As you enter the final stage of pregnancy your due date will probably be at the forefront of your mind as the countdown begins. And everyone around you may help to keep it that way as the excitement builds!
It’s really important to know, despite being given this all-important date, it is unlikely to be the exact date of arrival – there’s a five-week window of normality that’s between 37-42 weeks.
Only around three to five per cent of babies arrive on their estimated due date – one could say it’s really not all that accurate after all! A lot of women say the final weeks of pregnancy seem to take longer/go more slowly. You won’t be pregnant forever, as much as it can drag!
The changes that you’re likely to experience are:
- Increased urinary frequency
- Swelling of the hands, ankles or face (oedema) might occur
- Coarser hair and extra hair growth (on arms/legs/face)
- More frequent leg cramps
- More frequent Braxton-Hicks contractions
- Leaking colostrum
- Dry, itchy skin/skin changes
- Increased sex drive
Increased urinary frequency
Whilst this is due to hormones, the added weight of your baby putting pressure on your bladder increases the need to pee more frequently. Whilst we’re on the subject of your bladder, you might find you experience some ‘stress incontinence’ too. Small amounts of pee might leak out as you cough, sneeze or laugh. This is a subject not all women feel happy to talk about so if it’s happening to you, rest assured it’s happening to others. You are not alone. Wearing a pad can keep you drier and it’s a really good idea to do those all-important pelvic floor exercises. There’s a lot you can do to help yourself with postnatal recovery. It’s never too early to start to build up your pelvic floor and well worth the small effort it takes to keep it strong.
Swelling of the hands/ankles/feet
This is caused by the pressure of your growing uterus affecting the blood flow to your legs. If you’ve been standing a lot and/or the weather is hot, this can also cause fluid to build up, and during pregnancy your body tends to hold more water. Try elevating your legs and gentle movements. If you get more of a sudden onset of swelling or it’s severe, do talk to your midwife and get your blood pressure checked.
This is due to extra stimulation of hair follicles and hormonal changes. General changes in hair vary from woman to woman. Your hair can become greasier, drier, shinier or could grow longer/thicker. Extra hair can also appear in places you didn’t have hair before. These changes are not permanent as your hormones change again post birth, with many women reporting postnatal hair loss.
You may already be experiencing these and in the third trimester, they may increase. They affect around a third of all women, so it is common. There is a school of thought that it could be down to lack of vitamins, changes in metabolism or exercise habits (too little/too much). They can be quite uncomfortable or sometimes painful and can leave your calf sore for a day or two after the spasms. Yoga is good for helping to prevent or to ease leg cramps. Stretching your legs out and rubbing the muscle, rotating your ankles can also help; or try walking on your heels when they occur.
This yellowish coloured 'liquid gold’, as it’s commonly referred to as, might have started making an appearance from as early as 28 weeks, although you’ve been producing it since around week 16. Colostrum is amazing stuff, it contains antibodies and is packed with specially made nutrients unique to your baby. Leaking is an individual thing - some women get more of it, and some don’t get any at all. Don’t worry if you don’t, it’s not a reflection of your milk supply or your body’s ability to produce milk – lots of women don’t leak and breastfeed without issues. You might want to start to harvest your colostrum and if you do, speak to your midwife who can help explain the process – it’s not advisable for everyone so do check it is safe for you.
Moisturising your skin can help to prevent dryness (and this can help with any itchiness too). As your skin gets stretched, it does tend to become drier and then itchier. Babies gain most of their weight in the final months of pregnancy. To help minimse any aggravation to your growing tummy it’s best to choose natural materials, like cotton or linen, that’s loose-fitting etc. Layers can be helpful too as you may get hot flushes and you can remove layers to keep comfortable.
Your body knows it needs to up the frequency of practicing contractions ready for birth. By now, you will be familiar width the feeling and perhaps identify things that spur them on. They may now become a little stronger or more frequent. If they develop a pattern and become uncomfortable it could be the start of labour, but do bear in mind that early labour can be ‘stop-start’ and it can take a while for contractions to establish a regular pattern, especially for first-time mummies.
Increased sex drive
Or not!? It’s such an individual and personal issue that’s influenced by your mood or state of mind and physical forces. That said, those added hormones, coupled with extra blood flow to your reproductive/genital area, including your clitoris, can lead to you wanting more sexual experiences. Some women want penetrative sex and others prefer foreplay. Whatever you’re feeling like, it won’t harm your baby, although if you are at an increased risk of pre-term labour, your waters have gone or you have placenta praevia, then penetrative sex is usually not advised. If you are feeling quite the opposite - tired, uncomfortable and just not in the mood – know that this is also really common too and totally OK.