Third Trimester Guide: What to Expect, Key Milestones, and Preparing for Birth

Written by Tidewater Physicians For Women on .
Third Trimester Guide: What to Expect, Key Milestones, and Preparing for Birth

The third trimester, spanning from week 27 to the end of pregnancy, marks the final stage of your journey toward motherhood. This period is characterized by rapid growth and significant development for your baby, along with increased physical and emotional preparation for childbirth. As you count down the weeks to meeting your little one, here’s a comprehensive guide from your providers at Tidewater Physicians for Women on what to expect, key milestones, and tips for preparing for birth.

What to Expect

The third trimester brings a mix of anticipation, excitement, and physical changes as your body and baby prepare for labor and delivery. Here are some common experiences:

  • Increased Discomfort: As your baby grows, you may experience backaches, pelvic pain, and difficulty sleeping. Finding comfortable positions and using pregnancy pillows can help alleviate some of these discomforts.
  • Shortness of Breath: As your uterus expands, it can put pressure on your diaphragm, making it harder to breathe deeply. Try to maintain good posture and practice deep breathing exercises.
  • Swelling: Edema, or swelling, is common in the feet, ankles, and hands due to increased fluid retention and pressure on your veins. Elevating your feet, staying hydrated, and wearing comfortable shoes can help reduce swelling.
  • Frequent Urination: The baby’s head pressing on your bladder can lead to more frequent trips to the bathroom. Plan accordingly and stay hydrated to avoid dehydration.
  • Braxton Hicks Contractions: These “practice” contractions can start in the third trimester, helping your body prepare for labor. They are usually irregular and less intense than true labor contractions.

Key Milestones

The third trimester is a crucial time for your baby’s growth and development. Here are some key milestones:

  • Rapid Growth: Your baby will continue to gain weight rapidly, putting on about half a pound per week. By the end of the third trimester, most babies weigh between 6 and 9 pounds and measure 18 to 22 inches long.
  • Lung Development: The baby’s lungs mature significantly, producing more surfactant to keep the air sacs in the lungs from collapsing after birth. By 36 weeks, the lungs are usually fully developed and ready for breathing.
  • Brain Growth: The baby’s brain continues to develop rapidly, with the formation of neural connections that will support cognitive functions and sensory processing after birth.
  • Positioning: As you approach the end of pregnancy, your baby will likely move into a head-down position in preparation for birth. This is known as “engagement” or “lightening.”

Preparing for Birth

As you near the end of your pregnancy, it’s important to prepare for the arrival of your baby and the process of childbirth. Here are some essential tips:

  • Birth Plan: Create a birth plan that outlines your preferences for labor and delivery, including pain management options, who you want present during labor, and any specific requests for the birthing environment. Discuss this plan with your healthcare provider to ensure it aligns with hospital policies.
  • Pack Your Hospital Bag: Prepare a bag with essentials for both you and your baby, including comfortable clothing, toiletries, important documents, baby clothes, and any items that will make your hospital stay more comfortable.
  • Childbirth Classes: Attend childbirth education classes to learn about labor and delivery, pain relief options, and postpartum care. These classes can also help alleviate anxiety and build confidence.
  • Install the Car Seat: Ensure you have a properly installed car seat for your baby. Many hospitals will not allow you to leave without verifying that your car seat is installed correctly.
  • Prepare Your Home: Set up the nursery and ensure you have all the necessary supplies for your baby’s arrival, including diapers, wipes, clothing, and feeding supplies. It’s also a good idea to stock up on household essentials to minimize the need for errands during the early postpartum period.
  • Stay Active: Gentle exercise, such as walking or prenatal yoga, can help keep you in shape and may even make labor easier. Always consult your healthcare provider before starting any new exercise routine.
  • Monitor Baby Movements: Pay attention to your baby’s movements and report any significant changes to your healthcare provider. Regular movement is a sign of a healthy baby.

Labor and Delivery

Understanding the signs of labor and knowing when to go to the hospital can help you feel more prepared for the big day. Common signs of labor include:

  • Regular Contractions: Unlike Braxton Hicks contractions, true labor contractions are regular, increase in intensity, and get closer together over time.
  • Water Breaking: The rupture of the amniotic sac, often referred to as “water breaking,” can happen as a gush or a slow leak. If this occurs, contact your healthcare provider immediately.
  • Bloody Show: The passage of the mucus plug, often tinged with blood, can be a sign that labor is imminent.

The third trimester is a time of anticipation and preparation as you get ready to meet your baby. By understanding what to expect, recognizing key milestones, and taking proactive steps to prepare for birth, you can approach this final stage of pregnancy with confidence. Remember to take care of yourself, stay informed, and lean on your support system as you navigate these last few weeks. Contact us with any questions or concerns: Soon, you’ll be holding your little one in your arms, embarking on the incredible journey of parenthood.

Further Reading:

Johns Hopkins:

Written By Tidewater Physicians For Women

Tidewater Physicians for Women
a division of Mid-Atlantic Women’s Care
VA Beach

828 Healthy Way Unit 330
Virginia Beach, VA 23462

Fax: 757-467-0301


880 Kempsville Road, Ste 201
Norfolk, VA 23502

Fax: 757-461-0836

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