Third trimester pregnancy: 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 other moms-to-be who share your excitement and concerns. Talk with women who've had positive birth experiences, and ask your health care provider about options for pain relief. Tell yourself that you'll simply do the best you can. There's no right or wrong way to have a baby.

The reality of parenthood might begin to sink in as well. You might feel anxious and overwhelmed, especially if this is your first baby. To stay calm, revel in the experience of being pregnant and think about the joy that will come from loving a new human being. Consider:

  • Writing your thoughts in a journal
  • Talking to your baby
  • Taking photos of your pregnant belly to share with your child one day

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. Consider who'll be your baby's principal health care provider. Make plans for your first few weeks together.

Appointments with your health care provider

During the third trimester, your health care provider might ask you to come in for more frequent checkups — perhaps every other week beginning at week 28 or 32 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. This can help protect your baby from whooping cough before he or she can be vaccinated. You also might 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.
  • Anemia. Anemia is an abnormally low level of red blood cells or hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that contains iron. Severe anemia can slow your baby's growth. 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 won't make you sick, but it could cause a serious infection for your baby after birth. If you test positive for group B strep, your health care provider will likely 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, vaginal exams can help your health care provider determine your baby's position inside your uterus. He or she might also check your cervix to see whether it's begun to soften or dilate in preparation for birth — although cervical exams aren't a reliable way to predict when labor will begin.

If you have specific desires or preferences for labor and birth — such as laboring in water or avoiding medication — you might want to define your wishes in a birth plan. Review the plan with your health care provider ahead of time to prevent any misunderstandings.

As your due date approaches, keep asking questions. How can I tell the difference between false labor and the real thing? When do I need to go to the hospital? Could I be too late for an epidural? Remember, there's no silly question. Understanding what's happening can help you have the most positive birth experience.

May 05, 2014 See more In-depth