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Third Trimester Of Pregnancy: What To Expect And How To Prepare

Updated on June 13, 2024
f3afdc660a780ff37730c3099ccbbd2d - Mustela USA - 1

You’ve made it to your third trimester. What an accomplishment — your body has grown an entire human being over these past several months! Now, you’re anticipating your little one’s delivery and in the homestretch before your due date.

In this article, the baby experts at Mustela provide a list of what to expect and how to prepare during your third trimester.

Third Trimester Basics

The third trimester lasts from week 28 to week 40, or months seven, eight, and nine. You will finally meet your little one during this time!

Most women gain around 11 pounds during their third trimester. Of course, every woman is different, so give or take a few pounds.

You’ll also experience some anticipation and anxiousness while waiting to meet your little one. And remember those yucky first trimester symptoms? Be prepared for some of those symptoms to reappear during this trimester.

Third Trimester: What To Expect

Woman applying cream on belly during third trimester

Your Body

Your body is gearing up for delivery. Expect several changes during these last three months.

Lack Of Appetite

Your belly will fill up faster now due to the pressure of your growing baby pushing against your abdomen. Liquids fill your stomach quickly, leaving less room for food. So when eating a meal, just sip on liquids rather than drinking a whole glass.

We suggest eating several small meals and snacks throughout this trimester. This allows you to get the nutrition needed to support you and your little one without making you feel bloated.

Abdominal Achiness

In your second trimester, you experienced round ligament pain. You will continue to feel these growing pains, but they may now be accompanied by sharper aches as well. This is normal as your round ligaments continue to stretch.

High Blood Pressure

Changes in your blood pressure may occur during this trimester. Your doctor will keep an eye out for preeclampsia, which is a condition that’s marked by high blood pressure in pregnant women who don’t have a history of blood pressure.

Preeclampsia can be serious if not monitored closely, so it’s important to take your doctor’s advice in order to avoid it.

Back Aches

Woman with back aches in her third trimester

Think about it: you’re carrying more weight than you ever have before. This weight gain took place over only a few months, so back aches are expected.

Because of this pain, typical day-to-day activities may become more difficult during the third trimester. Don’t hesitate to ask for help from friends and family to lessen the strain on your back.

Braxton Hicks Contractions

Braxton Hicks contractions are contractions that occur before real labor. Some women report feeling these contractions even as early as the second trimester.

Your body is gearing up for delivery, so this is something you can expect during the last few months. If these contractions get stronger and more frequent, reach out to your doctor.

Shortness Of Breath

You have a whole human being pushing on all of your major organs — including your lungs — and to top it off, your uterus is growing by the day. So if walking to the mailbox has left you winded, that’s why!

Even though it’s super uncomfortable for you, it doesn’t affect your baby one bit. They’ll get all the oxygen they need from the placenta.

When your baby drops to prepare for the big day, you’ll find some relief in this area. But until then, sit up straight instead of lying down flat to ease your breathing discomfort. And sleeping propped up with a few pillows may help you breathe better at night.

However, if you are experiencing severe shortness of breath with rapid breathing, your lips turn blue, or you have pain in your chest, call your doctor or head to the nearest emergency room right away.

No Bladder Control

Next up on our list of organs: your bladder.

As if getting up several times throughout the night to visit the bathroom wasn’t irritating enough, now it seems you have no bladder control even with the slightest laugh or sneeze.

You can give your bladder a little help with these tips:

  • Lean forward when visiting the restroom to fully empty your bladder
  • Do Kegel exercises
  • Cross your legs when you laugh or sneeze
  • Wear a panty liner

Keep in mind that toward the end of your pregnancy, there is a possibility that your water (amniotic fluid) may break, which is a sign of labor. If it seems like you’ve sprung a leak, it’s continuous, or you think it might be more than just urine, call your doctor right away.

Other Changes

Other changes in your body during this time include:

  • Constipation
  • Heartburn
  • Occasional headaches
  • Increased vaginal discharge
  • Clumsiness
  • Mild swelling in your ankles or feet
  • Varicose veins
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Restless Leg Syndrome
  • Itchy abdomen
  • Enlarged and leaky breasts
  • Fatigue
  • Crazy dreams
  • Pelvic pressure
  • Difficulty sleeping

Your Emotions

How are you doing? You may or may not be able to answer this question.
Your emotions may level out at this trimester, and you’ve reached the point of relaxation. (Yay, your baby’s coming soon!) Or the complete opposite can happen.

Maybe you’ve reached the point of heightened anxiety. You’ve become frantic in your emotions and thoughts, trying to get every last-minute detail handled.

Both of these emotions are completely normal. Additional emotional changes during this time include:

  • Increased excitement
  • Increased apprehension
  • Continued absentmindedness
  • Dreaming about your baby
  • Increased eagerness
  • Relief that you’re almost there
  • Irritability and oversensitivity
  • Impatience and restlessness

Your Baby

Sleeping baby

You’ll be meeting your little one before you know it! Your baby’s brain is growing and developing off the charts during the third trimester. Check out some of your baby’s big milestones during this time.

Month Seven

  • Blinking
  • Lungs nearing maturity
  • Growing brain and brain connections (processing information, tracking light, and perceiving signals from all five senses)
  • More defined patterns of awake and sleeping times
  • About 18 inches in length (give or take a little)
  • About three pounds in weight

Month Eight

  • Practicing swallowing and breathing, kicking and sucking
  • Skin no longer see-through
  • Amniotic fluid maxed out
  • Antibodies passing from you to your baby
  • Fingernails reaching the tip of their fingers
  • Brain cell growth
  • Settling into a head-down, bottoms-up position
  • About 20 inches in length
  • About five-and-a-half pounds in weight

Month Nine

  • Most systems fully equipped (circulatory to musculoskeletal)
  • Considered full term at 37 weeks
  • Fat continuing to accumulate
  • Inhaling and exhaling amniotic fluid
  • Shedding of the vernix and lanugo
  • Growth starting to slow down
  • Baby’s head dropping into your pelvis
  • 19 to 22 inches in length
  • Six to nine pounds in weight

Positions Of Your Baby

Up-close of woman's belly during third trimester

Throughout your pregnancy, you’ve felt several jabs and have probably gotten to know your baby and their position through these special bonding moments.

By now, you may know where their hands, feet, bottom, and head are positioned in your belly. Your doctor can feel your abdomen, listen to your baby’s heartbeat, and perform an ultrasound to accurately detect your baby’s position.

As you approach your due date, your doctor will discuss the position of your baby if they’re not in the right one.

Here are the most common baby positions:

  • Anterior: Head is facing down with their back toward your belly and their face toward your back
  • Posterior: Head is facing down with their back toward your back and their face toward your belly
  • Breech: Your baby is positioned with their bottom or feet first
  • Transverse Lie: your baby is lying horizontally in your womb

For a vaginal birth, your baby needs to be in any head-first position. If your baby is breech, your doctor may try to do some finagling to get them to turn, or they may even suggest you try a few exercises at home.

If your baby is still in the breech position when the big day comes, be a little flexible with your birth plan.

Your Doctor’s Appointments

Doctor listening to pregnant woman's stomach in her third trimester

You will see your doctor every two weeks starting at 28 weeks through 36 weeks. After 36 weeks, you’ll visit your doctor every week to keep a close eye on you and your baby. Expect the following at your appointments during the third trimester:

  • Weight and blood pressure check
  • Urine check for sugar and protein
  • Fetal heartbeat monitoring
  • Measurement of height of fundus (top of your uterus)
  • Measurement of size and position of your baby
  • Checks for feet and hand swelling
  • Leg checks for varicose veins
  • Glucose screening test (more on this below)
  • Blood test for anemia
  • Checking cervix
  • Discussing any symptoms you’ve been having
  • Questions (have a list ready)

Glucose Screening Test

Somewhere around 24 to 28 weeks, your doctor will check for gestational diabetes by seeing how well your body processes blood sugar (glucose). This is done by a glucose screening test.

For this test, you’ll have to chug a little bottle of a sugary, orange drink and then wait one hour to have your blood drawn.

Note: The drink can make some women feel a little nauseous, so be prepared!

If the results of your test come back normal, you don’t have gestational diabetes and no further testing is needed for the rest of your pregnancy.

If your numbers come back elevated, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have gestational diabetes. However, you will have to go for a second test: the glucose tolerance test. You do have to fast for this one, whereas you didn’t have to fast for the first one.

You’ll have your blood drawn first to show your fasting blood glucose level before you guzzle a more concentrated sugary drink. Then you’ll have your blood drawn every hour for the next three hours.

The results from this test will determine whether or not you have gestational diabetes, and your doctor will discuss next steps with you. The good news is it’s easily controlled, and most women with gestational diabetes have perfectly healthy babies!

Doctor’s Visits During Your Last Month

Bring some good reading material for the waiting room because you can expect to see your doctor quite a bit during this last month. But these appointments are super fun as you ramp up to meet your new bundle of joy!

Your doctor will start to estimate the size of your baby and predict when they think you’ll go into labor. You’ll find out for sure the position of your baby and whether or not they’re geared up for the big day.

And, of course, they’ll start to give you some labor protocols since you’re so close to your due date!

Third Trimester: How To Prepare

Pregnant woman pouring oil into palm during third trimester

Since you’ll be giving birth to your bundle of joy at the end of this trimester, it’s important to make sure everything is in place before delivery. The baby experts at Mustela have a few items on the agenda when it comes to being prepared during your last trimester.

Hospital Classes And Tours

Your local hospital has several classes for you to choose from, including birthing classes, breastfeeding classes, and CPR classes. If this is something you’re interested in, be sure to contact the hospital to find out the dates to schedule your class.

Additionally, consider touring the hospital before giving birth. They’ll show you everything from where to go to what they’ll do once you arrive. Your partner may want to join you on this tour as a way of bonding and being prepared.


Mustela supplies for hospital bag

You’re due any day now, and you’ll want to be prepared. Pack your overnight bag, along with the diaper bag containing all of your baby’s essentials.

You may also want to consider packing your Stretch Marks Set to continue your skin care routine at the hospital.

And don’t forget your Nursing Comfort Balm! It moisturizes and protects your nipples and even helps to restore your skin during and after breastfeeding!

Here are a few other ideas of things to pack in your bag:

  • Copies of your birth plan
  • Books
  • Crossword or sudoku puzzles
  • Pillow
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Cozy socks
  • Slippers
  • Hair ties
  • Phone charger
  • Robe
  • Comfortable pjs or loungewear
  • Toiletries
  • Healthy snacks for after delivery

If you have any other children, they will likely need to spend a couple of days at a trusted babysitter’s house while you are in the hospital. Prepare an overnight bag that’s ready to go for them as well.

After all, you wouldn’t want to go into labor and start scrambling to get everything packed!

Installing The Car Seat

You will need to have a car seat installed sometime during the third trimester. Check with your local law enforcement office and schedule a car seat inspection before delivery. We know that making sure your little one is safe while traveling is a top priority!

Planning For Waiting

Once you’re admitted to the hospital, it might become a waiting game. You really have no idea how long you’ll be waiting, so be prepared by bringing books or some form of entertainment to keep your mind off the pain.

Last-Minute Touch-Ups

Check out any last-minute items on your list that you wanted to accomplish before your baby arrives. Getting the nursery and closet ready and washing clothes are just a few last-minute ideas. Also, purchase any additional items for your little one that you didn’t receive from your baby shower.

Stages Of Labor

Woman holding belly during third trimester

Your body will start gearing up for the big day way before it’s actually time to deliver your baby. This is good practice and not a waste, although sometimes it can be disappointing when you think you’re in labor and realize it’s only false labor.

Don’t feel guilty or embarrassed if it’s a false alarm! It happens to the best of us.

False labor symptoms include:

  • Irregular contractions (not getting more intense or frequent)
  • Contractions that let up if you walk around or move
  • Brownish discharge
  • Your baby moving around a lot with contractions
  • Tightening feeling in your abdomen

On the other hand, real labor symptoms include:

  • Contractions that get stronger and don’t ease up with walking or moving around
  • Contractions that become more consistent and painful
  • Pink or blood-tinged discharge
  • Contractions that feel like strong menstrual cramps or lower belly pressure

By now, your doctor has probably discussed when to give them a call. But when in doubt, make the call!

Stage One: Labor

(If you’re not scheduled for a C-section, vaginal deliveries follow these stages of labor.)

Early Labor

This is phase one of labor and usually lasts the longest. It doesn’t necessarily call for a trip to the hospital just yet.

Your body is really ramping up at this point, and you’ll notice some or all of the real labor symptoms mentioned above.

Active Labor

At this point, you’ve made it to the hospital and your contractions are really kicking in and doing a good job at helping your cervix dilate. Now is the time to decide whether or not you want to have an epidural.

If you decide to go all-natural, you will start experiencing:

  • Continued pain and discomfort with each contraction
  • Backache
  • Heavy legs
  • Fatigue

Transitional Labor

You’re in the home stretch! This is a quick stage, when your contractions really ramp up in intensity to make sure you’re fully dilated so you can push.

You might experience the following during this stage:

  • Intense pain with contractions
  • Pressure in your lower back and bottom
  • Feeling warm, sweaty, and shaky
  • Crampy legs
  • Nausea
  • Drowsiness between contractions

Stage Two: Pushing And Delivery

This is what you’ve been looking forward to for the last nine months!

Your body has done an amazing job of preparing your cervix and uterus for this big moment, but now it’s time for you to push and deliver your baby.

The amount of time you spend pushing really differs from one woman to the next. You will start to push with each contraction and will experience:

  • An overwhelming urge to push
  • Rectal pressure
  • Tingling, burning, or stinging sensation in your vaginal area

Congratulations! This is a life-changing moment for everyone.

Stage Three: Delivering The Placenta

You’re not done just yet. The placenta, which has been your baby’s house for the past nine months, will pass through the birth canal. It usually doesn’t take long for it to pass, and you might experience some mild contractions.

Your doctor will put pressure on your uterus and ask you to push just a little to get rid of the placenta now that your baby has a new home!

Enjoy Your Third Trimester

Woman in her third trimester holding her belly

We know this is a lot of information to take in, but don’t worry if everything is not fully in place before the baby comes. For the past nine months, you’ve been gearing up and preparing for this moment. You’re ready! Welcome your baby into the world with open arms and an open heart.

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