You and your baby have now grown through two thirds of your pregnancy and you are officially in your third trimester of pregnancy.

Your baby is now a miniature baby with all his organs, limbs and appendages in place. During this last trimester of pregnancy your baby grows, fattens and his organs slowly mature. By the end of this month your baby will be approximately 38 centimetres long and weigh 1.7 – 1.8kg. If this is your first baby he will probably settle into a head down position by the end of this month.

Baby hiccups: If this is your first baby you may be alarmed by periods of rhythmic, twitch-like movements or little interuterine spasms this month. Relax – your baby has the hiccups! No one knows exactly what causes babies in utero to have hiccups but most do, and it is probably associated with your baby’s practice breathing movements.

Childcare: If you are planning to return to work before your baby is one year old you will need to start researching local childcare options. If you are planning to put your baby into Childcare Centre you will probably need to register on a waiting list at one or two centres around about now. There are generally a very limited number of places available for babies under 2 years old.

Baby Shower or Blessingway: Many pregnant women or their close friends or family members will organize a Baby Shower or Blessingway at some time during this third trimester of pregnancy. These gatherings acknowledge the pregnant woman and the changes in her life and celebrate the impending birth of a new person into the family, community and on to the planet. A baby shower is a way for family and friends to acknowledge, support and celebrate the changes that a new baby will bring into the lives of his parents and their relationships with the significant people in their lives. One of the signs of support & celebration is the giving of gifts – these can be symbolic, a memento, items that will be needed for the baby or something that will make life easier for the parents in the early postnatal period.

Baby Showers tend to be a bit like a birthday party with food (often including a special cake), baby shower games (usually silly and amusing) and of course gifts – usually clothing, toys, bedding etc for the baby. As well as a thank- you speeches from the pregnant woman/couple, there are often short speeches from close friends and family members. Traditionally Baby Showers were women-only affairs but these days they often involve men as well. Some women request a gift-free baby shower or ask people to bring a frozen meal or meal vouchers that can be used on those inevitable early postnatal days where there just doesn’t seem to be time to cook. Some parents request that guests contribute to a single higher–priced item like a buggy or pram or chip in towards the cost of a nappy service or some kind of home help (a cleaner or childcare is often appreciated if it is not a first baby).

A Blessingway is derived from a American Navajo tradition that acknowledges and blesses the journey of a mother through pregnancy, labour and birth and into parenting. These gatherings usually involve rituals – e.g. prayer, poetry, painting, massage, dance etc. Any gifts are usually handmade (an exchange of creative energy) and/or symbolic with their significance and the positive wishes that accompany the gift spoken by the giver at the time of giving. Sometimes the gift is communal e.g. everyone brings a bead for a necklace or a square for a quilt.

Your body: Your body (at least your torso and possibly your feet(!)) is also continuing to grow. Your heart will be beating up to 20% faster to pump the extra blood you have produced around your body. You need to continue to eat well and exercise regularly to help your body to cope with the increased demands of your pregnancy.

Pelvic Floor exercises: (Also called Kegel Exercises) Ideally you’ll have already been regularly practicing pelvic floor exercises – if not you should definitely start now! For more information go back to Weeks 14 – 18.

Relax: Now is a good time to start practising relaxation. Your ability to relax will help you to get adequate rest as your pregnancy advances and will help you to surrender to the process of labour when the time comes. Labour is a series of big muscle stretches – your uterus, then your pelvic floor and vaginal muscles stretching open to let your baby out. Your muscles will not stretch if you are not able to relax. Practising relaxation during your pregnancy will help “train” your subconscious mind to instigate a relaxation response following whatever stimuli (a word or phrase, an idea, a visualization, a piece of music, a certain type of touch) you have practiced relaxing to. Most pregnancy exercise programmes include a guided relaxation exercise as part of each session. Learning what your body feels like when it is relaxed is as important as learning how to relax. You need to be able relax both actively while doing specific exercises – e.g. relaxing into a stretch or yoga pose or a repetitive movement sequence e.g. swimming; and passively in a supported sitting or lying position while you focus on your breathing and on consciously releasing tension from all your muscles till your whole body feels soft and heavy and relaxed. You can relax in total silence or you can relax to a particular sequence of music or relaxing sounds. Relaxing to the same music every session, will have the added benefit of helping your baby to relax after he is born. He can hear the music and will become accustomed to the hormonal state that you induce when you relax.

Anaemia: If you are experiencing more than the normal tiredness associated with stage of pregnancy, or if you are looking very pale you may be anaemic. Many LMCs will routinely request more blood tests at this stage of pregnancy because, by the end of this month, you will have 40 – 50% greater volume of blood than before you were pregnant. Pregnant women’s bodies become more efficient at absorbing iron as their pregnancies progress, however in the last trimester of pregnancy your baby will be drawing more iron from your body as he lays down his iron stores. Some women will become anaemic and will need to take iron supplements. These should be taken with vitamin C rich foods or drinks to increase absorption and minimize the risk of constipation. If your iron supplement causes constipation you should talk to your LMC about a change in prescription or visit your local health food shop and buy some organic or chelated iron. Iron absorption is inhibited by antacids, soft drinks, tea, coffee and low vitamin C intake.

By this stage of pregnancy you may notice some of the common changes or discomforts of pregnancy. In their mild form none of the following is of particular concern. There are a number of self-help things that you can try to reduce the severity of these discomforts. You can also talk to your LMC midwife or doctor about them at your pregnancy check-ups and get more advice, a prescription or a referral for extra help if necessary.

Oedema (Fluid retention): Your body is making much more fluid than usual in order to maintain your amniotic fluid level. The increase the water level in your blood helps the kidneys get rid of the extra waste products that your busy body is producing. Hot weather, standing or sitting for long periods of time and high blood pressure are the most common causes of mild oedema/fluid retention. Swelling usually comes on gradually and diminishes following rest. Lots of women notice that their feet and ankles and often their hands become puffy as the day goes by. Drinking extra water won’t increase fluid retention, in fact, it usually reduces it, so drink clear, unsweetened fluids regularly throughout the day. If you experience sudden swelling in your face and hands you should contact your LMC midwife or doctor and arrange for your regular pregnancy check-up appointment to be brought forward. (If sudden oedema is accompanied by a headache or blurred vision/spots in front of your eyes, you need to see your LMC a.s.a.p.)

Itchiness: About 20% of women experience some degree of abdominal itchiness and dryness during the third trimester of pregnancy. Other women experience persistent itchiness all over their bodies. It is thought that itchy skin is caused by pregnancy hormones, however it can also be caused by food intolerances or allergies. You can help relieve the itchiness by ensuring that you eat a balanced diet of fresh wholefoods and drink unsweetened liquids or water every couple of hours to flush toxins out of your body. If your skin is itchy on some days and not on others you could try keeping a food diary to see if your body is having difficulty coping with a particular food. Some skin care products will relieve itchiness – try to use skincreams/lotions that are made from natural plant based products rather than synthetic substances and petrochemical derivatives.

Cholestasis: If the palms of your hands and soles of your feet become itchy, you need to let your LMC midwife or doctor know a.s.a.p. because you may have developed cholestasis, a liver condition that can increase the risk of preterm birth and other problems. If bloodtests confirm that you have developed cholestasis you and your baby will be monitored much more regularly and your LMC may recommend that your labour is induced early if your baby shows signs of being affected by the levels of bile acids circulating in your blood.

Stretchmarks: 50-90% of pregnant women get some stretchmarks during pregnancy. These occur when the collagen in your skin breaks down because your skin is stretching too fast. Stretch marks tend to appear on the abdomen, hips, buttocks, breasts, inner thighs or inner arms. Although there are a large number of products on the market that claim to prevent or minimize stretchmarks, there is no evidence that any of these work. It is thought that some women are genetically predisposed to getting stretchmarks. However, skin that is well-nourished from the inside (via your diet) and the outside (using natural skincare products) will cope better with the stretching that occurs during pregnancy. Some skin lotions can also help prevent the itchiness that many women experience as their skin stretches. Once again, try to use skincreams/lotions that are made from natural plant based products rather than synthetic substances and petrochemical derivatives  – cold-pressed raw coconut oil can be effective but does need to be massaged in well to prevent oil marks on your clothing. Stretchmarks can look alarmingly wide, red or purple during pregnancy but will usually fade to finer pink or silvery white lines by the time your baby is a couple of months old.

Leg cramps at this stage of pregnancy are often caused by a mineral deficiency. Your baby has been drawing lots of minerals from your body to harden up his skeleton and if your intake or absorption or minerals is low, you may start experiencing muscle cramps. Your mineral intake will be improved by increasing your intake of fresh mineral rich foods e.g. salad greens, raw nuts. You can also try taking cell salts to restore or balance your body’s calcium and magnesium. Start with MagPhos (because good levels of magnesium are needed for muscle relaxation) and if that doesn’t cure it try CaFluor instead or as well. Cell salts are available from lots of pharmacies and health food shops. Sometimes leg cramps are caused by pressure on the veins and nerves feeding the muscles in your legs. Do not sit for more than one hour at a time without getting up and moving around and do not cross your legs when sitting. Doing some ankle, foot and leg stretches a several times during the day can also help prevent muscle cramps caused by slow or impeded circulation.

Forgetfulness: Hormones again! Yes, you probably are forgetting things more regularly than before your pregnancy, but no, your brainpower is not diminishing. Your pregnancy hormones are trying to get you to slow down so that maximum energy is available for your baby’s growth. So, if you keep losing things, can’t remember what you were planning to do when you headed into the kitchen/bedroom/lounge, can’t remember what it was you were about to say next, forget where you’ve put things etc this is all quite normal. Take a good look at what you’re trying to fit into a day – maybe you need to slow down? Reduce your workload, put reminders into your phone, computer etc for essential appointments and spend more time gently exercising, relaxing and sleeping.

Snoring: Your increased blood volume may make your nose feel congested and stuffy throughout pregnancy. By this stage of pregnancy your nasal passages may be so congested that your airway is narrowed causing snoring. If you are still sleeping on your back, now is the time to practice going to sleep on your side.