You’re in the home stretch! The third and final trimester starts this week. If you’re like most women, you’ll gain about 11 pounds this trimester.
How your baby’s growing:
By this week, your baby weighs two and a quarter pounds (like a Chinese cabbage) and measures 14.8 inches from the top of her head to her heels. She can blink her eyes, which now sport lashes. With her eyesight developing, she may be able to see the light that filters in through your womb. She’s also developing billions of neurons in her brain and adding more body fat in preparation for life in the outside world.
How your life’s changing:
At this point, you’ll likely visit your doctor or midwife every two weeks. Then, at 36 weeks, you’ll switch to weekly visits. Depending on your risk factors, your practitioner may recommend repeating blood tests for HIV and syphilis now, as well as doing cultures for chlamydia and gonorrhea, to be certain of your status before delivery. Also, if your glucose screening test result was high and you haven’t yet had follow-up testing, you’ll soon be given the 3-hour glucose tolerance test.
And if the blood work done at your first prenatal visit showed that you’re Rh negative, you’ll get an injection of Rh immunoglobulin to prevent your body from developing antibodies that could attack your baby’s blood. (If your baby is Rh positive, you’ll receive another shot of Rh immunoglobulin after you give birth.)
Around this time, some women feel an unpleasant “creepy-crawly” sensation in their lower legs and an irresistible urge to move them while trying to relax or sleep. If this sensation is at least temporarily relieved when you move, you may have what’s known as restless legs syndrome (RLS). No one knows for sure what causes RLS, but it’s relatively common among expectant mothers. Try stretching or massaging your legs, and cut down on caffeine, which can make the symptoms worse. Ask your caregiver if you should try iron supplements, which can sometimes relieve RLS.
3 Questions About Preeclampsia
Preeclampsia is a complex disorder that affects 3 to 8 percent of pregnant women. A woman is diagnosed with preeclampsia if she has high blood pressure and protein in her urine after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Most women who get preeclampsia develop a mild version near their due date, and they and their babies do fine with proper care. But when preeclampsia is severe, it can affect many organs and cause serious or even life-threatening problems. The only way to get better is to deliver the baby.
Q1. What are the symptoms of preeclampsia?
Preeclampsia can come on suddenly, so it’s very important to be aware of the symptoms. Call your midwife or doctor right away if you notice any of these warning signs:
Swelling in your face or puffiness around your eyes, more than slight swelling of your hands, or excessive or sudden swelling of your feet or ankles.
Rapid weight gain – more than 4 pounds in a week.
- Severe or persistent headache
- Vision changes, including double vision, blurred vision, seeing spots or flashing lights, sensitivity to light, or temporary loss of vision
- Intense pain or tenderness in your upper abdomen
- Nausea and vomiting
Preeclampsia can occur without any obvious symptoms, particularly in the early stages, and some symptoms may seem like normal pregnancy complaints. So you might not know you have the condition until it’s discovered at a routine prenatal visit. This is one of the reasons it’s so important not to miss your appointments.
Q2. What puts me at high risk for preeclampsia?
It’s more common to get preeclampsia for the first time during a first pregnancy. However, once you’ve had preeclampsia, you’re more likely to develop it again in later pregnancies.
Other risk factors include:
- Having chronic hypertension
- Having certain blood clotting disorders, diabetes, kidney disease, or an autoimmune disease like lupus
- Having a close relative (a mother, sister, grandmother, or aunt, for example) who had preeclampsia
- Being obese (having a body mass index of 30 or more)
- Carrying two or more babies
- Being younger than 20 or older than 40
Q3. Is there any way I can avoid getting preeclampsia?
No one knows for sure how to prevent preeclampsia, although there’s a lot of research going on in this area. A number of studies have looked into whether taking extra calcium, vitamins, or a low dose of aspirin can help, but the results have been mixed. For now, the best thing you can do is get good prenatal care and keep all your prenatal appointments. At each visit your healthcare provider will check your blood pressure and test your urine for protein. It’s also important to be aware of the warning signs of preeclampsia so that you can alert your caregiver and get treated as soon as possible.
This Week’s Activity:
Choose a doctor for your baby. Get names of pediatricians or family practitioners from friends, co-workers, neighbors, or your pregnancy caregiver. Make sure the doctor accepts your health insurance, keeps hours that work with your schedule, and has an office that’s convenient for you. If you can, schedule face-to-face interviews with your top candidates. If it seems too early to be thinking about this, consider that your baby will have his first doctor’s visit shortly after birth.