The third trimester: what is happening and what to do

The time has come! The third trimester of pregnancy is in many ways the height of the pregnancy experience. Your baby will be experiencing the fastest period of growth and will be rapidly functioning as a little human. Your body will be changing quickly to respond to these changes and support the baby’s development. As this happens, there will be no hiding it from the world, so there will be increased attention toward you, which may be fun and challenging depending on the situation.

The third trimester may be a bit exhausting and some of the changes may come as a surprise. It can also be a lot of fun for mother and family. Here’s what to expect and some of our tips on adding a bit of fun to your last days before baby.

Changes to your baby from 32 weeks pregnant on:

  • Full development of most body parts except the lungs.
  • Full development of the reflexes. This means that your baby’s eyes are fully responding to light and blinking, it can grasp with its little fingers, and respond to sound and light. Your baby is getting ready to be snuggled!
  • Your baby can move, and you will feel it! You will now be able to notice regular sleep cycles based on movement patterns. You will also feel your baby’s hiccups, which may be funny or a little bit annoying at times.

Changes to your body during the third trimester: 

Your baby is developing more each day to prepare for surviving outside of your belly and is relying on you to help with healthy growth. Therefore, you will be noticing some pretty dramatic changes, accompanied by side effects of the increased hormones that are being produced to help you prepare for the big day. Some of these physical changes may include:

  • Braxton-Hicks contractions
  • More frequent need to urinate: if this disrupts sleep try to limit liquids in the hour before bedtime.
  • Heartburn: If you experience heartburn pay special attention to what may be causing it and refrain from those foods. You may also want to seek out relief that works for you. Some remedies include soda (add a flavoring you love if you’d like!) and papaya tablets.
  • Swollen ankles, face, or fingers
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Tender breasts
  • Fluid leaking from breasts: your body is getting ready to produce milk!
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Backache
  • Mood swings
  • Leg cramps
  • Increased or diminished libido
  • Bursts of energy: some refer to this as “nesting.”
  • Anxiety: as you get ready to welcome a new member of your family you may experience various emotions. If things become overwhelming, make sure to talk to someone.
  • Vaginal discharge

It’s time to get support!

There will be a lot happening to your body from 32 weeks pregnant and beyond! Even if this is not your first baby you will be experiencing many symptoms for the first time. If any of your symptoms are troubling or overwhelming, make sure to speak with your doctor or midwife and to someone else who has been pregnant. Swapping notes and commiserating will provide a lot of relief right now.

This is also a very intense time and it is possible that you will have emotions and various mood swings that you aren’t expecting. It is very crucial to get support with the emotional side of things as well. Even if you think your feelings are just due to the increased hormones, find someone to talk to. If you are having fears or anxieties about the upcoming events make sure to speak to your doctor, midwife, partner, or to a friend.

To help care for your body as it copes with all of the changes make sure to: 

  • Keep up with your prenatal vitamins
  • Stay active with walking or swimming
  • Perform pelvic floor exercises and Kegels
  • Drink extra water
  • Pay special attention to your dental hygiene: recent research has connected poor oral health with premature birth

Your third trimester to-do list:

There is no time like the present to get some of the important to-dos ticked off your list. Being prepared will help you and your partner enjoy what is about to come even more. As you reach 32 weeks pregnant, it is time to:

  • Take a childbirth class: these classes can be a lot of fun and are a great way to get prepared and get some extra tips on creating your birth plan and preparing both physically and mentally.
  • Do you have pets or other children? You may find it extremely useful to get extra help with both, especially during the actual birth, if not for the first couple of weeks following.
  • Get that car seat set up! Whether you are having a hospital birth or home birth, the car seat needs to be fully set up in order to prepare for the unexpected or to get home. Many local fire departments offer assistance on proper setup.
  • Is the crib or bassinet ready?
  • Shop for nursing bras! Take time to get recommendations and try different types of bras that will work for the first few weeks (you may find that you will want to try different bras after that point).
  • Discuss birth control with your doctor and get a prescription.
  • Select a pediatrician.
  • Wash the new baby clothes. The baby’s skin will be sensitive and washing clothing will prevent irritation.
  • Locate some local nursing support. You may find that you enjoy attending a Le Leche League meeting or that you will benefit from a consultant coming to your home. Having a few options ready will make things easier during the busy days of caring for your infant.

Tips on enjoying your third trimester: 

Your body and baby are gearing up for really big things! While it can be exciting, it can also be intense and it can be easy to get caught up in the changes happening to your body and distracted from the joy of what’s happening. Here are some things that you can do to enjoy 32 weeks pregnant and beyond and add some magic to these final days of your pregnancy.

  • Take a prenatal yoga class – this will help prepare your body for birth and will feel amazing on your tired muscles.
  • If you are birthing in a hospital or birth center, get your birth bag packed and shop for any special items you want to include (luxurious nightgown to enjoy after the birth?).
  • Register for baby gifts (who doesn’t have fun with that?).
  • Book and enjoy a prenatal massage, or two. Or three.
  • Get a haircut and pedicure. You won’t be able to sit for this pampering for a few months!
  • Discuss your birth plan with your midwife, doctor, doula, and partner (or any combination).
  • Date nights! Enjoy extra time alone with your partner and savor it.
  • Celebrate with family and friends!