Your emotions

As anticipation grows, fears about childbirth might become more persistent. How much will it hurt? How long will it last? How will I cope? If you haven't done so already, consider taking childbirth classes. You'll learn what to expect — and meet others who share your excitement and concerns. Talk with others who've had positive birth experiences, and ask your health care provider about options for pain relief.

The reality of parenthood might begin to sink in as well. You might feel anxious, especially if this is your first baby. To stay calm, write your thoughts in a journal. It's also helpful to plan ahead. If you'll be breast-feeding, you might get a nursing bra or a breast pump. If you're expecting a boy — or you don't know your baby's sex — think about what's right for your family regarding circumcision.

Prenatal care

During the third trimester, your health care provider might ask you to come in for more frequent checkups — perhaps every two weeks beginning at week 28 and every week beginning at week 36.

Like previous visits, your health care provider will check your weight and blood pressure and ask about any signs or symptoms you're experiencing. Regardless of your vaccination status, one dose of Tdap vaccine is recommended during each pregnancy — ideally during the third trimester, between weeks 27 and 36 of pregnancy. This can help protect your baby from whooping cough before he or she can be vaccinated. You will also need screening tests for various conditions, including:

  • Gestational diabetes. This is a type of diabetes that sometimes develops during pregnancy. Prompt treatment and healthy lifestyle choices can help you manage your blood sugar level and deliver a healthy baby.
  • Iron deficiency anemia. Iron deficiency anemia occurs when you don't have enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen to your body's tissues. Anemia might cause you to feel very tired. To treat anemia, you might need to take iron supplements.
  • Group B strep. Group B strep is a type of bacteria that can live in your vagina or rectum. It can cause a serious infection for your baby if there is exposure during birth. If you test positive for group B strep, your health care provider will recommend antibiotics while you're in labor.

Your health care provider will also check your baby's size and heart rate. Near the end of your pregnancy, your health care provider will also check your baby's position and ask about your baby's movements. He or she might also ask about your preferences regarding labor and pain management as you get ready for delivery. If you have specific preferences for labor and birth — such as laboring in water or avoiding medication — define your wishes in a birth plan. Review the plan with your health care provider.

As your due date approaches, keep asking questions. Knowing what to expect can help you have the most positive birth experience.

April 14, 2017 See more In-depth