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Week by week

The third trimester: 28-40 weeks

Article 3 of 3

As you count down the final weeks and prepare for your baby’s arrival, here’s all you need to know about making a birth plan, packing your hospital bag and watching out for the first signs of labour.

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28 weeks pregnant 

Midwife appointments

Now that you’re in your third trimester, you’ll be seeing your midwife or doctor a lot more often.

At every appointment, your midwife will do a number of routine checks to make sure that both you and your baby are doing well and that you aren’t at risk of developing pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes or other pregnancy health conditions.

At your 28-week appointment, your midwife will take a blood test to check if you’re anaemic, and you’ll be offered an anti-D injection if you have RhD negative blood.

Many women start to experience new symptoms in the third trimester, so the appointments are a great opportunity to ask your midwife for advice on dealing with the less amazing aspects of pregnancy (yes, heartburn and pelvic girdle pain – we’re looking at you!).

Make the most of your antenatal appointments with our seven quick tips on how to talk to your midwife.

30 weeks pregnant 

Kicks count

Feeling your baby kick, punch, roll around, and any other acrobatic moves you can imagine is probably a very familiar feeling to you by now.

It’s a good idea to make a note of your baby’s pattern of movements so that you notice if this changes too much. In particular, get in touch with your midwife or triage at your maternity unit if your baby is moving a lot less than usual. It’s always better to get some reassurance than spend too long worrying about whether to call someone or not.

Chances are everything is fine, but your midwife may want you to go in for a check so they can monitor your baby’s heartbeat and movements. You can bring your birth partner or another family member or friend with you for support.

Around this week, you’ll be having a routine midwife appointment if you’re expecting your first baby. As a first-time mum, you’ll have a few extra check-ups during your pregnancy, compared to women who have given birth before, to make sure that everything is progressing as expected.

32 weeks pregnant 

Packing your hospital bag

With just two months until your due date, you may start to feel like the birth is right around the corner.

If you haven’t yet decided where you’d like to give birth, don’t worry. You can change your mind about where you want to have your baby at any point during your pregnancy, but making the choice in advance can help you prepare for the birth.

You can use our Choosing where to give birth tool to see whether giving birth at home, in a birth centre or in a labour ward is the best choice for you based on your circumstances and birth preferences. If you have any questions about the maternity options where you live, check in with your midwife or doctor.

Wherever you’re planning to give birth, it’s a good idea to put a few essentials together in a hospital bag and to start planning your route to the birth centre or hospital so you’re prepared for whatever may come. Packing and organising a bag is also great use of that nesting instinct!

34 weeks pregnant 

Writing a birth plan

While it’s impossible to know how your birth is going to play out, writing a birth plan can be very helpful for you, your birth partner and the people looking after you when you’re in labour.

At this week’s appointment, your midwife might go through your thoughts on the birth with you. It is the perfect opportunity to ask any questions you or your partner have around the different stages of labour and when to call your midwife or go to the hospital or birth centre.

It’s useful to prepare for this talk, for example by reading up on your pain relief options during labour, as what you may or may not want to use is a very personal decision.

Learning about the pros and cons of epidurals and opioids can help you decide if you think either of them are the right choice for you, and knowing how to use a TENS machine or water in labour can help you make the most of natural pain relief methods.

36 weeks pregnant 

Final preparations

In just one short week, your baby will be considered full term – another milestone for you both! However, you probably don’t need to be told that your baby is getting ready to be born. She or he is running out of space in there, which is likely to make you feel quite uncomfortable at this point.

As long as everything has been going well with your pregnancy, birth centres and home birth teams are usually happy to look after you from your 37th week if you go into labour.

Remember that your midwife can advise you on everything from the vitamin K injection for your newborn baby to postnatal depression or establishing breastfeeding, so don’t be afraid to ask any questions you might have as your pregnancy is drawing to an end.

Now’s the time to make sure you have everything you’re going to need for the birth, including your hospital bag, wherever you plan to give birth, and a baby car seat if you’re going to go home by car. The last thing you need with a newborn baby is to be scrambling around in a hospital car park trying to fix a car seat into place.

38 weeks pregnant 

Induction and elective c-section

This is it – your baby is ready to be born and labour could start at any point in the next few weeks. You’ll have another midwife appointment this week (possibly your last) and it’s the perfect time to ask any last-minute birth questions you may have.

Elective c-sections are often planned for the 38th or 39th week of pregnancy, so if you know you’re having a section, you probably already have an idea of which day you’re going to lock eyes with your baby for the very first time.

Your consultant may also recommend that you’re induced around this week if you’ve been diagnosed with certain pregnancy conditions, for example pre-eclampsia.

If you’re being induced or have an c-section, you will give birth in the obstetric unit at the hospital. Watch this video of three mums explaining what their births at the labour ward was like, and what tips they have for other expectant parents when planning for the birth:

40 weeks pregnant 

After your due date

Is your due date here but your baby isn’t? You may feel both disappointed and fed up if you’re still pregnant at this point, but just as many women go into labour after their due date as before, so hang on in there – you’ll meet your baby soon!

You’ll have a midwife appointment this week if this is your first baby, and another one at 41 weeks if your baby hasn’t arrived by then. Your midwife may offer to do a membrane sweep to see if that will get your labour started – it’s up to you whether this is something you want to have done.

Your midwife, or doctor, will also explain your options if you don’t go into labour spontaneously by 42 weeks, when you will be considered overdue.

Most women choose to be induced at a hospital, but you can also opt to have increased monitoring of your baby’s health instead. Either way, you will be able to talk through the pros and cons of each option to make the best decision for you.

Whenever and however your baby makes an appearance, the moment you meet them for the first time will be special.

After the birth 

Your recovery

However you give birth, it’s a big life event, and it will likely take you some time to recover, both physically and emotionally.

After the birth, you may need to stay on the postnatal ward at the hospital for one or more nights, and once you’re back home you’ll have postnatal appointments with your midwife.

Your midwife will want to make sure that you’re recovering well after the birth and that you’re coping emotionally. They’ll also check that your baby is feeding properly and gaining weight as expected.

If you’re breastfeeding, the midwife can help check your baby’s latch and positioning, and tell you about the different breastfeeding support services in your area.

Remember to ask your midwife any questions you have - whether that’s around your or your baby’s health, or how you’re feeling.

Life with your new baby

Beyond the first couple of weeks, life with a new family member can be a rollercoaster ride. Feeding around the clock, night wakings and worrying if your baby’s ok can all make you feel less than your best, especially if you’re sleep deprived or feel isolated.

While there’s no quick fix, try to make sure you get rest whenever possible by accepting offers of help from family or friends if they can assist in ways that are useful to you. Seeking out your own support network, for example by getting to know other new parents in your local area, can also make you feel less lonely.

Having a baby is a big change and everyone’s experience will be different, so it’s important to avoid making comparisons with others. You will get into the swing of things at a pace that’s right for you and your baby, so try not to worry and give yourself time to adjust.

However, while many women recover well within a few weeks of giving birth, it’s also important to know that some new mothers have problems that last longer and need treatment.

More than one in 10 new mums develop mental health conditions like postnatal depression, which can start up to a year after the birth. A lot of women are also affected by birth trauma after a difficult delivery, or need additional treatment for injuries sustained during birth.

There isn’t a hard-and-fast line between what are normal changes after birth and what could be symptoms of something more serious, so the best thing to do is be honest with yourself about how you’re feeling and if you’re unsure, get a second opinion from your midwife, health visitor or GP, who can assess you and find the help you need.

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