Third Trimester of Pregnancy: Symptoms and 11 Things to Do

The third and the last trimester of pregnancy lasts between weeks 28 and 42 of pregnancy. It is the final pregnancy stage when the baby is actively growing, and your body is preparing for labor.

Have a look through our third-trimester to-do list to make sure this exciting phase goes as smoothly as possible.

1.Stick to a balanced diet

Early in the third trimester, your baby weighs about 2.2 lbs (1 kg).

By the end of your pregnancy, this number should triple — a full-term newborn weighs about 6.6–8.8 lbs (3–4 kg), breathes independently, and is able to eat and digest food.

For now, the baby still receives all the nutrients from the mother, which is why you should try to maintain a varied and balanced diet to provide enough building blocks for your little one’s growing body.

  • It is important to make sure that your diet includes animal and plant proteins, calcium, iron, and fiber.
  • It is recommended that you cut down on foods rich in fats or carbohydrates, and avoid allergenic foods.
  • You should refrain from smoking and drinking alcohol.

2. Control your weight gain

Your body will change even more — due to the baby’s active intrauterine growth during this period, your belly will increase significantly.

By the end of the pregnancy, you may weigh 24–33 lbs (11–15 kg) more than you did before.

It is important to monitor your body weight. Gaining too much weight too quickly could indicate an unhealthy diet or a problem with the pregnancy.

3. Stay active

The baby’s growth and overall weight gain may result in changes to your general physical state:

  • It can become harder to breathe.
  • You may start feeling short of breath (as the uterus pushes your diaphragm up, restricting chest volume).
  • You may get tired faster.

Nevertheless, this is not an excuse to avoid exercising (if the pregnancy is complication-free and your doctor doesn’t object), because it will keep you healthy and ensure that your baby receives enough oxygen.
You can choose activities like:

  • walking
  • swimming
  • daily exercise involving stretching
  • light jogging

Consider joining pregnancy workout classes — the exercises take into account all of the changes occurring in your body during the third trimester.

However, it is best that you stay clear of excessive physical activity, especially if it involves lifting weights, sudden movements, or injury risks (e.g., weightlifting, wrestling, and horseback riding).

4. Measure your pulse and blood pressure

Your body is going through important transformations. One of them is an increase in blood volume, which ensures that the uterus and fetus are getting enough blood flow.

As this puts the cardiovascular system under more strain, it is essential that you keep your pulse and blood pressure in check.

Having high blood pressure and pulse readings — 130/80 mm Hg and more than 100 beats per minute respectively — requires additional monitoring.

5. Visit your doctor regularly

You can make sure that all your pregnancy changes are normal with the help of prenatal checkups.

During the third trimester, you should schedule appointments with your doctor at weeks 28, 30, 32, 34, 36, 37, 38, 39, and 40. Based on your general physical condition, the doctor may refer you for specific tests.

Possible test in the third trimester of pregnancy include:

  • A fetal ultrasound (weeks 32–34) assesses the placenta and amniotic fluid volume, as well as fetal growth, position, and organ development.
  • A urinalysis should be done at each appointment to detect any inflammation and/or urine protein.
  • A complete blood count checks hemoglobin levels.
  • Rh factor screening to determine if the mother is Rh-negative.
  • Vaginal and rectal swab testing (weeks 35–37), or screening for Group B streptococcus, to prevent the baby from being infected during birth.
  • Cardiotocography to monitor fetal heart rate and other vital functions. This is performed in late pregnancy and during labor.

The recommended testing list may be changed. The decision is usually made by the doctor based on your test results.

6. Monitor the baby’s movements

Feeling your little one’s kicks getting stronger every day is the most exciting pregnancy landmark.

By the end of the third trimester, your baby will have grown quite large, filling almost the entire uterine cavity. Her movements will be distinct enough to be visible on the surface of your belly.

The doctor may recommend that you keep track of your baby’s kicks. There are several ways to do this:

  • Count the baby’s movements within a 12-hour interval (for example, from 9 am to 9 pm). 

Normally, you should feel 10 distinct movements, the last one occurring before 5 pm. If you feel fewer than 10 kicks within the 12 hours, this may indicate fetal distress. In this case, it is important that you consult your doctor.

  • Count the baby’s movements within an hour after a meal, ideally from 7 pm to 11 pm. 

Feeling more than 10 kicks is fine. If you feel fewer than 10 movements within the allotted time, this could indicate a problem. However, the second case allows for individual differences — some women may feel no kicks for 3–4 hours.

In any case, if the baby doesn’t move at all for 12 hours, seek medical advice immediately.

7. Monitor your uterine activity

Hormonal changes occurring in the body trigger its birth preparation mechanisms, i.e., uterine contractions.

Early in the third trimester, uterine contractions are rare, taking place a few times a day. Known as Braxton Hicks contractions, or practice contractions, these are short and painless.

As the due date approaches, the contractions become more frequent and prolonged and can be accompanied by mucous vaginal discharge.

Your belly drops, you may lose some weight, and you will find breathing easier. This period normally lasts for 1–2 weeks before delivery.

Having regular painful contractions before 37 weeks can be indicative of premature labor, which is why it is crucial to monitor uterine activity.

If the contractions occur 10 or fewer minutes apart, are painful or accompanied by heavy vaginal discharge (watery or bloody), be sure to seek medical attention right away.

8. Sign up for a prenatal class

What is the benefit of attending such a class? You will:

  • Learn a lot of interesting facts about your body and get a better understanding of what is happening to you.
  • Become familiar with self-monitoring methods.
  • Prepare for childbirth and learn more about the process itself.
  • Learn how to take care of a newborn.

Prenatal classes often take place at healthcare facilities.

You may attend them alone or with your partner. It is particularly important for your significant other to accompany you if you’ve opted for going through childbirth together.

9. Choose where to give birth

The third trimester is the time to decide where to deliver your baby.
If you are healthy with no pregnancy complications or fetal abnormalities, you can give birth at a municipal hospital.

Otherwise, it is important that you give birth at a large clinic providing specialized medical care.

Discuss all issues related to the place and time of delivery with your doctor.

When choosing a maternity hospital, be sure to look through its website, review additional services it provides, and read through its birthing partner policy.

10. When should you go to the delivery hospital?

If the pregnancy is going well, there is no need to go to the hospital before going into labor. This would be when you are having regular contractions and/or leaking amniotic fluid.

11. Pack your hospital bag in advance

Approximately 34–36 weeks is the time to pack the essentials for during and after labor.

What to pack for the hospital for mom:

  • an identity document
  • medical records, health insurance card (if any)
  • a cell phone with a charger
  • a change of underwear, clothes, and footwear
  • personal care items
  • sanitary pads (both postpartum and breast ones)
  • a going-home outfit

What to pack for the hospital for baby:

The hospital will provide the first clothes and diapers for the baby. You can bring your own items if you like, such as:

  • onesies and hats
  • socks and anti-scratch mittens
  • a baby blanket
  • a set of going-home clothes
  • a car seat — some hospitals won’t discharge you without it

Now that you know what to expect during the third trimester of pregnancy, you’re ready to face this very special time of your life. Good luck!