospital after 37 weeks.

“Feeling overwhelmed and out of control is common,” Stoffel said. “If it gets to be too much, ask your doctor for help and support.”

Related Shine365 posts

First trimester tips: What to expect in early pregnancy

Second trimester tips: Get ready to feel your baby move

Can you get your body back after pregnancy?

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