The cravings have long since made the shift from entertaining to annoying, the aches are unwelcome, and your cute baby bump has given way to a bulging belly. You are so over this pregnancy thing already! We hear you, mama, but making it through your third trimester is essential.
Hiding beneath the uncomfortable surface of your bump-heaving bod is a budding baby who is using these last few weeks in utero to prepare for the outside world. While understanding the needs of your baby-to-be may not make your swollen ankles disappear, it will make the last 13 weeks a little more bearable. Here are a few reasons why it’s good for that bun to stay in your oven just a little while longer.
28 to 32 weeks: Getting your foot in the door
Feet become a big part of your life during the third trimester. In the first weeks, your own tootsies will likely feel light and energetic—still allowing you to buzz about the office or go on an impromptu date with dad. But as your belly grows and your ligaments stretch and loosen, you may become a little less certain on your feet—and thus your daily grapple with gravity begins.
This is also the time when you may have to kick your teeny prepregnancy shoes to the curb—permanently! Trust us, though, a half shoe size is no big deal when it’s for the sake of your wee one—especially when you realize that as your feet are expanding, his legs and feet are growing quite quickly. You’ll be aware of your little one’s developing leg muscles as he kicks and wiggles from inside your womb.
Maybe you can use kick counts to distract from a couple of the other less-appetizing early third trimester side effects: constipation and hemorrhoids. While these problems may be icky and irritating, at least your baby’s new traits are of the positive variety: He can now perceive outside light and turn his head from side to side. Tell your ever-forgetful “mommy brain” to lose sight of your own issues, and instead obsess over the thought of little eyelashes, fingernails and fuzzy hair that are currently making their first appearance.
33 to 37 weeks: Connecting through your kidneys
One solid kick to the bladder (particularly in public) is enough to leave even the perkiest parent-to-be begging for baby’s birthday—but before you dream of sacrificing your last few weeks of pregnancy for the sake of controlled urination, keep in mind that your baby is in the final stretch!
Your uterus is introduced to your rib cage as your body works to provide extra space for the last few weeks of baby’s growth. The extra room that’s required for your baby’s organs means less room for your own internal mechanics, inevitably ushering in the tell-tale signs of slowed digestion: frequent visits to the restroom, heartburn and bad gas (and we mean bad!). Although your nose may tell you otherwise, great things are happening inside you. Your baby’s bones are becoming harder and his lungs, kidneys and central nervous system are taking shape—in fact, they’re coming together so nicely that by week 37 your baby is considered full-term.
38 to 40 weeks: Waddling across the finish line
Hello vaginal discharge, goodbye feet! You have probably gained 10 pounds over the past 10 weeks, but as you plod through the last few weeks—or days—of your pregnancy, take solace in the fact that you’ve almost made it. If you can incubate your baby just a bit longer, he’ll be able to hold your hand immediately after he’s born. By 38 weeks your baby will have developed a firm grasp, a healthy heart and brain, and a plump layer of fat and skin that will help him handle the change in temperature as he makes his exit from your warm body into the outside air.
We’d like to tell you the hard part is over, but that just isn’t the truth. Labor and delivery is tough, but the last few weeks of pregnancy prove that every mom is already a trouper. This is the time when the finishing touches are added to your beautiful baby, ensuring he’ll be healthy and happy from the get-go. And that, mamas, makes it all worthwhile.