You’re headed into the third trimester (weeks 28-40) of your pregnancy and wonder what changes to expect as you get closer to giving birth.

The third trimester brings moments of anticipation and excitement as you move away from the more restful past 12 weeks and into a period of increased growth and changes as your body gets ready for birth. Let’s look closer at what some of those changes may be.

Goodbye Sleep!

As your baby’s body continues to gain weight, develop and mature, you may find it difficult to sleep at night, especially during the last few weeks of the pregnancy. Perhaps you’re noticing increased heartburn due to added pressure on your diaphragm.

Relief for both of these issues will happen when the baby “drops” or settles into the pelvis around the last few weeks of pregnancy. This is known as “lightening.” You may or may not notice when your baby does this subtle movement but friends and family will, so expect statements, such as, “oh, you’re getting closer as your belly looks lower!”

Heartburn may also diminish during this time but be replaced by increased pressure on your bladder and the urge to use the bathroom more frequently. Even sleeping restfully gets more difficult as you get closer to birthing your baby.

Watch for the Mucus Plug in the third trimester

When your baby moves into your pelvis, more pressure is put on your cervix, and you may even lose the mucus plug that sits inside the cervix. You may notice this happens when you wipe after urinating—a thick, clear, gloppy substance may appear on the toilet paper. No need to worry; this is normal, and for some women it’s a sign that birth is getting closer.


Prepare for Birth

If you haven’t already done so yet, attend childbirth classes to learn more about labor and birth, and meet other women going through the same experiences as you. You’re nearly finished with pregnancy. In these last weeks remember to get plenty of rest, drink lots of water, continue to be active, and eat a well-balanced diet. Soon you will meet your baby!

3rd Trimester Warning Signs

Call your healthcare provider if any of the following happens:

Your water breaks. This may happen as a trickle of clear fluid that at first may seem like you have to urinate but continues even after you go to the bathroom. Or it may be a gush of fluid. Either way it’s important to get this checked out—you very well could be headed quickly into labor!

If you have bright, red bleeding

You have contractions or tightening of your belly that occur regularly—about 5 minutes apart, lasting for a minute or so and continuing for at least an hour

You have a headache or heartburn that won’t go away after taking over-the-counter medications for the problem


Further reading: Every Kick Counts 


Joanne Goldbort, PhD, MSN, RN, is an assistant professor in the College of Nursing at Michigan State University and an expert nurse adviser to Healthy Mom&Baby.

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