In your third trimester (28 weeks through the end of your pregnancy), you’ll most likely have a checkup every two weeks from 28 to 36 weeks, then switch to once-a-week visits until you deliver.
As you and your healthcare practitioner get to know each other better and as your due date draws near, you can expect a mix of regular physical exams, late-pregnancy tests, and discussions about the coming birth. Here are some of the things your caregiver will do at these appointments.
Not in the right place? See our other articles on prenatal visits:
- What to expect at your prenatal visits
- Your first prenatal visit
- Second-trimester prenatal visits
Ask how you’re feeling
As before, your caregiver will probably start your visit by asking how you’re doing, following up on any issues raised at your last appointment, and reviewing the results of any tests you’ve had since then. She’ll ask whether you’ve had any contractions, swelling, headaches, or have any other concerns.
Whether or not she asks, let your practitioner know about any symptoms you’re having, even if they seem like the usual fatigue, moodiness, or aches and pains. Don’t be put off by a too-busy-to-talk feeling: Your practitioner may see dozens of patients a day, but your pregnancy is still the most important thing in the world to you.
Question you about your baby’s movement
Your practitioner will ask how much you’re feeling your baby move and remind you to call at any time if your baby seems less active than usual. She’ll advise you to pay attention to your baby’s movements and may ask you to start counting your baby’s movements for a set period of time each day.
Do a physical exam
As in the second trimester, you’ll be weighed and your blood pressure will be taken. You may be asked to give a urine sample to check for signs of preeclampsia, urinary tract infections, and other problems. Your ankles, hands, and face will be checked for swelling, which can be a sign of preeclampsia.
Your practitioner will check your baby’s heartbeat and feel your belly to estimate your baby’s size. She’ll also measure the distance between your pubic bone and the top of your uterus (this is called your fundal height) and compare it to your baby’s gestational age – as well as to the measurement from your previous visit – to make sure your baby’s growth rate seems normal. If he seems either too big or too small, you’ll likely have an ultrasound to evaluate his growth and to check your amniotic fluid levels.
Your practitioner will probably be able to tell whether your baby is in the head-down position or breech (bottom down). At 36 weeks or so, if she thinks the baby is breech (or can’t tell for sure), she’ll order an ultrasound to confirm her findings. If he is, you may be offered a procedure called an external cephalic version to try to turn the baby.
You probably won’t have routine pelvic exams at your prenatal visits, even in the third trimester. Many practitioners don’t do them unless they have a specific concern, such as preterm labor or to double check your baby’s position (if you’re nearing your due date and his position isn’t clear from the abdominal exam).
But if you’re past your due date, your practitioner will probably check your cervix to see if it’s softening, effacing (thinning out), and dilating (opening). This may help her decide if and when to induce labor.
She may also try to determine whether your baby has “dropped” – that is, moved down into your pelvic cavity in preparation for birth. If his head is quite low, it can be hard for your practitioner to feel it abdominally. She will probably be able to easily tell with a vaginal exam, though.
If your caregiver doesn’t routinely do vaginal exams but you’re near your due date and eager to know what’s happening, you can certainly ask for one. (If you do have a pelvic exam late in pregnancy, you might have a little spotting afterward.)
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