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Third Trimester Of Pregnancy

Alternate Names

  • late prenatal period

Definition

Pregnancy is the term given to the series of events for a childbearing woman from the time of conception until the birth of the child.

What is the information for this topic?

During the third trimester, continuing growth and development in mother and baby cause many changes to occur. Women may notice:
  • that the movements of the unborn child can be felt more strongly
  • abdominal pain that may or may not represent the start of labor
  • shortness of breath because the uterus is pushing against the diaphragm. The diaphragm is a flat, strong muscle that aids in breathing. Towards the end of the third trimester, the baby may drop down into a lower position. This will make it easier for the mother to breathe.
  • a need to urinate more often when the baby drops down into a lower position in the pelvis
  • a yellow, watery fluid, known as colostrum, leaking from her nipples
  • her navel sticking out
As the body readies for birth, a woman's cervix begins to thin out and open. During the third trimester, certain discomforts and mood changes may occur:
  • fatigue or extra energy, or alternate periods of both
  • increasingly heavy white vaginal discharge
  • more mild lower abdominal pains with uterine tightening and then relaxing
  • more or less of an appetite
  • constipation, heartburn and indigestion due to gastroesophageal reflux, gas, and bloating
  • headaches, dizziness, or faintness
  • more trouble sleeping
  • itchy abdomen
  • varicose veins
  • swelling of the legs, feet, and hands
  • increasing clumsiness as shape and balance changes
  • anxiety, impatience, and restlessness
  • irritability and unusual sensitivity
In the unborn child:
  • as the baby gets bigger, it has less room to kick and stretch, so the movements felt by the mother may decrease somewhat
  • fine body hair disappears
  • most bones harden, but bones of the head stay soft and flexible for birth
  • as the time for birth approaches, the baby usually moves down into the pelvis and settles into a good position
At 40 weeks, the baby is considered full term. It is about 20 inches long and weighs 6 to 9 pounds. The most common health risks and concerns in the third trimester of pregnancy are:
  • premature labor beginning before the 37th week of pregnancy. If the labor cannot be stopped, the baby may be born too early. This can cause many problems with the baby's health and development.
  • vaginal bleeding
  • changes in the unborn child's movements
  • rupture of the sac, or membranes, that surround the fetus
  • false labor
During the third trimester of pregnancy, monitoring is more frequent. In the seventh and eighth months, it may include:
  • mother's weight and blood pressure
  • urine test for sugar and protein
  • the baby's heartbeat
  • height of the uterus
  • size and position of the baby
Any worrisome symptoms or concerns should be reported to the healthcare professional.
After the 32nd week, the healthcare professional may suggest monitoring every two weeks. Monitoring occurs weekly after about the 36th week, as the ninth month begins. It may include all of the above as well as examination of the cervix and discussion about the signs and symptoms of labor.

Sources

Planning for Pregnancy, Birth and Beyond. Second Edition, The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

What to Expect when You're Expecting, Eisenberg

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