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Pregnancy Stages: Your Baby, Your Body

A trimester-by-trimester look at how you and your baby are growing.

The Third Trimester (Nearing the Finish Line)

During the third trimester, Perez-Delboy says, "It's all about weight gain -- for baby and mom." As delivery day nears, you may be feeling fatigued, ungainly, and short of breath, but you may also be enjoying the beauty of your rounded belly. Meanwhile, inside that belly, your baby:

  • Is becoming "safer for the outside" with every passing day. In a high-level neonatal intensive care unit like Perez-Delboy's, a fetus born at 24 weeks has about a 50-50 chance of survival. By 28 weeks -- just four short weeks later -- about nine in every 10 babies born survive.
  • Is beginning to "practice breathe" -- not air, but amniotic fluid.
  • Is active enough that you might detect a hand, foot, or elbow poking at you through your abdomen.
  • Has grown from the size of an eggplant or large papaya at the beginning of the trimester to about the size of a small pumpkin by the time those first contractions start.

Your body's getting ready, too:

  • As the baby's head moves lower, a process called "engagement," you may be feeling more pressure on your bladder but less up near your ribs. It's a mixed blessing. You'll have to go to the bathroom more often, but breathing and eating will be easier.
  • Some women find a clear or yellowish substance known as colostrum leaking from their nipples, while others don't produce a drop until after baby is born.
  • Your weight gain is probably slowing down, but your feet and hands may look as if someone inflated them with a bike pump. This common condition, called edema, goes away quickly after birth -- but if you notice very sudden swelling, especially in your hands or face, call your doctor.

During the first few weeks of gestation, it might be hard to believe you'll ever reach the fabled 40-week mark, when you finally get to meet your baby. But after giving birth, women sometimes look back at their pregnancy with feelings of nostalgia. So enjoy these brief months when your baby lives nestled under your heart as you anticipate the moment when he's snuggled in your arms instead.

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Reviewed on May 14, 2011

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