During the third trimester of pregnancy, which spans from weeks 28 to 40, your body continues to undergo significant changes as your baby grows and prepares for birth. Here’s an overview of what is happening to your body and the development of your baby during this crucial period:
Changes in Your Body:
- Increased Weight Gain: In the third trimester, you’ll experience the most significant weight gain as your baby continues to grow and your body stores additional fat for breastfeeding.
- Baby’s Movement: Your baby’s movements may become more pronounced and may feel like rolls, kicks, and stretches. As your baby’s size increases, you may also notice movements lower in your pelvis.
- Braxton Hicks Contractions: These practice contractions become more frequent during the third trimester. While they prepare your body for labor, they are generally not as regular or painful as true labor contractions.
- Pelvic Discomfort: As your baby’s head settles lower into your pelvis (a process known as “lightening”), you may experience increased pressure on your pelvis and bladder. This can result in more frequent urination and pelvic discomfort.
- Back Pain and Posture Changes: The added weight of your growing belly can lead to changes in your posture and increased back pain. Maintaining good posture and using supportive pillows may help alleviate some discomfort.
- Swelling: Edema, or swelling, is common during the third trimester, especially in the feet and ankles. Elevating your legs and avoiding long periods of standing or sitting can help reduce swelling.
- Shortness of Breath: As your uterus expands, it can push against your diaphragm, making it harder to take deep breaths. You may feel short of breath, especially when lying down.
- Increased Vaginal Discharge: You may notice an increase in vaginal discharge, which is usually clear or white. However, if it becomes bloody or watery, it could be a sign of impending labor and should be discussed with your healthcare provider.
- Heartburn: The pressure from your growing uterus can push stomach acid into your esophagus, causing heartburn. Eating smaller meals and avoiding spicy or acidic foods can help manage this discomfort.
- Difficulty Sleeping: Finding a comfortable sleep position can become challenging. Sleeping on your left side with a pillow between your legs for support is often recommended.
- Weight Gain: Your baby continues to gain weight rapidly during the third trimester. They will approximately double or even triple in weight by the time of birth.
- Lung Development: The baby’s lungs mature further, with surfactant production increasing. Surfactant is a substance that helps the air sacs in the lungs stay open and functional after birth.
- Brain and Nervous System: The baby’s brain continues to develop, and they become more alert and responsive to stimuli. Brain development, including the formation of neural connections, is a prominent focus during this trimester.
- Growth and Filling Out: Your baby fills out during the third trimester, with increased fat deposition and muscle development. This helps them regulate their body temperature after birth.
- Positioning for Birth: Most babies will settle into a head-down position by the end of the third trimester, preparing for birth. However, some may remain in a breech or transverse position, which may require special attention.
- Practice Breathing: In preparation for breathing outside the womb, your baby may begin to practice breathing movements, inhaling and exhaling amniotic fluid.
- Immune System Development: Your baby’s immune system continues to strengthen as they receive antibodies from you through the placenta, providing protection during the early months of life.
- Hair and Nails: Your baby’s hair and nails continue to grow. Some babies are born with a full head of hair, while others have very little at birth.
As you progress through the third trimester, it’s essential to continue regular prenatal checkups with your healthcare provider to monitor both your health and the well-being of your baby. This trimester marks the final stage of pregnancy, and you’ll soon be welcoming your little one into the world.