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Everything you ever wanted to know about your third trimester

Congratulations! You're in the home stretch of pregnancy: the third trimester. You and your baby are two-thirds of the way through this journey together.

These final months are a time of rapid growth for your baby—and your curiosity about what's ahead is likely growing just as quickly. To help keep you in the loop, we've pulled together some common questions and answers about pregnancy's third trimester.

When does the third trimester start and end?
The third trimester starts on the 28th week of your pregnancy and lasts until labor starts—usually around week 40.

How often will I go see my provider this trimester?
To keep a close watch on you and your baby, your provider will ask you to come in for more frequent checkups. Beginning at 28 weeks, expect visits every two weeks, then every week beginning at 36 weeks.

What symptoms can I expect?
As your bump gets bigger, you may experience any of these:

  • Shortness of breath.
  • Heartburn.
  • Swelling in your ankles, fingers and face.
  • Fatigue.
  • Lower back and pelvic bone pain.
  • Hemorrhoids.
  • Leg cramps. 
  • Varicose veins.
  • Frequent urination.
  • Trouble sleeping. 
  • Tender breasts, which may leak a watery pre-milk called colostrum.

Be sure to alert your doctor if your symptoms are severe.

When am I full-term?
A full-term pregnancy falls anywhere from one week before your due date to one week after it. Babies born full-term have the best chance of being healthy. Some women go into labor before they're full term. That's called preterm labor.

When should I stop working?
Many women work right up to their due date—or close to it. But the decision is a personal one. And if you have pregnancy complications, you may have to adjust your original plans. Find out what other factors to consider.

How will I know if I'm in labor?
It's all about paying attention to your contractions. True labor contractions come at regular intervals and get closer together and stronger over time. Discover more ways to tell true from false labor.

What should I pack in my hospital bag?
You'll need clothes for you (including loose-fitting ones to wear home) and your baby, toiletries, your phone and charger, and possibly a playlist for labor and later. But this is just a short list. Check out this complete one.

What should I do to prepare for my baby's arrival?
During your last trimester, you'll want to get everything ready before baby's arrival. Work on getting the nursery set up, and be sure that your car seat is installed correctly. Take a look at these nursery necessities to get started.

More pregnancy news

There's one other key detail you'll want to start thinking about this trimester—child care. Start thinking about how you want your baby cared for when you have to go back to work. Take a look at these tips for finding child care you're comfortable with.

Sources: American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists; March of Dimes; Office on Women's Health

Reviewed 1/11/2024

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