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How to Survive the Third Trimester: The End of Pregnancy

Updated on October 10, 2017

Third Trimester Pregnancy

Learn what you can expect in the third trimester of pregnancy.
Learn what you can expect in the third trimester of pregnancy. | Source

Third Trimester of Pregnancy

Congrats! You've made it to the third trimester of pregnancy! It may be hard to believe, but in three short months or less, you will be giving birth to your baby.

You have already made it through so much in your pregnancy (morning sickness, pregnancy ailments, stretch marks, etc.), but there are still a few more things to endure as you enter this final stage of pregnancy. Some may be welcome changes, while others are pregnancy ailments that reappear as your body prepares to give birth.

You're almost there! Learn about what you can expect in the third trimester of pregnancy and how to know when you are in labor.

When Does the Third Trimester Start?

The third trimester of pregnancy generally starts around 27-28 weeks. Basically, it is the last three months of your pregnancy, give or take a few days or weeks.

If you are in the beginning of this trimester, you can expect to go into labor and give birth in roughly 10-12 weeks. This varies depending on a number of factors, such as previous pregnancies, previous pre-term births, health of the mother, health of the baby, etc.

Pregnancy Problems

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What to Expect in the Third Trimester

Transitioning from the second trimester to the third trimester can be rough, especially when some of the old first trimester symptoms begin to reappear and stay until you give birth to your baby.

Here are some of the things you may experience in the third trimester:

  • the return of fatigue
  • backaches
  • trouble sleeping
  • fetal development
  • frequent urination
  • Braxton Hicks contractions
  • weight gain
  • gestational diabetes testing
  • kick counts
  • onset of labor

While they seem depressing, most of those symptoms and ailments are just signs that you'll have your little bundle of joy in your arms very soon!

On the upside, there's one fun thing to look forward to in the third trimester, especially if this is your first baby: a baby shower! Most women have their baby shower about a month before the baby is due to arrive.

Read about some of these things below, and learn how you can manage the ailments and prepare for the birth of your baby!

Fetal Development in the Third Trimester

If you were to look into your womb during the third trimester, you'd see a fully formed little baby. Your baby, although still thin, looks like the infant that will be in your arms in 10-12 weeks. The remaining weeks of development are for fat stores to develop, brain development, and for lung maturity.

If your baby were to be born at the beginning of the third trimester, he or she would have a pretty good chance of survival, although there would be medical and health challenges to face with a probable stay in the NICU. Around weeks 27-33, your baby may weigh around 2-4 lbs and measure 14-17 inches in length from head to toe.

When you reach the middle of the trimester, chances of survival without medical intervention or health issues is even greater. Around weeks 34-37, your baby may weigh around 4-6.5 lbs and measure 17-19 inches in length from head to toe.

After 37 weeks, your baby may be considered full-term, meaning fully developed and ready to be born without any major complications other than slight breathing difficulty in the beginning. Many babies born during this week are fully healthy and do not need to spend time in the NICU. That doesn't mean that your baby should be born then or that you should try to induce labor yourself around then; your baby may still need the extra few weeks left to grow and allow the lungs to mature.

From 38-40 weeks, your baby may weigh around 6.5-7.5 lbs and measure 19-20 inches in length from head to toe. If your baby decides to stay in the womb a bit longer, he or she may come out weighing over 8lbs or more.

Baby at 37 Weeks

My daughter was born at 37 weeks and was very healthy.
My daughter was born at 37 weeks and was very healthy. | Source

Weight Gain in the Third Trimester

At this point in pregnancy, you may have already gained roughly 10-20 lbs. Those who experienced extreme morning sickness in the first trimester may have gained less, and those who took the 'eat for two people' idea literally may have gained more. On average though, pregnancy weight gain at this point should be around 10-20 lbs.

In the third trimester, you can expect to gain another 1-2 lbs per week. Most of this weight should be from the baby, who will go from around 1-2 lbs to 6-8 lbs by the time he or she is born. The rest is from increased maternal blood stores, increased breast tissue, and fluid retention which is common in the third trimester.

Try to maintain a healthy weight in the last few weeks. To do this, you should still continue to eat a balanced diet and try to get in as much exercise as possible. The best exercise at this point would be walking, as it is easy to do and can help you as you approach labor.

Normal Pregnancy Weight Gain

Pregnancy weight gain dependent on BMI
Pregnancy weight gain dependent on BMI | Source

Fatigue During Pregnancy

Get as much rest as you can to help with pregnancy fatigue.
Get as much rest as you can to help with pregnancy fatigue. | Source

Third Trimester Fatigue

Most women experience an overwhelming sense of fatigue in the first trimester, but then find out that it fades away during the second trimester.

Guess what? It returns in the third trimester!

Most often, third trimester fatigue is due to the fact that the pregnant woman is carrying the extra weight of the baby (now about 2-3 lbs), amniotic fluid, maternal blood stores, and her own weight all day long. That can all really take a toll on someone's body, causing intense fatigue!

Another reason for third trimester fatigue is the lack of sleep a pregnant woman gets at night. Once resting in bed with a big, round belly becomes uncomfortable, plus the added bonuses of leg cramps, backache, and frequent urination, sleeping is nearly impossible. Without enough sleep during the night, a pregnant woman can become increasingly fatigued during the day. It becomes a vicious cycle, one that some say prepares the woman for the sleepless nights with a newborn.

At this stage, getting enough rest whenever possible, staying hydrated, and getting in a little exercise can help with the fatigue. For more tips and helpful suggestions, visit How to Fight Pregnancy Fatigue.

Frequent Urination During Pregnancy

Remember when early pregnancy had you heading to the loo every five minutes? Those days are back again! Now it's not just hormones or your growing uterus sitting on your bladder--it's your 2-3 lb baby sitting on your bladder and using it as a punching bag!

As your baby grows and gains weight in the third trimester, he or she begins to run out of room in your abdomen and sits once more on your bladder, giving it very little room with which to fill up and hold urine. One minute you'll be fine, and the next second as the baby moves, you'll find yourself running to find a bathroom to empty the two or three drops that cannot longer be held in your bladder.

At this point in pregnancy, you may be very tempted to withhold any fluids so that you're constantly not running to the bathroom, but it's imperative that you continue to drink at least eight 8 oz. glasses or more of water or other suitable fluids to stay hydrated. Try to drink it during the day so that you're not running to the bathroom in the middle of the night.

Gestational Diabetes Test

Between 24-28 weeks, your doctor may ask you to have a gestational diabetes blood test, whether or not you have any risk factors for it. It's usually a one hour test for which you are asked to drink a 50 mL glucose drink and then have your blood tested after an hour. If any of your levels are high, you may be told to get the three hour test for which you need to drink a 100 mL glucose drink and have your blood drawn three times over three hours.

If you have gestational diabetes, it can be potentially harmful to you and the baby, but only if uncontrolled. With diet and blood glucose monitoring, it can be kept under control and there can be no other complications for you and the baby.

Learn more about gestational diabetes and its symptoms and treatments here: What is Gestational Diabetes During Pregnancy?

Braxton Hicks Contractions

During the third trimester, your body begins warming up for labor and delivery. One of the ways it does this is by having practice contractions, called Braxton Hicks contractions. These contractions generally start around 25-28 weeks, although for those who had previous pregnancies, they can be felt sooner.

Braxton Hicks contractions are not real labor contractions. In fact, many women mistake them for the real thing, which is why they are often called 'false labor pains'. Braxton Hicks are different from regular contractions since they are usually painless and do not become consistent or more intense.

Real labor contractions are consistently a few minutes apart and become more and more painful and intense. To learn more about contractions and what they feel like, visit: What Do Real Contractions Feel Like?

What Causes Contractions?

Besides Braxton Hicks practice contractions, the following can cause your uterus to contract:

  • Dehydration
  • Hunger
  • Fatigue
  • Stress
  • Intercourse

Contractions During Pregnancy

Kick Counts

Beginning sometime after the 25th-28th week, your doctor may ask you to begin kick counts. Kick counts are counting how long it takes your baby to move at least 10 times every day.

Why do you need to do such a thing? After 25-28 weeks, you will be definitely noticing your baby's movements from the outside, and you may even get to know the sleep and awake patterns your baby has. A decrease in your baby's activity could be a sign that the baby is in distress, for which you may need a non-stress test to see what is going on.

It's pretty simple. You choose a time of the day when you know your baby is most likely to move (usually after a mealtime, although some doctors like you to start first thing in the morning). Get into a comfortable position, sitting or lying down, and relax. Make note of when the baby moves, either on a chart or in a notebook. Once you reach 10 movements, your charting is complete.

It should only take about an hour or two for this to happen. It could take longer, but if your baby does not make 10 movements within a 12-hour period, something may be wrong and you need to call your doctor.

Kick Count Chart

This is the kick count chart that I use.
This is the kick count chart that I use. | Source

Kick Count

Do you work and don't have a chance to be stationary when doing your kick counts? You can keep track while on the go, but it may be harder to do since your baby may be lulled to sleep by your movements. Find some time each day when you can be still, such as first thing in the morning or during a lunch break.

When Does Labor Begin?

On average, labor begins after the 37th week of pregnancy, but it can be as late as the 41st week of pregnancy. If labor occurs prior to the 37th week, it is considered pre-term labor as the baby is not full-term yet.

Labor is best known by the steady and painful contractions it brings, but other symptoms include:

  • Cramping, similar to menstrual cramps
  • Back pain, particularly in the lower back
  • Change in cervical mucous, or loss of mucus plug
  • Bloody show
  • Leakage of amniotic fluid, or breaking of water
  • Loose stools
  • Pelvic pain and pressure

If you feel these symptoms plus contractions, you should begin to monitor your contractions. If they are consistently 5-6 minutes apart, increase in intensity, and do not stop due to hydration or change in position, you may be in the early stages of actual labor.

Something to think about is what should happen if your labor fails to progress or medical intervention is needed. While you may be hoping for a natural delivery, you may be faced with the potential of a c-section. Learn about c-sections and how you can prepare for one here.

Cramping in Third Trimester

If at any time you feel cramping in your lower abdomen or pelvic region that does not subside prior to the 37th week, contact your doctor. It could be a sign of pre-term labor.

Otherwise, cramping after 37 weeks may feel like menstrual cramps and may accompany contractions. It's a sign that your cervix is effacing and dilating, getting ready to let the baby come down into the birth canal.

Spotting in Third Trimester

Occasional spotting during pregnancy tends to be harmless, but it is still something that should be reported to your doctor, especially in the third trimester. It could be a sign of impending labor or it could indicate a problem with the placenta, such as placenta previa when the placenta covers the opening to the cervix.

Getting Ready for Baby

The end of pregnancy means you get the best gift after all of your hard work: a newborn baby. Are you ready?

Here are some things to consider before the baby arrives:

  • Baby supplies and gear. Do you have everything you need for a newborn baby? If not, have you prepared yourself financially for the baby expenses you will encounter?
  • Baby Shower. Most women have their baby showers a month before the baby is expected to arrive. Where will you register? What baby items will you add to the list?
  • Baby Nursery. Have you prepared the baby's nursery or have a space in your bedroom for a crib or bassinet? What will be the style of the baby's room?
  • Hospital Bag. Being that labor will happen soon, do you have your hospital bag ready? Do you have a going home outfit and a car seat for the baby?
  • Breastfeeding or Bottle Feeding. How you feed your baby is your choice, but try to learn as much as possible about both breastfeeding and bottle feeding so you are prepared.
  • Maternity Leave. If you are working, will you be taking maternity leave? Have you started the process for FMLA? Will you return to work or become a stay-at-home mom?

The third trimester may go by fast for you, so you'll want to think about these things soon. In no time at all, you'll have a baby to care for!

Full Term Pregnancy

You've made it to the end: congratulations! From here on out you can be excited for the arrival of your newborn baby and your new role as a parent.

Best wishes with the rest of pregnancy and the birth of your baby!

┬ęThePracticalMommy

For more pregnancy and baby articles, visit my profile here.

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