Once you hit the 27-week mark of pregnancy, you’re in the home stretch. As your baby grows, it can make for a physically uncomfortable final 10 to 14 weeks before childbirth. Estrogen levels reach their peak during the third trimester, so it can be an emotionally draining time, as well.
But you’re almost there! And with a few important lifestyle tweaks and proper preparation, you and your baby will come out on the other side happy, healthy and ready for the next step in your family’s journey.
Here are five things to make sure you do in your third trimester, as described by Dr. Martha Walsh, MD, a senior medical director and associate chief medical officer at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and board-certified OB-GYN physician.
I would keep exercising.
Exercising gets increasingly harder as your pregnancy progresses. But regular exercise can help relieve pregnancy discomfort, keep you in good shape and make for an easier delivery. Here are some ideas:
- Low-impact cardiovascular exercise like walking or swimming.
- Low-weight strength training, such as squats and lunges with weights and dumbbells that weigh less than 20 pounds. These workouts can strengthen your core and pelvic floor muscles.
- Light stretching or yoga.
If you regularly engaged in vigorous exercise pre-pregnancy, you don’t necessarily have to stop, as research points to it not affecting most birth outcomes. But be sure to discuss it with your Ob/Gyn provider first. Many times, it becomes difficult to continue vigorous exercise in your third trimester, but it is appropriate at that time to substitute a less intensive exercise.
I would let my doctor know if I have unexpected contractions.
Although it is normal to have some contractions in the third trimester – especially as you get closer to term – if you have contractions at regular intervals before 37 weeks, it is important to make your Ob/Gyn physician or Midwife aware. Additionally, if you experience any worrisome signs like vaginal bleeding or spotting, contact your doctor immediately. This could be a sign that labor is starting, or that a complication has developed.
I would participate in a birthing class and a breastfeeding class.
Birthing classes give you a preview of what to expect in the delivery room. Classes involve signs of labor, techniques to manage labor pain, the stages of childbirth and how to care for your baby during the first few days of its life. Breastfeeding classes are important, too. Although breastfeeding is a natural process, it is helpful to learn tips so that you and your baby have the best chance of success at breastfeeding.
You should sign up for them just prior to your third trimester so that you make sure that there is availability, and that you learn these important techniques in a timely manner where you will remember them when needed.
I would make sure to attend EVERY prenatal appointment.
The frequency of prenatal appointments ramps up in the third trimester because you need increased monitoring as your due date approaches. It is important to go to every appointment. Also, make sure you complete your third trimester prenatal labs. These typically consist of blood or urine tests to ensure that you free of any infections and do not show signs of preeclampsia, a complication that is most common during the final stages of pregnancy. Prenatal labs give your providers a good gauge of your health and any risks leading up to your delivery date.
I would talk to my doctorand health care team about birth goals.
It is helpful to have a conversation about expectations and your birth goals, so your doctor and health care team is aware. Your doctor can help set realistic expectations and let you know when the plan you mapped out might need to be modified, in the interest of you and your baby’s safety. Also, your third trimester is the time to choose a pediatrician. It is important to choose a pediatrician before you deliver. If you do not know of a pediatrician in your area, you can ask your doctor and health care team about pediatrician recommendations.
More from the "5 Things" series:
- 5 Questions I’d Never Leave My Annual Preventive Visit Without Asking
- 5 Things I'd Never Do for my Skin
- 5 Things I’d Never Do as a Dietitian
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