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Third Trimester: Know what to expect

It’s the final countdown (insert pump up music here)!! The third trimester runs from week 28 through delivery. At this point, we may be totally ready for Baby to get here already, or we may feel completely unprepared and wishing for more time. Either way, our bodies are continuing to change, and of course Baby’s is too. Today we’ll talk through what symptoms to look out for and how our babies’ last developments are coming along so you can be ready for all the changes life will soon bring.

Third Trimester Symptoms

By this point, Baby is about 2.5 pounds and will reach typically between 6 and 9 pounds by delivery. With such a growth spurt, our bodies are likely to feel very pregnant! Here’s what to expect:

Abdominal achiness

To make room for the baby bump, the ligaments in the abdomen will stretch quite a bit, causing some cramps. There isn’t much that can be done to prevent this, but warm baths may help soothe the aches.


Just as in the second trimester, our growing babies do put extra pressure on our backs. The heavier Baby gets, the more aches we may feel, but maintaining good posture, wearing supportive shoes, and sleeping with a pillow between the legs can continue to alleviate that pressure.

Braxton Hicks contractions

Delivery is coming soon, so our bodies will start practicing with these “false contractions.” These should be less painful than real contractions and occur irregularly, while real contractions will happen close together. If you’re experiencing severe abdominal or back pain with your contractions, talk to your doctor immediately to be sure these are not real contractions.


Because of our crazy hormones and growing belly to throw us off balance, we may easily drop things, forget things, or have trouble walking straight. Just be cautious, remember your body is going through a lot, and feel free to laugh at yourself a little.


Remember, our bodies are working overtime to take care of another person. We may feel tired and sluggish more easily, but we can maintain our energy by eating well and staying active.

Lack of bladder control

Just like Baby puts pressure on our backs and ligaments, our bladders will get it, too. We should always listen to our bodies and not try to hold it in. Practicing Kegels (pelvic floor exercises) is important in strengthening these muscles, which will also help us in delivery. Ask your doctor at your next appointment to walk you through how to do Kegels if you’ve never done them before.

Leaky breasts

Our uteruses practice Braxton Hicks, so it makes sense that our breasts practice for nursing, too. It shouldn’t be enough to need to change, but you may want some tissues nearby just in case.

Stretch marks

Nobody’s favorite part of pregnancy, stretch marks are tiny tears in the skin due to the skin stretching to its limit. Moisturizers may reduce the appearance, though studies are inconclusive as to how much they actually work. However, the marks should begin to fade after pregnancy.

Weight gain

We should gain about half a pound to one pound a week during the third trimester, and gain between 25 to 35 pounds total throughout our pregnancy. Talk to your doctor about your specific weight goals, as every woman’s body is different.

Wild dreams

Hormones plus the anticipation of delivery could lead some scary/hilarious/downright weird pregnancy dreams. Enjoy sharing the silliness with your friends and family, and talk about any fears plaguing you. Big changes are coming, and it’s important to talk through your feelings with loved ones.

Seek emergency help if…

Seek immediate attention if you experience:

  • Sharp abdominal pain
  • Bleeding
  • Severe dizziness
  • Rapid weight gain or not enough weight gain
  • Pain or burning while urinating

Do not wait until your next checkup to bring up any of these red flag symptoms.

What’s going on with Baby?

Time for Baby to develop the finishing touches before the big debut! All kinds of cool things are happening in there:

  • Bones: Baby’s cartilage will harden into bone around 7 or 8 months. He or she will be snagging calcium from you, so be sure to keep taking your vitamins and eat calcium-rich foods.
  • Brain: The brain grows rapidly in these last weeks, and it’ll start signaling the body to blink, dream, and regulate temperature. The senses continue to develop as well, and by week 31, all five senses will be active.
  • Digestive system: The intestines will start to fill with meconium (Baby’s first poop), which is made up mostly of blood cells, vernix and lanugo.
  • Movement: Baby will likely kick more often and develop a firm grasp. However, he or she will also starting taking up the whole amniotic sack, so space becomes limited!
  • Skin: Up until week 32, Baby’s skin has been see-through, but will now become opaque. Both the lanugo (the downy coat that’s been keeping Baby warm) and the vernix (the waxy stuff that protects against the acidity of the amniotic fluid) will shed around week 36 as fat develops. The skin will eventually become pinky and smooth, as we’d expect it to be as we look at our babies for the first time outside the womb.
  • Turning: To prep for delivery, Baby will begin turning downward around week 34. He or she will go heads-down, bottom’s up, or could stay stuck in breech position. In the case that Baby does not go head-first, the doctor may start to turn Baby manually beginning in week 37.

Labor Signs

Eventually our due dates will come around, or we may go into labor early. Remember that the due date is just an estimate, so don’t freak out if is passes by or Baby comes a little early. Do however take signs of labor seriously, especially as early labor can lead to complications for us or our babies.

If you experience more severe contractions than just Braxton Hicks or a rushing of fluid from the birth canal (water breaking), these are telltale signs that Baby is ready to be born. Seek medical attention immediately and begin whatever your birth plan is.

Want help prepping for Baby? Lifeline’s PLANS program provides prenatal and parenting education and baby supplies to new and expecting parents at no cost to you. Call today to learn more or make an appointment with our trained nurses.

By Kath Crane

Regan, Lesley. I’m Pregnant! A Week-by-week guide from conception to birth. DK Publishing, Inc. New York, NY. 2005.