The last trimester is a crucial time for brain development. As the brain mass increases, the tissue folds into its characteristic walnut-like appearance. By now the baby weighs one kilo. Its head is almost in proportion with its body.
In the coming weeks, your breast size may increase up to a third in size. Your organs may feel crowded by the growing baby and there will be pressure on your diaphragm, liver, stomach, intestines and bladder. In short, your body may feel immense.
The baby’s brain is rapidly developing as intricate nerve fibres form. This will allow impulses to travel faster and increase your baby’s ability to learn. From here on your health professional will become increasingly interested in your baby’s positioning in the womb. About four per cent of babies will still be in a breech position at birth with the bottom pointing downwards. If this is the case, you may be advised to have a caesarean birth.
Try to encourage your baby to turn. You can do this by spending some time every day on all fours. Gravity will encourage your baby to manoeuvre into the desired birth position with its head facing toward the birth canal. Acupressure point Bladder 67 may help. If your baby is already positioned head downward, you are likely to feel a kick in your ribs. And not a polite little kick, these can be painful.
The baby’s tastebuds are developed and it is able to sense some of the stronger foods, such as spicy curry and chilli that you may be eating. Its weight will be about 1.6 kg. You may notice that it is more responsive to conditions and becomes drowsy if the weather is hot or following a large meal.
You may become breathless as the baby presses against your ribcage. This may feel alarming at times but rest assured it will not affect the baby’s oxygen supply as this is passed via the placenta.
Correct posture is essential as the weight distribution alters and pulls you off balance. Be aware when changing position from sitting to standing and support your back.
Watch for warning signs of pre-eclampsia in the final trimester. Also known as toxaemia, this is a serious condition that affects the placenta, reducing the blood supply and oxygen to the baby. If the condition is allowed to progress, clots and fatty acids build up in the placenta blocking the arteries and causing the placenta to fail. Symptoms include raised blood pressure, protein in your urine and oedema swelling in your face, hands and ankles.
Your baby’s lungs will now have most of the airways and air sacs ready for breathing after birth. You may feel twinges as your baby practises breathing inside the womb. This is the amniotic fluid passing in and out of the baby’s windpipe, like hiccups.
A baby born now would still need to be in an incubator as the fat reserves beneath its skin would not be sufficient to maintain its body temperature. Perfectly formed, it may now measure 30 – 40cm in length. Sleeping may be difficult for you, as the moment you stop to rest, the baby wakes.