You're in the home stretch! Your body is growing right along with your baby and your excitement about his arrival. If you haven't already, it's time to get busy—you have lots of decisions to make and things to do before he's born.
As the big day approaches, you'll probably find yourself thinking—OK, obsessing—about the looming prospect of labor and parenthood. Excitement abounds, but you may be feeling anxious and fearful as well. It's all normal.
Many women also find themselves fully in the throes of the "nesting" syndrome at this point. Spit-shining your home, organizing the garage, decorating the nursery—nothing is beyond the watchful eye of the third-trimester mom.
Frequent Urination As your uterus grows, pressure on your bladder increases. Continue to drink plenty of fluids during the day, but limit them toward bedtime. Also cut back on coffee and tea, as they can act as diuretics.
Hemorrhoids Constipation is a major cause, as is extra weight. Keep downing fluids, and load up on fiber-rich foods. Talk to your doc about using Preparation H or other products if your hemorrhoids are really bothering you.
Squished stomach As your baby gows, something's gotta give—namely, extra space in your abdominal area. Try to maximize room by standing and sitting as upright as possible, and eat several small meals throughout the day.
Swollen legs Elevate your legs whenever possible, avoid salty food, and wear support stockings. Ask your partner for nightly leg massages; they help with swelling and snoozing.
Red flags to watch for
Call your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms:
• Constant abdominal pain.
• Decreased fetal movement. Fewer and/or weaker kicks are common as your baby's quarters become increasingly cramped, but be sure to notify your doctor if you notice a dramatic decrease in movement.
• Leakage of fluid from your vagina.
• Vaginal bleeding.
• Marked increase in swelling.
• Severe headaches.
More than five uterine contractions per hour (if you're less than 37 weeks along in your pregnancy).
Get ready for labor
Sign up for a prenatal yoga or Pilates class or join a gym that offers classes tailored to pregnant women. These classes also are a great way to meet other expectant moms. Check a local phone book, ask your OB, or do a search on the Internet.
Look into childbirth-education classes, such as Bradley, Lamaze or a hospital-based class. Whichever you choose, make sure it will be finished by about week 36.
Do your Kegels. These exercises are a great way to strengthen and prepare your pelvic-floor muscles for labor and delivery. (They also help reduce embarrassing "leakage" when you cough, sneeze, laugh, breathe, etc.) To do them, contract the muscles around your vagina as if stopping the flow of urine. Hold for a few seconds, release and repeat. Aim to do 10 to 15 of these at a time, several times per day.
What about travel?
Though you may have a sudden desire for one last getaway before the baby arrives, most doctors advise pregnant women against travel during the final trimester. While travel itself isn't dangerous, most docs want their patients nearby in case they go into labor unexpectedly.
Signs of labor
While the symptoms of labor can vary from woman to woman, here are a few of the most common:
• Contractions that occur at regular intervals (say, every 15 minutes) and slowly increase in frequency.
• Contractions that gradually become stronger. You may feel them in your back as well as your abdomen.
• Contractions that do not abate with movement.
• Contractions that are so strong, you have difficulty speaking.
• "Bloody show" (brown- or pink-tinged vaginal discharge). This is actually the mucus plug that has been sealing your cervix.
Note: Call your doctor or head to the hospital when your contractions occur every five to 10 minutes or if your water breaks. You're about to become a mom.