Your Mind in the Third Trimester
This is the time to really focus on building your relationship with your baby. She or he will be here very soon and if you stroke, talk and sing to her or him now they will already know your voice and recognise your soothing touch when they’re born.
Nowadays, we know so much more about babies, both in the uterus and at birth. The relationship you forge with your baby when he or she arrives can be a continuation of the connections that you began when you were first pregnant.
In this last trimester, your baby is both physically and mentally mature enough to send and receive signals from you and those closest to you. At the start of this trimester, your baby will be at least 26 weeks old, and if she or he were born prematurely, and she or he would undoubtedly be communicating with you. So apart from the obstacle of your abdomen, why shouldn’t he or she respond to stimulation from you while still in your uterus?
Using touch and sound
You can use touch and sound to send messages and you can respond to your baby’s movements, too. By interacting with her or him, you also strengthen the bond between you. If a sudden, loud noise startles her or him and they kick, you can soothe them with your voice and caress your abdomen.
By gently stimulating your body, you will not only reinforce your emotional bond, but you may also help your baby’s intellectual development too. By communicating with your baby in the uterus, you can stimulate more connections between the neurons, which may boost their intelligence and lessen the risk of the development of ADHD.
Playing gentle music may help with this too. Music that babies hear repeatedly when they are waiting to be born and which are associated with their mother’s periods of relaxation has been shown to be familiar to them once they have arrived, and importantly, to soothe them if they are distressed.
It is also clear that while positive experiences such as listening to music or reading aloud will calm your mind and slow both your heartbeat and your baby’s if you are under stress yourself, if you are fearful, the opposite will happen and your baby’s heart will race even faster than yours.
Do not be surprised if you feel some frantic kicking when you become angry or anxious. Your baby is reacting to ‘chemical’ messages from you – your stress hormones. Brief upsets that are swiftly resolved will not actually harm your baby, but long-term distress may affect her or his own ability to cope with emotional difficulties and this could have long-term implications.
Research has shown that women undergoing prolonged emotional stress during pregnancy tend to have smaller babies who are more likely to cry and more difficult to comfort.
Your Body in the Third Trimester
Now that you’ve arrived at the last third of pregnancy, you may be feeling increasingly tired and perhaps rather large! Concentrate on building your energy resources – your baby will be here very soon. Your pelvis is designed for childbirth, however, the way your baby is positioned at the end of your pregnancy will have an impact on the sort of labour you have. Therefore, it is a good idea to try to encourage your baby into a good one.
These days, so many women work right up until a couple of weeks before their due date. But if you are sitting at a computer all day, driving in a car and then slumping on the sofa, exhausted, these positions won’t help to get your baby into the right one.
The back of your baby’s body is heavier than the front, so her or his back will tend to roll in the direction you’re leaning in. If you’re leaning back, therefore, her or his back may roll towards yours and will be in a posterior position. If you lean forward, her or his back may roll towards your front – an anterior position. Also, if you can sit with your knees below your hips, it will create more space for the baby’s head to lie in the front of your pelvis.
In this last trimester, you will be focusing more and more on the approaching labour and birth of your baby. So you need to change the emphasis of the exercise you take. Building stamina is the key to your routine now.
If your pregnancy is going smoothly, without complications, there is no reason why you should not continue with gentle exercise up until the day that you give birth. However, the key thing to remember is that the exercise really should be gentle, so you need to opt for less-strenuous types of exercise or reduce the intensity of what you do.
Yoga can be particularly helpful to your preparations for labour and birth because it will teach you how to focus on your breathing. Swimming is also especially useful because it exercises almost every part of your body and the natural buoyancy of the water makes you feel almost weightless, so there is far less pressure on your back, legs or any aching areas.
When sitting, try to avoid lying back and instead, sit on your haunches with your chest supported on an exercise ball. This helps encourage your baby to adopt a ‘back to front’ position that can make labour easier.
Aquarobics have been shown to help women get into good psycho-physical condition and deal with pain in labour better.
Nutrition for you in the third trimester
In this trimester, your baby will be gaining weight faster than ever, but it is not the quantity of what you eat that is important – it is the quality – and there are some key nutrients that both you and your baby will need in the next few months.
Carry on eating your basic healthy diet, but pay particular attention to the following:
- Protein is more important than ever now as your baby builds muscles and tissue. To supply the varying kinds of protein that your baby needs for a range of body functions, you should aim to eat a number of different combinations of amino acids.
- Glycine is an amino acid that is essential for growth, and your baby receives it via the placenta in your bloodstream.
- Iron is vital and you need to build up your stores in preparation for labour. It will help give you energy and boost your immune system to enable you to fight off infection and will also help to prevent premature labour.
- Vitamin C should be consumed alongside iron-rich foods as it helps your body absorb the iron. You also need to boost your immune system and help your body heal after delivery. Vitamin C aids the production of collagen, connective tissue and the repair of blood vessels.
- Zinc is needed for your baby’s growth but it is vital for you too. A pregnant woman needs around 20mcg of zinc per day, but it can be difficult to get enough from your normal diet, so a supplement can be important.
- Vitamin K is routinely given as an injection to newborns as it plays an essential role in the clotting of blood. However, you can boost your baby’s supply in advance of birth by eating foods that are rich in this vitamin such as broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower.
Nutrition for your baby in the third trimester
From week 28-40 you have a crucial window of opportunity to help your baby’s brain begin to develop to its full potential:
The brain needs a distinct set of nutrients, quite different to the rest of the body’s requirements. Her or his bones mainly need calcium and muscles are powered by protein, but the brain needs fats. More than 60% of the brain will be composed of fatty acids, but your baby cannot make essential fatty acids (EFAs) herself or himself – they must come from you.
Fats are needed for the smooth and rapid transmission of signals between nerve cells. There are basically two types that are crucial to brain function: linoleum acid (omega-6) and alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3). One of the crucial forms of omega-3 is docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which is important for cognitive brain function, vision and heart health, and may also increase your baby’s birth weight.
Choline is another ‘smart fat’ found in the brain that is needed for the production of cell membranes and is linked to the memory and learning centres of the brain. It can be found in a number of foods, but the richest source is egg yolk.
It is advisable for all pregnant women to think about taking an omega-3 supplement as it can be hard to receive adequate levels needed for your baby’s brain development just through your diet.
Your Baby in the Third Trimester
What your baby senses
In many Eastern philosophies, the moment a baby is born, she or he is already considered to be one year old – reflecting the idea that the baby develops as a person before her birth. In the West, we are starting to realise that there is some substance to that idea.
Your baby is already using her or his increasingly sophisticated senses to gather and process information and from as early as 20 weeks, their neural network enables them to kick and communicate with you.
Gradually her or his senses of hearing, touch, taste, smell and sight are being stimulated by what happens in your body – and by sensations from the outside world. What you do in terms of the food you eat, the rest you take and the way that you react to situations are all transmitted to her or him through the hormones that are released and what they can feel or hear from the outside world.
So once your baby is born, she or he will certainly recognise your voice, but they may also find that the foods she receives via your breastmilk or the music that you listen to are already familiar to them too.
Your baby, week by week
Your baby is now capable of surviving (with medical assistance) if she or he were born at this point but their remaining weeks in the womb are vitally important for achieving full development. Although your baby looks fully formed at the beginning of this trimester, many of the organs are still developing and will continue to do so even after birth (especially lungs and brain).
Your baby can easily raise her or his feet above their head, so you may feel a kick at the top of your abdomen.
Your baby’s head is in proportion to the rest of her or his body.
You may feel strong kicks under your ribcage and pressure on your pelvic floor as your baby moves into the head-down position for birth.
As your abdomen is stretched, more light is let into the uterus and your baby will be more aware of it – her or his pupils will even dilate occasionally.
Your baby is sleeping for as much as 90% of the day. She or he can now turn their head and all five senses are functioning.
Whatever you do prompts activity or slumber; your baby is lulled by a rhythmic movement as you walkabout.
Your baby’s movements will be slower because there is much less room. Her or his immune system is developing and by the time they are born, they should be able to fight mild infections.
The lungs are mature and so a premature baby delivered now is unlikely to suffer breathing difficulties.
Your baby’s movements will seem more deliberate now and they are strong, though increasingly constricted.
Your baby is now considered full term.
Labour may start at any time. Your baby’s immune system is developing and will continue to do so after delivery when it is boosted by the antibodies and nutrients in the colostrum.
Your baby may have swallowed some lanugo via the amniotic fluid. It will form part of the ‘meconium’, the first ‘solid’ waste that he will pass after she or he is born.
Your baby will leave the fluid-filled uterus and take her or his first breath of air any time now. Breathing will prompt changes within the heart and arteries that will send the blood supply to the lungs.
At 32 weeks, the foetus is about the distance from your elbow to the base of your fingers. At 38 weeks it is about as long as the distance from your elbow to the tips of your fingers