During the third trimester, prenatal care might include vaginal exams to check the baby's position.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Prenatal care is an important part of a healthy pregnancy, especially as your due date approaches. Your health care provider will ask you to schedule prenatal care appointments during your third trimester about every 2 or 4 weeks, depending on your health and obstetrical history. Starting at 36 weeks you'll need weekly checkups until you deliver.

Your health care provider will continue to monitor your blood pressure and weight gain, as well as your baby's heartbeat and movements. A urine sample might also be tested for the presence of protein or infection. As always, share any symptoms of concern.

Your health care provider will ask you to keep track of how often you feel the baby move on a daily basis — and to alert your health care team if the baby stops moving as much as usual.

Expect to be screened for group B streptococcus (GBS) during the third trimester.GBS is a common bacterium often carried in the intestines or lower genital tract that's usually harmless in adults — but babies who become infected with GBS from exposure during vaginal delivery can become seriously ill.

To screen for GBS, your health care provider will swab your lower vagina and anal area. The sample will be sent to a lab for testing.

If the sample tests positive for GBS — or you previously gave birth to a baby who developed GBS disease — you'll be given intravenous antibiotics during labor. The antibiotics will help protect your baby from the bacterium.

Near the end of pregnancy, your health care provider will estimate the baby's weight and check to see if your baby is positioned headfirst in the uterus. You might also have an ultrasound to confirm the baby's position and determine the level of amniotic fluid around the baby.

If your baby is positioned rump-first (frank breech) or feet-first (complete breech), it's possible that he or she could still turn headfirst before you give birth. However, your health care provider might try to turn the baby to improve the chances of a vaginal birth. To do so, your health care provider will apply pressure to your abdomen (external cephalic version). If your baby remains in a breech position, you might need a C-section delivery.

As your due date approaches, your health care provider might do a pelvic exam to detect cervical changes. As your body prepares for birth, your cervix will begin to soften, open (dilate) and thin (efface). Progress is typically expressed in centimeters (cm) and percentages. For example, your cervix might be 3 centimeters dilated and 30 percent effaced. When you're ready to push your baby out, your cervix will be 10 centimeters dilated and 100 percent effaced.

You will likely have plenty of questions as your due date approaches. Is it OK to have sex? How will I know when I'm in labor? What's the best way to manage the pain? Should I create a birth plan? Ask away! Feeling prepared can help calm your nerves before delivery.

Also, be sure to discuss symptoms that should cause you to call your health care provider, such as vaginal bleeding or fluid leaking from the vagina, as well as when and how to contact your health care provider once labor begins.

July 30, 2015