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 might ask you to schedule prenatal care appointments during your third trimester about every 2 or 4 weeks, depending on your health and pregnancy history. Starting at 36 weeks, you'll need weekly checkups until you deliver.

You'll be asked if you have any signs or symptoms, including contractions and leakage of fluid or bleeding. Your health care provider will check your blood pressure and weight gain, as well as your baby's heartbeat and movements.

Your health care provider might ask you to 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.

Also, talk to your health care provider about any vaccinations you might need, including the flu shot and the tetanus toxoid, reduced diphtheria toxoid and acellular pertussis (Tdap) vaccine. Ideally, the Tdap vaccine should be given between 27 and 36 weeks of pregnancy.

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 might check to see if your baby is positioned headfirst in the uterus.

If your baby is positioned rump-first (frank breech) or feet-first (complete breech) after week 36 of pregnancy, it's unlikely that the baby will move to a headfirst position before labor. You might be able to have an external cephalic version. During this procedure, your health care provider will apply pressure to your abdomen and physically manipulate your baby to a headfirst position. This is typically done with ultrasound guidance by an experienced doctor. If you prefer not to have this procedure, or if your baby remains in a breech position, your health care provider will discuss planning a C-section delivery.

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 signs 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.

Nov. 16, 2018