After what may seem like a long, long wait, your due date is rapidly approaching. Many changes take place late in your pregnancy. While your baby is rapidly preparing for his life outside your womb, your own body is undergoing some major changes to get ready for the process of birth and breastfeeding. In addition to these normal changes, you might experience unusual symptoms that can indicate a problem with your pregnancy. Knowing what to expect late in your pregnancy can help you determine when to contact your doctor.
Your Final Trimester
Your final trimester marks the final segment of your pregnancy. This period begins 29 weeks after the first day of your last period and ends when you deliver your baby. Most pregnancies last approximately 40 weeks from the time of your last menstrual period. Your doctor may increase the frequency of your prenatal exams to keep a close eye on you and your developing baby, as your due date approaches.
Your Developing Baby
During the final phase of his life inside your uterus, your baby undergoes some important changes. He gains about one-half a pound each week and puts on a layer of fat beneath his skin. He may weigh between 6 and 9 lbs. and measure about 20 inches long, by the time he enters the world. His eyes open and close. His skin loses its covering of lanugo, the soft, fine hair that covered his body. His body begins to store important minerals, including calcium and iron.
You may experience an increase in aches and pains as your abdomen continues to expand. You may experience difficulty sleeping as your baby enjoys nocturnal kicking and squirming. The pressure of your uterus can cause frequent urges to urinate and may press on your upper abdomen, causing you heartburn and shortness of breath. Irregular uterine contractions can be your body’s way of preparing for delivery, but strong, regular contractions that increase in frequency can signal the beginning of labor.
Most pregnancies progress through the final weeks without complications, but some issues may arise during this period. Contact your doctor if you notice any vaginal bleeding. This can signal the presence of placental complications. A serious complication of late pregnancy results in high blood pressure, known as eclampsia or toxemia. The University of Virginia warns that pregnant women with headaches, abdominal pain, blurred vision and severe swelling in the hands and face may be experiencing this condition. Contact your doctor immediately if you believe your symptoms might signal a problem.
Completion of Pregnancy
As your pregnancy ends, a new stage in your life begins. Many women find that the end of their pregnancy brings mixed feelings. Although you can hardly wait to dispose of your maternity clothes and gaze into the eyes of your newborn, you may feel a little melancholy as this phase of your life winds to an end. You may also feel a little apprehensive concerning labor and delivery. Talk to your doctor about your options for controlling your pain and participating in the process of birthing your baby before going into labor. Having a birth plan in place can reassure you and help you enjoy the birthing experience.